Local Cookie Decorators Talk on Creating the Perfect Cookie

Creativity, Color, and Craft

The Perfect Cookie

Photography by David and Drew Photography

From birthdays to wedding showers to holidays, there’s never a bad time for a good cookie – especially when it’s decorated to perfectly match your event’s theme. Here, we feature six local cookie decorators who have mastered the craft of creating beautiful cookies that also taste fantastic. Read on to learn how these talented women got started decorating cookies and why they are passionate about the art of baking.

sugar salt and paulk cookies anna paulk

Anna Paulk

Sugar, Salt, and Paulk

How did you get into baking and cookie decorating? I have been baking for most of my life. I loved making desserts for my family growing up. About eight years ago, I came across decorated sugar cookies on Pinterest, and I was instantly captivated! I thought they were so unique and beautiful. That is when I started teaching myself how to decorate. I remember doing it for the first time and thinking how hard it was! It took me three hours just to decorate eight cookies. I had no idea what I was doing but I was determined. I focused on mastering the cookie recipe first before learning to decorate – so the cookies taste as great as they look.

What is your cookie making process like? The cookie process starts with mixing and chilling the dough for a couple hours before rolling the dough out. During this time is when I pick out my cookie cutters and plan my designs. Then I roll out my dough, cut my shapes, and bake the cookies. Next, I make my royal icing and start mixing all the colors I plan to use. During this step, I also create different icing consistencies to give different looks while decorating. Once I have all my colors mixed and bagged, I’m able to start decorating! Decorating is a multiple-hour process, typically split into two days in order to let layers dry in between. Once finished, the cookies need to dry completely in order to be packaged.

What do you enjoy about baking and decorating cookies? Baking has always been an outlet for me. I love being able to just put on some music and get lost in my own little cookie world. Plus, being able to hand someone happiness in the form of a cookie is a wonderful feeling. My favorite part about decorating cookies is sharing the finished product with the customer and watching my ideas come to life. Taste testing isn’t so bad either!

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sweet lannah's bake shop cookies

amanda phelps

Amanda Phelps

Sweet Lannah’s Bake Shop

How did you get into baking and cookie decorating? My passion for baking began when I was a little girl. I come from a long line of women who knew their way around the kitchen, and they instilled those talents in me. My grandmothers were always honored to teach my sisters and me in their kitchens. My grandmother made this apron for me – she gave it to me when I was an adult and I have cherished it and still wear it while baking at home! My Momma always made birthday cakes for my family, and she taught me everything she knew, so it only felt natural for me to make my first son’s first birthday cake 17 years ago. After that, my best friend bought me my first baking kit, and I continued to make my children’s birthday treats and began getting requests. After a few years of baking cakes, I had a friend ask me to make decorated cookies and I fell in love! I found my niche and my little hobby grew by word of mouth.

What do you enjoy about baking and decorating cookies? I like to say that cookie decorating is similar to sitting down with an adult coloring book. After the baking is done, I can sit and make the cookies come to life! I find it so relaxing and rewarding. Without a doubt, the best part is the delivery! I love to see the joy on my clients’ faces when they see the finished product! That alone makes all the hard work so worth it. Cookies bring joy!

What is your favorite set of cookies you’ve decorated? It is really difficult to decide which ones are my favorite, but I truly enjoyed a set I made with my daughter for her birthday! She designed them and helped with the entire process. It brought so much joy to me to share my passion with her like my mom and grandmothers did with me! Hopefully, she will continue to nurture
a passion for baking too – she is sweet Lannah after all!

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coco's cookie jar cookies courtney campbell

Courtney Campbell

CoCo’s Cookie Jar

What do you enjoy about baking and decorating cookies? I enjoy baking because it allows me to set my own schedule. Having six kids makes for some interesting days, so sometimes my best work is done at 1 a.m. I also enjoy meeting new customers and building relationships with them. It’s so fun to grow with them! As they get older, my cookies get better, so in a sense we kind of grow together, which I love. My favorite part about decorating cookies is getting to see the finished and final product. With all the different shapes and designs, sometimes I wonder if it’s going to turn out as good as I planned it in my head, and somehow it always comes together beautifully.

What do you think make your cookies unique? One thing that sets my cookies apart is my edible cookie printer that can print any logo, picture, or design directly onto the cookie. This makes for absolutely stunning cookies that turn into one of the main focal points for events and parties.

What inspires you to bake and be creative with your cookies? My customers definitely inspire me the most to be as creative and fun with my orders as possible. The fun themes and parties that they come up with make it so enjoyable, and it’s always a new challenge to convert their ideas into actual cookies for their event. My favorite type of event to create custom cookies for are children’s birthday parties. The possibilities are endless, and I love to see a kid get so excited when they see their name on a cookie or their favorite character or theme. I want to thank all my current customers for supporting my
business and letting me live out my dream!

