Thank you all for participating in the most recent questionnaire in my Sugar Dot Surveys series. In this one, I asked you a bunch of simple, quick-fire questions that covered a whole host of mini topics. The primary aim was to have some fun learning more about each other and to see if some of these topics might warrant their own surveys in the future.
I teach cookie decorating and business classes. I share my knowledge with students, but always let them know that my way is just ONE way to do things. I encourage my students to join sites like Cookie Connection and groups on social media, so that they can get many opinions and learn a variety of methods to do what we do. This latest survey sure proved that, though we are all cookiers, we do so much in our own unique ways! There’s an incredible amount to learn from our community, no matter how long one has been at it!
So let’s take a look at who answered this survey.
At the time this post was written, 209 of you had responded to the survey. The majority of you (60%) consider yourselves to be intermediate decorators. Another 24% say they are beginners, and 16% say they are advanced. Those who sell their cookies (44%) are slightly better represented than hobbyists (36%). The bulk of the rest of you (17%) wear more than one hat, meaning you may teach and sell cookies, or teach and sell cookie products, or do some other permutation of cookie-related things. Interestingly, 95% of you work from your home kitchens. Only 11 cookiers out of the 209 work in a commercial kitchen, and only three work in a commercial kitchen that they own (versus lease or share).
Promoting Your Business
I was especially interested in hearing how/if you promote your cookie businesses since this is one of the topics that I often teach. Of those of you with businesses, social media is your favorite way to promote (50%), closely followed by word of mouth referrals (42%). I'm happy to see that most of you are actively promoting your businesses - only about 4% of those with businesses (seven cookiers) said they didn't promote! Not surprisingly, Facebook and Instagram are the two favorite platforms for promoting oneself. About 47% of those with businesses favor Facebook, and 39% favor Instagram.
Icing and Piping
As you know, there's more than one way to cover a cookie! As expected, the vast majority of you (79%) cover your cookies with royal icing. Franken-frosting (a mix of glaze and royal icing), though only used by a small percentage of cookie decorators (8%), came in second place, followed by glaze in third place (6%). Even fewer respondents use fondant (3%) and buttercream (2%).
Meringue powder is hands-down the most common egg product in your icing, with 79% of you using it. Next up is liquid pasteurized egg whites (6%), followed by dried egg whites or albumen powder (4%) and raw unpasteurized whites (4%). Only 4% of you use no egg product in your icing.
As for piping your icing, disposable piping bags are by far the most popular tool for outlining and flooding, with 79% of respondents using them. The next most popular piping tool is the bottle, but a mere 8% of you use them.
Conventions and Classes
Only 20% of respondents have attended a cookie convention, though 76% hope to one day. [EDITOR'S NOTE: As they should! CookieCon and the others I've attended have all been incredible experiences - both for learning and fun!]
About half of you (48%) have never taken a cookie decorating class, but are excited at the prospect of attending one. Of those who have taken classes, most (69%) have taken three classes or fewer. Approximately 30% of you teach your own cookie classes, and 46% haven't taught but would like to. Surprisingly, about 5% of you have no desire to ever take a class, but far more (24%) have no desire to teach one!
Joni and friend at CookieCon; Photo by Joni Malfitano of Joni Kay's Cookies
While competitions have been part of the cake world for what seems like eons, they are relatively new to cookiers, as evidenced by your responses. Only 17% of you have ever entered one, and, of those who have competed, the vast majority (78%) have entered three or fewer competitions. And, while about 46% would like to enter a competition in the future, quite a large number of you (36%) have no desire to ever compete. As for judging, only 3% have served in this capacity, and a whopping 54% have no interest in doing so. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Well, I hope to change all of this in the years to come! In fact, I challenge everyone reading to join the fun in my 2-D and 3-D competitions at Show Me Sweets in July! Competitions are tremendous learning experiences for both entrants and judges, and you get to meet so many great cookiers in the process of putting your work and yourself out there in public view.]
