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Saturday Spotlight: More Winners of Julia's Cookie Art Competition™


Hi, all! I'm back this week with a continuation of the recap of my namesake Cookie Art Competition™ that took place on July 13 and 14 at the Show Me Sweets show in St. Louis, Missouri. In last week's Spotlight, I featured the first- and second-place winners in the 3-D category - which was great fun! (Read all about those winners here.)

As for this Spotlight, guess what?!! More fun is going to be had, because we're talking with third-place 3-D winner Tim (aka Timbo) Sullivan and first-place winner of the 2-D category, Crystal Goeringer!

Let's pick up where we left off last week with Timbo Sullivan. As a reminder, his entry was this impressively carved and airbrushed baby dinosaur amidst the bones of its long lost mother . . .

Finished Dinosaur

Incredible, right?!

So, here's what Timbo had to say about his work process . . .

Third-Place Winner, 3-D Category
Timbo Sullivan, Cakes by Timbo, Columbus, Ohio, USA

Timbo Sullivan"I am a full-time cake artist and sugar instructor. I specialize in 3-D sculpted cakes and have been doing them for about seven and a half years now. Last year I started practicing cookies. I didn't start playing with 3-D cookies until I heard of this competition. My entry was my first (and my original practice) 3-D cookie. I take cookie commissions from time to time, but only large single cookies. The smallest cookie I offer is 6 by 6 inches. The largest is 8 by 12 inches.

I used to commission my friend Mallory (aka @Mallory of ButterWinks!), who is a cookie artist, to make me huge Hellboy cookies for my comic-themed cake studio, and then she retired, and that kind of encouraged me to try it (cookie decorating) out.

I struggle with very small details and even more with icing and piping, so I NEVER THOUGHT I would enjoy cookies. Royal icing and handpainting are both things I am currently practicing, but I enjoy challenges.

This was my first cookie competition. I do a lot of TV, so I knew what to expect if I agreed to be filmed during the making of my cookie . . . I didn't want (or need) that stress. I honestly didn't know or think any of my ideas would work, so I figured if I did everything in secret and it worked, then it would just be a nice surprise. Especially to me. Ha!

I spent a little over 40 hours on my piece. Not too much time (compared to other projects I've had), because once I was done sculpting and carving the cookies, all I had to do was paint and airbrush them, which is pretty easy for me, since I've been doing that for years. Using a small drill to make each scale one by one is what took the longest.

Coming up with my idea was pretty easy, because for a long time I wanted to use this technique to make a standing dinosaur . . . but I thought to myself, "If this actually works, do I want to make something cool, just to have it destroyed on the plane before it even gets to St. Louis?". The answer was a quick and easy NO, so I chickened out! That's why I went with the laying dinosaur instead.

As far as how my entry related to the competition theme (Dream Adventure), I had JUST watched Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (one of my favorite movie franchises in life!), and thought to myself, "You mean to tell me not one dinosaur survived the island explosion? Not even a baby dino?"So in my dream adventure, I went to Jurassic World, and found one!

The hardest part for me was figuring out how to assemble all of these cookies (over 60 pieces) I made, just 10 hours before it was time to deliver the piece. I couldn't believe I had never thought of that, not one time, before then. I ended up using small drops of isomalt.

Honestly? If I could do this all over again, I wouldn't change a thing. I learned so much, and was shocked to even place third in my first cookie competition, with a 3-D cookie at that. If I HAD to choose one thing I'd change, I guess it would be the glaze I used on the dinosaur. I couldn't for the life of me get any good pictures because of his shine. Lesson learned.

I want to learn ALL of the cookie decorating basics. Royal icing, piping, different cookie recipes . . . My goal is eventually to get a first place in a cookie competition.

