Skip to main content

Saturday Spotlight: Watch-Learn-Create Challenge #51 Recap


Hi, everyone, I am taking over this Saturday Spotlight with the recap of Watch-Learn-Create Challenge #51, featuring @Julia M. Usher on the subject of shaping and covering 3-D cookies.

Many thanks to each one of you who participated. This challenge wasn’t easy, even if the rules were simpler than ever and gave you free rein to create. (Reminder to those who missed the challenge: Julia's challenge was to create a brand new 3-D cookie project featuring one or more contoured cookie(s) covered in at least one way.) But looking at the terrific entries you presented, it is clear that you all mastered the techniques showcased by Julia. Of course, I should add that I was thrilled to watch Julia demo so many techniques in less than a couple of hours, and I am amazed and inspired by the creativity shown in your entries. [EDITOR'S NOTE: I too was overjoyed to see how you took my basic techniques and extended them in inventive ways into forms I'd never imagined! Wow - and congratulations! ~ JMU]

I can’t thank Julia enough for her detailed demonstration about shaping and covering contoured cookies, plus three other types of 3-D cookies (molded, embossed, and modeled). She gave us all of the tools for translating our real-life inspiration into 3-D cookie designs, recipe modifications included. A true online class!

But let’s talk about the prizes, because Julia also gave away not one, but two of her amazing online tutorials featuring 3-D contoured cookies - a retail value of $120! Below are short previews of these tutorials:

3-D Heart Box Tutorial

3-D Stenciled Ornament Cookie Tutorial

You can also read more about the contents of each tutorial by clicking on the pink links under the videos, or by visiting  Julia's new tutorial shop.

🥁🥁🥁 The two lucky (randomly drawn) recipients of these amazing online tutorials are @Joanna Manuel (3-D heart box) and @Petra Florean (3-D stenciled ornament)! Congratulations, Joanna and Petra! We can’t wait to see more of your contoured cookie creations gracing Cookie Connection's photo feeds during Christmas and Valentine’s Day! Julia will email you codes for accessing these tutorials in the next 24 to 48 hours, so stay tuned! Thanks again, Julia!

Below are Joanna's and Petra's winning entries along with a few editorial remarks from me.

Independence Day - Vintage Bangles by  Joanna Manuel051A392F-F175-4F80-9F41-526A3B21697B
Joanna used her traditional recipe for sugar cookies. In the comments under her photo, she explained, “I imprinted the words on the flattened cookie dough and then contoured [it] into [a] semicylinder. Immediately after baking, I shaped it into the shape of an ancient kappu or bangle, narrowing the gap”. The shape of the bangles is perfect! They didn’t spread at all, but what impresses me most is the perfect shape of the embossed lettering!

Forest Mushrooms by Petra Florean
Yes, I know it's hard to believe, but these realistic mushrooms are 3-D contoured cookies - not poisonous at all!  The cap of each mushroom is a hemisphere cookie. I love the textures that Petra was able to create on the caps using royal icing (and also isomalt). Even more impressive is that this gorgeous fall scene was the last of Petra's seven (yes, seven!) entries. Make sure to check out all of them - each is as creative as the next.

But we still have prizes to give away (again, at random)! Thanks to Peter Moeykens, the very generous creator of the Camera Lucida app, who donated 10 of his apps along with an in-app upgrade on each ($15 worth of software) for a total of $150 in prizes! If you're new to Camera Lucida, it's a very popular app among iOS-cookiers used to project images and to help take piping and painting skills to new levels. Read more about the app and see examples of artistry created with it, including some beautiful cookie art.

Camera Lucida Border

🥁🥁🥁 once again! Now, the really good news is that each participant (including Joanna and Petra) will receive this prize! Congratulations, everyone! And thanks again, Peter! Julia will also email codes for the app, along with Camera Lucida download instructions, within 24 to 48 hours. Important note: The app codes have an expiration date of October 31, 2022, so be sure to use them before then.