Designs and Dough
Nearly all of us (95%) primarily make two-dimensional cookie designs (as opposed to 3-D ones). The vast majority of us (85%) always use a specialty tool to roll dough to our preferred thickness. Most respondents (79%) prefer a soft cookie over a crunchy texture. And I think it's safe to say that the sprinkle trend is on its way out, as 64% report no sprinkle addiction!
Worst Cookie Moments
I felt for you when reading about your worst cookie moments! You talked about pets getting at your cookies, shipping problems, and husbands turning on ovens full of decorated cookies. So many of you have had the misfortune of dropping or burning trays of cookies. Makes a grown woman want to cry, huh? Overwhelmingly, most of you considered your worst moment to be when your cookies did not turn out to meet the expectations you set for yourself. Most of those instances were due to icing problems: bleeding, too much food coloring, overmixing, not drying, incorrect consistencies, cratering, and running off cookies. Cookie decorating isn't for the faint of heart! Most of us have had some of these moments, but the good news is that we learn from them so they usually aren't repeated.
Disappointing butter bleed; Photo by Mary-Jean McMillan of So Extra Sweets
Best Cookie Moments
You guys! Reading your responses about your best cookie moments warmed my heart! We all already know that a cookie isn't just a cookie. Decorated cookies have a profound impact on others AND ourselves! So many of you talked about how bringing joy to others and seeing them happy are what it's all about to you. Many of you talked about winning competitions and making cookies for your own family's important events as your big moments.
A large number of you also talked about feeling pride in yourselves and a sense of accomplishment when you finish a difficult/large order, conquer a difficult technique, get your icing just right, and/or create cookies just as you imagined. These moments are what so many of you remember and cherish. What a great lesson this is! We can be so critical of ourselves in our cookie making, as well as in other areas of our lives. Let's remember to look for and notice the things we do well. Let's remember to acknowledge, and even bask in, our accomplishments. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Hear, hear!]
Little Emmet so happy with his cookie; Photo by Christy Brinkley of Sugar Island Baking Company
Get ready for this next one . . . the most popular answer to this question had to do with receiving praise from others. Imagine that - our BEST cookie moments are when others tell us that we're awesome. Whether it's getting good reviews, having people offer to pay for cookies, hearing others tell you to go into business, friends asking for cookies for their milestone events, or getting compliments, that's what we remember and hold onto. Many of you mentioned that receiving praise from well-known cookiers, or ones who you admire, are highlights for you. (Our own Julia Usher was specifically mentioned.) [EDITOR'S NOTE: Blushing! Thank you!]
This section of the survey results taught me a lot, and I hope you as well. Looking for the positive - in your own work as well as in others' - and voicing it can have a huge impact. Let's remember to praise ourselves and others.
Thank you for participating in this survey and allowing us to learn from YOU. The survey covered more than I can recap here, so if you took it, you can go back at any time to see the results for each question. If you haven't yet taken it, please do so! It will be open and capturing new responses in perpetuity! Once you take it, all of the survey results will reveal in the same place!
Until next time,
Sugar Dot Cookies
Dotty Raleigh is the owner of Sugar Dot Cookies, which began in 2013 with custom cookie orders, and has since grown to include decorating classes and cookie parties. In 2018, Dotty began teaching a series of online classes called Cookies as Business and providing business e-books, which cover everything from finding the optimum shop location and workflow management to pricing and packaging cookies. Dotty loves sharing her years of experience and encouraging those just getting started in their own cookie businesses. Please visit Dotty's Cookie Connection member profile and Facebook and Instagram pages.
Photo credit: Dotty Raleigh
Note: Sugar Dot Surveys is a bimonthly Cookie Connection survey/blog feature designed to foster experience-sharing and identify best business and decorating practices. Dotty starts by posting a survey every other month about a specific cookie practice, tool, or technique, and concludes with a recap of responses aimed at helping everyone learn and grow. This article expresses the views of the author, and not necessarily those of this site, its owners, its administrators, or its employees. To read all of Dotty's past Sugar Dot Surveys recaps, click here. And to see all of her surveys, click here.