My advice to any future competitors in this category? Think outside of the box and be innovative. Assume any ideas you found online were found by all of the other competitors too. You have to kind of think to yourself, "Would this amaze the judges? Or have they seen this done plenty of times before?" Most importantly, have fun and do this for your own personal pleasure, not just because you want to win." ~ Timbo Sullivan

Now, before we move onto the 2-D category, I want to leave you with a few in-process shots from Timbo that demonstrate how he miraculously transformed shapeless blobs of cookie dough into this masterfully sculpted dino . . .

First, his foil molds . . .

Dinosaur Molds

Next, his baked pieces, ready for drilling . . .

Baked Dino

Drilling the scales, painstakingly one by one . . .

Drilling Dino

Dino head, all drilled with some painted detailing . . .

Dino Head Carved Before Airbrushing

And, ta da! Airbrushed and glazed!

Dino Head

(Gasp!) I'll pause a bit to let you catch your breath!  

Okay, now, let's talk 2-D! The theme for that portion of the competition was "Cookie Community", for which entrants were asked to depict (in a minimum of 12 cookies) someone or thing that might exist at the base of Cake Mountain, a mythical place concocted by Show Me Sweets organizers Pege Yates and Liz Kraatz. As you may recall from some of my past posts, the entrants that best rose to this 2-D challenge were Crystal Goeringer, SaraKay Hannel, and Jaclyn Hornung! Congrats again, ladies!

The Winners - 2-D Cookies

As of press time, I (sadly) hadn't been able to connect with SaraKay or Jaclyn, but I was able to chat with Crystal about her charming winning piece:


And, here's what she had to say about how it came to be . . .

First-Place Winner, 2-D Category
Crystal Goeringer, Cookies Confections by Crystal, St. Charles, Missouri, USA

"I have always had a passion for baking sweet treats and decorating cookies. I made cookies for my cousin’s sister-in-law’s baby shower and they got such a positive response that the experience made me consider taking on cookie decorating more seriously. I started Cookies Confections by Crystal in October 2017.

I am employed full time as a front-of-house manager for a bakery and restaurant. I enjoy what I do there, but I don’t get to do very much decorating or creating at the bakery. Part of my reasoning for starting my cookie business was to have an outlet for my creativity, and mainly because I love making sweet treats for people’s special occasions and holiday functions. Cookies Confections is worked around my full-time work schedule.

When I was growing up, both of my grandmas, my mom, and my aunts all baked delicious confections. I have always helped them in the kitchen, and my love of baking stemmed from all of them. As far as cookie decorating goes, I would have to say that it stems from my love of art and being creative. I was always in art classes all throughout school and majored in graphic design in college. Once a I graduated, I knew that sitting at a desk all day wasn't for me, so working in a bakery and now decorating cookies are the creative outlets that I desire. I feel like there are so many mediums that you can use in cookie decorating. One of my favorites that I like to play around with is the wet-on-wet technique. I hope to learn more ways of doing this technique.


Julia Usher’s 2-D cookie competition is the first competition that I have entered. It was pretty surreal to enter and win my first competition. I did it mainly to challenge myself and to try something new. Winning was just a wonderful bonus! I just wanted to have fun with the theme.

I was first inspired to create this piece after scrolling through Instagram and seeing a cutter of a mermaid on a seahorse. That specific cookie didn’t make it on to my final piece, but it inspired me to find unique creatures to make a river scene at the base of Cake Mountain. It had been incredibly hot here in Missouri, and all I wanted to do was be in the water to cool off. I thought, "Well, there are usually rivers that run through a mountain, so why not make a scene with fun summertime characters having a river party?" To me Cake Mountain is a fun, fantasy place, and I wanted unique characters that lived there. I wanted to do a play on animals that are popular, hence my unicorn and sloth. I have always loved penguins, and the random avocado dude was a perfect addition as well.

I didn’t really keep track of my time making my competition piece, but every free evening or morning that I had before or after my full-time job was spent working on it. There were 19 decorated cookies in my piece. I had ordered mini cutters for the smaller cookies, and they were not small enough. So I had to trace them (to make smaller templates) and then hand-cut the cookies. I wanted to incorporate macarons on the piece somehow, and did so by using mini ones as "rocks" that lined the river.


