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Live Chat with Dany Lind of Dany's Cakes

Hi, Dany! It's wonderful to have you here, as the inaugural chatter in our CookieCon 2017 series - and right on the heels of CookieCon to boot! Thank you for joining us today, despite probably still being in CookieCon-recovery!
@Julia Hi! I'm so excited to be here with you this morning! I am definitely still recovering from the CookieCon craziness, but it was an amazing experience to be an instructor there. I think I am in hug withdrawal. Cookiers are huggers, and I loved that.
Good morning to everyone joining us as well! I encourage everyone to jump in with questions. These chats are always more fun and informative when people don't hang back on the sidelines!
@Julia Yes, please! Jump in and ask any question. I'm ready! I'm well versed in cookies, cakes, boys, and sports.
@Julia I will answer as fast as I can. My typing muscles are warmed up. I was thinking this morning that it's a good thing I know how to type.
Though . . . 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 Dany 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.
Also, please just ask one question at a time (per post); it's easier for our guests to keep up and others to read the chat transcript if they're not hit with too many questions at once. Thanks!
To kick things off, I'm going to post a few images of Dany's work that she sent to me precisely for sharing with you. My hope is that they'll stimulate some questions about how she created these amazing cookies!
The first is a dimensional girl's or doll's face, which formed part of her CookieCon presentation about creating dimensional faces . . .
@Julia It's so difficult to choose pictures of my favorite cookies. It's like picking a favorite child.
@Julia This doll face that I demonstrated for my class got passed around a lot. I think she had her picture taken more than I did that day. I was so happy people liked her. I actually timed myself painting her face in less than 10 minutes. I had to paint a lot of practice faces to get quick at it.
I can't believe you did her in less than 10 minutes! Wow!
Hi, CherylW!
Please let us know if you have any questions.
I had to keep to that time frame for my class, so it was important to practice timing.
I'm posting ones that were entered in advance first, after I post a few more of Dany's photos!
More of Dany's dimensional work, of a slightly darker, but equally impressive sort!
Another . . .
@Julia Ahh, my gargoyles. My scary babies.
hi Cheryl
@Julia These gargoyles were part of a set of five that I made for last fall's Sugar Spooks collaboration. I had a lot of fun with these, and it was a great challenge for me to focus on the royal icing structure as the primary technique.
Good morning!
Right now I'm still admiring Dany's cookie!
And this one I love so much that I had to use it as the basis of Dany's chat banner!
Here's that banner . . . it also gives you a glimpse of Dany!
For more of Dany's work, check out her Cookie Connection portfolio here: http://cookieconnection.juliau...tivity?group=CONTENT Or her Facebook page here:
OK, pictures done - for now! Onto some advance questions!
Hello cookie friends.
Hi, Mrs C!
Hi, Lezlie and Tina!
Oops, that was posted before I finished the question. Anyway, could you please tell me: How does one handle coloring RI (royal icing) if you have to make 1000 cookies so that the color is almost the exact same every time? Also how do you get smooth shiny icing on the cookie? Do you use glycerin? Do you have a good RI recipe where the flooding ends up super shiny? Thank you!
This piranha girl was for the 2017 Cookie Calendar published by Killer Zebras. She is based on the art of Ken Wong, who portrayed her surrounded by goldfish. I'd be happy to talk more about creating her if anyone has questions. She's a favorite of mine.
Hey, Dany! I don't see an answer to Mrs. C's Q entered in advance. Perhaps I misplaced it. Feel free to answer it now; I'll get to the other advance questions after this one.
Mrs. C, I have to say I've never made 1000 cookies at a time. I use corn syrup and a dehydrator to get the surface of my cookies the way they are. My recipe is based on Sugarbelle's, available on her blog.
So I had a couple of softball questions to set more context for the chat. Your profile says you started your home-based business, Dany's Cakes, in 2010, but here you are doing cookies at CookieCon in 2017! Do you still do cakes? What's your business mix - cookies versus cakes? And do you have a preference for one or the other? If so, why?
Forgive me while I catch up- I just saw your reminder on FB. Good morning to you both!
