CookieCon Calendar Artist: Tammy Trahan

My friend Tammy Trahan (New Orleans Cookie Company) was asked to be Miss February for the CookieCon Calendar project. Here are Tammy’s thoughts on what inspired her beautifully detailed cookies:

Tammy’s incredible vintage Valentine set!

Tammy’s incredible vintage Valentine set!

Oh how I love vintage Valentine cards! When I was asked to be a part of the CC calendar project, I was so hoping to get February as my month. I was able to produce my rendition of whimsical little Valentine animals, wagons, flowers, and hearts. I love detail and whimsical, so I was in my glory!! It was such a fun project!!

From cakes to cookies: Meet Valerie!

Hi everyone, this is Kim. When I attended a Cookie Roundup last year, I met Val Lindsley. She was funny, enthusiastic, and pretty new to the cookie scene. (Oh, and she has great hair!) You see, she’s been a cake decorator for years and is even the head honcho of the California Cake Club. Well, she’s jumped into cookie-ing with both feet (who could blame her?) and I wondered how she felt about the transition from a large canvas to a smaller one. So I asked her to share her journey from cakes to cookies with us; you’re welcome!

Valerie Lindsley…isn’t she cute?

Valerie Lindsley…isn’t she cute?


Where to start?

My name is Valerie Lindsley. I’m the President of the California Cake Club. I started making cakes in about 2005. Officially. I had been playing around with them for a few years just making basic borders and such but I actually took lessons in 2005 and it’s just gotten crazy from there. I started teaching basics in 2008 at an adult education school as well as my local cake shop, Do It With Icing.

When I was asked by Kim to talk about what it’s like to come to the cookie world from the cake side, I thought, “well, doesn’t everyone start there? What’s the big deal?” I have definitely come to realize that not everyone comes to cookie decorating that way.

Who doesn’t love a paint your own cookie?

Who doesn’t love a paint your own cookie?

I’m pretty much a sugar tool hoarder. My excuse has always been, hey, if I sell a cake, I get to buy a tool. So, because of that I have, literally, rooms full of “stuff” all pretty much related to cakes, cookies and sugar in general. I’m learning how to incorporate the cake and sugar tools to cookies. Pretty much the same thing, right? Just smaller.

I would say there are two major differences between Cakers and cookiers:

  1. The obvious. Cakes are bigger than cookies. Duh, right? This really comes into play when you are working on developing new recipes or new decorating techniques. What do you do with all that research?? Unless you work or live in an environment where you have lots of people to give it to, you and your family can get really tired of cake. I was fortunate to be working in a law office where anything sweet is gobbled up. When you are working with cookies, you don’t have quite so much R&D to “share.” It is much easier to freeze cookies for later as well.

  2. Cookie People vs. Cake People. Yes, there really is a difference. I used to think that a sugar artist was a sugar artist. That included all mediums and techniques. Everything lumped together. Boy, was I wrong. With the sudden popularity of all things cake, lots of new people entered the field.  The innovation was staggering and people wanted credit and recognition for everything they did. At times this has led to some really bad exchanges on every social media platform on the planet. I really haven’t seen anything even close to that on cookie sites and groups.


I don’t want to say anything negative about anyone in particular, but let’s just say that the openness and willingness of the cookie community to share their ideas, recipes, techniques and just about everything they know with fellow Cookiers is really refreshing. Enough said about that.

Playing around with extra icing!

Playing around with extra icing!


Let’s talk about borders. Cakers have a tendency to put borders on every cake. It just finishes the cake. Cookiers don’t need borders. Some decorators (Um, me.) still put them on everything, but I’m definitely seeing a trend away from them.

Christmas cookies with a 2T’s stencil and a royal icing crush…or border :)

Christmas cookies with a 2T’s stencil and a royal icing crush…or border :)

Then there’s royal Icing.  When discussing this article with Linda Bills, the owner of the now closed Do It With Icing and a fellow McGoober, she said that she had always been taught a couple of things about royal icing. The first was never, ever put royal in the refrigerator. Cookiers do it all the time without any ill effects. And they even freeze it!! Who knew??   The second thing was never keep it in plastic. Well, many cookiers use plastic squeeze bottles and keep their icing in the bags until ready to use it. Just squish it up and proceed if it starts to separate.