Fondant work was my biggest challenge in working on my piece. I have worked with it a little at work, but never in molds or trying to paint it. I finally realized that coloring the fondant and marbling it together would work way better than painting it, and was less time-consuming. The process was interesting, and I would like to work with fondant more to better myself at it.


Also, the sizing of the cookies was a challenge. I measured all of them on a ruler before ordering, but, even then, some were still too big. So I had to figure out which to use or not use, which had to be hand-cut in a smaller size, and then what would all fit on a 14 by 14-inch board.

If I had to do it over again, I would have covered my board differently and spent more time on making it look nicer.

Looking forward, I would like to be decorating cookies more full time. I would also be happy working in a bakery in a production role rather than managing the front of the house.

As for advice for others hoping to enter Julia’s competition: Practice and challenge yourself to create something unique and interesting!" ~ Crystal Goeringer


On that sage note from Crystal, I conclude my recap of this year's Julia M Usher's Cookie Art Competition™! But don't worry, there's more to come . . . as you may or may not know, the 3-D part was turned into a TV documentary for Food Network, and you can bet I'll be the first to give you a heads up when it airs. Right now, the producers are busily editing it, and I'll be filming some teasers for it at the end of August (with a top-secret TV celebrity, I might add )!

And, on that super exciting note, I turn to more mundane matters . . . Next weekend at this time, I'll be teaching in Australia (15 demos in three days - yikes!), so there will be no Saturday Spotlight. Spotlights will resume on August 24. Have a great week, and I'll "see" you when I get back from Down Under!


Images (14)
  • More Cookie Art Competition™ Winners Banner: Cookies and Photos by Timbo Sullivan (bottom), Crystal Goeringer (middle), and SaraKay Hannel (top); Graphic Design by Julia M Usher
  • Baby Dinosaur: 3-D Cookie and Photo by Timbo Sullivan
  • Timbo Sullivan: Photo Courtesy of Timbo Sullivan
  • Dinosaur Molds: Photo by Timbo Sullivan
  • Baked Dinosaur Cookie Pieces: Cookies and Photo by Timbo Sullivan
  • Drilling Dinosaur Scales: Cookie and Photo by Timbo Sullivan
  • Carved Dinosaur Head Before Airbrushing: Cookie and Photo by Timbo Sullivan
  • Airbrushed and Glazed Dinosaur Head: Cookie and Photo by Timbo Sullivan
  • 2-D Cookie Art Competition™ Winners Banner: Cookies and Photos by Artists Listed; Graphic Design by Julia M Usher
  • River Scene: Cookies and Photo by Crystal Goeringer
  • Crystal Goeringer: Photo Courtesy of Crystal Goeringer
  • Wet-on-Wet Marbled Pattern on Sloth: Cookie and Photo by Crystal Goeringer
  • Piping Macaron "Rocks": Macarons and Photo by Crystal Goeringer
  • Molding Fondant Starfish: Photo by Crystal Goeringer

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Comments (10)

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Congratulations! It’s a feat in itself putting yourselves out there and participating, its  a huge commitment and vote of self confidence!  

Wonderful pieces! 

My hats off to you and all the competitors.  

Well done! 

SugarDotCookies posted:

I love reading this Julia!  The whole thought process behind is so interesting.

I really enjoy reading about how people work up their entries too, so I have to thank (in a huge way) Timbo and Crystal (and Thomas and Leslie from last week) for taking the time to be so thorough and thoughtful in their responses. This post is really all their doing!

Unbelievable work!!! Congratulations to the winners. To think that Timbo and Crystal said that this was their FIRST cookie competition blew my mind... Message received? Don't be afraid to give it a TRY . The fear of failure can easily keep me from trying something new. It's time to take this lesson to heart!




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