@Julia I still do cakes. I actually started Dany's Cakes about 16 years ago, just for fun when my oldest boy was a toddler. The business never really took off, mostly because I got busy having and raising my three boys. In 2010, when my youngest started school, I decided to have a serious go at the cake and cookie business because I was getting orders from friends and by word of mouth. Right now I'd say most of my business is cookies, which I have come to prefer. It's easier to work my sports-mom schedule around racks of drying cookies than it is to juggle the huge mess, refrigeration, and delivery issues associated with cakes. But I still love to do cakes, and I have comfortable base of happy regulars who order cakes from me often, sometimes just to eat. I actually have one client who orders a certain kind of cake for herself every year, and she picks it up carrying her own fork, so she can eat it all the way home. True story.
good morning, Tina!
As an additional question: In Maine, do cottage food laws allow you to use the same fridge as your home kitchen fridge? The cake refrigeration issues can be rough, I know, especially when working around other stuff.
Dany lives in Maine, BTW, which is why I asked.
Here in Missouri, I couldn't do anything out of the house when I started my shop. Though I tried for a bit, and the refrigerator was always overrun with business stuff!
Julia, yes, my Maine Home Baking license allows me to use my family fridge, but I now have a separate cake fridge for my business.
Did you have any experience teaching cookie decorating prior to CookieCon? If so, can you tell us more about how you structured your cookie decorating classes - how often, how many people, subject matter, pricing, etc.?
@Julia CookieCon was the first time I had ever taught cookie decorating on my own. The first and only other cookie class I have taught was last March with my good friend Rebecca Weld, The Cookie Architect. "You must do this," she said. "You'll be great at this," she said. LOL! I was very nervous to try teaching, because I had never taught anything, but I did enjoy it once I got going. I never would have been able to teach at CookieCon if she hadn't encouraged me and helped me get my feet wet, and I'll be forever grateful for her faith in me. We had a small group of students in that first class, during which we talked about creativity and design, then worked with the students to design and create a fun and unique Easter set. It was an intimate, funny group, and we had a productive day. But it was NOTHING like teaching eight consecutive CookieCon classes, doing two live demos per class while taking questions. I think the only experience I had to really prepare me for that kind of stamina was marathon training and childbirth.
Phew - that's A LOT of classes in one day; the rapid turnover between them must have been killer! Congrats though for an excellent CookieCon. I've been hearing great things through the grapevine.
Julia, it was tough. I literally RAN to the bathroom between classes.
Thanks for your great question, Mulberry-T. Will get to it after posting a few more advance ones.
Hi, Dany. Unfortunately, I will not be able to make the chat, but I did want to say that I love all of your creations. Looking at your work, I can see your style but I can also see such diversity and creativity. Where do you get your ideas from? What inspires you when you create each unique order?
@Sweet Prodigy Aww, thank you! I always feel like my style is all over the place, but I'm definitely drawn to certain things. I see inspiration everywhere: kids' clothes; pillows (I love pillows ... lots of texture and compact patterns); sculpture; antique art ... there really isn't one source that sticks out. I use Pinterest a lot, but I also take a lot of pictures. Every order starts out with the person who is receiving my cookies, and also the person giving the cookies. I think a lot about why the recipient is getting these cookies and what my client wants that person to feel. I love to get a story with a cookie order, and I try to bring that story to the set of cookies. All the elements that go into that set -- the colors, the techniques, the quotes -- all of those choices are made as pieces that are part of the whole story. I hope I answered your questions and thank you for following my work!
Ooh, I love pillows too. You might say I have a fetish - some beds have upwards of 10 or more pillows on them!
Hi, Dany! I am so sorry I cannot participate in this chat live (I am on an airplane this morning), but I would love to know how those of us without art backgrounds can improve our artistic skills - drawing faces, body proportions, drawing animals - things like that. Are there any online drawing/art classes that you can recommend? Or maybe, can we just come to Maine and move in with you for a month? I am open to anything, really!
