Hi, everyone! I am finally back with Watch-Learn-Create Challenge #55! Dimensional mixed media is its topic, and our featured guest is the very talented Carmen Urbano of @Inspirations by Carmen Urbano.
Award-winning international instructor and Food Network competitor, Carmen is also a former lawyer. After 19 years of a successful career in that field, she left to pursue her dream to become a full-time cookie artist, founding Inspirations by Carmen Urbano in 2010. Since then, she has won numerous cookie art awards, including first place in all four competition categories at CookieCon Orlando 2023, first place in the Royal Icing category at Cake Artist International 2023, and Best in Show and Innovative Cookie Artist awards at the San Diego Cake Show in 2019.
Carmen is quite gifted at painting, and was rather surprised when I asked her to demo dimensional mixed media instead. But we just had a painting challenge, so I felt compelled to mix things up! More importantly, Carmen does an extraordinary job of combining many different elements, always in a way that results in well-balanced and well-edited cookies, rich with interest and texture.
Just to show you what I mean, here's a collection of some of Carmen's gorgeous cookies. Many of them have handpainted facial details and accents, but they also have tremendous depth and dimension achieved through the combination of molded or shaped fondant, wafer or rice paper, edible lace, sugar beads, and various dusts. Carmen clearly doesn't like flat cookies, and I'm sure we're all happy about that!
I was especially drawn to the mixed media decorations on her ballerinas' tutus. They pop against the backdrop of simple outlining and flooding, making these cookies perfect, IMO, for a demo focused exclusively on mixed media. The ballerina project is beginner-friendly, but any cookier of any skill level should be inspired by it to create a gorgeous challenge entry or two. Mixed media should be the focus of this challenge, but, knowing how much Carmen loves painting, I welcome handpainted accents on your entries as well!
In her challenge kickoff demo, inspired by button art, Carmen shows how different media can be used to create embellishments for ballerina cookies of two styles (pictured below). She adds dimension using larger items, such as fondant, sugar pearls (aka dragées), nonpareils, rice paper, and edible lace. But she also demonstrates how depth can be achieved with the careful application of edible glitter and highlighter, luster, and petal dusts. Along the way, she addresses the importance of planning where to place embellishments in order to optimize volume and perspective, and how to glue decorations to cookies. (She's got some fun tools for doing the latter too!)
Before we get into the heart of the challenge, Julia wanted to share some news about an important change to the challenges. So, here's Julia for brief bit . . .
A Note from Julia: Important Challenge Change
Hello, everyone! The change I'm about to announce was born from the widespread recognition that Cookie Connection’s Watch-Learn-Create Challenge kickoff videos are nothing short of online master classes – not necessarily difficult, but filled to overflowing with insider tips and techniques from some of the cookie industry’s very best decorators. To date, they’ve been given away for free, just because content has always been free here, and I didn't want to upset the apple cart. But, knowing how much work goes into each video, I just didn't think this practice was fair to my very generous guest artists or to Manu who has spent countless hours capturing and editing these videos.
So, as of today, challenge videos will no longer be free. All past and current videos will be available for sale on juliausher.com under the “GUEST SERIES” area, at rates that are still a big bargain considering the caliber of instruction and length of each video.
To encourage challenge participation, the demo for the current challenge will carry a nominal fee of $5 USD. But once the challenge closes, tutorial price will revert to market rate, about $30 USD (subject to change). That being said, the time to get the best possible price on a tutorial, regardless of whether you plan to enter the challenge, is while the challenge is running.
When you purchase these videos through my guest artists’ affiliate links (throughout this post), you will be helping to support their small businesses as well as allowing me to continue to bring these extraordinary learning experiences to you. Also, once the affiliate system has been tested with Challenge #55, I hope to roll it out to active challenge participants so that they too can profit from challenge video sales.
I recognize that this transition may be difficult for some of you, so to grease the skids, I'm also offering 25% off any guest series video (and all other tutorials on my site ) through November 30 with code JOY25. (Exception: This code does not apply to the current challenge video, which is already heavily discounted throughout the duration of the challenge.)
- Challenge #51: Shaping and Covering 3-D Cookies with Yours Truly (this demo is listed in two parts on the site)
- Challenge #52: Piped Crochet Technique with Evelindecora
- Challenge #53: Watercolor Florals on Fondant with Laura Saporiti
- Challenge #54: Piped Flower Bouquets with Anna Oliinyk
I sincerely hope you will continue to support Cookie Connection challenges and our amazing guests and host by purchasing any tutorials you haven't already watched and sharing the links with others. Your support of this new system is the best way I have right now of compensating these artists for their incredible work, so I thank you in advance. Now, back to Manu and the current challenge . . .
