Unbelievable. That is the only word to describe the entries we received for Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge #34 - Inside the Box. Cookie creations that are 3-D take an extra level of planning, an extra level of skill, an extra level of patience, and, yes, an extra level of luck to pull off. Despite struggles with uncooperative weather conditions, unstable molds, temperamental isomalt, too-soft cookies, and inaccurate templates, you all created 38 unique 3-D challenge entries. I am truly humbled and overwhelmed by the amount of effort, time, and care that every single entrant put into his/her entry. Anyone who even casually flips through the Practice Bakes Perfect clip set can see what a talented bunch of cookie artists we have here in this Cookie Connection community!
I will get to the spotlighted entries in a moment, but I want to personally give a shout-out to every single person who entered this challenge. It was nearly impossible to choose only 10 entries to highlight, so even if your entry is not featured here, please know that you ALL did an amazing job!
OK, now for some (fun) business to take care of . . . awarding the prize to one of our lucky challenge participants! As always, one lucky entrant was selected at random from among all of the challenge entrants to receive this gigantic set of 50 AmeriColor Soft Gel Pastes™ (called the Nifty Fifty Kit) generously donated by Cookie Connection owner and founder @Julia M. Usher!
Not only did Anne win our random prize drawing, but she also made one of our very favorite entries:
Cookie Cake by GinkgoWerkstatt
There was no lack of praise for this entry from our judges: "Amazing! I wish I had this idea!" . . . "I would never have known this slice of cake was a hollow box. It's super creative and summery and perfectly executed." . . . "This slice looks so real - the colors and textures of the layers are awesome." To look at the finished product, you would have no idea that Anne struggled with cookies that were almost too soft to file and miter, or that she created the "watermelon"-like design on the fly. In any event, we thought this cookie cake was a tremendous success. Congratulations, GinkgoWerkstatt, on this incredible entry AND your prize!
Now, on to the rest of our spotlighted artists! In no particular order, they are . . .
Sweet Storage Chest by Sofiya
I cannot overstate how technically difficult it was to pull off this entry by Sofiya. As one of our judges noted: "The precision required to get all of those cookies to line up perfectly to make the drawers that then slide perfectly into the chest - it's mind-boggling." I mean, just look at those super clean, perfectly square corners and smooth edges! And not only is this tiny, edible dresser fully functioning, it is also exceptionally beautiful. The colors and patterns are just captivating. I could continue gushing, but, in short, this entry checked every single box (pun intended)!
Fun Music Box by Ryoko ~Cookie Ave.This entry by @Ryoko ~Cookie Ave. takes the humble 3-D cookie box to a whole new level and fourth dimension with its moving parts! As @Julia M. Usher commented, "I think she [Ryoko] took 'inside the box' VERY literally and really explored that aspect of the challenge to its fullest!" I couldn't agree more. The whole concept of a zoo animal jack-in-the-box is beyond delightful. I hardly know where to begin with the technical aspects of this entry, but I think the side of the box with the mandrills and the sliding "cage" overlay is genius. I love how Ryoko cleverly hid the ends of the interior rods with the spinning bananas and wafer paper pinwheel. But let's talk about the interior mechanisms of this box ("inside the box," if you will)! The mechanism for the pop-up monkeys is similar to what my son built for an intro to mechanical engineering class last year, and Ryoko went ahead and built a "cranky box" out of COOKIE! I implore you all to check out the step-by-step process photos and videos that Ryoko included with this entry to see it in action!
Vintage Baroque Cookie Box by Cookies by joss
I seriously did a double-take when I first saw this entry, as I was not entirely sure it was made of cookies! In this entry, Joss utilized black dough, which allowed him to avoid covering everything with icing and really showcased the clean edges and tight corners of his box. Furthermore, as one of our judges noted, "The gilded piping against the black is perfectly opulent and dramatic." I strongly recommend that you take a look at the additional pictures of this box in the comments to this entry to fully appreciate how elegant and well-constructed it is.
Painted Jewelry Box by Elke Hoelzle
This entry was another one that caused us all to shake our heads - we had to convince ourselves it was a cookie and not an actual jewelry box! Elke posted pictures of this box before and after it was painted, and our judges were somewhat divided as to which version we liked best. Ultimately, we thought the painted version was a bit more unique, and that the piped and then painted designs added a whole other stained glass-like effect to the project. Still, I would happily have either version sitting on my dresser!