One thing I’m learning about this new path is that I’m loving sharing with the cookie world my knowledge of “cake” techniques that may enhance cookies as well as learning new ways to use techniques and mediums that I may be familiar with on a much smaller scale.

My nephew, Jaden, loving decorating!

My nephew, Jaden, loving decorating!

I have been blessed the past two years to attend Cake International in Birmingham, England. The first year, 2017, I was enamored with all of the 1600 entries, mostly cakes. Last year, 2018, I couldn’t stay away from all the beautiful cookies. The theme for cookies was Cookies for Santa. I’ve attached some of the ones that really caught my eye. It was amazing to see so many cookie artists from all over the world competing. Each and every entry was spectacular.

So, as I’ve said, I love the cookie world and I am so happy to be a part of it in my small way.

My niece, Dominique, loving cookie decorating!

My niece, Dominique, loving cookie decorating!

CookieCon Calendar Artist: Tricia Zunino

If you were lucky enough to attend Cookie Con in Indianapolis, you received a 2019 CookieCon Calendar. Each month features a beautiful photograph of amazing cookies made by cookie artists you may already know and love. We thought it would be fun to find out what inspired each of these ladies. So without further ado, here are a few words from Miss January…Tricia Zunino!

January.JPG

I was both thrilled and honored when Mike called and asked if I would be interested in participating in the CookieCon calendar project.  I chose January and decided to do a winter theme. I first thought of colors that reminded me of winter – blue and white. From there, I decided on snowflakes, polar bears and skates. To add texture, I added a knit hat, mitten and sweater. As a little pop of color, a tiny red cardinal was placed on the limb of a birch tree. In the process, I was able to work with Denise at Ann Clark and design a cute little polar bear in the set.  It was such a fun project to be a part of and I’ll keep my calendar forever!!

Tricia Zunino…Miss January!

Tricia Zunino…Miss January!




Suburban Madmom (aka: Suburban Badass)

Piping Better than Mediocre (And Sometimes Super Teeny) Logos

Ann (Suburban Madmom) Murad

Arty: In a word, my friend Ann is a conundrum. She is full of unexpected qualities and I just adore the heck out of her. The first thing you may notice is how colorful and sparkly she is, but did you know she has 6 adorable kids… SIX! (I’m one of six so I have a tiny idea of what kind of patience and multi-tasking that takes). She is gorgeous, but she has no ego. While she is a colorful character she has a very calm and loving aura about her. She is also one of the most patriotic people I’ve ever met and she is “straight edge”… I want to talk to her more about this and about a billion other things. But for now, I hope you all enjoy reading some great tips from this awesomely layered and always unexpected woman and artist: Ann!

Ann and her handsome husband, Steve

Ann and her handsome husband, Steve

When I was asked to do a guest blog post for the famed Arty McGoo I was overwhelmed with quite a few emotions. First and foremost, I was extremely flattered, followed by some slight intimidation, inferiority and ending with some determination.

With this holiday season marking my third year as a “cookier”, I still view myself as a rookie in the “Cookie World”. I don’t have to try to stay humble, because I already know there is ALWAYS more to learn. McGoo U has been a great tool for me to refer to when I need or want to try something I have yet to do. It’s also helpful to learn a better way to do some things that I’ve already done. With that, I’ve received so much valuable help and so many valuable tips about products used and how to do things. So it’s important to me that when someone asks me how I do what I do, I feel responsible to share the wealth.

Ann is well known for her logo cookies…and it’s obvious why!

Ann is well known for her logo cookies…and it’s obvious why!


Let’s get down to the nitty gritty. I enjoy doing artistically styled cookies. You know, the ones that are meant to show people emotion. The ones that you have to dig down deep to find your pathway, and end up having to step away from numerous times. I don’t get many of those orders. Once in a while I get an order for a cutsie birthday party or a baby shower and I spend countless hours, it seems, looking at other cookies and clipart for inspiration. Those aren’t my favorite.

The amazing cookie Ann made for Katy Metoyer - from a photo of Katy’s dad

The amazing cookie Ann made for Katy Metoyer - from a photo of Katy’s dad

What I get the most orders for, are logos. Rows and rows of logos, and that’s what I love. Logos are already determined. I might have to take a second or two to decide what plaque to put them on. I don’t have to use my brain much, maybe a little for mixology in the form of a color palette. The only issue I have with them, on occasion, is being able to dedicate the uninterrupted time to stay focused and get into a groove. You have to get into a groove.

