** UPDATE, 9/11/2022: DEADLINE FOR ENTRIES HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO 10/4 **
Hi, everyone! I am so happy and honored to be taking over the Cookie Connection challenges from Christine Dutcher (aka @Sweet Prodigy) who has inspired us for the past 11 challenges in the Practice Bakes Perfect edition. Thank you, @Julia M. Usher, for giving me the opportunity to host these challenges in the new Watch-Learn-Create format, which involves a video and a guest who will be available to answer questions as you develop your entries. And, most of all, thank you for being the first guest! (Note: For the motivation behind this recent format change, see my earlier post. In short, we hope to make the challenges more interactive and approachable for all with the addition of video, access to cookie experts, and the streamlining of rules.)
Oftentimes we look for inspiration for projects in objects or nature, or in our everyday surroundings, but their shapes become a limitation when we try to recreate them in cookies and icing. @Julia M. Usher’s 3-D cookie constructions have always fascinated me, and especially her signature contoured cookies, because they always seem to work around these shape limitations. That’s why I asked Julia to demo her shaping and covering techniques.
When you watch Julia's demo, you will learn how to create four different types of 3-D cookies and how to cover her favorite type (contoured cookies) in nine different ways. Her demo is in two parts (due to a technical glitch during filming), so be sure to watch both parts to capture all of this content! I am sure that, after watching her demo, you will have more tools for translating your real-life inspiration into 3-D cookie designs, and that even more ideas will come your way. Let’s watch! But first . . .
Important: Julia's videos were recorded exclusively for Cookie Connection for the sole purpose of helping Cookie Connection members develop their skills and apply those skills to this challenge and future projects of their own design. These video recordings, and the content contained therein, cannot be used as material for cookie classes, for purposes of financial gain, or for any other purpose than stated above without obtaining written permission from Julia in advance. Thank you!
Below are sneak peeks of both parts of Julia's demo. To gain access to Part 1, click here, and to gain access to Part 2, click here. In each case, you will be taken to Julia's business site, where you will need to pay a small fee in order to view the videos. Note: A large portion of challenge video fees goes to our featured guests to compensate them for the time and costs associated with prepping these masterful classes. The remainder covers the costs of video production, editing, and hosting.
As an additional tool to guide you through Julia's demo, please check out her resource list, which will automatically be delivered to you when you purchase either part of the demo. This list includes the key tools that she used in her demo and often uses every day when shaping and covering 3-D cookies. Note: Don't worry! You needn't use or get all (or any) of these tools. Common household objects can often be used for shaping 3-D cookies and prepping them for covering. In fact, Julia mentions a number of readily available alternatives in her videos. This list is provided simply as additional information that you may use if you choose.
Part 1: Formulating Dough for 3-D Baking and Shaping Methods
Part 2: Methods of Covering Contoured Cookies and Challenge Rules
Again, to gain access to Part 1 with resource list, click here, and to gain access to Part 2 with resource list, click here. You will also find complete descriptions of both parts of the demo behind these links.
How fun and interesting it was for me to watch Julia demoing 3-D cookies! And once you watch, you will have so much content and material to be inspired to design, create, and participate in this challenge.
Because the designs you could create by mixing and matching Julia's techniques are nearly limitless, I thought eight weeks (until September 20) would be enough time for you to explore all of Julia's content and sources - and perhaps even be inspired to participate with more than one entry! Cookiers of all skill levels are encouraged to participate. Remember, the purpose of these challenges is to stretch skills, learn, and try new things . . . you will be surprised to see what you can do, I promise. Cookie Connection challenges were never intended to be a competition among cookiers; instead they are a way to have fun, challenge yourself (not compare), and share your learning experience. That’s why prize winners have always been determined through random drawings.
And speaking of the prizes (yes, that's plural), we've got an unusually large number of them this time, just because this first-time Watch-Learn-Create challenge is extra special!
First, Julia is giving 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:
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 brand-new tutorial shop.
As for the other 10 (yes, 10!) prizes, Peter Moeykens, the very generous creator of the Camera Lucida app (for iOS users), is donating 10 of his apps along with an in-app upgrade ($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.
The rules are simpler than ever - another nice feature of our new challenges!
- Watch Julia’s demo (both videos!), get inspired, and challenge yourself to create a brand new 3-D cookie project featuring Julia's favorite cookie type - contoured cookies!
- Make anything you like that involves one (1) or more contoured cookie(s) that is (are) covered in at least one (1) way. Julia shared nine (9) covering methods in her video demo. Again, you can use one or more of those methods. And, if you'd like to incorporate any of the other three (3) types of 3-D cookies that Julia mentioned (i.e., molded, embossed, or modeled), you can, however you must have at least one contoured cookie that is a central or focal part of your project. The contoured cookie(s) can be any shape (i.e., cylinder, sphere, egg, heart, etc.), and you can use Julia’s cookie dough or your favorite cookie dough adapted for contoured cookies. As you can see, the restrictions are few, so get creative!
- Please share in your entry comments what you learned, any difficulties you encountered and how you overcame them, and any suggestions to help and inspire your fellow cookiers. If English is not your native language and you feel more comfortable using your own language, you can. We will add translations if we can.
- Your work must be original and not a copy of someone else’s work/design/art/image in accordance with Cookie Connection site rules and US copyright laws.
- Have fun!
- If you have a question for Julia as you are developing your entry, that's great! We encourage questions and learning at every step of the process. Please enter all questions in the comments area under this post, so that everyone can benefit from the Q&A. And please tag @Julia M. Usher so she is sure to see your question and respond in a timely way.
- Please post an image of your cookie project to the site under the Cookie Connection Challenge clip set no later than September 20, 2022 October 4, 2022 at 5 pm central time.
- Because these challenges will be ongoing, we ask that you put "Watch-Learn-Create Challenge #51" in your photo caption (subtitle field) AND in a tag, so we can tell the challenges apart from month to month. Please use the title field to uniquely name your cookies as you normally would.
- Please also assign other relevant clip sets and tags to your images, as you normally would. (Don't use just the Cookie Connection Challenge clip set and leave it at that, or your photos won't easily be found with keyword searches.)
- You can enter more than once, but please post only one clip of each distinct entry. Multiple clips of the same entry are not allowed unless added in a comment beneath the one primary clip.
On September 24 October 8 in our weekly Saturday Spotlight, I will reveal the 10 top-trending entries (as determined automatically by our site-trending algorithms*) as well as the 11 randomly drawn prize winners. The next challenge will be announced soon after this challenge has closed. *Note: The site algorithms use members' collective likes, comments, and reactions to each entry to determine our Spotlightees.
During this first challenge, which, again, started today (July 20) and lasts eight weeks, you can ask any question at any time in the comments under this post, and Julia or I will be happy to answer.
We can’t wait to see your creations!
~ Manu (and Julia)
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 email@example.com, 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