With the prizes behind us, let's turn now to the ten top-trending challenge entries of the week. (Reminder: This top ten list is determined automatically by Cookie Connection site-trending algorithms. These algorithms use members' collective likes, comments, and reactions to each entry to determine the rankings shown here.)

#1: Season’s Greetings by Petra Florean0F7C7C6E-A304-427C-A78A-A51BB0551926
“A challenging and enjoyable 3-D cookie project,” as Petra said. Oftentimes 3-D projects are difficult to capture, but Petra provided a video in the comments where we can enjoy every little detail and all of her varied textures. Also, in the comments under each of her entries, she shared mini tutorials of the process. I highly recommend that you click on all of her entries and read everything about them!

#2: Warm Pumpkin Nest by Petra Florean74994C05-8D45-4E04-9235-00309EDCB1E7
Another beautiful fall scene by Petra! Though it looks like a hemisphere, this pumpkin is actually a cylinder made with  Julia’s cookie dough. For an explanation of the contouring and covering techniques used, I once again refer you to Petra's comments under her post where she generously explains all in great detail.

#3: Assorted Contoured Planters by TeeAdri15CEC6ED-752A-4AC5-9578-05FB90625709These planters look so realistic, don't they?! I especially love the “concrete” and “ceramic” looks that TeeAdri was able to achieve. And you would never know that TeeAdri had to deal with high humidity; she found ways to overcome the issue, thanks to Julia’s suggestions provided during the challenge process. (Remember: Another new and very hepful aspect of the Watch-Learn-Create challenges is that the featured guest will be available to lend advice as entrants make their creations.)

#4: Backyard Planter and Bird Bath by Cookies FantastiqueB3509D29-A308-4B52-A910-AF3DA015C847
So much work went into making this amazing creation! Carol showed us her inspiration picture (a concrete backyard fountain) and also the paper model she made to simulate it. Starting from that model, she ended up putting her own special spins on various elements in order to turn them into cookies. She also explained some of the techniques she used, including how she achieved a very unique stone effect with fondant. If you are wondering how she made the spiral cookie shape to the left, well, her husband is a keeper - he made a  steel mold for her!

#5: Mr. Spider by TeeAdri
I don’t like spiders, but I really adore this one! I wish I could be in TeeAdri’s kitchen to see the reactions when friends and family find this treat on her countertop. Such a clever way to use contoured cookies!

#6: Baked Fish by LisaF
Speaking of creativity . . . how fun is this project?! Just look at the brush embroidery scales, and what a nice idea to airbrush them to add depth and interest! I also love how Lisa used the cookie fins to prop the fish. Now, can you guess what kind of mold Lisa used to bake the two halves that make up the fish? If not, jump on over to her post to find out!

#7: Tea Set by ZeenaC1D22A88-3246-4B8F-A477-24EEEC64DAC1
Tea, anyone? After Julia’s demo, we have the tools and techniques to recreate in cookie form anything from our everyday lives that might inspire us (like this tea set for Zeena) as shape is no longer a limitation. Zeena also presented another gorgeous entry featuring realistic clay cookie pots that you need to see.

#8: Very Funky 3-D Bird Baths by Stevie Jean746B6D01-4F33-435C-9C79-532B894F8031
I read that Stevie was determined to enter this challenge no matter what, and I am so glad she did! The hemispheres are perfect, and I am drawn to the smoothness and color of the birdbath interiors. Stevie didn’t have a cylinder so she made the stands using thin cookie sticks, covered with very thick royal icing and then wrapped with crinkled parchment paper to add texture.

#9: Gingerbread Ladies by LisaFEEB9924D-A471-4475-AC6B-6042F057D214
These lovely ladies are little boxes that can be filled with treats to add an element of surprise . . . if you weren't already surprised enough by this charming cookie project! The interiors are covered with stenciled fondant, and Lisa stacked two hemispheres to make the bonnets. But, again, check out Lisa's first comment under her entry where she shares in detail the step-by-step process.

