Live Chat with Tammy Trahan of New Orleans Cookie Company

Hi, Tammy! Welcome! It's wonderful to have you here with us today. I am excited to learn more about your cookie journey and many of your techniques!
Julia, thank you so much for having me here with you all today. I am honored to be here among so many wonderfully talented, fellow cookiers.
Good morning to everyone joining us as well! I encourage everyone to jump in with questions. These chats are always more fun and informative when people don't hang back on the sidelines!
Though . . . before we dive into Q&A, just a few housekeeping notes for newbies to our chats: questions are answered in the order received, but they will not post to the public/viewable area of the chat until Tammy reads and answers them. We'll work through questions that were logged in advance first; then start working on questions asked live during the chat. That said, please be patient and do not re-post the same question. It may take some time to answer your question, depending on where it sits in the queue. But I will personally make sure every question gets answered before we're through.
Also, please ask just one question at a time (per post); it's easier for our guests to keep up and others to read the chat transcript if they're not hit with too many questions at once. Thanks!
We have MANY questions logged in advance, BTW.
So I suspect we will be at least 20 minutes going through those. So let's get started!
To get the conversation going, please review Tammy's bio under the "i" icon at the top of this post if you haven't already. I'm also going to post a few of her photos now for those of you not yet familiar with her fantastic work!
Here's the first - a regal cat!
Another! What a sweet angel!
And the last ones, for now anyway, a recent heart collection and circus set by Tammy . . .
Here's that circus set . . .
I've also got a few questions to start . . .
Tammy, You seem to do a lot of cookie "studies", meaning sets surrounding a similar shape like hearts or angels. I love them, but why is that?
JULIA AND MARY - I always chuckle when it comes to the "angels" because I had never planned for them to be a set. I had already posted pics of my Valentine cookies, so when that day came, I had nothing to post. I grabbed an angel leftover from another time, and thought that I would use some stamping, etc. Everyone loved her, so I made one for Mardi Gras, Spring, Easter, etc. Friends expect them to show up for the holidays!
BTW, Mary had asked a similar question. Just posting it here for the record!
Hi, Tammy. I so love your work. I'm especially drawn to your angels. What inspired you to design your line of angels? In love with your patriotic cookies in particular . . . such awesome detail and depth. Thank you!!
JULIA - As for the heart cookies, I wanted to treat each one differently, using different techniques, etc. I'm learning a lot myself and I love creating one cookie, one way. I have so many cookie ideas in my head, that most of the time I'd rather make one cookie instead of a dozen of the same.
Tammy, You posted a set of Christmas-themed cookies to my Facebook group recently, and you mentioned they were going to be props in an upcoming Hallmark movie! Wow! Can you tell us how that gig came about, what kind of guidance you were given, and how you planned and developed those creations? Also, how did you charge for this special project?
JULIA - I was so excited to get the order for Christmas cookies to be used in the filming of a new Hallmark movie. The job order came from a woman who works for a movie company as a set designer. She has had my cookies at different parties in the New Orleans area, and thought of me when planning her movie set. She wanted traditional iconic Christmas cookies. I knew to do bold, colorful, clean cookies for the shooting so that they would give a good show. Since I'm a bit familiar with filming, I knew that it was not a time to get too artsy, especially if the shots taken are for only seconds. I charged her the same price that I normally charge when I do sell cookies, which is not too often, $48 per dozen.
Awesome! What's the name of the movie, so we all can be on the lookout?! (Sorry, inserting a live question!)
Julia, They have not named the movie just yet. I will post when they do.
Tammy, Do you sell your cookies, or do you largely do them as a form of creative expression? If you sell, how many cookies do you bake/decorate/sell per week and what's your average price?
JULIA - Sometimes I do sell my cookies. If and when I do, I charge $48 a dozen. If they were to be hand painted, etc., of course they would be significantly more. I love making them for family and friends! I mostly decorate cookies as a form of creative expression. Having worked in the graphic design field for many years, I would welcome and love jobs where my cookies could be used in print, advertising, the movie industry :-), etc.
