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Meet the 2024 Judging Team (Plus, a Preliminary Prize Tally)!


As I said in 2023, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" And, yes, those words pretty much sum up my judging team mantra again in 2024! Most of my 2024 judging team has been involved with Julia M. Usher’s Cookie Art Competition™ since 2019, so they know every possible in and out of the judging process quite well. I brought on one new judge in 2021 and another in 2023 to round out the skill mix on the team, and, I dare say, I've now got the perfect mix of evaluators for the 2024 showdown! With experts in every facet of cookie decorating with many combined years of judging and competing experience, both in the United States and internationally, my team is sure to provide the most thoughtful and objective evaluations imaginable!

If you've been involved in my past competitions, you know that the in-depth feedback provided by my judges is what distinguishes Julia M. Usher’s Cookie Art Competition™. Even if you don't place in this year's event, you'll end up a winner if you take advantage of my judges' feedback at the competition's conclusion. After your entries are submitted, hundreds of hours are spent scoring, tallying scores, discussing the merits of each entry, and writing up detailed notes for entrants about where they stood out and where they might improve. And it's all done in the spirit of helping cookiers learn and grow! I thank my judges in advance for the time and dedication that I know they will apply to this process, and I encourage you to request their feedback when you submit your entry. Remember: You must email me ( to request feedback prior to the entry deadline on June 30, 2024. As each individual feedback form can take a couple of hours to write, we only process detailed feedback for those who request it.

Now, back to my illustrious team . . . If you haven't met them in past years, here's who they are in a snapshot . . .

World Class Judges COMPOSITE SQUARE_2024

You may have noticed that Ginny Levack (aka Genie's Products by Creative Cookier) has rejoined the team this year after taking a brief break from judging in 2023, and I couldn't be more elated. Ginny was one of my first judges at the final Oklahoma State Sugar Art Show back in 2018, and then the next year in Missouri where the competition was filmed for Food Network. Ginny has hosted thousands of cookiers at her own decorating events, and has seen the full spectrum of cookie talent in the process, so she couldn't be better suited for everything that judging involves.

But all of my team members are equally wonderful, each bringing immeasurable technical knowledge, attention to detail, and empathy to the metaphorical judging table!

You can hear directly from three of the 2024 judges in the video below. While created back in 2021, the video and its messages are still relevant to this year's competition.

And, of course, you can learn more about all of the judges by reading their bios below. I am beyond thrilled and honored to have these cookie artists on board once again this year! I would also like to specially acknowledge @You Can Call Me Sweetie for being the mastermind behind this year's competition theme, "Your Eras Tour". It's going to give you so much opportunity for making personal statements with your cookies!

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Sandie Beltran is the founder of You Can Call Me Sweetie and Sweetie Academy, a custom cookie boutique and cookie decorating school located in the Atlanta, Georgia area. Sandie began her love of cookie decorating in October 2012 when she began making sets for her family and friends. The popularity of her sugar art grew so rapidly that she decided to start a side business and thus You Can Call Me Sweetie was born. In the very beginning, Sandie was juggling a full-time job as an office manager by day with part-time cookie artist on nights and weekends. But by January 2015, she was able to make the leap and finally take her passion for cookie decorating to full time. Sandie has since become an award-winning cookie artist, winning Cookie Connection's 2014 Cookier of the Year Award as well as being a finalist for both Cake Masters Magazine's 2015 Cookie Award and D'licious Magazine’s 2022 Cookier of the Year Award. Sandie specializes in custom made-to-order sugar cookies as well as group and private cookie decorating classes. In Sandie’s words, "I truly strive for perfection and enjoy working with intricate and innovative designs to give the wow factor to any event. I love sharing my cookie journey with my students and helping them achieve their full potential in this wonderful world of cookie decorating."

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Stephanie Kappel, the owner and cookie artist at The Hungry Hippopotamus, believes that cookies are the perfect marriage of technical skill, artistic expression, and visible affection. Her work has been featured on ABC Action News and in American Cake Decorating, Edible Artists Network, and Southern Living magazines. She has been interviewed on Cookie Connection and the Power of a Cookie Podcast, and featured as a Superhero of Sweets by Ann Clark Cookie Cutters. Her clients include Disney and Williams-Sonoma, and she most recently competed in the finale of Holiday Gingerbread Showdown on Food Network. Stephanie is a Craftsy instructor, contributing educator for SugarEd Productions Sugar Art School, and proud baker for Icing Smiles.

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Ginny Levack and her husband, Doug, are the inventors of the original Stencil Genie and the duo behind Genie's Products by Creative Cookier, which offers an array of products and services specially designed for cookie decorators. When Ginny is not coming up with new products, she produces themed cookie retreats and cruises that bring cookie decorating enthusiasts together with well-known cookie celebrities. Ginny and Doug have received two Cookie Connection Cookiers’ Choice Awards, as well as an EAGA Innovations Award. As one notable cookie artist once said: “I love that the Levacks don’t just see cookie artists as customers, but as friends and members of a community. This spirit infuses everything they do, and is, no doubt, the secret to their incredible success."

