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Cookier Close-up: Georganne Bell of LilaLoa, Next Up in Our Ongoing CookieCon Series

They say “necessity is the mother of invention,” and nothing could better describe the life events of our next Cookier Close-up featured guest - Georganne Bell, creator of the popular blog LilaLoa and CookieCon 2014 presenter.


Georganne Bell of LilaLoa LilaLoa Logo

You see, back in 2010, Georganne moved with her husband, who was on orders with the US Army, nearly 6,000 miles from Sierra Vista, Arizona, her then home, to South Korea where they lived for the next three years.


At that time, Georganne was making cakes, but upon discovering that her new oven was the “size of a breadbox,” she had no choice but to channel her love of baking into smaller sweets – namely cookies! As if a teeny oven wasn’t hurdle enough, Georganne soon found that the usual baking and decorating supplies to which she had easy access in the US were no longer in abundant supply. Lesser cookiers would have let these challenges quash their cookie spirit  - but not Georganne! Instead, she rose to the occasion by learning how to craft her own cutters and extract a rainbow of colors from the handful that she could find.


Today, Georganne is widely regarded as one of Cookie Kingdom’s greatest color experts and most enchanting bloggers. We’re very lucky to have her here with us, sharing her wisdom today.




JMUHi, Georganne. I’m always curious to know how people’s passion for baking and decorating was first ignited, so let’s start there. I know you were thrust into cookies in large part due to living circumstances. But when was your first foray into sweets (and with what sweet) and how extensively did you work with that sweet prior to moving to cookies?


GB: My husband deployed for 15 months in 2007. I found myself with a lot of empty hours. I chanced upon a YouTube video showing how to ice a square cake . . . and then I just kept watching. I couldn’t stop myself. After about three days, I figured I was pretty much an expert and started making cakes for friends and family. And then I realized I actually didn’t know what I was doing, so I checked out every cookie and cake decorating book I could find at the library and did all sorts of internet research. I fell in love with cake decorating and created all sorts of sugary confections over the next three years.


JMUHave you ever had any formal decorating training? If so, what sort, and, if not, how did you go about acquiring and refining your skills?


GB: I am a happy graduate of YouTube University. Seriously, I have discovered that the sugar art community is very giving and sharing. So many people are willing to help others along, answer questions, and give away their secrets. I am the product of every tutorial and blog post and website of the hundreds of people who I have only ever met online.




JMUFor those who are less familiar with your work (if there are any!), how would you describe your cookie decorating style? And did it just come naturally to you, or did you actively work to cultivate it? If the latter, how?


GB: I am an incredibly impatient decorator. I wait until the last possible minute and then I just go for it. I usually use only one consistency of icing and rarely outline anything. I love deep colors and recently discovered how great painting and shading on cookies can be. [EDITOR'S NOTE: As in the lovely picnic cookies, above!]. Impatience comes naturally, but the shading on cookies is something I am working on!

JMUDid you find that cookie flavor or design preferences are any different in South Korea than in the US? If so, how, and why do you think these differences exist?


GB: Oh my goodness, yes. The South Koreans are not really into sugar and sweets. A glass of juice or lightly sugared garlic bread would be considered the perfect dessert in South Korea. I don’t think that any adults ever ate a cookie I gave them. Most of the time, they couldn’t believe they were edible. One lady even made all of the cookies I gave her into magnets for her fridge.  


JMU: LOL! You are host and CCP (Chief Content/Cookie Provider ) of a very successful blog, LilaLoa. Is blogging the only part of your cookie business, or do you also sell cookies, regularly teach, or do anything else? How much time do you spend in any given month on each of these things? And which of these things do you most like to do?


GB: Blogging is pretty much what I do. I occasionally make cookies to order, but mostly I make them because I want to or because I have some unexplainable need to move a design from concept to icing. And I’m pretty sure the world would stop if I didn’t give in to those needs. So, in an effort to heroically save the world on a daily basis, I continue making cookies. You know, just doing my part. [EDITOR'S NOTE: I detect a healthy sense of humor here!]


