Anne is yet another cookie renaissance woman who has done everything from teaching online classes with Craftsy to running her own in-person classes and cookie bakery. So your questions for Anne can literally run the gamut!
(1) Please feel free to enter advance questions now by following the instructions at the top of this chat page. (As always, it's super helpful for questions to be logged early, so our guests are able to prepare answers beforehand and to field more questions during live chat time.) To help inform your questions, please review Anne’s bio (below).
(2) Please note that any advance questions will reveal one at a time, in the order received, only after the chat goes live. Do not expect questions or answers to appear immediately.
(3) Last but not least, as with all of these chats, you have a special opportunity to see inside the minds of some extremely talented decorators, so I encourage you to do your homework before jumping on the chat. Again, please review Anne's bio and her various website and social media links below.
I look forward to "seeing" you at the chat!
Anne Yorks started her business in 2007 when she left the "real world" to be a stay-at-home mom and pursue her dreams of owning and operating her own company. A baker since a very young age, Anne is self-taught and has perfected her cookies and recipes over years of trial and error. Baking is Anne's passion! It is a true dream for Anne to be working in a career that provides her with so much enjoyment. She has taught three online Craftsy classes and loves to teach live classes in her cookie studio in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, USA. In addition, Flour Box Bakery also offers a full line of cookie decorating supplies. Nothing gives Anne more satisfaction than knowing that her cookies are making people smile every day!
Anne graduated from Penn State University in 2001 with a degree in journalism. She lives and bakes in Happy Valley in Bellefonte with her husband and two daughters. Flour Box Bakery is operated out of Anne's home. Learn more about Anne and Flour Box Bakery on her website and Facebook page.
Good morning to everyone joining us as well! I encourage everyone to jump in with questions. These chats are for you - and are always more fun and informative when people don't hang back on the sidelines!
Before we dive into Q&A, just a few housekeeping notes for newbies to our chats: questions are answered in the order received, but they will not post to the public/viewable area of the chat until Anne reads and answers them. We'll work through questions that were logged in advance first; then start working on questions asked live during the chat. That said, please be patient and do not re-post the same question. It may take some time to answer your question, depending on where it sits in the queue. But I will personally make sure every question gets answered before we're through.
As a reminder, everyone, Anne's bio can be found under the "i" icon at the top of this chat room. If you're not already a huge fan of hers as so many of us are, then that bio will be a good place to get up to speed on Anne's background. It may also spur some interesting questions for her! Speaking of spurring questions, I'm going to post some of Anne's cookie images now as further food for thought. First, the seriously pretty pink posies (say that three times fast! ) that went into her chat banner above . . .
ANNE: Before we get too deep in the chat, can we back up a bit, and have you give us a quick synopsis of how you got into cookie decorating? What first attracted you to cookies, and why did you decide to build a business around them?
Hi, Julia! Thank you so much for having me on Cookie Connection! I'm so excited to chat with everyone. Cookies are my passion. I have always loved sweets and doodling, so I'm not surprised I found cookie decorating to be my career. I started decorating mostly for fun when my daughter was born. I just loved it so much! Word of mouth is a strong force. One thing lead to another and, only a few years later, I set up Flour Box Bakery. I have loved almost every moment (running a business is hard work). My business has really evolved over the last 8 1/2 years. I started taking orders, then started classes, and eventually set up my own online supplies shop. Part of that was a reaction to customer needs and part of it was necessity and trying to balance life and cookies! I'm thrilled to still be in this amazing community!
ANNE: Hi! I love your work!! I just wanted to know if, when you started out decorating (early on), did you ever get discouraged to keep doing what you love, or did you know you'd become what you are today . . . an awesome, amazing decorator?!
Hi, COOKIE FANTASY! That is such a great question. I have been decorating for almost 11 years and officially launched my business 8 1/2 years ago. Like any great adventure, there have been many highs but also a few lows. This particular craft is so demanding of our creativity. I have been discouraged many times. Not only does a good night's sleep help, but I have also found that, during the discouraging times, I have taken the opportunity to refocus on my priorities as a decorator and business owner (and mother and person too since it's all tangled together). I have become really good at saying no to opportunities and projects that don't fit my priority list. This has helped keep that discouragement at bay. BUT, a few good cookie friends will also help. They get you and support you when you need it most. Anytime I have really considered quitting, I always come to the same conclusion . . . there's nothing else I'd rather be doing than running my own business.