#10: Donuts by ZeenaD8B86BAE-60F8-4E47-81D3-7700DB91A974
You would never know these cookies weren’t real donuts! One more ingenious entry by Zeena! She used a mini donut tray to bake the donut cookies, and even contoured a cookie to make the plate that they're served on! Again, just proof that anything can be transformed into cookies!

I leave you with a video that captures, from start to finish, the whole Watch-Learn-Create Challenge #51 with Julia. You’ll see some timelapsed highlights from Julia’s demo and a slideshow of all of the entries, including some work-in-process pictures posted by our entrants in comments under their photos. If this video piques your interest to learn more, I encourage you to check out the comments under each entry by clicking on the pink links in the titles near each photo above. You can also find all of the challenge entries under this link. And last, you can watch Julia's two-part demo here. Even though this challenge has closed, there is always time to watch, learn, and create. We would love to see your contoured cookie creations at any time! [EDITOR'S NOTE: I second Manu's comment about seeing your contoured cookies whenever you make them! And I also extend a sincere thank-you to Manu for knocking this first challenge out of the park. I especially love her recap video - what a special touch! ~ JMU]

Be on the lookout for Challenge #52, which is scheduled to post on or around October 20, 2022! Our next featured guest (a secret for now) and I look forward to seeing many of you there!

Ciao, Manu

Manuela Pezzopane, affectionately called Manu by her friends and family, is the author of the blog feature Made by Manu, where each month she shares the method behind a magical cookie of her own making. In March 2022, Manu also assumed the role of host of our rebranded and reformatted Cookie Connection Challenges: Watch-Learn-Create Series, which debuted in a virtual video format in July 2022. A fan of everything handmade, Manu professes to have tried every possible hobby. However, it wasn’t until the end of 2014, when an American friend invited her to a Christmas cookie exchange, that she first discovered decorated cookies. In 2015, after watching Julia M. Usher's videos and signing up on Cookie Connection, Manu finally attempted her own designs. Since then, cookie decorating has become Manu’s passion, and her mesmerizing video shorts have earned her a large and loyal following throughout the global cookie community. Manu harks from Rome, Italy, where she currently resides. You can email Manu at, follow her on Facebook and Instagram, or explore her past challenges and large library of Made by Manu tutorials here on Cookie Connection.

Photo credit: Manuela Pezzopane


Images (13)
  • Challenge #51 Recap Banner: Cookies and Photo by Julia M Usher; Graphic Design by Elizabeth Cox
  • Independence Day - Vintage Bangles: By Joanna Manuel
  • Forest Mushrooms: By Petra Florean
  • #1 - Season’s Greetings: By Petra Florean
  • #2 - Warm Pumpkin Nest: By Petra Florean
  • #3 - Assorted Contoured Planters: By TeeAdri
  • #4 - Backyard Planter and Bird Bath: By Cookies Fantastique
  • #5 - Mr. Spider: By TeeAdri
  • #6 - Baked Fish: By LisaF
  • #7 - Tea Set: By Zeena
  • #8 - Very Funky 3-D Bird Baths: By Stevie Jean
  • #9 - Gingerbread Ladies: By LisaF
  • #10 - Donuts: By Zeena

Add Comment

Comments (9)

Newest · Oldest · Popular

What a success! Julia’s tutorials were so generous and detailed. Manu, you made all of the behind-the-scenes work (which I am certain was daunting) run seamlessly. And I was so inspired by the incredible creativity and artistry of all of the entries. Well done all the way around!

Thank you so much Julia and Manu (as well as our generous prize contributors!).  This was such a fun challenge.  I will say, I had been in a bit of a creative rut and this helped catapult me right out of it!  Thank you both for your inspiration and generosity! ❤️😘

So many creative 3-D cookies! Congrats to everyone! This was an excellent challenge @Manu biscotti decorati, and everything was so well put together. Can't wait to see what - and who - you have in store for the next challenge!

Link copied to your clipboard.