@Bakerloo Station Hey, Christine! Firstly, I'm a huge fan of yours, and I have to say, you might not have an artistic background, but you have serious art skills. I have taken a few art classes, but I don't have an art degree or formal art training. What I try to do is draw and paint what I see, so I'd recommend practicing that. Find a picture of a dog face, or a human face, and zoom in on just a small part of the image and draw just that. Just an eye. Or part of a nose and mouth. Look at the actual colors you see. In the dog's nose, it's not just black: there is taupe, and soft pink and red -- subtle colors and lines that bring an image to life. I think people get intimidated by drawing the "big picture", so break it down into small bits, and practice. I found a lot of picture tutorials on Pinterest for drawing, so if you're looking for tutorials, that's a good place to start. And if you want to come stay with me, you're welcome to! My summer is full of baseball games but it needs a better baseball-to-lobster roll balance, so you can help me work on that.
Onto live questions now . . . typing fingers ready?
Has it inspired you to teach now, locally or travelling-- for those of us who didn't go to Cookie Con?
Mulberry_T, I am really excited about teaching more classes! I would love to travel and teach if I can work it around my current schedule. I have no classes planned for the future at this time, but I’m defiantly open to it!
Can you talk more detailed in your design process? Your sets are so cohesive, from the designs themselves to the color palettes you use.
Tina, I love the design part of the process. I really try to work in all of the colors and design ideas my clients have, and create at least three themes within each set.
Welcome, Fernwood Cookie and E. Kiszowara MOJE PIERNIKI! Please send your questions - we're on live questions now!
Yay! Sign me up, please!
Me too! Would love to take a class with you!
Mulberry if I am teaching, I'll be sure to post it on my FB page and IG. So watch for it!
So, back to the design process - yours sounds super thoughtful - and probably time-consuming. How do you assure that your pricing covers custom-design time?
Tina, I'd also like to add that I love to use Design Seeds as a jumping point for my sets. I feel like if I have an inspiring color palette, that helps.
What is Design Seeds?
Hi, Jackie!
Hi, Barb Kelly and Cookie Rookie.
Design Seeds is a web site that has lots of inspiring color palettes.
They have a FB page as well. Check it out!
Dany's answering a couple of my questions now, but we're eagerly awaiting questions from you all!
Julia, it's hard to price design time. I have to add that price on top of my set. My sets all start at around $65 a dozen but most are more.
Here's a link to the Design Seeds site:
Thanks - more from Tina on your design process . . .
With in each set you have 3 design themes? Can you explain that or break that down for me.
BTW, the Design Seeds site does look great!
Tina, for example, if I’m doing a baby set, I might have a stripe, roses, and polka dots. I’ll use those elements separately and together throughout the set.
What's the most challenging set you've done?
Good morning, Creative Cookier! Glad to have you here!
Questions welcome at any time!
Ok I understand you ! Thanks.
<waving> Hi!
Mulberry, that's a tough one! They all have different challenges. I think the baby's 1st xmas set I did last year was really tough. It had 2 portraits and I had tricky reference photos. Any time I have really personal cookies to add to a set, it makes it tricky.
Are there any types of orders that you won't do, and why?
Mulberry, but every set presents it's challenges, for sure. Some are hard to design, like the Rocking horse & balloons set I did last year. And some are hard to execute, like my gargoyles
Julia, I won't do x-rated cookies anymore.
Can I easily find these sets on your site, Dany, to post links to them here? If so, I will track them down while others ask questions.
I remember the commemorative war coins and was absolutely floored by them -- as a decorator and a veteran!
I also like to have a lot of freedom with the design. I try to avoid orders that are too specific in a design or style I don't like.
Julia, these sets are all probably easiest to find on my IG.
How do you build up the RI to get dimension, like cheeks etc.
Thanks, Mulberry! I loved those coins! I'm glad they spoke to people. I try to use my cookies to make people feel something.
Barb, I usually use 2-3 thicknesses of royal icing and build up the dimension in layers. I try to think about building up layers in terms of what is the lowest point on my cookie vs the highest point.
Well, Dany has tons of cookies on IG, so I doubt I'll find these exact sets any time soon, but . . .
Here's a link to her IG (Instagram) page so you can review those sets and her complete portfolio later:
Awesome work there!
I'll have to agree your Memorial coins were amazing. I flipped when I saw them.
