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Cookier Close-up with Noriko Forster (aka mintlemonade), Our September Site Artist


Ta da! I’m back – with another Cookier Close-up! This time, it’s with Noriko Forster, who goes by two cookie names on the internet - mintlemonade and Cookie Crumbs! (You can bet I’ll be asking her about this dual identity in just a bit! ).

As you may or may not know, Noriko’s fine cookie art is gracing our site’s banner and backdrop this month, and is also pictured below. As the September winner of Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge #13 and a widely lauded cookie artist, best known for her subtle yet sublime color combinations, Noriko has clearly earned this spotlight.

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If you read our forum introduction to Noriko earlier this month, you’ll know she’s been decorating cookies since Spring 2012, and she now teaches cookie decorating A LOT! (Last year, she was teaching up to seven cookie classes each month out of her home. Phew – I get exhausted just thinking about that!) Noriko lives in Tokyo, Japan with her Aussie husband and two daughters, ages 10 and 12. She enjoys being a stay-at-home mom, working as a freelance editor when her schedule permits, and reading British and American novels when she's not decorating cookies.  

Now, with that brief background behind us, let’s get into the really soul-searching stuff that you’ve all come to expect from these Close-ups! 

JMU: Hi, Noriko! It’s wonderful to be talking with you again so close on the heels of your live chat in July. So let’s get down to it – what’s up with the two cookie names? How did each originate, and why do you have two? Which one, if either, would you prefer us to use?

NF: Hi, Julia! It’s a great honour for me to talk with you here. I read almost every article on this site, and I’ve been a big fan of the Cookier Close-ups.

As for my two cookie names . . . it’s not easy to explain! I first used “mintlemonade” as my account name on Cookie Connection. I came up with it because Mint and Lemonade were the characters of a cartoon that my daughters used to watch when they were little. I already had my blog called “Cookie Crumbs,” but I thought my handle here should be something different . . . After I joined this site, I started my Facebook page so that more people outside Japan could see my cookies. I named it “Mintlemonade’s Cookies” because I thought more than a few people now knew me as mintlemonade through Cookie Connection. I know using these two names is confusing, but people in Japan know me as Cookie Crumbs, and I can’t change either . . . So I’ll keep both, but I like mintlemonade myself. Cookie Crumbs is too common, isn’t it?


JMU: I like both names, but since mintlemonade is your preference, I'll go with that from here on out! 

Your work is immediately recognizable because of its distinctive color palette and your “trademark” birds and flowers. Did you deliberately cultivate this style, or did it just come to you? If the former, how did you cultivate it?

NF: I’m glad some people say they can recognize my cookies at a glance. For the last few years, I’ve been trying to pick colours more carefully, because I noticed great colours can make even ordinary designs so different. Since last year, I’ve been into birds and flowers. I think this focus has come from what I've seen in embroidery, fabric, and graphic designs. Birds are a very versatile motif that you can add to any theme or any style. I even made some bird cutters by myself. I especially like to use mini bird cookies on larger cookies. In my real life, however, I hate almost all birds bigger than sparrows! I’m scared of a flock of pigeons or seagulls.


JMU: LOL! With work as lovely as yours, others must always be trying to emulate it. Have you ever found people copying your style, or selling your cookie designs (or classes using your designs)? If so, how do you feel about people copying your work, and how, if at all, have you responded to any copiers?

 NF: A few years ago when I found exactly the same design as mine on a site, I asked the person to add my credit. Except for that, I’ve never been bothered by any cookies that look similar to mine. There are millions of cookiers in the world now, and it’s not easy for us to make totally different things from one another.

JMU: What you say about being "original" is very true. But do you allow others to teach your designs? Why or why not? If yes, do you have any conditions that they must honor in order to teach your designs?

NF: No. Once I was asked by someone if she could teach how to make a gingerbread house of my design in her class, but I refused the request. I just didn’t feel comfortable about it.


JMU: I don't either - I make my living by selling my teaching and classes, so I also draw the line at copying designs for use in classes. I also feel that teachers will always be better teachers when they teach their own work.

On another note, do you ever long to develop a completely different cookie style? If so, how would you characterize that style, and how do you plan to go about cultivating it?

