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Cookier Close-up: Our CookieCon Series Continues with Anne Yorks of Flour Box Bakery

We’re back again with another amazing CookieCon 2014 instructor – Anne Yorks of Flour Box Bakery!




I first stumbled upon Anne’s cookies about two years ago – and then promptly fell head over my gaping-to-the-floor jaw. I mean, really, who wouldn’t be startled (in the very best of ways) by this enchanting Christmas cookie landscape on her blog?!


Merry Christmas Village from Flour Box Bakery copy


Just as I was about to pull myself up by my apron strings, I fell again – even harder. An entire Thanksgiving meal in 3-D? What?! Yes! 


Happy Thanksgiving Cookie Dinner Table copy


And a cool animated cookie ball drop in celebration of New Year’s Eve! Wow. Such creativity.



Today, Anne joins us to talk about her cookie trajectory, covering everything from her self-taught beginnings to her preparations for cookie stardom at CookieCon. I'm also dying to know if she'll reveal plans for her next cookie scape!


JMUHi, Anne. So nice to meet you, even if only over the computer for now! Before drafting these interview questions, I did a little snooping around to get up to speed. Your blog profile says you graduated from Penn State in 2001 with a journalism degree and started Flour Box Bakery just a few years out of college, in 2007. Going from journalism to baking seems like a quantum career shift. Can you tell our readers what precipitated that change?


AY: Nice to meet you too (virtually)! I’m looking forward to meeting you at CookieCon!


To answer your question, I never thought I would be able to turn my passion for decorating into a career. I think many of us decorators have a similar story. I left the "real world" to start a family. I started out by working on cookie projects for friends and family. Then their friends were asking for cookies. I started to get organized and serious about decorating and saw the potential to work from home. Regarding the switch from a communications-based career path to baking . . . it's funny, but I find myself using my journalism skills all of the time! Especially when communicating with customers. Sometimes working out a great cookie plan requires some serious investigative journalism skills to fully understand the client's wishes.


JMU: Your blog also says you were self-taught in cookie decorating, but if I’m doing the math right, you must have taught yourself pre-cookie blogs and pre-YouTube video tutorials. How did you go about learning the basic cookie decorating skills required to start your bakery?


AY: I grew up baking with my mom, mostly at holidays. I always loved decorating the cut-outs the best. I started to work with royal icing after reading one of Peggy Porschen’s books (Pretty Party Cakes). My first cookies with royal icing, well, are fun to look back on. From there, I soaked up everything I could about decorating cookies. I even found some great royal icing info in an old cake decorating book from the 80s that I scored at a local thrift shop! There was a lot of trial and error. Over time, I worked out the bugs and now have a great set-up for creating my cookie projects. I still love trying new ideas, and I’m definitely still learning how to improve my cookies.


JMU: And what about learning the needed business skills? Did you work at other bakeries? Get tips from the Small Business Administration, or gather info some other way?


AY: I started Flour Box Bakery after leaving my full-time job as the Executive Officer of a local trade organization. Not only was I responsible for their events and training, but I also took care of the business side of the association. I learned QuickBooks and basic business skills. I was surprised to learn that I enjoyed that part of the job. It made starting a business a lot less intimidating! I also met with the local Small Business Development Center to work out a business plan and access resources related to small business. I did have experience working in other food establishments (during high school), but not in a bakery.


JMU: I understand that you operate Flour Box Bakery out of your home and sell online. What hoops did you have to through in your home state of Pennsylvania to make sure your house was properly set up for food service and Department of Health licensing?


AY: In Pennsylvania there is the Department of Food Safety. They do inspections and have criteria that must be met to be registered as a home food producer with the state. Their staff has been very helpful and friendly over the years as my business moved from my home kitchen to my "bakery" (which is more of a second kitchen or cookie studio). I love having my space, materials, and supplies separate from our family space. Penn State has some great online resources for food entrepreneurs. While they are specific to Pennsylvania, I bet they would be helpful to anyone looking for info about how to get started! Here is a link:


JMU: Thanks for sharing that link, Anne! So what factors led you to start up in your home as opposed to seeking shared commercial kitchen space or leasing or buying your own commercial space?