Can we see a picture of the Hallmark movie cookies?
Tammy, can you find a photo and post it while I continue to post the advance Q&A?
Do you have an art background?
Yes, Rebecca she does. Some of it is posted in her bio under the i icon above.
Hi, Tammy! I am so sorry I can't participate in the chat live! Your work is awesome. It is a pleasure looking at your cookies and enjoying their amazing details. The "Angel Collection" is really nice, an angel for every occasion. I like your style and your designs. Do you hand-cut your cookies?
Manu, Thank you so much for your sweet comments. The angel cookies are so much fun to do. I have a huge stamp and mold collection, so it's fun to go through them to find just what I need for that particular holiday angel. I loved doing the "father" angel for Father's Day! I only hand-cut the cookies if that's the only one that I ever plan on doing, such as the large Wizard of Oz cookies that I did. I design most of my cutters, and have them made. I absolutely love designing cutters.
More from Manu, who couldn't be with us today!
I loved your Vintage Circus set https://www.instagram.com/p/BW_Z82iA1KU/ . The whole set is spectacular, and every single cookie is a little masterpiece. Where did you get your inspiration and how long does it take you to make a set like this?
Manu, I'm so glad that you loved the Vintage Circus set of cookies. I thoroughly enjoyed making those. I have a love for vintage illustrations, as well as a love for vintage children's toys and such. I get a lot of my inspiration from those kinds of things. I love whimsical stuff too. I even have a miniature toy collection. I had that set in my mind for a while, and couldn't wait to apply it to cookies. I worked on three at a time in between other home projects. I worked on the set for ten days, and had a blast!! Friends wanted me to keep creating and adding more to the set. I may do that one day. (smile) Cookie friends are so amazing and so encouraging too!
I was just thinking that your Vintage Circus set would have been perfect as an illustration for a book when I read that one of your Christmas sets is going to be used in a fiming of a Hallmark Christmas movie. That's great, congrats! Did they (the movie producers) look for your cookies? Or was there a contest?
This question was already asked and answered above, but posting it for the record.
Manu, As for the Christmas cookies that were used on set for a Hallmark Christmas movie, the movie set designer called me for the job. She had tasted, and marveled at my cookies at previous functions in the New Orleans area. The movie was actually filmed in Mississippi. I was elated! (big smile)
The second part of this one was also already asked and answered, so we'll focus on the first part!
Your logo is really nice. Did you design it? And do you sell your cookies or are you planning to? I am sure people have been asking for them.
Manu, Others have mentioned the idea about a book using the circus set. I would love to use my cookies, or have my cookies used in print material, advertising spots, film, etc. I worked in the graphics field for many years so I have a lot of knowledge of how it all works. I'm looking forward to what the future may hold.
Manu, Yes, I designed my New Orleans Cookie Company logo. Glad that you like it. I also designed an alligator cutter to match the logo. We have lots of alligators down south. I only sell my cookies at times. I'm not really the type of artist that enjoys replicating. The art of decorating cookies is like an art therapy to me. I could do it 24/7. Making dozens of the same kind of cookies would not be therapeutic to me as it might be to other bakers. Yes, people inquire and beg me to sell them cookies all of the time.
OK, everyone, the Hallmark photo is en route to me. I will post it when I'm through posting the advance questions in a few minutes.
Manu, Thank you for your questions. :-)
Yes, thanks to Manu! She is a loyal chat-goer! And even when she can't be with us, she always finds a way to participate! I love that!
Now, some advance questions from Sweet Prodigy!
Hi Tammy, I love your cookies. They are so detailed. Your background in the arts and in jewelry design definitely shines through, especially in your heart-shaped cookies. I would love to know where you get your inspiration for these unique pieces of art.
