Hi, everyone! As you may know, @Julia M. Usher recently offered me the opportunity to be the host of the new Watch-Learn-Create Cookie Connection challenges. How could I possibly say no to her and miss this opportunity?
In each of these new bimonthly (six per year) challenges, I will host a featured guest who will demo an interesting or new technique (or techniques) that will be the subject of that challenge. The demo will be in video format, sometimes aired live but always embedded in the blog post that kicks off the challenge so that you can watch it at your leisure. Each video is intended to convey techniques (not completed projects) with enough information to allow you to apply what you've learned to a challenge entry of your own design.
Our first new challenge will air live on July 20 at 11 am CDT, and the guest will be none other than Julia. Julia will be demoing the shaping and covering of 3-D cookies. And, again, once the video airs live, you will find it in my challenge blog post (later on July 20 or 21) along with a description of the prize for that challenge and other simple entry requirements. In the photo at the top of this post, you can see one of Julia’s latest amazing projects featuring her signature 3-D cookies.
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! (And she hopes to address all of this material in about 1 1/2 hours!) Just think of the endless designs you could create for this challenge just by mixing and matching the techniques that Julia shares. During this first challenge, which, again, starts on July 20 and lasts six weeks, you can ask any question at any time in the comments under the challenge blog post, and Julia or I will be happy to answer.
But let's talk bigger picture for a bit . . .
First, what are the Cookie Connection challenges all about?
Cookie Connection was founded in 2013 as “a place to learn, share, and celebrate the art of cookie decorating”, and started out with tools like tutorials, interviews, and articles to achieve this goal. In 2014, the challenges were created, under the Practice Bakes Perfect name, as another tool to help members grow as cookie artists. Rebecca Weld (@RebeccArchitect), Christine Donnelly (@Bakerloo Station), and Christine Dutcher (@Sweet Prodigy) are the three amazing cookiers and former hosts responsible for creating the 50 Practice Bakes Perfect challenges that occurred over the past eight years. They have inspired and challenged Cookie Connection members (myself included) in many ways, allowing so many of us to stretch our skills and polish our cookie artistry.
As an active participant in the Practice Bake Perfect challenges at the beginning of my cookie journey, I can say that the challenges not only helped me hone my skills, but they also taught me to look at things around me in a different way to find inspiration for my cookie projects. I would add that, while the challenges are a great individual learning experience, they are also a way to share and connect with fellow cookiers all over the world. So many friendships have been forged because of these challenges.
So why are we starting a new format at Challenge #51? And what’s the difference between the new format and the previous Practice Bakes Perfect one?
After 50 challenges, Julia thought it was time for a little makeover to bring the concept into the digital era and to make it more accessible to people across the globe. Gone are the days of lengthy written rules (that required many people to translate them, or just scared them off). With Challenge #51, we welcome a more interactive and fun video format that will connect more people more closely with cookie thought leaders - and hopefully spark creativity the likes of which we have yet to see! The new tagline Watch-Learn-Create, suggested by Dotty Raleigh of @SugarDotCookies, perfectly conveys the underpinnings of this makeover.
That being said, the Practice Bakes Perfect legacy of sharing and celebrating one another will live on - both symbolically and in practice. As a nod to the challenges' storied past, Julia’s iconic parchment cone remains in the new logo (second image, above) albeit in a more modern, graphical form. And we are picking up where we left off with Challenge #51 rather than erasing history and starting with #1. But more important than these symbols is what we will continue to do. As with the Practice Bakes Perfect challenges, we would like you to 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. The challenges were never intended to be a competition among cookiers. That’s why we will continue to encourage cookiers of all skill levels to enter, and why prize winners will continue to be determined through random drawings. As always, the new Watch-Learn-Create challenges will remain a place to have fun, to challenge yourself (not to compare), and to share what you’ve learned along the way so that we all grow together as cookie artists.
As the new host, I hope the Watch-Learn-Create challenges will inspire you as much as the previous Practice Bakes Perfect challenges inspired me. I can’t wait to see what you create! And, of course, if you have ideas for future topics or guests, please contact me here on Cookie Connection via PM or at email@example.com. I encourage you to help me shape this new path so that it serves you best.
See you soon! Manu
Manuela Pezzopane, affectionately called Manu by her friends and family, is a fan of everything handmade, and 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. Since then, cookie decorating has become Manu’s passion. To read all “Made by Manu” Cookie Connection's tutorials, click here. You can follow Manu on Facebook and Instagram, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.