ANNE: As a follow-on to The Cookie Fantasy's question, do you ever now suffer from bouts of discouragement? If so, what brings them on, and how do you move past them? (I like to ask the tough questions! )
JULIA, I do still suffer from discouragement at times. I don't think I'm alone in that either since we are all creative personalities. I think the thing that brings it on the most is when a project does not go according to plan. I've gotten really flexible. I will tweak designs as I go if they are not developing the way I envisioned. I will also keep in perspective that it is just a cookie and it will be eaten. LOL. Staying creative is a challenge for me. Sometimes I'm discouraged that I feel dry in that area. Taking a break (if it is an option) and/or getting back to simple/basic decorating plans help me to push through those tough times.
ANNE: Hello! I was wondering how to flood decorated cookies and keep the "glossy" look to them. Whenever I see cookies online, they have a glossy finish to them, but whenever I do the same exact cookie, with a standard royal icing (RI) recipe with meringue powder, mine look matte and dull once they dry. Am I missing something here? I have tried CK RI mix and made my own homemade and always the dull matte finish. I was wondering if a glaze RI is the answer?? This is probably a dumb question, but its driving me crazy! LOL!
Hi SILVERASSWEETS! I use a basic RI recipe and use the CK brand MP. I don't know that I get the highest gloss, but I have found the following tips to be helpful. I dry cookies in front of a fan. A clean floor fan sits in front of the bakery rack. That quick moving air helps dry the surface and leave behind a shine. I also find low humidity helps, so I decorate in a space with A/C and run a dehumidifier. Other decorators also add a teaspoon of corn syrup to their icing for extra shine. (I don't do this just because I like keeping my recipe super simple.) I admire the shine on cookies that have been dried in a food dehydrator. (Georganne Bell has a ton of info on this.) The fan works great for me, but if you're in a very humid area, maybe the dehydrator would be a good option for you. Finally, I'm not a glaze expert, but it does have a nice shine. There are tradeoffs with that shine (possibility of more color bleeding than RI). Anita from Baking Sweet Hope uses a frankenfrosting (hybrid of RI and glaze) that is popular. I hope this is helpful as you try new ways to add shine to your cookies!
ANNE: You do so many things in the cookie world - sell cookies, make your own mini videos, teach online Craftsy classes, teach in-person classes, sell products on your site . . . what else did I miss?! But, if you had to choose just one of these things to focus on, which would it be and why? And no saying you can't decide!
JULIA, I love making the videos and featuring products that I love to use from my shop. That is probably my favorite of all. My husband and I work together on these videos. He is so much fun to work with. I think we dream about him working for Flour Box Bakery full time one day! We'll keep on making the videos in the meantime.
I'm so sorry I am not available today to join in this chat. It's my birthday and we have visitors from the states to entertain. Julia always does a fabulous job hosting and, thank God for Cookie Connection's ongoing extensive library of chats, I can read this transcript later. Anne, I have followed you on Craftsy, and your countless posts and tutorials. Thank you for sharing so much information and your talent with us. Congrats on your new book on teaching a cookie class. I need to put it on my wish list for Xmas. Until then, can you share your thoughts on these issues: (1) How do you manage a student who signs up for an intermediate seminar and has little to no experience? There always seems to be one who requires more attention almost to the point of disrupting others. What do you do? (2) And lastly, what do you think is the perfect size class? Thank you again.
Hi, TINA AT SUGAR WISHES! Happy Birthday to you! I hope you have a wonderful visit with your guests! Here are some answers to your questions... 1) I have had a few students jump into an intermediate class without having the basics first. I also had a husband and wife take one together. The husband was along for the fun and he was great at making sugar flowers!! LOL. There is always a little bit of review in the class and that is helpful. I take each project step-by-step. Breaking it down into stages helps everyone have success in the class. But I do notice in classes there is always a turtle and a hare (a very slow decorator and a very fast decorator). Often the turtle is a perfectionist. I encourage them and give them tips on how to get the work done without feeling it needs to be perfect. I will give time limits to the turtle to prevent them from slowing down the entire class. With a the fast decorator, I'll give them extra decorating tips to get more finesse in their designs. This helps them to slow down and take their time and go to the next level instead of rushing through each cookie. I chat more about this in my book and also include the four common personality types I encounter in classes. After all, teaching cookies is working with people . . . and that takes some practice! I have taught private lessons to one person and larger groups of 36 people. I like the class size of 8-12. For me that is a profitable sized group (worth my time for hosting the class) but everyone gets lots of one-on-one attention. You'll read more about handling different class sizes in the book too! Again . . . happy birthday!! I hope you have a great day!