JMU: As a popular blogger, you must be inundated with cookie questions each day. What’s the question you get most frequently and how do you answer it?


GB: You may not know, but I have a chocolate cookie recipe on my blog that I’m madly in love with. I get a lot of questions about that recipe – specific questions about ingredients, troubleshooting what might have gone wrong, different thicknesses and baking times, adaptations for health concerns . . . I’m pretty much the Chocolate Cookie Whisperer at this point.


JMU: What’s the oddest question you’ve ever gotten? And how did you answer it – or did you? 


GB: It’s a tie between the email from the crown prince promising to share his secret inheritance with me if I would help him find new love in America and the person who left a comment on my blog asking if I had a cookie decorating blog somewhere that she could read.


JMU: Wow, you're kidding?! Will mind-blowing questions never cease?


LilaLoa was one of the first cookie blogs out there, but now there are more than anyone can count, with more and more putting up posts each day. How do you distinguish your blog from the others out there? How would you characterize the unique angle, style, or spin that you try to impart with LilaLoa?


GB: We are all unique individuals with something to offer the world. I think that as long as you stay true to who YOU really are, without trying to be more like someone else, or someone else’s blog, then you and your blog will have value. I live my life on tangents. I like myself. I make cookies. I want to share cookie decorating with every person on the planet. And I just put that all in a blog and people read it.


JMU: What advice would you give to cookiers who want to launch blogs today? What are the key dos and don’ts?


GB: Blog what you love and blog who you are. Blog because YOU want to, not because you want to be famous or rich. Create your own content. Don’t re-make or re-word anything from someone else. And give yourself at least three months before you decide to keep going or quit. It takes a while for new blogs to get some traction. Use that time to experiment and find out what you love/hate to blog.


JMU: Onto some cookie technique and design questions! As I noted earlier, you’re clearly regarded in the cookie community as one of the greatest color gurus. Which colors, in your experience, are the hardest to mix, and what tips can give readers to mix them successfully?


GB: I’m completely flattered! I think the trickiest colors to mix are ones that have blue in them – greens, blues, and purples. There isn’t a “true” blue icing color. They are all blue with a small degree of yellow or red in them as well, so they don’t mix the way our eye thinks they should. My biggest tip for mixing colors is to approach it with reckless abandon. If starting with a “pre-made” color . . . say avocado . . . and then tweaking it with other colors doesn’t work, start from scratch. Use red, yellow, and blue, and see what you can make. Don’t be afraid to create the ugliest shade of chartreuse in the world. It’s not really that great of a color anyway, and at least you’ll know which colors NOT to mix together next time.


JMU: You have a couple of very thoughtful posts on your blog about color theory (here and here). In a nutshell, what are the top three or four things that people should bear in mind when mixing colors to ensure that they get the results they want?


GB: Hands down, if you don’t understand how the color wheel works, you will constantly find yourself frustrated when mixing colors. You need to know that, when you mix red and blue, you are going to end up with some shade of purple. And you should know what happens when you add yellow to that purple. Also, adding more food coloring rarely makes a color darker. It only makes it more intense. Aside from the color wheel, learning to recognize the color that you HAVE is just as important as knowing the color you are trying to achieve. If you have a green, you need to look at it, analyze it, and determine if it’s more of a yellow-green or a blue-green. Otherwise, it’s like having a map with a marked destination, but you have no idea where you are on the map.




JMU: Do you feel that all brands of food coloring are created equal? Or are some better than others, and if so, how so?


GB: I actually don’t think that one brand is better than any other. The gel colors are certainly *much* easier to use than the pastes because you can just squeeze the bottle and the coloring comes out. Contrast that to digging around for a knife or a toothpick to dispense the paste, and then trying to balance the toothpick on top of the jar in case you need a little more coloring, only to have the toothpick fall and roll off the counter, leaving behind concentrated color for you to smear all over the place when you try to wipe it up with a paper towel!