A Secret Place by PUDING FARM
This picture does not tell the whole story of this entry. You see, through some very precise fitting, the top of that front box was made as a sliding panel that opens to reveal a hollow "brick" (presumably for hiding all kinds of secrets)! In addition to the masterful construction of this box, we also very much like the realistic color/texture of these bricks and what a creative spin this entry was on the "inside the box" theme. (Be sure to see how this secret box works by checking out the extra photos in the comments under this entry.)
Chameleon by Sofiya
Needless to say, this box was one of the most eye-catching challenge entries. That colorful chameleon is absolutely stunning, but what stood out the most to me was how Sofiya approached the curved sides of her box. Rather than trying to bake large curved pieces over molds, Sofiya used over 40 small cookie pieces to follow the curved lines of her design. This technique is one that contractors often use when setting ceramic tile around curves. I thought the use of that approach in the context of a curved cookie was just so clever.
Magic Lantern by Sofiya
I love the shape of this lantern - how the sides of the lantern taper, and how the top comes to a peak. All of the sides of the lantern fit very cleanly together, and the molded cookie feet add extra dimension and interest. It's also kind of unbelievable, but all of the piped royal icing decorations on the sides are intricate white royal icing transfers that Sofiya painted and then affixed to the lantern. The process photos in the comments under this entry are really instructive, so please check them out!
[AUTHOR'S NOTE: @Sofiya not only has THREE entries spotlighted here in this post, but she also submitted a total of NINE entries to this challenge. NINE! You can see all of them in the Practice Bakes Perfect clip set. Brava, Sofiya!]
3-D Mexican Vintage Vitrine by Petra Florean
Petra was another participant who submitted multiple entries to Challenge #34, and, of all of those entries, we thought this vintage vitrine best showcased her serious box-making skills. Petra did a wonderful job of designing and fitting her box pieces together. I also think that all of the special decorative touches - the floral wafer paper sheets on the inside back of the cabinet, the lace on the shelf edges, and the diamond-pattern gelatin sheets for the door glass - make this entry "extra".
Two Aquariums with Goldfish by Icingsugarkeks
I really like this entry for two reasons: first, it is completely delightful, and, second, @Icingsugarkeks showed a lot of progress in this single entry from beginning to end. From the "delightful" standpoint, I love the idea of an aquarium as a box, and I think the lighting worked really well. The smaller aquarium was made using the "leftovers" from the first aquarium, and since Icingsugarkeks did not have a second cookie frame for the front wall of her smaller aquarium, she improvised and used wafer paper, which I think is actually an improvement over the first cookie frame. Overall, I was struck by Icingsugarkeks' imagination and spirit of experimentation.
Piano Box by radicaledward
I love the smooth curves and clean lines of this baby grand piano. @radicaledward says he made the curved sides using a mold he created out of Play-Doh(!) covered with aluminum foil, which I thought was a really clever way to utilize the materials many of us just have on hand! If you want to see how this piano was actually assembled and hear some of Edward's trials and tribulations along the way, definitely check out the great process pictures and comments for this entry.
On that note (again, pun intended), Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge #34 comes to a close. I hope you will all join us for our next challenge, which will post on or around June 22, 2019. Be there, or be square! (Ok, ok, I promise, no puns next time!)
Christine Donnelly began her professional baking career at 16, when she was hired on the spot at her local bakery to work the counter and decorate cakes. After detours to college and law school, she worked as a trial lawyer in Chicago for many years, ultimately leaving that career to become a stay-at-home mother to her two children. In her “retirement,” she continued to bake at home, at last finding her preferred artistic medium in decorated cookies. In February 2013, Bakerloo Station was born with a presence on both Facebook and Instagram. Christine makes cookies to balance her left brain, to inspire and share creative ideas, and to feed those needs that only art can satisfy.
Photo credit: Christine Donnelly
Note: Practice Bakes Perfect is a bimonthly Cookie Connection blog feature written by Christine Donnelly that poses inspiration or challenges to get you to stretch as a cookie artist - for practice, for prizes, and for fun! Its content expresses the views of the author and not necessarily those of this site, its owners, its administrators, or its employees. Catch up on all of Christine's past Cookie Connection posts here.