Pamoda Vanderwert of Sugar Pearls Cakes and Bakes certainly has my attention lately! She has posted many great clips here on Cookie Connection, from cookie collages to puzzle-like designs, but most recently it seems she’s got a mixed media thing happening that I really love. Specifically speaking, it’s "Bee-inspired!", the honeycomb set she made this past summer, that I was curious about. With an organic feel and a steampunk vibe all created in a mass of layers, it certainly “inspired” me to ask, “How DID You Do That, Pamoda?!”. She agreed to let us in on her process, and so I bring you my latest interview with Sugar Pearls Cakes and Bakes!
Melissa Joy: Pamoda, thanks so much for letting me interview you about your fantastic honeycomb cookie set! I love the cohesive bee theme throughout, but all of the layered elements really caught my attention. So wonderfully done! I guess my first question is how did you come up with this particular idea? Was it your intention to work with several techniques and mediums? I mean, how in the world do you plan something like this?!
Pamoda Vanderwert: Thank you for having me, Melissa! I'm delighted and honored to have been given this opportunity to talk about one of my favorite cookie sets! In speaking about the design process, I find ideas for my cookie designs in many places and Pinterest is one of my go-to areas for inspiration. While browsing through pins for a possible bee-inspired cookie set, I came across mixed media art, and I was instantly hooked. I wanted to incorporate those techniques into my cookie decorating style and that was how it all began.
MJ: Did you use a certain cookie recipe? I am thinking the chocolate color was a great base for the decorations to follow (unless there is an icing base coat?), and all of the pieces fit together so nicely! I know a few people have asked you about that.
PV: You are absolutely right. Why bother covering up when you have the option to go “naked”, right? I used the chocolate cookie base to my advantage since I knew it would provide a great backdrop for the warm yellow, bronze, and gold color palette I had in mind. I used the chocolate sugar cookie recipe by Baking a Moment. Because there was no baking powder in this recipe, the cookies did not spread in the oven and retained their original shape. This played a big role when fitting the pieces together.
MJ: What was the very first layer you used to begin your design? Some parts look airbrushed and some look stamped! In what order did you do them, if you did both?
PV: This whole thing was experimental. I wasn’t sure what I was doing or how it would look in the end. So, I started with stamping on naked cookies, and then went on to painting the honeycomb pattern using a stencil and bronze pearl dust mixed with a bit of vodka. I did more stamping over this, as some of the stamped images got covered in the process of painting. I didn’t use any airbrushing for these simply because I don’t own one. I’m sure it would have made things much easier.
MJ: And you iced some parts using the stencil as well?
PV: This was my first time using a stencil and it took a while to get the hang of it. I figured I could use the same stencil and get two different effects. I used the stencil to paint the honeycomb pattern and then again to apply royal icing to get the raised honeycomb texture.
MJ: Well, the look of the two stenciled elements together is really great! I love the embellishments of flowers and cogwheels. LOVE THEM! Is that fondant? Was there a specific way you made the cogs and what did you do to give them that metallic sheen?
PV: Both the flowers and the cogwheels were made of fondant. A bee-inspired cookie set isn’t complete without some flowers, and I wanted to bring in some steampunk elements to the set as well, so I decided to do some steampunk flowers! First, I made cogwheels in varying shapes and sizes. I have a tutorial about how to make them if anyone’s interested. I made the fondant flowers and used the gears/cogwheels as the flower centers. The metallic sheen was achieved by painting a mixture of gold and bronze pearl dust and a bit of vodka. I added a touch of this paint to the flowers as well, just to tie it all together.
MJ: Are there any other piping details you did that I may have missed? There is so much going on in this set!
PV: I don’t know if you can see much of it, but I did a bit of brush embroidery for the bees’ wings. Later, I decided to add some white pearl dust to the wings, and most of the brush embroidery got covered in the process. Live and learn!
MJ: It looks beautiful to me! In the time since I asked for this interview, you have made a few other fabulous mixed media cookies, like the gnome for Rebecca’s Practice Bakes Perfect challenge and a raven set for the GO BO! Foundation’s annual bake sale. You are on a roll! Will this technique make its way into more of your future work?
PV: Right now, I’d say yes! I want the elements of mixed media art to show through my decorating style. I might mix it up in order to keep it fun and interesting. I tend to get bored easily and try not to stick with one style for too long. I’m always looking for new ways to express myself and when I see something that inspires me, I jump on it. It happens when I least expect it.
MJ: I almost forgot to ask, what is your can’t-live-without baking or decorating tool?
PV: It has to be my trusty KitchenAid stand mixer. I don’t know if that qualifies as a tool, but I cannot imagine whipping up batch after batch of cookie dough and royal icing without one of those. That’s where it all begins!
MJ: Agreed on the KichenAid . . . I wouldn't be able to function without mine! Well, Pamoda, your creations are truly amazing. Thank you so much for answering my many questions about your beautiful honeycomb cookies. All of this information will be very helpful should I try to attempt a layered cookie set of my own someday. I am definitely inspired to attempt it!
PV: Thank you again, Melissa! This interview’s been a very enjoyable experience. I’m grateful for the opportunity!
Photo and cookie credits: Pamoda Vanderwert
Melissa Joy Lacasse has always had a passion for baking just about anything, but something clicked once she received a cookie decorating kit years ago. This pastime that started as holiday cookies for family and friends eventually turned into Melissa Joy Fanciful Cookies, a Facebook page, and most recently, the blog melissajoycookies.com. While Melissa enjoys the creative outlet that cookie decorating brings, she finds that sharing with others, whether via bakery box or virtually, is always the most rewarding part of her cookie journey.
Photo credit: Melissa Lacasse
Note: How DID You Do That? is a regular Cookie Connection blog feature, written by Melissa Lacasse, which reveals through in-depth interviews the inside scoop behind cookiers' unique designs and technique innovations. 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 Melissa's past posts, click here.