When it comes to following your dreams, one Maricopa resident knows sometimes you have to take a chance, and that sometimes, that risk yields great rewards.
Check out Julia Perugini’s recipe for Brazilian carrot cake below.
This month, 34-year-old Julia Perugini will be featured on Food Network’s Christmas Cookie Challenge. As part of the challenge, she will face off with three other cookie makers from across the country, to compete for a $10,000 cash prize.
Online, she has developed a sizable amount of fanfare and demand for her cookies and cakes, shipping most of her stock out of state. Thanks to social media, she has been able to market and sell her tasty treats, and she has caught the eye of several major players in the baking world, including producers at the Food Network.
The Food Network describes the series: “Host Eddie Jackson welcomes five fabulously festive cookie makers into Santa’s workshop. Judges Kimberly Bailey, Damiano Carrara and Ree Drummond are on hand to taste the creations and decide who will leave the North Pole $10,000 richer.”
Perugini’s professional life began far from the kitchen.
“Some people believe you have to pursue a job as a doctor or lawyer, or something professional,” Julia said. “So, that’s what I did.”
A native of Brazil, Julia actually holds a degree in engineering and spent several years working for mineral exploration companies in her home country, including at sites deep inside the Amazon rainforest.
Like the United States, Brazil was hit by the economic recession of 2008, so she took a chance. Using her savings, she decided to emigrate to the United States via New York, where she hoped to learn more English.
Despite her degree, she found it hard to find work in the Big Apple, something she blamed on her not-so-refined ability to speak the language. So, she took on jobs as a nanny before embracing the skills she had honed growing up in Brazilian kitchens around her home town of Belo Horizonte.
“Originally when she started, it was because she was helping her friend plan a party,” her husband Charlie said. “And then she started doing a little bit here and there and it just kind of picked up.”
Julia and Charlie met shortly after she arrived in New York, and they were married about a year later.
Over the next six years she worked in kitchens throughout the New York area, working in all positions from a short order cook all the way up to private gigs cooking for ritzy families in the Hamptons.
Though her skills cover both the sweet and savory sides of the pallet, her true passion is sweets: “I can cook everything. There is just something about it [cookies and cupcakes] I really love.”
Perugini eventually decided to go into business for herself, baking cookies and cakes. However, with such tight regulations on homebased businesses, she quickly realized New York was not the best launching pad for her dreams.
Pregnant with their daughter Sophia in 2016, Julie and Charlie decided to move someplace easier to pursue her dreams and better suited for their expanding family.
“My husband always liked Arizona and convinced me that here was the best place to live,” she said.
After briefly living in Ahwatukee, the family found the right house in Maricopa and built the business.
“I’m really proud of her,” Charlie said. “She’s basically started from nothing and its almost doubled each year [since].”
Customer Annie Smith said Julia’s Cookies were perfect for her son’s second birthday. “These were adorable and delicious. They were flawless, individually wrapped and arrived right on time. I couldn’t be happier.”
Reviewers also have noted her attention to detail, taste and professionalism.
Not long after settling into their new home, she got word she had been selected for the Christmas Cookie Challenge on the Food Network.
Several years earlier, while living in New York, she had signed up for a similar Food Network competition but never heard anything back. Then in early 2017 she got a call asking if she was interested.
Perugini’s episode will air Dec. 11, at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. Arizona time.
Julia’s Brazilian Carrot Cake
“This is the most traditional Brazilian cake,” Julia said, “it’s very soft, fluffy and delicious!”
- 3 carrots
- 3 eggs
- 4 oz vegetable oil
- 8 oz sugar
- 9 oz all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
Add all wet ingredients plus sugar to blender or mixer until creamy.
Add the flour and blend a little more.
Transfer to a bowl and mix in baking powder gently with a whisk.
Place in a round baking pan, or any baking pan.
Bake for about 45 minutes at 350 F
- 3.5 oz bittersweet chocolate
- 1 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 teaspoon honey
Place in a medium sized pan over medium heat mixing until all ingredients combine and are a caramel-like consistency.
Pour over the cake.
This story appears in the December issue of InMaricopa.