It is fair to say that decorated cookies are quickly becoming the new cupcake. Cookies are showing up everywhere. People who never spoke to me about cookies or any other baked goods are now sending me photos of decorated cookies with comments like:
“These are the most beautiful wedding cookies! Maybe you should try to do something like this . . .” or “Why haven’t you ever made cookie stilettos like these? They are a must have for my Bunco party. I need two dozen for Wednesday . . .”
When I started making cookies three years ago, no one was sending me emails or messages like that. They thought decorated cookies were only made for Christmas and a grandmother had to be involved. Yup. There is a cookie buzz in the air and that is good news for all cookie decorators.
This all brings me to a recent text message I received from my friend Charlene.
“This woman’s cookies are amazing. I noticed she decorates her cookies differently than you.”
The attached photo showed the most unique and cute 50’s sock hop cookies (photo above). My friend was right. This cookier does decorate differently and I knew why! Instead of royal icing or glaze, she uses buttercream. She also has a completely different style of getting the icing onto the cookie. I’ve always wanted to ask her about that . . . Thanks, Charlene, for reminding me.
Kim, it turns out, is a party machine. I mean, she literally throws the most fabulous, adorable parties you have ever seen. No detail goes unnoticed and no guest of her well planned parties leaves without a smile on their face. Kim enjoys entertaining so much; she created a business to do what she loves: The Partiologist.
However, before Kim was the multi-tasking Partiologist, she was a tried and true cookier. Cookies were and continue to be the center of her decorating world. So, how did she carve out her own nook in the cookie-sphere? Let’s find out.
KA: I have admired your one-of-a-kind cookies for a long time! Everyone loves buttercream icing, but I have never used it for decorating a cookie. You seem to have mastered using buttercream and creating a detailed and sturdy cookie that can be handled.
KH: First of all, let me just say that I am so happy to be part of the cookie world. Who knew you could make so many friends through cookies! And, yes, I have to agree - my decorating style is one-of-a-kind. It was the only way I could figure out how to get buttercream on a cookie!
KA: I have so many questions about your icing techniques, but let’s start at the beginning. When did you start decorating cookies?
KH: In January of 2008, I knew it was time I found a job to help out a little with the income and I realized I hadn’t been in the workforce for 20-plus years. So, it was either decorate cookies or be the Walmart greeter! I chose cookies. I woke up that morning, went to the gym, and told all my friends that I was going to start a cookie business called “Sugar.” Fortunately, they had all eaten my cookies before and were 100 percent supportive.
My friend ordered one set for her mother who was moving into a new home and another set which she just wanted to eat. It was her birthday and she wanted cookies, didn’t care what they looked like (thank heavens), and just wanted to eat them. And she paid!!
KA: Your blog is called The Partiologist. In your blog you show us so many incredible treats and desserts. Did cookies come first or were they another step in the process of creating dessert tables and more?
KH: On April 1, 2011, I woke up at 5:00 am and decided today would be the day to create a blog. I had to come up with a name. I wanted something that described my love for over-the-top, unusual parties, so The Partiologist was created! I have always wanted to write a book featuring my parties, [but] I don't know if that will ever happen. So, I decided a blog would be the next best thing for sharing my party ideas - there is no reason I should keep them all to myself! As far as cookies coming first, I’m not sure – cookies were always a part of my parties from the very beginning; they were always the “take home” treat.
KA: How many years have you been creating party themes, food, and fun? Who inspired you to do this?
KH: From the time I can remember, I’ve always hosted parties – even when my girls were in diapers. Parties for them, parties for me, and parties for my friends and family . . . [I] always had a blast doing it. I would have to say my mother inspired me. While I was growing up, she decorated wedding cakes out of our home. We lived on a farm, and she was either making a cake, painting a picture, or [making] some other crafty project.
KA: Let’s talk buttercream! People would love to know why you choose to work with buttercream icing as opposed to royal icing (RI) or glaze on your cookies.
KH: My mom used buttercream for frosting on her cakes and RI to make the decorations (at that time we had never heard of fondant). I really didn’t know you could frost a cookie with RI! We lived on a farm in Nebraska with no Internet, not even a Walmart close by. I guess you could say I was a Flintstone!
KA: You have created a style that shouts - Partiologist! Your cookies all have basket weave icing. What is the purpose of the basket weave style?
KH: As I said, I grew up with my mother making wedding cakes frosted in buttercream. Everyone loved the taste and I wanted to use it on my cookies. When I decided to turn my cookie hobby into a business, I tried to smooth the frosting on the cookies, like a cake. It took forever. I knew there had to be a better way. That’s where this tip came in – the basket weave tip – Wilton #46.
KA: So, the basket weave tip keeps the icing flat and easier to control? Do you use different size basket weave tips or just one? When you are creating a design, how do you create a smooth edge?