Beatriz CroppedBeatriz Muller is a Certified Master Sugar Artist and a gingerbread architect and engineer. From her workshop in Ontario, Canada, she has been running Cakes by Beatriz for almost 20 years. During the holiday season, Beatriz and her staff called "Gingerneers" are dedicated to creating custom-order cookie art and intricate gingerbread buildings and structures. Beatriz's style is very clean and precise, with delicate and intricate embroidery and royal icing details. It is inspired by the visual arts, architecture, and beautiful ornamental designs that are created around the world. Her work has won multiple awards including first, second, and third at the National Gingerbread House Competition in North Carolina. She is also a winner of Food Network’s Holiday Gingerbread Showdown and The Big Bake. In 2021, Beatriz won first place in the first virtual edition of Julia M. Usher’s Cookie Art Competition™ and, in 2020, she was nominated as a cookie finalist in the American Cake Awards. Her work has been featured in multiple blogs and magazines, and she has had many appearances on TV networks throughout the years. In 2022, Beatriz’s work debuted on the big screen when she was commissioned by Discovery+ to make six gingerbread pieces for the movie "A Gingerbread Christmas."

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Laura Saporiti, owner of Laura Saporiti Pastry and Cake Art, is a pastry chef and cake and cookie artist based in Italy. She worked in the past as an art historian, but currently loves to travel the world, teaching her passion of sugar art and furthering her mission of raising the professional stature of decorating. Laura has had the honor of being published in several international magazines, such as Pasticceria Internazionale (Italy), Cake Central (USA), Cake Masters Magazine (UK), Sugar Magazine (India), and Café & Gateaux (China). Laura has likewise received many awards for her work, including first prize at Cake Design Italian Festival (2013), special prize for aesthetics at Italian Cup of Cake Design (2014), gold medal at Britain’s Cake International (2014), and Rising Star Award (2017) at the Golden Tiers Awards organized by American Cake Decorating magazine and the New York Cake Show. She has also won the title of Best Italian Painting Artist two times in a row, in both 2015 and 2016, and she proudly wears the badge of first-place winner in the 3-D category of Julia M. Usher’s Cookie Art Competition(2020, USA). Her impressive international reputation has earned her invitations to judge several competitions, such as Italian Cake Festival (2015/16), I’m Chef Bakery Master Championship (China, 2015), Istanbul Cake Show (2016/17), New York Cake Show (2016), and Cakeology Fest (India, 2019).

Since I will see every entry as it is submitted online, I will not actually be scoring entries (entries are scored blind, without knowing who entered them, to maintain the ultimate objectivity). Instead, I will be serving in "head judge" capacity, which is just a fancy way of saying I will be organizing everything and keeping my judging team (and myself!) on track. I will also be available to answer any questions entrants might have as they go through the process. In the event that you're interested in knowing more about my background, here's my bio too . . .

JuliaMUsher_HeadshotSquare500x500Julia M. Usher is a world-renowned sugar artist most recognized for her pioneering work in 3-D cookies. She is also the author of two books, 13 e-books, and an app, all about cookie decorating. When not spreading her love for cookie art in classes across the globe or online, Julia produces videos for her popular YouTube channel and website; oversees Cookie Connection™, the world’s largest online cookie decorating community; designs cookie stencils and cutters under her JULIA brand; and manages Julia M. Usher’s Cookie Art Competition™, which was filmed in 2019 for a Food Network documentary. Julia is Past President of the International Association of Culinary Professionals and has received multiple food writing, decorating, and video awards, including James Beard Food Writing Award finalist (2008), Cordon d’ Or Food Writing Award winner (2009), the first-ever Cake Masters Magazine Cookie Award (2013), Oklahoma State Sugar Art Show (OSSAS) Medal of Honor (2014), both Edible Artists Global Academy Association (EAGAA) US and International Sugar Artist of the Year Awards (2016), Cake Masters Magazine Cookie Icon (2017), TASTE Breakout Foodie of the Year (2019), and Best Online Cookie Decorating Classes from The Spruce Eats (2020). She is also a three-time Global Sugar Hero finalist in the Australian Cake Artists & Decorators Association (ACADA) annual Cake Oscar Awards (2021/2022/2024) and a Sugar Hero finalist in the 2023 American Cake Awards. In addition to managing her own annual cookie art competition, Julia has judged both the Cake Masters Magazine and American Cake Awards since their inception. Julia’s favorite mantra is “live sweetly”, which she urges everyone to do every day!

Again, a huge shout-out to my judges for the remarkable effort that they will be putting into judging your entries. Speaking of which . . . if you haven’t yet read the competition rules and started your entry, no worries! You have plenty of time. Registration opens on March 30, and entries aren't due until June 30. However, the rules and theme were posted on February 14, so you can start designing and creating your entries at any time! Be sure to check out the Competition Overview, which contains the rules and theme, before you get started. The link is also below.

Last but not least, if you're interested in sponsoring this competition, I am actively soliciting donations at least through March, and I would love to have you! As always, I am trying to break another prize record ($18,000 in 2023) to make 2024 better than ever for entrants! Only a week into the sponsorship drive, I am pleased to report that my sponsors and I are well on our way . . .

Prelim Prize Tally Number

Wow, right?! Please join the sponsor team and help take this number over the top! Check out our sponsor benefits in the 2024 Sponsor Offering.

As always, if you have any competition questions, please don't hesitate to ask in the comments below or email me.



Images (3)
  • Meet the 2024 Judges Banner: Photos Courtesy of Judges; Graphic Design by Elizabeth Cox
  • World-Class Judges: Photos Courtesy of Judges; Graphic Design by Elizabeth Cox
  • Preliminary 2024 Prize Tally, as of February 21, 2024: Graphic Design by Elizabeth Cox

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