Christine, Thank you so much! With the heart cookies, I'm really trying so many different techniques and styles. There are so many techniques that I am just trying out. I'm going for totally different looks. My inspiration really comes from a variety of places, such as fabrics, printed material, visual pieces, etc. I try to get a different feel for each heart, and it's fun to surprise myself, friends and viewers. My wheels never stop spinning! Lol
I want to come back to your comment re: "my wheels never stop spinning." Please remind me if I forget!
Many of your cookies do not look like the average cookie that takes 5 minutes to decorate. Are the cookies you create keepsake cookies or do you sell them?
Julia, Ok.
Christine, I love to make the more elaborate cookies for friends, or myself as art. I had recently asked, "What do cookiers do with all of these cookies?" Lol. Some say they put them in shadowboxes, etc.
What is the longest time that you have spent decorating a cookie?
Christine, I have such a hard time figuring out how much time I spend on one cookie because I'm usually working on several at a time. There's drying times and setting up times, so it really is hard for me to determine that. And, I'm always working on other projects in between the cookies.
You do such beautiful stamping on your cookies . . . how do you achieve this flawless look?
Jenni's question is our last advance question . . .
So, Tammy, get your typing fingers ready! And, everyone else, please start queuing up questions. We have 1 in the new hopper already!
Jenni, Thank you. I love stamping, and I usually test the stamp on a piece of paper first to see how much ink the stamp holds. All stamps are made differently. I just try to be clean, precise, and use just the right amount of pressure. One time I stamped an angel cookie before it was dry enough underneath the icing, and it sunk and cracked. No problem, I just put a royal icing piece over it! I learned that I must wait! It's hard sometimes. Lol.
To add to the stamping conversation, I find that the brownish red natural rubber stamps always work nicely.
The clear ones, that are often self-mounting, are more hit or miss. Some repel coloring.
Julia, Yes, those are my favorite ones.
Now, onto new questions.
How do you store your cookies?
While Tammy answers this, I will retrieve her Hallmark photo and post it. Hold on a sec.
THECAKEQUEEN, Do you mean after decorated, while keeping them, or for sale or gifting?
Here's the picture of Tammy's Hallmark movie cookies! So charming!
While thecakequeen is clarifying her question for Tammy, do we have any others? This is your chat!
BTW, all, you can click on photos in the feed to enlarge them.
THECAKEQUEEN, I heat seal them for gifting, and the ones that I keep, I sometimes seal and store them in plastic sealed boxes.
Very nice! Rich in color. How exciting!
Beautiful cookies for the movie! My question for storing the cookies- when they are completed how do you store them?
Kristine, Thank you!
TheCakeQueen - I think Tammy answered a few posts above.
Tammy what have you done since you started cooking to hone your talent. I mean have you gone to any classes? Attended cookie con etc?
THECAKEQUEEN, I answered above. Hope that you got it.
To those who don't know, CookieCon has been a biannual cookie show/conference hosted by Karen and Mike Summers. It has many cookie seminars and workshops.
The next CookieCon is in September 2018, and they are going to become annual and rotate location around the country.
Mary, I have joined Arty McGoo's online cookie school, and I have learned a lot from her and other students there.
Thanks Tammy. Where can we purchase the angel cookie cutter?
A comment regarding your Hallmark cookies, I believe . . .
They are really lovely and they have such a warm home sweet home feel to them
Julia and Mary, Cookie Con is fabulous!!! there is so much of everything there, Lots of classes, training, etc.
Tammy, did you see thecakequeen's question about the source of your angel cutter?
THECAKEQUEEN, this particular angel cutter is an Ann Clark cutter. I have designed two angel cutters that are sold at Truly Mad Plastics.
Do you have a favorite company who makes your cutters for you when you've designed them?
Thank you Tammy. You create beautiful angel cookies.
LOVE COOKIES, Thank you. They were loved!! Yippee!!
Everyone, just so you know, I am receiving your questions. Just waiting to post them until Tammy answers the one in the queue.