I do have my favorite shades in different brands of colors. I think the most important aspect of a food color is how familiar YOU are with the color and what it does. I had a jar of kelly green food coloring for the longest time. And when it ran out, I couldn’t find it in stores or online anymore. I panicked for at least an afternoon because I knew I would have to re-learn a new shade of green. As it turns out, Americolor Leaf Green is a pretty good substitute, so my life wasn’t ruined or anything.




JMU: And now onto CookieCon! You had quite the devoted following at the last CookieCon, so much so that they all rallied together to sign a CookieCon apron (above) for you when they discovered you wouldn’t be there. What are you most looking forward to about CookieCon 2014?


GB: Meeting all those people!! I have met less than a handful of cookie decorators in person since starting my blog. I can easily say that the love and conversation and support of fellow cookie decorators have changed my little world since I started blogging. I was actually a bit heartsick over missing the last CookieCon. All those cookie decorators gathering within miles of the place I called home, while I was living on the other side of the world . . . I had a complete pity party and bought like three cutters without any intention of using them. And then they all sent their love and made the whole world better. I am so excited to see them and prove to my husband that they are real and not some fantasy world I’ve concocted to justify my cookie habit. I love people and I love cookies, and I cannot wait to be surrounded by people who “get” cookies!


JMU: You teach thousands of people every day on your blog, but is CookieCon your first time teaching live in front of such a large audience? How do you plan to modify your teaching methods – if at all – for CookieCon?


GB: I have actually taught cookie and cake decorating quite a bit. I even taught at a culinary arts school in South Korea. I spent over an hour talking about the basics of fondant and cake stacking and at the end, when there was time for questions, they just kept asking WHY someone would eat a cake. Finally, they determined that cakes must be for children. And not a single one of the nearly 100 students ate one of the cookies I brought. I like to think they were just closet sugar eaters. I think that CookieCon is going to be a lot more casual. We will all be among friends, and I hope there will be a lot of dialogue and sharing among everyone in addition to what the presenters are bringing to share.


JMU: I know you’ve been asked to talk about color theory at CookieCon. Can you give our readers a sense of how you will expand the color dialogue beyond those amazing posts you’ve already written?


GB: I am really hoping to be able to help people perceive the distinctions among different shades of similar colors. Using the map metaphor from above, I’d like to help people find where they are on the map, and then discuss how they can use the color wheel to get to their destination. And I’ve got some fun activities planned to do it. And none of them involve a bottle or a blindfold.


JMU: What?! No bottle or blindfold - I'm so disappointed!  Lastly, some forward-looking questions. What one thing would you most like to change about your current cookie business, and why?


GB: I would like to change the cosmos and find a way to have more time in a day for cookies. I have so many ideas that just never make it to reality because there are too many other great things to do in my life. Actually, I’ve been working on being a little more scheduled and organized with my blog this year. And by that I mean that I’ve thought that maybe I should try to post more regularly and not haphazardly four times in one week and then not again for ten days.


JMU: What one new cookie thing do you most want to accomplish in 2014, and why?


GB: I want to learn how to make delicate, pretty cookies! (Which probably means that I need to gain some patience as well.) I just love all the gorgeous cookies that I’m seeing, and I’d love to be able to make some of my own. You guys inspire me!




JMU: Well, your cookies are certainly gorgeous in their own right. Please don't sell yourself short.


Thanks so much for your time! I look forward to finally meeting you within a matter of a few weeks!


GB: Thank you, Julia!



All cookies designed, crafted, and photographed by LilaLoa.


Can’t make it to CookieCon, but dying to know more about Georganne? Please join her upcoming live (text-based) cookie chat on March 1, 2014 at 12 pm central. Click here for more chat details and to get your questions logged in advance. In the meantime, visit her online on her blog or Facebook page.


Also, not to be missed - quick links to previous interviews with other CookieCon 2014 presenters:



Cookier Close-ups is the place on Cookie Connection where we celebrate the change-makers of the cookie decorating world. Whether forging new enterprises, inventing novel decorating techniques, or consistently charming us with their cookie decorating prowess, each of our featured thought leaders has redefined in his/her distinctive way how we interact, create, or otherwise do business here in cookie space!