It's an EBOOK and it's available on www.flourboxbakery.com. The response has been incredible to the content of the book. It covers everything from picking a location, pricing, marketing, and creating a class outline. I have set up a private facebook group for everyone that picked up the book. It's been a great forum for privately sharing ideas and questions.
Hi, LORI! I personally like SIMPLE vanilla recipes that have some bite to them (no chewy, soft cookies for me). There are so many variations of delicious recipes available, and it is a personal preference with taste and texture. I have a video on www.flourboxbakery.com with baking and rolling tips and it includes my recipe. Other popular versions can be found on the LilaLoa (her chocolate recipe is delicious!) and Sugarbelle websites. For royal icing, I also like to keep it simple. I do prefer to use meringue powder. But again, there are several variations of this recipe. When I first started baking/decorating I made several variations and invited my neighbors over for a taste test. It was SUPER FUN, and I found my favorite recipe variation that way!
Anne, I love your work and am so glad that you are joining us on Cookie Connection for this chat! I was wondering if you could tell me the best way to price out large wedding cookie orders (500+). I looked at wedding cake prices based on the number of guests and, of course, the prices vary greatly based on a lot of factors. Any assistance with this question is greatly appreciated!
Hi, CAROL (Cookies Fantastique)! Pricing is always a tough topic because there are a lot of variables. I typically price by the inch: 3" is $3, 4" is $4. When a cookie is more detailed (lace, text, basketweave, painting), I add on a $1 or more. I also typically plan designs that are 3-4 colors. If more colors are required, I'll increase the price accordingly. Packaging is included in my cookie price (trimmed package with label), but adding a ribbon (+$.25) or treat topper (+$.75) is additional. When doing large orders that the customer wants personalized (monogram or names and wedding date), consider ordering a custom stencil. I do this for corporate orders, and it is a tremendous time saver!!! I should mention that since cookies are made by hand, I do not discount. I find it is helpful to get an idea of the customer's budget $$ first and help them plan the design based on what they are prepared to spend. I do like the large orders, because they are more profitable than doing five smaller orders. There is a streamline to process!
A follow-up question to above one about pricing. But how did you establish that base (per inch) pricing and all of your add-ons? I think it's that pricing process that most people struggle most with, especially as decorating time is very much a function of the design and the decorator's decorating speed.
That’s a great tip on cookie pricing. I charge something similar to that as well. Customers seem confused when I can’t just give them a set rate per dozen. I have to explain what drives the price. Thanks for the info!
I took the time to calculate time/materials. I also have overhead (employees and costs to managing my space) that factors in. Due to my schedule, I don't do many cookie orders. Teaching and running my online supplies shop occupies my time. BUT, for the orders I do still take, I set guidelines to make them worth my time. I have an order minimum and restrict to 1 design per dozen ordered. I will tend to jump on the larger corporate / event orders for profitability. For holidays I do not take custom orders. Just preplanned collections that I can produce in an assembly line fashion. Custom orders are fun...but very time consuming.
Nicole - I agree completely on custom order pricing. But having a general guide (the inches by price) is helpful to set expectations. Overall, I tend to take on less custom projects and larger event/corporate orders.
Cookies_by_Cole Hi Cookies_by_Cole! I will freeze cookies to keep my baking schedule manageable. I find this is extremely helpful for big orders and holidays. Once cookies are decorated and the icing is dry I will individually wrap them and pop them in freezer containers (tupperware or bags). Then the day I need them, I bring them out of the freezer and allow them to come to room temp (4-5 hours). At that point I take them out of the freezer bag/tupperware and they are ready to go. I have done with for years with lots of success. Like all things cookie, this might be a personal preference. If you're nervous about freezing, do a few test cookies to see how it works. In my opinion there is no difference in the look, taste, and quality of the cookie and icing! I hope this helpful!!