Rebecca, Yes, Truly Mad Plastics does such an awesome job making my cutters. But, there are other companies that do a great job as well.
Have you considered purchasing a 3-D printer to make your own?
No need to post questions twice; I am getting them. But I post them in the order received or in the most logical sequence depending on conversation flow. Thanks!
Rebecca, I did at one point, but I'm not a very technical person. I'd rather have fun designing them. Lol
Do you mostly use a sugar cookie recipe or do you find that your friends and family prefer something else - gingerbread, chocolate, etc.? I'm never sure what to make that will be enjoyed by all. I know some people don't particularly care for gingerbread. I can't imagine why, though. hahaha
Cookie Cutter Kingdom also does a lot of custom cutters, and has great service. https://www.cookiecutterkdom.com Also, a wide existing collection of cutters.
Rebecca, I have two recipes that I use. One is for when I gift and sell my cookies, and the other is when I am doing cookies for myself, for design/art purposes. The one that I serve to others is delicious, but has specs of orange peel in them.
Are your circus design cutters available for purchase?
Rebecca, Both are sugar cookie recipes. And, then there's chocolate!!!! Yum
Mary, Yes, they can be found at Truly Mad Plastics.
What is the average cost of a custom cutter?
Rebecca, An average price is about $6-7. If you want it to be exclusive to just you, there's an up charge.
Just to add to the custom cutter discussion . . . in my experience, the price can vary A LOT, depending on three things: cutter size, design complexity and material (plastic, copper, etc.)
As an example, here's the Cookie Cutter Kingdom custom cutter design page: https://www.cookiecutterkdom.com/pages/tracer
Prices there range from $7 or do up to $25, depending on size, and that's for 3-D printed plastic. Copper is much more expensive.
do = so
I would love to learn a bit more as to how to draw an image. I'm assuming there are classes online that can be taken by a novice with no art background. Are you familar with any that you would recommend for a beginner?
Julia, Absolutely. I usually design my cutters to be around 4", but I have done some a bit larger.
I'm cheap so I'd be buying plastic and telling them "Heck yeah, share the cutter with anyone who wants to buy it." hahaha
Rebecca, I am not familiar with any of those types of classes. When designing a cutter, you need to think how easy it will cut. If you have thin parts, Then they may get stuck in the cutter, and that's no fun.
Would you be willing to share your sugar cookie recipe? No problem if you'd rather not. Don't want to put you on the spot.
I'll be doing an in-depth Cookier Close-up interview with Tammy in a few weeks. Perhaps if she's willing to share her recipe, we can link to it within that interview too?
Thank you.
Rebecca, The recipe that I use to gift or sell, I paid for and got it at SweetAmbs website. The other delicious recipe that holds it's shape perfectly, came from LilaLoa.
Love your Instagram feed. Do you use a light box for your photos? They are always so perfect and uniform. Love your page.
Mary, Thank you for loving my IG feed. That's my fave place to upload pics of my cookies. I do use a lightbox, but I have a lot to learn about photographing cookies.
Just added a few minutes to the chat in case we need it. We have three questions in the queue still after the one Tammy is currently answering, and I don't want the chat to cut out on us (which happens automatically when we time out)!
Julia, Great!!
What size are your hearts? You so flawlessly fit in all the detail. Love it!
Mary, The hearts are 5". I made them a little larger because with a heart, you lose so much at the bottom. I love playing with the hearts.
When designing cutters . . . if an area of the cookie is super thin (and breakage is likely to occur), how do you adapt the design?
Mary, I hand painted one last night that I will be posting later today. I just got back from Vacation and I just HAD to paint a cookie!!!
Kristine, I just generally draw around that spot, and when icing the cookie, there's just a bit extra of the cookie.
Will we be seeing more of your work on Cookie Connection? I hope so.
I sure hope so. I've been telling her she should!
LOVE COOKIES, Yes, I will do that. (smile)
Can't wait to see it!! And I know what you mean. I feel the best when I'm creating a cookie.
