Hello and welcome to the recap of Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge #50! I must admit that this challenge was by far one of my favorites, as it gave everyone a chance to participate in any and all of our past challenges, which I hope was fantastic news for all involved.
Speaking of news, I have some myself. After much consideration, I will be stepping down from hosting the Practice Bakes Perfect challenges to focus on some personal projects and to be able to spend more time on family activities.
When I first joined Cookie Connection back in 2015, little did I know that I would come so far or that I would be given such an amazing opportunity to contribute and give back to a community that has offered so much to me. (Honestly, I was thrilled just to be featured in the Saturday Spotlight!) So when @Julia M. Usher invited me to host these challenges, I was excited, honored . . . and a little nervous. With both @RebeccArchitect and @Bakerloo Station having hosted so many incredible challenges, I understood the importance of continuing to present new and interesting challenge topics along with informative content that would inspire and motivate people to grow as cookie artists. Hopefully, I succeeded in some small way.
Over the past eight years, our Practice Bakes Perfect challenges have covered a wide range of techniques, mediums, and themes, and have provided a wonderful learning opportunity for cookiers as they worked on developing their cookie decorating skills.
Having participated in these challenges myself, I can attest to the fact that they really do encourage people to step out of their comfort zones, take healthy risks, and experiment with new techniques and ideas that they might not have otherwise. Likewise, it is so fantastic to see our members sharing their ideas and the techniques they used to create their masterpieces, and offering up tips and advice so that we can all benefit, learn, and grow together!
And speaking of learning, let me remind you about our AMAZING prizes this month, which have a lot to do with that subject! Two lucky winners were chosen entirely at random from among all entrants to receive a free ticket ($150 value) to The Bake Fest, the world's largest virtual baking and decorating event, which runs May 21 - 22, 2022. This online event brings the whole baking community together through workshops, demos, business sessions, and networking opportunities. On the second day, Cookie Connection Founder and Host @Julia M. Usher will be teaching an advanced hands-on cookie decorating workshop for the second year in a row. She can't wait to cookie with you there! But, that's not all - you'll get to learn from at least 40 other instructors, with topics ranging from pie art and baking science to social media marketing and video production. For more info (or if you can't wait and want to purchase a ticket right away ), visit The Bake Fest's site! Just be sure to use code "juliamusher15" at checkout to get 15% off the normal price.
Thank you, Julia, for generously donating our challenge prizes! And, now, the randomly drawn winners of Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge #50 are . . . @Petra Florean and @Joanna Manuel! Congratulations, Petra and Joanna! This virtual event will be an incredible opportunity to connect with others and to learn from some of the best in the business!
Peace Not War by Petra FloreanPetra always manages to create such stunning visuals with her cookie art, but this entry, based on Challenge #17 Stenciled Scenes, has got to be one of my favorites. There is so much profound and meaningful symbolism in the decorative elements of this cookie. Art is such a powerful medium, and Petra, through her cookie art, has managed to perfectly capture the sentiment and concerns of so many at this unimaginable time for Ukraine.
Photo Booth Glasses by Joanna ManuelThis entry is one of three from Joanna, and it's based on Challenge #30 Crystal Clear. Working with isomalt can take some practice, and it's important to get things like the temperature correct. Joanna did not have a thermometer, but with a little practice and some outside-the-box thinking, she managed to get the temperature and her isomalt just right. Her persistence clearly paid off because her heart-shaped photo booth glasses turned out beautifully!
And now, here are our spotlighted artists for Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge #50. In no particular order . . .
First, let me say that this gorgeous floral set is one of 19 entries submitted by Lisa for this challenge! Lisa is an avid and regular participant in our challenges but her enthusiasm for this particular challenge was unprecedented! I love how, with each challenge, Lisa shared what she learned and offered some great tips in the process. As one judge said, "I really enjoyed reading Lisa's comments with each of her entries. Not only did they help me to understand the creative process behind her cookies, but they were also so entertaining." This cookie bouquet is based on Challenge #19 Molded Cookies and was a favorite among the judges. It was Lisa's first time experimenting with colored dough, and the results are stunning. As one judge exclaimed, "Lisa's molded flowers have impressively bright colors and super sharp details. Her experiments with coloring techniques were very informative, and her presentation is fabulous!"
This beautiful, sentimental candy box cookie is based on Challenge #34 Inside the Box. I love how Ira also incorporated techniques from other challenges into her entry, such as Lambeth overpiping, which she tried for the first time. As one judge observed, "Ira has created a gorgeous and heartfelt gift for her friend! She combined an admirable array of techniques for this project, too – everything from 3-D construction and crackle texture to Lambeth and a wet-on-wet portrait." This cookie box is not only beautiful, but also a wonderful keepsake to be treasured.
I absolutely adore all of the different rose variations that are incorporated in this cookie. Heather chose Challenge #16 A Dozen Roses for her entry, and she did a fantastic job of creating visual interest by including roses of varying shapes and hues. As one judge observed, "The Dozen Roses challenge was one of my favorites, and is probably the one with the most entries, if I remember well. So it is nice to see one more interpretation. How she created the bush using the two cookie cutters was also so clever. And what a nice idea to stick the cookie in a cake; it makes for a beautiful presentation." The chocolate cake "dirt" and cute ladybugs add a wonderful sense of realism and help bring this cookie rose bush to life!
The wet-on-wet technique requires minimal supplies (colored royal icing and a scribe tool), yet can produce countless unique, but equally impressive results. Sylvianne's entry, based on Challenge #31 Wet-on-Wet, does just this. I love how Sylvianne included both traditional and non-traditional designs in her set. The combination of bold and neutral colors helps to create a wonderful sense of movement and adds great visual interest!