ANNE: I am also very interested in learning how to keep the shine or sheen on my cookies, keeping that wet glossy look. I saw your reply above but I am using a fan and corn syrup and the cookies still dry glossy. You mentioned the dehydrator . . . do you just put the decorated cookies in it and let the icing dry. Doesn’t it suck all the moisture out of the cookie?
Cookies_by_Cole I personally don't use the dehydrator, but I tried it at CookieCon and the results were shiny! From what I understand the cookies are only inside for a short time (maybe 20 mins? I could be wrong on that so double check), so the cookie does not dry out. It is a widely accepted method, so I know there would be more tips on Cookie Connection or on www.lilaloa.com.
Julia - I agree. And I also think HOW the icing is mixed matters too. If the icing is undermixed and looks 'dull' and ivory/pasty straight out of the mixer, it will dry dull. I like to mix my icing to stiff (it will increase in size become whiter) and I find that icing that is mixed properly has a nice shine too.
ANNE: thank you so much for that info. I had heard that cookies with sprinkles or adds ons could not be frozen, as the colors bleed. When you say you wrap them individually and then freeze them in a larger container, what sort of bag or system are you putting each cookie in? I have now acquired a food saver system but vacuum-sealing destroyed the cookies and I wondered if a regular ziplock bag would do the trick. Please advise.
cookies-by-cole. I use the gallon ziplock FREEZER bags and stack in the freezer. I only stack 3 high (with my shelves this works well) to avoid breaking. I do have color bleeding issues because of allowing the cookie to come to room temp before opening the freezer bag. If you open while the cookie is frozen, condensation will form in the bag and can cause the colors to bleed a little.
ANNE: I actually don't mix my icing very long at all (so as not to kick unnecessary air into it), so I don't share that same experience with mixing longer for sheen. But I also tend to use real whites (as I am not serving the public). You definitely get shinier results with real eggs; I think the heating of the egg whites (to dehydrate them in meringue powder or to pasteurize them if used in liquid form) denatures the proteins and contributes to less shine. But, even so, if I don't control for humidity (work in an air-conditioned environment and dry in front of dehydrator), they dry dull.
Stacy, I enjoy piping the details the most. To me, seeing the cookie come to life is so magical. I also love the moment of giving the cookies to customers (and friends and relatives). I will never get tired of the reactions when people get their special cookies.
JULIA - The biggest struggle I've had to manage so far was balancing my personal life with my cookie life. Cookies can be demanding (if we allow it). Last year I was in a position to care for a family member. I struggled trying to make time for it all. I wanted to grow my business, do new things, put out more videos, etc. But my schedule was really limited. Looking back at that time I know I survived because I cut a few things out. (I took a long break from teaching live classes and reduced cookie orders.) I also have an amazing team that works with me: my husband, two employees, a bookkeeper, and a web guy. Thank goodness for their support. It allowed me to navigate some rough waters and not sink!
Hi Juliette! So glad you found us! I will mix icing the day before a project and it stays on the counter overnight. I'm using meringue powder, so this is safe, but if you're using egg whites you should store in the fridge. I'll store any leftovers from a project in the fridge if I plan to use within the week. If I'm not using those leftovers in the week, I'll pop in the freezer (up to a 1). I only freeze icing once and find it stores best in the piping/thicker consistency.
JULIA, a crowning achievement? Oh, goodness. This is tough. There have been a lot of little special moments and big fun celebrations. Recently, I published a book about "How to Teach a Cookie Decorating Class". It's been on my to-do list for a year and completing that project was so much fun. I never thought I could write an ebook and now that I have, my brain is bursting with ideas for future projects!
Hi, Anne and Julia!! You both are a great inspiration to the cookie community and I follow you both. My question is where do you find your inspiration for your cookie designs? I find sometimes that I'm in a rut and can't think of anything. It is also hard not to try to copy someone else's work.
Thank you Jessev! I find inspiration everywhere. I call it cookie vision and I see ideas everywhere I go. Nature, greeting cards, t-shirts, party invites. The list goes on. I like to trace my cutters and sketch my ideas. This helps me simplify and plan.