NF: I don’t think I should stick to the same style all the time. I sometimes feel I over-decorate cookies, so I’ve wanted to try something simple, modern, and sharp. But maybe this is just dreaming . . . I like piping details so much that it’s hard for me to leave empty space on my cookies.

JMU: I get that; I am of the school of "more is more", after all. 

Do you have a cookie Achilles’ heel? If so, what is it? And how, if at all, are you working to overcome it?

NF: I don’t like flooding small areas that cause dents or craters! I know I need to use thicker icing and dry it quickly, but I think the best solution is to avoid designs with small areas. I’m not good at doing characters, freehand drawing, painting, or writing either. I’m not terribly clever, so I practice, take time, work carefully, and fix or hide flaws. I believe patience is the key!

JMU: Well, I agree that patience is key, but not at all with your statement that you are not terribly clever. Your work is stunning in a very original way!

Let’s get back to your teaching for a bit. Since you do so much of it, I am sure there is much that everyone here could learn from you about how to run successful classes. First, how many classes are you now teaching per month, and how is your typical class structured (how many days, how many students, pricing per student, number of cookies decorated per student, etc.)? Why have you opted to structure your classes this way?

NF: First of all, last year I taught seven classes in a month at my maximum, but I don’t think that’s terribly a lot in Japan. I know a lady who teaches 20 classes in a month! [EDITOR'S NOTE: Yikes!] Cookie decorating is extremely popular here at the moment. My classes are fully booked literally in a minute, but I’m not sure if I can call my classes successful. My classes rarely end on time. It isn’t a big problem for me, because I teach at home, but I’m not an organized teacher at all . . .

This year, I am teaching three or four classes a month on average. One or two one-day "regular" classes of about five people, and one or two private lessons with from one to five people. In regular classes, we usually make four cookies of a seasonal theme in a three-hour session. Most of students have some experience, so I always include some challenging designs. The regular class fee is 4000 yen (about $40 USD), and the private class fee depends on the number of people and what they want to do. I like to make my classes casual, and I hope everyone will come over and over - that’s why I set my class fees at a very reasonable level.   

JMU: Thanks for all of that useful info!

What has been your greatest teaching triumph? What has been your biggest teaching failure? And, what three tips would you give to aspiring cookie decorating teachers to avoid your failure and other possible teaching pitfalls?

NF: I don’t think of anything as a triumph . . . But it’s always a great pleasure when I hear my students say my classes were fun and helpful, and when I see some of them come back to my classes. About the biggest failure: I prepared everything and waited for everyone to come . . . but no one appeared because I got the date wrong! It was supposed to be the next day. I was lucky I got the date a day earlier, not a day behind!

That was just a stupid mistake, so I’d like to share other tips for preparation:

(1) Don’t use too many colours, or you’ll end up spending hours preparing icing.

(2) To save time in the morning before class, colour “stiff” icing on the day before classes. (I think stiff icing stays fresher compared to runny or medium-consistency icing.)  

(3) You need smooth icing especially for piping fine details, so rub down icing and put it in piping bags (I use cello cones) just before the class starts, or in the class while everyone is working on something that takes a long time.

I know there are pros and cons about teaching at home, but it has a great time savings advantage. 

[EDITOR'S NOTE: For those not in the know (I wasn't), "rubbing down" icing is a process of spreading icing on a surface to make it smooth, expel air bubbles, and prevent the clogging of tips. A fine exposition of the topic can be found in Eddie Spence's famed book, The Art of Royal Icing.]


JMU: Am I right in assuming you do not take orders for your cookies? If so, why have you opted not to sell your cookies, and do you ever foresee selling them?

NF: You’re right, I don’t sell cookies. A few years ago, I was asked and made 100 to 150 cookies for giveaways and for a wedding. Then I got tired of making a lot of cookies of the same designs, and I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I don’t think it’s easy to succeed in selling decorated cookies in any country, but I guess it’s harder here because we don’t have a lot of parties like you do in the US or Europe. Bridal showers and baby showers aren’t common here, and only a few people throw big birthday parties.

JMU: Interesting. Let’s talk a bit more about Japanese cookie trends, now that we've broached that topic! In the last three to six months, I’ve been seeing more and more Japanese cookie artists joining this site and posting their work to it. Why do you think this is? Do you think this trend will continue? Why or why not? 