AY: I have two young girls (ages 2 and 6) and work my schedule around theirs. It’s nice to work out of the house so that I can work in the wee hours of the morning, during nap time, and in the evening. It’s a rough schedule, and I can’t imagine adding a commute into the mix. In addition to the convenience, I love the low overhead! For me, my set-up is ideal even though I don’t have foot traffic. My orders are online or special orders, and so I keep busy without it.


JMU: Just to give readers a sense of the scope of your business, can you tell us roughly how many orders you fulfill or cookies you make in a week? Is Flour Box Bakery a full-time business for you?


AY: My weeks vary based on orders and my family schedule. Some weeks I work overtime (like the entire month of December). And others, if we have family activities going on, I take a lighter schedule. My weeks vary from 10 to 50 dozen. My average week is 20 to 25 dozen. That keeps me plenty busy. [EDITOR'S NOTE: I should say so!]


JMU: Does your cookie business take you into other cookie areas beyond order fulfillment – like teaching or writing tutorials? If so, how much time does that take each week?


AY: I am just getting into teaching AND tutorials. I’ve starting hosting a cookie school in my bakery. And, my husband – a TV producer – is helping me with setting up a video tutorial shop on I am very passionate about cookies and love meeting and interacting with other decorators, so I’m excited to be branching out beyond cookie orders. I’m sure you know better than I that planning these events and tutorials can be time consuming!! Good thing it’s a lot of fun! We are also starting to sell some of my favorite supplies on my website, too!


JMU: I’m childless and have a hard enough time carving out dedicated, focused time for cookie decorating. How on earth do you do tend to so many orders with two children padding about the house? What time management or life-juggling tips can you share with our readers?


AY: Life balance is the most difficult part of running my business, especially with two daughters and a very busy husband (he works in the TV sports world). I have worked my schedule into a routine, knowing when to mix dough and icing, when to decorate cookies, and my shipping and delivery days. As difficult as it can be (the burnout is very real!), I make cookies so that I can stay home. I would never want to miss this time with my girls. One day, when they are both in school, I might sleep a little more and work normal hours. Until then, I will keep the coffee pot on! My best tip is to keep work and family time separate. They just don’t mix. I only take on as many orders as my schedule allows and then I say no (which is hard for me to do). I also don’t put too much pressure on myself to be the best and do the most. It’s just not possible with my schedule. I do what I can do!


Baking Themed Cookie Favors 088 copy


JMU: Pricing is always the art-cookier’s nemesis. How to charge enough to make it worthwhile, but not price oneself out of the market? That is the ultimate question! I see that your latest Valentine’s Day cookie sets are priced between $29.99 to $49.99 per dozen (or about $2.50 to $4.15 per cookie). Can you tell readers how you’ve gone about setting price to ensure profitability?


AY: Pricing IS a tough area! There are always more details and design elements that can be added to a cookie, but I use a practical style of design – keeping my time proportional to the profit. I generally use the inch method, setting prices based on size and detail of cookie. I am sensitive to budgets and the cost of living in my area. Therefore, I try to offer cookie options in a few price ranges. I try to keep designs manageable, sharing as many icing colors among projects as possible, and I produce batches of orders at a time – especially at holidays.


JMU: What advice (top three tips) would you give to cookiers who want to start their own cookie businesses?



  1. Do your research about cookies and starting a business, and set specific goals . . . put that plan on paper (or at least a napkin!) . . . and be flexible to change it as you go.
  2. Owning your own business is very, very rewarding, but be prepared to work hard! Find ways to streamline what you do (designing, mixing dough and icing, communication with clients) to save time and materials. I love to offer collections to keep my design and production time lower. Too many custom orders and designs can bog down any good decorator.
  3. Value your time and don’t underprice. Seek out the right client base through local events and networking opportunities. Don’t be afraid to say no to an order that is not a good match.
  4. Follow your passion and don’t be afraid to get started! [EDITOR'S NOTE: Okay, so that was four tips, but who's counting?! They were all good!]

JMU: Onto some questions about the creative side of cookie-ing! I love all of your 3-D cookie scapes, if you hadn’t guessed that already!  Can you give readers a glimpse into your creative process and how these cookie ideas came to you? Were they done for a customer order, or just for fun? And how much time did they take to do?