Not sure, JESSEV, if your question was also addressed to me, but, since I'm sitting here not doing much . . . I honestly try not to look at others' work and to distinguish mine through use of different/"new" techniques, like the 3-D work I do. Usually I just look to everyday objects, and try to envision how they could be recreated in 3-D cookie form.
I have a very set schedule (using google calendar) since my main priority in life is my family and not cookies. I have developed a great skill of saying no. Overcommitting was a huge issue for me. I also know approximately how long cookies projects will take and I'll write out my schedule for the week. I also have 2 employees, a bookkeeper, a web guy, a graphic designer and a house cleaner. I don't do any of this all on my own. I also have a very wonderful supportive and helpful husband.
I don't really have any questions but I do want to say that I really appreciate all that I have learned from you, Anne. I've taken all of your Craftsy classes and always watch every tutorial you post. I'm so happy for you that your business is thriving.
Anne, one of the concerns my husband has with my cookie business is TIME. He is a numbers guy and says my business is not profitable b/c of the amount of time it takes to do cookies. How do you manage time or make your cookie orders more profitable?
Jessev, As your husband to crunch numbers WITH you to find the right pricing. He sounds like he would be helpful. Streamlining the decorating process as much as possible is super helpful an increasing your profit. My 2nd Craftsy Class is all about this...check it out. I share tons of tips on creating beautiful, but manageable cookie projects.
Hi Anne - I absolutely love the "decorating classes" e-book. It answered all questions and in one place! My question to you and Julie: what's your favorite, must-have tool for decorating cookies? Love and follow your work!
Ruzanna, I'm glad the ebook was helpful!!! <3 My favorite tool is my scribe. I never decorate without it. I know a toothpick does all the same tasks, but I like the longer handle and the thinner point of the scribe.
My must-have tool is a parchment pastry cone - not sure what all the hoopla is about tipless bags, as cones have been around for eons and they are biodegradable to boot! I use them for 99-percent of my piping.
If you intend to copy a design (cookie, art, anything), then you cannot do that without permission from the copyright holder, unless the work you're copying is in the public domain. This is US copyright law.
I think the interpretation of "use of ideas" is the crux of the question. Use of techniques or material alteration of a concept (using it only as "inspiration") is acceptable, IMO, but a literal copy (or very close facsimile) without permission and attribution is not.
Cookies_by_cole - Getting permission is always the way to go if recreating a design. If you're inspired by another design, credit them as the inspiration. I put out a ton of free video tutorials out that have step-by-step instructions (the YouTube version). I expect people to copy and it is flattering to me when someone uses one of my designs. But we are all different, so if you're uncertain, ask first before posting a photo publicly. You didn't ask about this, but I'm also really careful about not doing characters. They are a pain and I don't have the license....so I stay away from them!
I too have tons of videos. I expect people to copy my work for learning purposes, but I hope they will not post reproductions of my work without a credit, or try to sell my work as theirs in videos and classes - which people have done before - as this directly encroaches upon my bread and butter.
I did these zebra cookies a few months back. I was really happy with the result, but apparently my friend wanted to put a tag on them, so I believe she broke some cookies. When I asked her if she liked them, she told me they broke. I felt really bad, because I didn't give the cookies to her. I had to leave them at the gym for her to pick up, so I don't know when they broke. What do you do in that case?
Thank you Anne, I don’t sell cookies, but I am considering trying out to make Christmast cookies for my family. I am also interested in your e-book, though I don’t give classes... I am curious about the four profile of students you mentioned above 😊 I am interested in everything about cookies, and I think your book is just genius and perfect timing.
In the meantime, I want to thank Anne for her generosity today - and all of her sage advice. I hope to do a follow-up in-depth Cookier Close-up interview with her after CookieCon, which will pick up where we left off here - if she's game, that is!
Tuttycs, I'm not sure if this is much you can do with this situation (other than offer a slight refund if you feel compelled to). But moving forward I would change how you get cookies to the customer. Make sure you are the one to deliver. Then you know the state of the cookies at the transfer. I would also be clear about packaging at the start to avoid that situation. Animals with thin legs can break. If you're concerned about that in the future choose a less fragile design (maybe zebra head, not full body). Finally, I'm not sure how you delivered the cookies. But boxing might help keep them safe from breaking. The cookies are really great so it is always disappointing when things don't go perfectly. Don't let this situation get you down or discourage you. This is a great learning opportunity!
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