If there are other cookiers you'd really like to get to know, please post requests in this forum. We'll do our best to round them up for an upcoming Cookier Close-up! Thanks!


Images (7)
  • Georganne Bell of LilaLoa: Photo Courtesy of Georganne Bell
  • LilaLoa Logo: Courtesy of Georganne Bell
  • Daisy and-Butterfly Cookies: Cookies and Photo by LilaLoa
  • Picnic Cookies: Cookies and Photo by LilaLoa
  • Western-Themed Cookies: Cookies and Photo by LilaLoa
  • CookieCon Apron: Courtesy of LilaLoa
  • Sea Life Cookies: Cookies and Photo by LilaLoa

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Comments (14)

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are innammorata of Georganne  .. and her skill in decorating cookies ... now I know that she is also a wonderful person ... I'm happy that she loves to share with us her experiences ... how I wish abitarti near ... !! are too far away .. I wonder if we will ever in Italy ..?? .. many thanks ..!

Thank you, ladies! What a wonderful way to start my day! I find myself in Honduras at this moment and I always check my Facebook first thing to see what is going on in our "cookie world". I am a hobby cake and cookie decorator and enjoy it immensely! Julia and Georganne I love your blogs ( which I follow faithfully)and your creativity, your work is BEAUTIFUL! Georganne, I like you to know that in regards to colors and the color wheel I am useless I can not understand it!! That is why, whenever you post and do a step-by step of how to achieve a certain color, like "PERFECT PLUM" I copy it and save it in my documents to refer back for when I need and also "PIN it " just in case someone has not seen it! Thank you, again, and God bless!

Originally Posted by anali:

Thank you, ladies! What a wonderful way to start my day! I find myself in Honduras at this moment and I always check my Facebook first thing to see what is going on in our "cookie world". I am a hobby cake and cookie decorator and enjoy it immensely! Julia and Georganne I love your blogs ( which I follow faithfully)and your creativity, your work is BEAUTIFUL! Georganne, I like you to know that in regards to colors and the color wheel I am useless I can not understand it!! That is why, whenever you post and do a step-by step of how to achieve a certain color, like "PERFECT PLUM" I copy it and save it in my documents to refer back for when I need and also "PIN it " just in case someone has not seen it! Thank you, again, and God bless!

Thanks, Anali! So glad you're enjoying the site!

Awww ... one of my favorite cookiers ever! I'm so excited to stalk--I mean, meet Georganne at Cookie Con this year! And will be front and center for the color class, because that thing about not knowing where you are on the map? That's me. Alllllll me.

Originally Posted by Belleissimo Cookies:

*sigh* another reason to be sad about not going to cookie con! Lovely interview, thank you both! I hope you can do a blog post us Julia on Georganne's class! 

I plan to cover the classes, though probably not super in-depth, as I am also a sponsor and vendor at CookieCon and have to "man" a booth all weekend. Likely will just encapsulate the key points from the presentations in one or two posts, and supplement with short video interviews.

Last edited by Julia M. Usher

Great interview! Thanks to both of you Julia and Georganne. I very luckily stumbled upon Georganne's awesome chocolate sugar cookie recipe in one of her blogs when I was just venturing into cookie-ing about a month ago, and I've been using it for all of my chocolate sugar cookies. It's perfect! Thank you for sharing that, Georganne! And thank you for your admonishments to NOT add flour if baking the dough later! I was tempted. ;-) You really are the "chocolate cookie whisperer." :-) 

Hands down, Georganne, you are my favorite cookie blogger!  As an editor and hopeful future skilled cookier, your blogs are well written (grammatically, spelling, the whole kit and caboodle!), and ENTERTAINING!  You have the most wonderful way of telling stories.  Each time a new blog entry arrives in my email from you, I know a smile is sure to follow!  Thanks for ALL that you do!  BTW, congrats on your pregnancy! 

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