Carmen's Kickoff Video
Thanks, Julia! So, everyone, what you see below is a sneak peek of Carmen's kickoff demo. To read more details about what it includes and to purchase it (only $5 while the challenge is open), just click here (Carmen's affiliate link) and follow the prompts on Julia's site. Carmen's resource list (with links to key tools) is also included in this price, and will automatically be delivered to you once you purchase the video.
If you don’t want to enter the challenge but want to watch Carmen’s video, that’s fine too! Simply, click here (my affiliate link), and you’ll be able to purchase the video for the same nominal fee of $5 while the challenge is open. But act fast! Remember, challenge tutorial price increases to $30 once the challenge closes on January 13.
I hope you enjoy Carmen's demo as much as I did. These ballerinas were actually the subject of one of Carmen's first classes, so they've clearly passed the test of time! I also loved seeing some of her past projects in her hands, which gave me a much better appreciation for the size of her cookies - something that is sometimes difficult to ascertain from photos on social media. Now, on to our few challenge rules and prizes, if you elect to participate, which I hope you will!
Remember, this challenge (like all of our challenges) is open to those of all skill levels because it is not a cookie competition; it is a learning experience and chance to practice new techniques and to connect with other participants and Carmen. The rules are pretty simple:
1. Use three (3) or more media to create dimension on your cookie(s). You can use molded fondant, gumpaste, modeling chocolate, pearls, dragées, nonpareils, any candy, mini marshmallows, SugarVeil® or other edible lace, wafer paper, rice paper, luster dust, glitter . . . you name it. Use anything edible that comes to mind in a creative way. That is, surprise us! If you would like to avoid purchasing materials that you know you would only use for this challenge, we hear you! You can use your own royal icing transfers and anything else on hand, and arrange/attach them using Carmen's methods. The purpose here is to practice techniques in order to grow as a cookie artist; the exact media applied are less important.
2. Enter with one or more cookies of your own design. But, if you liked Carmen's demo and her ballerina cookies and want to give them a try, you are welcome to enter with your version of them. Add your spin!
3. Add handpainted accents if you like, as Carmen does on many of her cookies. In Carmen's demo, she focused exclusively on adding dimension by gluing mixed media embellishments to the cookies, so there are no eyes or lips on the ballerinas' faces. But you can add any technique you like to your entry as long as the focus remains on the mixed media.
4. Share your design and work processes in the first comment under your entry.
As usual, each entrant is eligible to participate in the random drawing that will determine this challenge's prize winners. There will be three winners this time! I encourage multiple entries because the more times you enter, the greater your chances of winning - and the prizes are wonderful as always!
For the first of these prizes, Carmen is giving away a set of two ballerina cookie cutters that she designed. If the winner is located in the United States, Carmen will ship the two cookie cutters to that person. However, if the winner is located outside the United States, then Carmen will email the STL files so the cookie cutters can be 3-D printed. If you are not the lucky winner but would like to purchase these cutters, simply email Carmen at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you, Carmen, for offering this terrific prize!
The second prize is donated by Cookie Connection's owner and founder Julia M. Usher. Julia is giving away five pouches of White SugarVeil® Confectionery Icing, the world's first edible lace, and two pouches of SugarVeil® Dark Chocolate Confectionery Icing (for a total retail value of $50 USD). This material is perfect for making the lace ruffle shown on the second ballerina cookie in Carmen's tutorial! Julia will ship this prize anywhere in the world. If you are not the winner and would like to purchase SugarVeil® products, remember that you can use code JULIA to get 10% off any item on their site at any time. Just shop here. Thank you again, Julia!
And last but not least . . . the third randomly drawn entrant will win one free past challenge demo of his/her choice, from among those pictured below and listed above. Remember, you can scroll up and click on any of those tutorial links to get a sneak peek of what you'll get.
- If you have any questions for Carmen 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 @Inspirations by Carmen Urbano so she is sure to see your question and respond in a timely way. Again, Carmen has also provided a resource list that will be automatically delivered to you once you have purchased the demo.
- As I alluded to earlier, this challenge will last eight (8) weeks to allow you plenty of time to create over the busy holidays. Please post an image of your cookie project to the site under the Cookie Connection Challenge clip set no later than Saturday, January 13 at 5 pm central time.
- Because these challenges will be ongoing, we ask that you put "Watch-Learn-Create Challenge #55" 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 January 20 (or thereabouts) 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 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.
If you are new to Cookie Connection and need help posting your entry, please let me know and I’ll be happy to assist you. Now, go have lots of fun creating!
Ciao, Manu (and Carmen)