Happy New Year! The holidays do seem like they were quite some time ago, but I hope you all had a restful break, and are back into the swing of cookie decorating. By the looks of some of the valentines already being posted on Cookie Connection, I'd say you all have hit the ground running!
Now, I know that many of you finish your holiday orders in December and take short sabbaticals through the end of the year, so I was impressed by how many of you still took the time to enter Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge #20. And, as ever, I was blown away by the effort that all of our entrants put into their challenge submissions, with some of our entrants joining Cookie Connection and entering the challenge for the very first time! I hope that in 2017 we see many more people jumping in and trying these challenges. If you have been hesitant to try your hand at these challenges in the past, consider this YOUR invitation to get on board the Practice Bakes Perfect train! [EDITOR'S NOTE: Hear, hear! I echo those sentiments!]
As if you all needed any additional incentive, we also give away some fabulous prizes for these challenges. The winner is always chosen at random, so you are rewarded simply for giving it a go and taking some healthy cookie decorating risks - a win-win in my book!
And so, with that, let me announce the winner of Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge #20 (chosen, as I said, at random from among all of our entrants). And that winner is . . . carouselselsel! As our lucky winner, she will receive a Dinkydoodle airbrush system AND three five-stencil sets from Julia M. Usher's new stencil line (an estimated retail value of $210 USD)! Holy moly, what a prize! Even I am a bit jelly!
Not only was carouselselsel the winner of our random prize drawing, but she also had a fabulous entry.
Golden Valentine by carouselselsel
In this entry, carouselselsel took an older rustic heart valentine set (which you can see in the comments to her entry here), and swapped out lots of wood grain for gold filigree, and really changed the entire tone of this set from shabby chic to glamour gold!
Congratulations on the big win, carouselselsel! And now, let's take a look at our other spotlighted entries, in no particular order.
Kaleidoscope by Manu
I love so much about this entry. It is a redo of an entry to a prior challenge (Practice Bake Perfect Challenge #15 - Instanbul), which was her interpretation of the dome of the Blue Mosque. (You can see her original set of cookies in the comments to her current entry here.) In this new set, Manu chose as her subject the same dome of the Blue Mosque, and utilized many of the same colors and patterns. However, in this new entry, she completely swapped the perspective of the dome so that we are no longer looking up toward the dome, but rather down from the top of the dome to the ground! This reversing of her perspective was pure genius, in my opinion, and the result is absolutely stunning.
Baby Samurai and Ninja Bear by Ryoko ~Cookie Ave.
In this redo, Ryoko took a very classic set of pink baby cookies (you can see the original baby set in the comments to her entry here), and made them into a style that was much more her own, and reflective of her own home country (Japan) and culture. We all learn our cookie decorating craft by essentially imitating the artists who came before us, and it is truly a sign of progression and growth when you can finally break out and find your "own" style. Plus, the little story Ryoko tells in relation to her new set and its inspiration is delightful!
Tangram Cat by Noaa
Similar to Manu's entry, this entry is also a redo of a prior Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge entry (Challenge #10 - Arrays)! In this entry, Noaa took her original concept, a tangram cat (see it in the comment to her entry here), and reorganized her tiles to create a cat sitting upright, rather than a cat on all fours. Then, instead of using brightly colored piping, she handpainted the whole redo set in muted, natural tones. As a result, she created a wholly different set, with a more realistic feel.
Sherlock by Frost Me Beautiful
Despite my own obvious, personal love of this theme, I think we can all agree that this set, by Frost Me Beautiful, is a brilliant entry. This set is a redo of a more generic London set from two years ago (you can see the original set in the comments to this entry here). The original set had all of the standards - Union Jack; Tube and "Keep Calm" signs; and a red, white, and blue color scheme. In this new set, she really takes this theme to the next level, adding the Sherlock sub-theme, giving the set a more antiqued look, and adding handpainted and stenciled elements for more depth and interest. I really like how the Union Jack was painted across the Sherlock letters - very clever design work there!