You are inspirational!
Julia, Thanks!!
When you design a cookie, do you spend a lot of time drawing the image first before placing it on the cookie? Is that what most cookie artists do? I often wonder when I watch your videos, Julia, how much time it takes to come up with the idea and how much time you spend creating it before you actually tape? I'm assuming it's the same for those of you who are making such detailed cookies.
Mary, Absolutely!!
Rebecca - I typically shoot 8 videos in 2 days, and I do this quarterly. So I am always working on 8 new cookie or other projects at the same time I am making projects for hands-on classes or shows (which I have about once per month) or to demonstrate new styles in my stencil line. That all said, it’s hard for me to gauge exactly how long one cookie project takes as I spread them out over such a long time while working on many other things. However, the design process is short - usually I conceptualize (in rough sketches) all 8 designs in a day or two. But the design process does continue as I bake and decorate. I am constantly adapting pieces to best fit the design as it evolves, especially when the design has many parts, like my recent 3-D garden arbor.
Thank you, I'm excited to see more of your work. 😀
Rosemary, Thank you. I do believe in sharing too. People message me all of the time for details, and it's my pleasure to share them.
Re-posting Rebecca's last question here so it's easier to see: When you design a cookie, do you spend a lot of time drawing the image first before placing it on the cookie? Is that what most cookie artists do? I often wonder when I watch your videos, Julia, how much time it takes to come up with the idea and how much time you spend creating it before you actually tape? I'm assuming it's the same for those of you who are making such detailed cookies.
Rebecca, When I design the cutter, I do all of the drawing. When I actually get ready to ice the cookie, I use a Pico projector if needed.
And how long does that designing of the cutter and drawing take, Tammy? And do you continue to twealk the design as you decorate?
I also carry a notebook around at times to do sketches of ideas.
twealk = tweak
Rebecca - I also make 5 versions of every project you see when it appears in a video. Because I don't voice over my videos and I pay a small crew to shoot, I have to have each project done to varying stages of completion in order to shoot it in a reasonable period of time. So my prep is not just the one project but many versions of it, typically. I need 8-12 weeks to prepare for one 8-video video shoot in and around my other work.
Julia, Actually the designing of the cutter is pretty quick for me. I have the idea in my head, then i draw the design. Then, I put my drawing on a lightbox, and trace out the general shape of the cookie. I may adjust it if necessary.
Does a hand painted cookie taste just as good or will the food coloring have a big impact? Also, what brand of color do you use to paint with?
Thanks, also, Tammy for the cookie info. I have Amber's recipe but I haven't tried it yet. I've just been using Julia's which is great but having some variety might be nice.
Well, I know that we will be seeing your work in print, film, etc. very soon. Can't wait to see more great things happen for you!!!
Posting a question directed to me while Tammy answers the one from Love Cookies about handpainting.
Julia, thank you for all you do to make this site such a great resource. Do you have a staff who helps you? Good to know, Tammy, since I just bit the bullet and purchased a Pico. I use Camera Lucida but I think the Pico will be give me more accuracy.
Julia, I usually do 3 - 4 drawings at a time, for different cutter designs. It takes about 30 min. each.
Rebecca, My pleasure!
Mary, THANK YOU!!!!! I'm excited to see what the future holds regarding my cookies!!
Rebecca - I have a team of about 5 contributors who write tutorials and challenges on a volunteer basis, but I edit all of the content and manage all of the tech and other member issues on the site (i.e., posting mishaps, questions about how to post, site upgrades) and do all of the live chats, guest interviews, and so on. I could use a paid staff for this sort of thing, as it is a full-time job. I love it, but I have three other full-time jobs these days!
Tammy - Did you see Love Cookies question about handpainting?
Re-postig Love Cookies question here: Does a hand painted cookie taste just as good or will the food coloring have a big impact? Also, what brand of color do you use to paint with?