AY: I love the creative side, too! I wish I had more time for fun projects like the Christmas village or the Thanksgiving dinner. I have a list of a million things I would love to turn into a cookie. Unfortunately, the reality of my orders doesn’t always allow me the time it takes to plan and execute those projects. I am inspired by everything around me and see my world through cookie goggles. Those special projects were made for my family. They are so supportive of my business, and I love to make extra special cookies for them. When I come up with an idea, I usually sketch and plan each component.


JMU: Do you have any future cookie scapes in the works? Are you planning to take your cookie art in any new directions in 2014?


AY: Currently, there are two cookie scapes that I really, really want to make. I’d love to do a small scale scape for CookieCon, but I’m not sure if I’ll have time. The other one would be for my fellow Penn State fans. I am just waiting for a little down time in my business schedule to make the cookies. These ideas have literally been on my mind for years! 


JMU: And now onto CookieCon! Will this be your first time teaching cookie decorating in front of a large audience? How are you preparing for this event?


AY: This is the first time I’ll be teaching cookies in front of a large audience. Thankfully, my job as Executive Officer provided me with plenty of public speaking practice. But, I have only taught decorating in small groups. I have already started to piece together my presentation, which will include a few demonstrations. I have been asked to cover the basics of decorating (mixing icing consistencies, piping, flooding, etc.).


JMU: What makes you most excited about CookieCon? And most fearful – if anything?


AY: I am excited for everything about CookieCon! It’s going to be an AMAZING cookie weekend!! I’m just really looking forward to meeting others who love cookies just as much as I do – without the distractions of the business or home. I am looking forward to the open decorating day, too!


I definitely feel a little nervous. It’s a HUGE group of people. Once the weekend starts, I know it will fly by! I’m also worried I won’t get a wink of sleep . . . who can sleep with all that excitement?!


JMU: As I asked Myri last week: can you give our readers a hint of what you plan to present at CookieCon, without letting the cookies completely out of the bag?!


AY: I might, just might, break out my cookie alter-ego - it’s my way of getting pumped up at 5 am in the morning to work on cookies. As for the cookies . . . I hope to present some great ideas in making sure the foundations of cookie decorating are understood so that a successful design can come together. I hope to include live demos and a video or two in the presentation! 


peacocks and feathers stencil 018


JMU: Another question that I’m asking most of your fellow presenters: for those readers who can’t make it to CookieCon, what are your best tips for improving their cookie decorating skills?


AY: Practice, practice, practice. Try new ideas and don’t be discouraged if they aren’t perfect the first time. We all start somewhere. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of fellow cookiers. It’s a friendly community, and people love to share tips and tricks with each other. Read as much as you can about decorating. There is more than one way of doing things, so find the techniques and tools that work best for you!


JMU: And after CookieCon, what’s next for you and Flour Box Bakery? What other exciting cookie projects or events do you have planned for 2014?


AY: After CookieCon, I will continue to grow Flour Box Bakery’s cookie business. I also hope to continue to teach at my cookie school, work on my video tutorial shop, and offer decorating supplies in my online shop. I have been contacted by a few others to teach (in the US and overseas), and I am excited to see where that will take me!


JMU: I could ask you questions all day, but I don’t want to wear out my welcome. So I’ll leave it at “thank you” for now – and then hit you up again at CookieCon! See you there!


AY: Can’t wait! Thank you so much. This was a lot of fun! I look forward to meeting you soon.


All cookies designed and crafted by Flour Box Bakery.


Photo credits: Photo of Anne Yorks by John Hovenstine of Town & Gown Magazine; all others copyright of Flour Box Bakery.


Haven’t learned enough about Anne? No worries! Please join her upcoming live (text-based) cookie chat on March 8, 2014 at 12 pm central. Click here for more details and to get your questions logged in advance.


In the meantime, visit with Anne online:




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 (5)
  • Anne Yorks with Logo: Photo by John Hovenstine, Town & Gown Magazine
  • Merry Christmas Village: Cookies and Photo by Flour Box Bakery
  • Happy Thanksgiving Cookie Dinner Table: Cookies and Photo by Flour Box Bakery
  • Baking-Themed Cookie Favors: Cookies and Photo by Flour Box Bakery
  • Peacocks and Feathers: Cookies and Photo by Flour Box Bakery

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