KH: Yes. I almost always use the same size tip for the base. Once I have the cookie frosted, I lift it up and take an offset spatula and clean the edges. I scrape the frosting off of the spatula on the side of a bowl as I go. [EDITOR'S NOTE: See Kim's cottontail cookie using this technique, pictured below, as well as the step-by-step photo sequence that immediately follows.]
KA: How long on average does it take you to complete a typical cookie?
KH: A simple one takes about five minutes to make. When using more embellishments, I spend between 10 and 15 minutes per cookie; it totally depends on the design. Some of the 50's-themed cookies took me a looooooooong time!
KA: When you bite into one of your cookies, is it a soft bite or does the icing crust hard? What sort of drying time is involved before you can bag the cookies? I’m sure cookiers will want to know - would you be willing to share your icing recipe?
KH: Even though the frosting has crusted, it has a soft bite. The frosting needs to set at least 24 hours. Cookies will be ready to bag at this time, but very carefully. The frosting is more crusted, rather than hard, so no stacking! I would love to share the recipe with anyone who is following along on my blog! They can join in on the fun at http://www.thepartiologist.com and email me for the recipe.
KA: Your designs are very unique. What is your process for creating a cookie set? Do you draw your ideas for each cookie? Are you inspired by googling a theme or other artists' work?
KH: I will draw out an idea for a cookie most of the time. Sometimes I just wing it! I am always inspired by other artists' work, however, when I’m looking for a certain theme, I usually google clip art.
KA: What are your “must have” tools for decorating? You also seem to sprinkle sugar on your cookies after you ice the base? Why? Is it to help with firmness?
KH: Things I “must have” are a toothpick, tweezers, an offset spatula, couplers, and a bag. Of course, I have several sizes and shapes of decorating tips. Pretty basic, huh? I add sanding sugar to almost ALL my cookies. Why? Because I love sparkles!
KA: Is this a business or hobby for you?
KH: Making cookies is still a business, however, I have scaled way back – raised my prices and quit shipping. All the parties are for fun – for family and friends. I’ve never done a party for hire – I’m asked, but I tell them “you can’t afford me!” It truly is a labor of love and many, many weeks, if not months, of planning.
KA: If you had to choose your top two cookie sets, which would they be?
KH: That changes often. Just when I think I have a favorite, I decide upon another. Right now my favorites would be my 50’s-themed cookie set (pictured above) and my jungle animals are still a favorite. And I can’t forget the beach-themed cookies! [EDITOR'S NOTE: Check out these two fab sets immediately below.]
KA: Who were the first cookie artists you followed online?
KH: The first cookie artist I found online was Marlyn of Montreal Confections. I found her on Flickr and for months and months, I thought SHE was Flickr! (She was My Friend Flicka – sorry, I just had to say that!) I was amazed at her creations and she continues to wow me again and again!
KA: We all have cookie moments that just make us wanna pull out our hair. What was the worst cookie fail you ever experienced? How did you save the day?
KH: This moment started out as pure excitement – a cookie order for a party planner in the Hamptons. She needed five dozen Toy Story cookies. I worked so very hard to make them perfect. When UPS sent notification that they had arrived, I was so excited to hear how they liked them. Ummmm, the email I received was not what I had hoped for. They were broken. Even though I warned her they may break, I felt so terrible. I stayed up waaaaaay late and remade all of them at no charge. I sent them overnight and they arrived perfect. I think that is why I decided not to ship cookies any more!
KA: Those who attended CookieCon saw you win a contest and get a unicycle. Do you ride it?
KH: BRP! http://www.brpboxshop.com/index.html! Don’t forget them; not only are they a top notch box company, they give away unicycles! After a few attempts on the unicycle, I must say I have a new respect for clowns.
Seriously, it is so much harder than it looks! After a few unsuccessful attempts, my sister is going to let her grandkids give it a try. Their bones are younger and will heal faster.
KA: Any advice for newbies out there?
KH: Try not to compare your work to others, do the best you can, and improve on what you don’t like. With all the crazy talented cookie decorators out there, I need to listen to my own advice!
To see a detailed step by step of Kim’s decorating method, visit her tutorial at: http://www.thepartiologist.com...cookie-tutorial.html. Kim says it pretty much explains from start to finish how she decorates her cookies.
Photo credits: All photos by Kim Heimbuck
Karen Anderson is a home cookie decorator just outside of New Orleans, LA. She's excited to get Sugardeaux ready for business this August when Louisiana's Cottage Food Law becomes law. She discovered cookie art three years ago while surfing online for inspiration for a cake. Now cakes take a back seat to creating edible art with cookies. Visit Karen at www.facebook.com/sugardeaux and follow her here on Cookie Connection.
Photo credit: Karen Anderson
Note: How DID You Do That? is a regular Cookie Connection blog feature, written by Karen Anderson, which reveals the inside scoop behind inspiring cookie designs. Its content expresses the views of the author and interviewee, and not necessarily those of this site, its owners, its administrators, or its employees. To catch up on all of Karen's past posts, click here.