Actually, Julia, I was wondering if you have help with this site. It's a huge undertaking.
LOVE COOKIES, I use a variety of colors. Rainbow Dusts, Americolor, and Wilton. Mostly, I hand paint with Wilton. I stamp with Americolor. The consistencies are different.
Yes, some help as noted, but not as much as I need. I am very overloaded right now, which makes things not as joyful as they should be! Just being honest!
Wow, Julia. Good thing you love what you do!!! Hope you're making mega bucks with all those pesky commercials. hahahaha
Wish I were, but that is not the case.
Tammy, thank you so much for spending time with us. Your work is so beautiful. Wish I had your talent.
Rebecca, I have found that it does not change the taste of the cookie.
Do you have time to sleep, Julia? Although, you are already gorgeous so I guess you are getting your beauty sleep. No need to post this one either if I embarrass you.
Aww, shucks! Thank you. I have been averaging about 5 hours of sleep per night for the last year. I am exhausted. But back to Tammy!
Looking forward to seeing more of your work. Thank you for taking time out to share with us. ... signing out.
So I have one question for Tammy.
Kristine, Thank you for your questions and your time.
Julia, Yes??
She mentioned early on that she was always brimming with ideas, or something to that effect . . .
My question is . . .
Is the momentum building yet?!
Julia, Haha!!!
Julia, For all of us.
Do you ever find you run dry of ideas, and , if so, how do you reenergize and get the creative juices flowing again?
Try to get seven, Julia. You'll live longer.
My gramma just turned 101, and drank and smoked all of her life, so I'm banking on having inherited her longevity genes!
I never run dry since I steal all my ideas from others. hahaha
This has not only been fun but very informative. Thanks to Julia and Tammy. Have a wonderful weekend everyone. Look forward to our next visit together.
Julia, I never run dry of ideas. On the contrary actually. I have sooooo many ideas. I could design and decorate cookies 24/7. I am very grateful that I am never at a loss for ideas!
So, as Tammy answers my final question, I wanted to thank her for spending valuable time with use today!
And her expertise and talent with us on a daily basis online.
Rebecca, Thank you!! And you do the same!!
Just reading Tammy's last answer! I wish I had the same good fortune. I do feel tapped out at times.
Whoa, 101! Go gramma. Is she a healthy 101? I don't want to live that long if I'm not able to see, hear or have to be wheeled around in a wheelchair. That would be no fun.
She was living in her own house alone until three months ago.
Julia, Thank you so very much for having me! And, a big thank you to all of our participants and visitors too!!
But she fell and is now in a nursing home rehabbing. Being around other people has been good for her. She is flourishing there, I think, and she is sharper than most people my age! Thanks for asking.
Thank you Tammy and Julia. Looking forward to meeting you both in person soon!!
I often wonder what the heck I will do with myself when I can't bake and sew.
Okay. I hope you and I are that lucky! Maybe I should take up smoking again?
Rebecca - Don't! My husband is a thoracic surgeon, and most of what he does is operate on people who smoked!
Thanks ladies, it's an honor to be apart of this. Please keep on being so inspirational.
Just kidding of course.
Julia, You have inspired me for literally years with all of you amazing work! Thank you so much!
Thank you, Tammy!
Mary, I know! I'm so excited to meet you too!
And thank you to all who participated today! I love connecting with you online. I can't wait until we get a video version of these chats, as typing takes so much time!
Have a great weekend everyone! I am off to buy supplies for my next course and then work on a 3-D Christmas fireplace scene for my next shoot!
It was so much fun. Thanks again!!
I'll also start drafting questions for Tammy's in-depth interview! Can't wait for that!
Likewise. My husband and I watch Julia videos instead of Netflix
Julia, Oh boy, can't wait to see all of it!!
Mary - LOL.
Mary, you are too funny.
I know - I was going to comment on what other things she could be doing with her husband . . .
Bye Y'all. OXOX
Bye now!
This chat has ended.
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