More of Ann’s logo cookies

More of Ann’s logo cookies

Can you believe I do all these logos FREEHAND? Well, don’t. Before I even started to cookie, I bought a used KopyKake, then upgraded to a pico shortly thereafter. It wasn’t so big and clunky, didn’t take up that much space, I didn’t have to keep resizing my images with my printer and it was portable if I needed it to be. I was ready to rock and roll. Except…my image was upside down. Oh, well. I could work with that, and that I did. Somehow, I think piping letters upside became easier for me. In fact, even without a pico, if I try to pipe a word or name, it comes out much more legibly for me to do it upside down.

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Onto the consistency. There are SO many amazing blog posts out there about consistency. I can’t even begin to compare. I’m sure I learned from trying many different things from many different blogs. I always start with stiff royal icing, then assess my logo for what consistencies are required. If there is a design to the logo, such as the Lincoln on my Lincoln Financial Group logos, I keep the icing a little on the thin side, maybe a little thicker than one would use for a flood, pipe the outline of the design and fill it right in with the design flood.

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Some people might make it a little thicker and use a scribe to blend it all together and smooth it all out, but I just don’t have time for that. I pipe most of my letters or words with what most people would consider an outlining consistency…just slightly thinner than toothpaste. For really tiny piping, I add a squirt of water to make it just that much more fluid, and use the tip almost as a pencil, writing letters rather than piping. Also, I don’t use tips. Ever. (Unless I’m piping a flower, which doesn’t happen too often.) I prefer tipless bags because I’m too lazy to wash tips. I’ve also found that with tips it’s easy to squeeze a clog or a dried piece of icing that can make my lines wonky. I know where to hold the seam for my preference and I’ve learned to work with seams cut too big. All personal preference.

Amazing…and she does it all UPSIDE DOWN!

Amazing…and she does it all UPSIDE DOWN!

Now that all that is settled, I pull the image up on my pico (upside down, of course) and get started. I always work from left to right and top of my image to bottom. If there is a large picture on the left I would pipe that first. If there is tiny writing or a tiny design inside of another shape, that would also take precedence. After that it’s just piping. Each letter is piped top to bottom, left to right just as the whole logo is. It’s what works for me. As I said before, when it comes to teeny tiny letters, I use the tip of the bag similarly to a pencil, with the tiniest bit of a hole cut in the tip, with the icing a bit more fluid and “write” with the icing. Any other design to the logo gets done last.

Ann rocked these cookies!

Ann rocked these cookies!

In the title of this post I say “better than mediocre” because I feel like it’s nearly impossible to pipe a perfect logo, although I’ve seen some come pretty close. A projector isn’t a miracle worker, and even though sometimes I wish I had a stencil to use, I find my clients prefer (and are willing to compensate me for) a hand piped cookie. “No iron ons”, my biggest client says, and he understands that a cookie is just that: a cookie. It’s a smooth, yummy confection made with love and sometimes plenty of aggravation.

It’s personalized, and people love that. They can see the work and the worth to each cookie. Just as in the Fable, The Tortoise and the Hare, slow and steady wins the race. Keep focused, don’t get discouraged, don’t take on more than you can handle in an amount of time that’s unreasonable and practice those lines. If you’re feeling a little daring turn your image back to upside down. Love what you do and everyone else will too!

When she’s not piping logos, Ann makes beautiful cookies like this.

When she’s not piping logos, Ann makes beautiful cookies like this.


From Cairnlea to Cookie Con: One Aussie's journey

Arty: If you have been to one of the last two CookieCon you’ve probably met Joeanne Cassar (of Cookies with Jo) because she is so friendly! I love that she says she is usually quiet and keeps to herself because whether she likes it or not, she stands out from the crowd with her infectious smile and her cheery demeanor. Also, her accent is awesome and I know I speak for most when I say I am fascinated by the Australian culture and the mind boggling trip it takes to get here!

Joeanne is one of several fantastic ladies who make the trek from Australia to CookieCon. I love that so many people find friends through cookie decorating. Especially when they travel across the world to find they have friends in their own neck of the woods! So without further ado: here is Joeanne (and we can’t forget her husband Andrew. He is a really good hugger!)