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signal mountain cookie lady cookies sandie benson

Sandie Benson

Signal Mountain Cookie Lady

How did you get into baking and cookie decorating? I started baking cookies as a child and I’ve always enjoyed baking, especially during the holidays. I found myself baking more as a hobby in 1995, trying new recipes and experimenting with decorating techniques. Pretty soon I found myself fulfilling orders from friends and neighbors, and in 2005, I decided to turn my love of baking into a business. And I’m so glad I did.

What is your process for baking and decorating cookies? Every cookie starts from scratch. It’s a more involved process of measuring and mixing than most people would think. Once the dough is prepared, it has to be rolled out and cut into the specific shapes our clients desire. After baking and cooling, the cookies get a base coating of frosting. That has to dry before we customize each cookie with the icing decorations. Frequently this requires multiple colors and decorating tips. After another drying period, the cookies are individually wrapped and tied with coordinating ribbon.

What is your favorite part about decorating cookies? The joy that cookies bring to our customers. There’s nothing better than seeing the looks on the faces of the kids that come in after school, the excitement of the holidays, or having a client order something special to surprise a soon-to-be bride or new mother. I love the feeling of being a part of family parties and celebrations. We’ve made cookies for generations of special events and it’s really gratifying to play a role in making special memories. I bake because it makes others happy! I also enjoy the challenge of providing fun new designs or producing a one-of-a-kind look for a special occasion.

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chattanooga cookies becky blalock

Becky Blalock

Chattanooga Cookies

What inspires you to bake and be creative with your cookies? I am an artist at heart. If it’s a creative craft, I’ve tried it. Cookies allow me to make art that doesn’t pile up around my house. I get a lot out of decorating cookies. It gives me a purpose and a goal. It keeps me busy and on a schedule. I also get a feeling of accomplishment when I can make people’s visions come to fruition. I love that people trust me to be a part of their most special life events.

Why do you enjoy baking and decorating cookies? Making cookies gives me a creative outlet. They give me a purpose and a sense of pride. My favorite part about making and decorating cookies is seeing my customer’s reaction the first time they see their cookies. It’s a privilege to make cookies for someone’s most precious life events and I don’t take that for granted.

How did you get into baking and cookie decorating? My introduction into cookie decorating started as a whim during Christmas of 2015. I enjoyed it but thought it was a lot of work. I continued baking and decorating cookies on and off for friends and family for several years. As time went on people would ask if I sold cookies or had an Instagram page. My answer was always no. At Christmas in 2020 I decided I enjoyed decorating cookies. I practiced my decorating and I quickly realized I had to start selling to fund my new hobby. I baked and decorated several Valentine’s Day cookies and asked my Facebook friends to support my new hobby. Bless them, they bought my primitive artwork. I watched video after video to learn and grow in my cookie decorating endeavor, and I started Chattanooga Cookies in the spring of 2021.

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first bloom coffee + bakery cookies christine armao

Christine Armao

First Bloom Coffee + Bakery

How did you get into baking and cookie decorating? My family has always been into baking and decorating Christmas cookies, so during the pandemic, I ordered some piping tips and other decorating tools in an attempt to up my game. The very first cookies I decorated with the new tools were a huge hit on social media, so I decided to go ahead and try selling some decorated cookies for Halloween and Christmas. I discovered a whole Instagram and Facebook community of cookie decorators who shared decorating ideas and business tips which helped me grow my business very quickly. I decorated my first cookies in October of 2021, so I have been decorating for about two and a half years.

What inspires you to bake and be creative with your cookies? Other cookie decorators on Instagram or Pinterest inspire me a lot. I am always blown away by the things people are able to create on a cookie. I love working with event planners for weddings and showers because they always have detailed mood boards and a clear vision of how they want their event to look, and I get inspiration from the ideas they have already put together. I get ideas from nature, TV and other media, physical retail store displays, etc. Inspiration can really come from anywhere!

What makes your cookies unique? I think each cookie decorator has their own style and their own strengths, so no two are really the same! I do take pride in the fact that my cookies not only look pretty, but they taste great as well. Royal icing can often be so hard that you wonder if you might break a tooth when eating it, and it can have an unappetizing chemical taste if low quality ingredients are used. Everything I make in my brick-and-mortar bakery is made using fresh, local ingredients whenever possible, and everything is made from scratch with many recipes being passed down from older generations. That includes my sugar cookies, and I love hearing feedback about how soft and flavorful they are.

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