Islands by ZeenaOne of the things I like best about our challenges is when entrants experiment with different techniques and ideas, and then share their experiences (what worked and what didn't) so that everyone can benefit from this knowledge. Zeena spared no sharing with all five of her entries, including this one, which is based on Challenge #37 Water. If you read Zeena's comments, you will see that a lot of effort – and learning – went into creating this project. As one judge commented, "Zeena's ocean has beautiful depth with very natural-looking swirls and color variation. I love that this challenge motivated her to try something new, and I'm equally grateful that she shared her experience. I'm definitely adding agar agar to my bucket list!"
There's something about an all-white palette that exemplifies understated elegance. Angi chose Challenge #43 Gingerbread House for her entry at the suggestion of her granddaughter – and lucky for us! The dark coloring of the chocolate sugar cookies serves as the perfect backdrop and contrast to the white decorative elements, which include lacework and needlepoint. This entry is a great demonstration of how a gingerbread house needn't be overdecorated with colorful candy to be eye-catching.
Tropical Dream by MANUELA CANTÙThis floral set is one of four impressive entries submitted by Manuela. For this entry, Manuela chose Challenge #32 Monochrome. Limiting a palette to just one color is a great way to allow texture to take center stage, and it can produce stunning results as is the case with these floral cookies. The petals are beautifully piped with great precision, and the icing consistency looks perfect. As one judge noted, "Using just one beautifully vibrant, mango-colored icing really makes the texture of these flowers sing!"
Mother and Child by Dixie Dust and Powdered Sugar
As one of our judges noted, "If it wasn’t for Challenge #50, which gave participants a chance to pick an old challenge, we would have surely missed this stunning cookie composition by Dixie Dust and Powdered Sugar", a first-time entrant who chose Challenge #45 Heritage for her entry. "It is simply beautiful in its colors, shape, theme, and attention to details." Certainly the sentiment behind this cookie is as beautiful as the cookie itself. The piping and decorative work are impressive but it's the painted image of mother and child that makes this entry truly phenomenal!
Ingredients for a Good Year by LisaFAs mentioned earlier, Lisa had 19 entries in this challenge, and deciding which of her entries to spotlight was a challenge in itself! Lisa put equal effort into learning and experimenting with so many of her cookie projects that many are worthy of the spotlight. A couple of standouts were her Macramé Wall Hangings entry, which was meticulously piped and had a wonderful seventies vibe, and her Color Cookies entry with its array of vibrant colors that complemented each other perfectly. This particular entry, which is based on Challenge #9 Piped Lettering, was Lisa's favorite and a top pick for me as well. I love all of the positive and inspirational words that are so beautifully piped. This challenge was actually one that Lisa considered skipping because of its difficulty. Instead, she decided to step out of her comfort zone and take a healthy risk. The result was that she ended up creating something spectacular! As Lisa herself said, "I was terrified of this challenge . . . I truly had no idea how it was going to go. I decided to go all in, however, and . . . I loved it!"
This spirit is truly what these challenges are all about, and it is the reason why they have continued to be so successful over the years.
With that said, our 50th Practice Bakes Perfect challenge comes to a close. Make sure you check out the whole clip set to see all of the amazing challenge entries! And while you are there, don't forget to read through the comments section where you will find a wealth of information explaining how many of the entries were created, along with tips and advice to help you become a better cookier. Thank you to everyone who participated, liked, and commented on our challenge entries!
In closing, I would like to thank @Julia M. Usher for giving me the opportunity to host these challenges over the past two years. It has been a remarkable and rewarding experience that I will always treasure.
And thank you to all of YOU for participating in our challenges and for sharing your knowledge – and your beautiful cookie art – much to the benefit of everyone who visits this welcoming community. You should be proud of the work you have put in to improving your skills, and all that you have accomplished. The goal of these challenges has always been for YOU to challenge YOURSELF. So continue to experiment, be creative, and look for ways to challenge your abilities. And remember to never stop learning!
[EDITOR'S NOTE: First, to everyone: What a fabulous job on this milestone challenge! Kudos to all who contributed to making it truly outstanding. Now back to the elephant in the room! Of course, I couldn't let Christine leave this post without first giving her a huge round of applause and thank-you for her terrific work for Cookie Connection over the last two years. She not only did a marvelous job of researching and organizing all of the source information that fueled each challenge, but she also excelled in bringing us all together to share and learn from one another. While the departure of a valued team member is always tough to handle, I am excited to see what Christine does with her newfound time. I am sure it will be just as wonderful as all of the work she did for us. So thank you again, Christine. You will be deeply missed.
Now, you might be asking what Christine's departure means for the challenges, and that is a good question. In fact, I've been giving that very question a great deal of thought over the last couple of weeks. And . . . since I am not fond of saying good-bye without a corresponding hello, I am pleased to announce that we have an exciting new plan for our challenges. Please pop over to this post to learn more. ~ JMU]
Christine Dutcher's journey as a cookier began in early 2013 when an online search led her to the amazing world of cookie decorating. After spending countless hours learning all that she could, Christine decorated her first set of cookies in October 2013. In 2016, she decided that she would begin to focus on perfecting her skills, challenging herself each time to create more detailed and progressively complex pieces of cookie art. In 2019, Christine became one of the very first sugar artists from around the world to be named as an "Honourary PME Five Star Sugar Artist" by Knightsbridge PME. You can learn more about Christine's work here on Cookie Connection, and by following her Facebook and Instagram pages.
Photo credit: Christine Dutcher
Note: Practice Bakes Perfect is a bimonthly Cookie Connection blog feature written by Christine Dutcher 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