Joeanne: Let’s start at the beginning…well, almost! I started cookieing about 2 1/2 years ago. I ended up getting sick and couldn’t do much so I sat and cookied. Decorating cookies is like an addiction for me; I find it very relaxing and therapeutic.

Georganne Bell came out to Australia and I took one of her classes. She started talking about CookieCon. I went home and said to my husband Andrew, “Wow, can you believe it? They have a conference in Salt Lake City all about cookies!” Andrew told me I should go, and I said “don’t be ridiculous! Go all the way there for a conference? Ha ha!”

Probably a day or so went by and I thought “You know what? Life is so short; Why not?” Salt Lake 2017 was my first CookieCon, and it added fuel to the fire of my addiction. So I got a ticket and got ready to go to my second CookieCon in Indy. I was ready to go; and the Cadbury Koalas, Tim Tams and fridge magnets were ready to go as well.

What is great about CookieCon is that my husband and I stay in a city that we would never normally visit. For the week of CookieCon Andrew is on his own; He’s flying solo. No complaints from him though!  Andrew only had one goal for CC and that was to meet Arty McGoo and have his photo taken with her. He got it!  Boy was he a happy soul. His bucket list was complete for CC!

My husband Andrew & Arty

My husband Andrew & Arty

I, on the other hand, was like a kid in a candy store at CookieCon. Unlike other times I was well and truly in my comfort zone. I’m normally a very quiet person who is polite and keeps to herself, but something happens at CookieCon and I go Cookie Crazy. You all just get me!!  I can’t believe how addicted I was to pins. If someone posted a picture of one on CC attendees page, I wanted it! Even if it was late at night and I was tucked up in bed, if someone posted "I’m in the foyer for 20 minutes handing out pins” I’d hop up, get changed, and grab that pin! I was weighed down in pins.

My pins…not all of them! Crazy, addictive things!

My pins…not all of them! Crazy, addictive things!

I did pre-class workshops, hung around with my Aussie girls Rebekah Jodie and Cathy, made lots of new friends, got my CookieCon Goodie bag (Ammmazzzzing) and learnt an amazing amount of things.

My Aussie girls: me, Rebekah, Cathy and Jodie.

My Aussie girls: me, Rebekah, Cathy and Jodie.

Hey I took two Classes with Arty and I never, ever thought that would happen. Might I just say… awesome!!!! And NO I wasn’t paid for this post. :) I loved being part of CookieCon.; I had my photo taken with any Cookie Royalty that would have me.

The Aussies and Arty at Camp McGoo

The Aussies and Arty at Camp McGoo

Camp McGoo was great I don’t think I have ever done anything as fast as I did the requirements to get my oven mitt badge. I was so fast, Mr. John couldn’t believe it!

The CookieCon banquet was wonderful. I loved seeing who had won for their Sugar Show entries. The amount of talent in that room is extraordinary. Cookie Karaoke (or dance party, as it turned out) was great fun too. I brought Andrew along, but he went to bed early; he has two left feet.

There is nothing like CookieCon. The love for Cookies is fabulous and the people are extraordinary and crazy…just like me! CookieCon (thanks to Karen and Mike) is staggering. The love from my Cookie Friends is Real. Thanks for a blast. Hope to see you in Reno if I’m lucky enough to get a ticket. 


Finally, my letter and patches!

Finally, my letter and patches!

Guest Post: Scientist/Cookier/Pie Champion, Chris Taylor!

Arty: Chris Flipping Taylor is one of the few, one of the proud, male cookie decorators in our cookiesphere.  So his real middle name is not flipping, but Chris Flipping Taylor! is what I usually utter whilst scrolling through his instagram feed looking at all his beautiful culinary creations.  His cookie designs are crazy creative and don't get me started on his pies.  They are works of art!  And because I've had the chance to hang out with this wonderful man on several occasions, I know that he makes me laugh hysterically with his wit and humor.  Did you know we also hung out with KISS together?  But that's another story. 

If you don't already know Chris, today is your lucky day!  and if you do know Chris... today is your lucky day to get to know him better!  ... I suddenly have a serious hankerin' for pie.     