Let It Snow by katydoescookies
This set is another one where the artist was able to completely change the tone of the set simply by swapping decorating techniques and color palettes. Katy's original set of winter snowflakes was beautiful with piped snowflakes in soft, wintery pastel tones (see it here, in the comments to her entry). However, in the new set, she went with a richer, monotone palette, and deftly layered stencils and used over-piping to creating subtle textures and depth. The overall result is a more sophisticated set of cookies.
Calhoun's Construction Set by Sweet Treats by Sonya
This entry is a fantastic example of the progress we cookiers can make from one year to the next. Sonya's original set was adorable (see it in the comments to her entry here), but this new one really kicked it up a notch (or two!). Sonya added a bagful of new techniques to the new set, including handpainting, fonts and images piped with the assistance of her new Kopykake projector, and improved photography techniques. The result is a very cohesive, playful set, in perfect harmony with the theme.
Makeup! by Sweet Treats by Sonya
In this second entry from Sweet Treats by Sonya (and her second spotlighted entry - congratulations, Sonya!), Sonya used many of the same shapes and elements from an earlier makeup-themed set (you can see the original set in the comments to this entry here). However, in this latest set, she really changes the feel and tone by completely changing the color palette, and refining some of her techniques. For me, the most significant change was eliminating a lot of black, piped outlining in favor of the silvery gray color in her challenge entry. The softer color really helps the other colors and finer details to shine through.
New Year Cookies by Le Monnier du Biscuit
Although her original New Year-themed set from 2015 was lovely, Le Monnier du Biscuit was so unhappy with how that one turned out (declaring it to have too much airbrushing and too many letters, and to be horribly photographed to boot!) that she never posted it publicly! (But YOU can see it here in the comments to her entry.) While we can argue with Le Monnier du Biscuit about her characterization of her previous set, we cannot argue with the success of her 2017 New Year cookies. Less is more in this set - fewer colors; bolder, more simple graphic designs and patterns; and all perfectly matched to the inspiration plate. If this entry is any indication, 2017 will be a very good year for cookies, indeed.
Brush Up Your Sweet Tooth! by SugaredAndIced
This entry is a second crack at a dentist-themed set by SugaredAndIced. Her original set, done just over the 2016 holidays, was very Christmas-focused and not nearly as dentist-focused. (See that set in the comments to her entry here.) In her new set, she made the tooth theme more whimsical (teeth with gold crowns to represent teeth with dental crowns!), and used a variety of different techniques, including piping the "Smile" plaque with the help of her pico projector. She felt she was taking a risk with the "open wide" cookies, but then felt they were her favorite of the set. (I just love it when a healthy decorating risk pays off!).
Home Is Wherever You Are by Alison Friedli
In our final spotlighted entry, Alison Friedli took a previously created Easter bunny-themed house and recreated it for Valentine's Day. (See the original Easter house in the comments to this entry here.) The beauty of this reimagined set is that it can be redone, and redone, and redone in a new theme for every season of the year. Having an original idea that is so well done and versatile at the start makes reimagining all the more possible!
I am looking forward to our next challenge, which is already in the works as we speak. Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge #21 will post on or about February 6, 2017, so stay tuned for another cookie challenge adventure!
Christine Donnelly began her professional baking career at 16, when she was hired on the spot at her local bakery to work the counter and decorate cakes. After detours to college and law school, she worked as a trial lawyer in Chicago for many years, ultimately leaving that career to become a stay-at-home mother to her two children. In her “retirement,” she continued to bake at home, at last finding her preferred artistic medium in decorated cookies. In February 2013, Bakerloo Station was born with a presence on both Facebook and Instagram. Christine makes cookies to balance her left brain, to inspire and share creative ideas, and to feed those needs that only art can satisfy.
Photo credit: Christine Donnelly
Note: Practice Bakes Perfect is a bimonthly Cookie Connection blog feature written by Christine Donnelly that poses inspiration or challenges to get you to stretch as a cookie artist - for practice, for prizes, and for fun! Its content expresses the views of the author and not necessarily those of this site, its owners, its administrators, or its employees. Catch up on all of Christine's past Cookie Connection posts here.