NF: The Japanese cookie decorating fever started about two years ago, and I guess a lot of the decorators who started then have recently emerged [on the site] to show their work. I think there will be more Japanese members on this site. In Japan, there are some companies, organizations, and individuals who offer cookie decorating courses to become qualified instructors, and I hear one of them has successfully generated thousands of instructors. Thousands! 

JMU: Wow - that's certainly a decorating fever!

What do you like most about the global cookie community, and why? What do you like the least about it, and why? (And don’t say cleaning up after decorating; that’s a cop-out! ) Also, what steps would you take, if you could, to correct your least liked thing?

NF: It’s great that a lot of cookiers generously share their work, ideas, and tutorials in the global community. There’s nothing I don’t like about the community. But I feel overseas cookiers are so sharing compared to the Japanese cookie community. A lot of cookiers here focus on teaching classes, and they don’t seem interested in sharing their skills and ideas on the internet. I try to share helpful information on my blog, but it’s not organized well . . . One of my goals is to make my blog more handy and useful.


JMU: Helping others is always a noble goal, IMO! Now, lastly, if you could design your ideal cookie life over the next three years, what would it look like? What would you be doing? What titles or awards would you like to earn? What new cookie friends would you like to have? Please share with us your ultimate hopes and dreams!

NF: I enjoy teaching cookie decorating, but still I want to keep it as a hobby, something to do for fun. I don’t have any ambition to earn titles or awards. I’m not very competitive.

My best cookie friend is Hikainmel (aka vert). We have a lot in common - loving cookie decorating, being about the same age, having an Aussie husband . . . but she lives in Australia, and we can only see each other once a year. I’d like to have cookie friends in my town!

As for my ultimate dream, which won’t be possible for three or more years because my daughters are not old enough to be left alone at home, I’d like to travel to attend your classes and CookieCon in the US, Evelin’s classes in Italy, and Marta’s classes in Portugal . . . That would be amazing, wouldn’t it?


JMU: Well, I am honored to be on your wish list - sort of stunned, in fact! Thank you for that mention, and also for taking your valuable time to share with us so willingly and openly here. It's been a true pleasure to get to know you better!

To learn more about Noriko, please visit her blogFacebook page, and profile on this site

All cookie and photo credits: mintlemonade

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 (9)
  • Cookier Close-up Banner for mintlemonade: Cookies and Photos by mintlemonade; Graphic Design by Julia M Usher
  • Noriko's Winning September Banner: Cookies and Photo by mintlemonade; Graphic Design by Pretty Sweet Designs
  • Noriko's Winning September Background: Cookies and Photo by mintlemonade
  • Bird and Flower Cookies: Cookies and Photo by mintlemonade
  • More Bird Cookies!: Cookies and Photo by mintlemonade
  • House with Birds: Cookie and Photo by mintlemonade
  • Shell Cookies: Cookies and Photo by mintlemonade
  • Christmas Cookies: Cookies and Photo by mintlemonade
  • Thank You Message Cookie: Cookie and Photo by mintlemonade

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Comments (11)

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So nice to read more about you Noriko!
Thank you again for the link to "" that you shared during the live chat in July. Colors are still an issue in my cookie decorating journey and that helps me a lot. You shared a lot in that live chat and it looks like you aren't afraid to share tips! This interview has been very interesting, especially "rubbing down icing" and the thousands of instructor generated in Japan. I am a big fan of your style, your color palette and your "clean" way to decorate. The banner/backdrop are beautiful.
Thank you and thanks to Julia for another beautiful close-up.

Manu posted:

So nice to read more about you Noriko!
Thank you again for the link to "" that you shared during the live chat in July. Colors are still an issue in my cookie decorating journey and that helps me a lot. You shared a lot in that live chat and it looks like you aren't afraid to share tips! This interview has been very interesting, especially "rubbing down icing" and the thousands of instructor generated in Japan. I am a big fan of your style, your color palette and your "clean" way to decorate. The banner/backdrop are beautiful.
Thank you and thanks to Julia for another beautiful close-up.

Thank  you Manu! I'm glad you like "tryocolor," it's fun isn't it? 

You can watch "how to adjust RI consistency" by rubbing down here:



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