My friend Chris. To know him is to love him!

My friend Chris. To know him is to love him!

I live in Atlanta, Georgia now, but before I moved to the ATL, I lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In Pittsburgh, I was working hard on finishing my graduate degree. I discovered baking as a way to escape and relax from the mountains of work I had. I turned procrastibaking into an art! In fact, with my baking, I became the go-to guy for baking birthday cakes and other goodies in the office where I worked. As I learned more about baking, I also discovered decorating cookies.

Birthday Cake Cookies!

Birthday Cake Cookies!

I didn’t do a lot of cookie decorating while I was still in school, and I certainly didn’t do it well. Eight years ago, when I moved south, I really started taking up decorating cookies as a hobby. Like most cookie decorators, I didn’t go to culinary school, but rather I learned by following blogs and watching online video tutorials (including Arty McGoo, of course!).

Chris' hand-painted Academy Award cookies...which were in the CookieCon Sugar Show!

Chris' hand-painted Academy Award cookies...which were in the CookieCon Sugar Show!

I love making cookies, and I always share them with my friends and co-workers. Like many cookie makers, I’ve turned down a lot of requests over the years to bake for friends' events. Without a commercial kitchen, it is against the law to sell food in Georgia (in most states, actually).

Pathogen cookies that Chris made for a friend's retirement party.

Pathogen cookies that Chris made for a friend's retirement party.

Georgia has cottage food regulations that allow home-based bakers to make and sell their wares, including decorated cookies, from their home kitchens.  However, foods that require refrigeration, like cheesecakes, cream pies, and cakes with Swiss meringue buttercream (our favorite!) are not allowed.  After much research, we made the decision to build a commercial kitchen in the basement of our home.  This would allow us to bake cakes, cookies, and pies for sale in the same way any bakery would but without a retail storefront. With both of us working full-time, this was a great fit for us. We could take orders and bake as we needed without having to worry about opening and closing times and throwing out stale food that didn’t sell that day (seriously—some traditional retail bakeries toss a TON of food every day because it stales so quickly).

Renovating the basement was an adventure!  Learning all of the requirements for commercial kitchens was very important so we could assist our contractor in what we would need and where it would go in the setup we designed. A heat exhaust hood, three-compartment sink, and a mop sink, among other things, would all be required to pass inspection.  While the construction part was not terribly fun, buying new baking equipment was!  To furnish the space, we needed a new oven, refrigerator, and freezer. 

Chris and Paul's commercial kitchen. So shiny!

Chris and Paul's commercial kitchen. So shiny!

We’re fortunate in Atlanta to have several restaurant supply stores, most of which sell equipment to the public. Check to see if you have one in your area—the prices are usually much cheaper for equipment like cutting boards, mixing bowls, spatulas, and cookie dough scoops than what we find at department stores or even Amazon.

After everything was in place, we were able to request an inspection. Fortunately, we passed with flying colors. After the inspection, we got our business license and tax certificate from the county. Everything was in place, and we were so close to opening! Have the orders started rolling in yet?  Well, no.  Why not?  Well, in the midst of renovations, we signed a contract to write a cookbook!

Nom nom nom nom nom...

Nom nom nom nom nom...

While I love decorating cookies, I am also an avid pie baker. In 2017, I won the "Best of Show" award at the National Pie Championships. As a result, my husband and fellow pie baker, Paul, and I were written up in the New York Times. After the article was published, we were contacted by a few publishers and literary agents asking if we had ever considered writing a cookbook. After working with an agent, we submitted a book proposal and ultimately signed a contract with Clarkson Potter, an imprint of the Crown Publishing group within Penguin Random House. We put the bakery on hold while we worked to develop, test, refine, and write our pie cookbook! It’s been a lot of hard work, but as of today, our draft is submitted and we are going through the editing process, and it’s coming along very nicely.

Chocolate Covered Cherry Pie

Chocolate Covered Cherry Pie

 

The New Pie, due for release in March 2019, is a pie cookbook, but it might include some of my favorite cookie techniques, too. Maybe royal icing might make an appearance. We might airbrush something. Maybe a stencil, or two?

Reese's Pieces Pie...featuring Chris' mad airbrushing skills!

Reese's Pieces Pie...featuring Chris' mad airbrushing skills!