How dry do you let the layers get before adding the next layer?
Thanks Tina! They took a lot of time to create. Hours each.
Barb, it depends on what I'm doing. On the doll face for my class, I didn't let the under layers dry at all. On a cookie that has a lot of really high parts, I might let the under layers dry for hours or overnight, depending on how sturdy it needs to be.
How thick would the icing be for the cheeks, for instance?
I can only imagine.
Tina found Dany's coins, so posting them know with Dany's permission.
Barb, cheek icing is very thick, piping consistency.
Here they are.
How large was each coin? So impressive!
I wanted to know that too.
the coins were only 3"
I'm sadly finding myself void of a good question for you this morning! But, I've learned so much from you over the years. You are in my top three fave "food" cookiers, and your sets always tell a story. Your Depressed Cake Shop lighthouses get me every time. They feel personally connected.
The coins were very small, and I couldn't use my projector at all on the Korea coin, but I was happy with the way it came out freehanded.
So while we wait for others' questions, I'd love to know more about your business, if you're willing to share a few details. About how many cookies do you decorate per week? And will you take any size order, or do you cap out at a certain point . . . I'm assuming your work solo, but maybe not?
Hey Kerri (Fernwood)! That's so sweet of you to say. I loved the DCS Lighthouses, and the mission of the Depressed Cake Shop to raise awareness for mental health issues.
So many cookiers work with larger cookies, but when that level of design is done on a 3-inch cookie that is really awesome work.
I can't even wrap my head around doing all of that on a 3" cookie!
Julia, my volume varies weekly. I often do 2-3 sets a week, but in April I have about 800 cookies to do, so busy!
Thanks for the DCS clarification - I was having a hard time getting my head around a depressed lighthouse , except for the fact that they can sometimes sound pretty lonely.
I do as much as I can, but I work alone.
Wow, 800 is a lot - I imagine, at that scale, they can't all be highly decorated, or will you just work around the clock? Seriously, though, how will you manage your work flow with that load so as not to kill yourself?
I encourage you all to check out Depressed Cake Shop! Anyone can bake and raise money for mental health organizations in your area.
Those Big Macs though 😍
Most of those in April are a huge order of logo cookies for a new medical group. very
oops. very detailed but repetitive
Don't understand Ann's reference. Maybe she can explain. I am working on four hours of sleep last night, so I apologize if I'm being slow . . .
Are projectors really a big game changer?
Yes, and will you use a projector for those logos?
Julia, I'm going to try to work ahead and plan my time carefully. My mom offered to bag cookies for me. But complicated sets limit my time. I couldn't do 300 super detailed cookies in a week. It's a balance
Ann! she's talking about some Big Mac cookies I make for McDonald's last month
Yes, Julia. I will use my Pico for the logos. They are pretty complicated with a lot of writing, and they have to be perfect.
Tina, a projector is an awesome tool. I have done 100 logos without one, and they looked great, but I can create a much more consistent, better product with a projector. Not cheating at all. just a tool.
She did some amazingly realistic big macs a short while ago. I love all the textures and depth you get into your cookies, Dany.
Thanks, Ann!
Generally, where in Maine are you? I was born and raised in Maine.
Thanks, Ann! post a pic if you can find it
Here they are. The quotes...
Barb, I'm in Turner, just north of the Lewiston/Auburn area. My brother and dad live in Rockland, on the coast.
BTW, double-click on any image in this stream to see the details, folks.
I have a home in Stonington! I love Maine!
Maine is amazing. I always tell my kids they will miss how beautiful their ride home is.
Aside: My husband brought home some rose yogurt last night, and it tastes just like the Rugosa roses that grow wild everywhere there. Just a bite evoked Maine.
Your mom bags cookies AND makes custom stencils -- is she looking to adopt? :-)
I so apologize I have to leave. It's late afternoon here I have a prior commitment. Thank you Julia and Dany for chatting with us! It's such a wonderful part of CC! I will read the transcript later.
Thanks Dany! I'm from Portland. I miss ME all the time!
How many times can I say WOW in the same chat! Your work is amazing!
Mulberry, my mom is amazing!!!! She also offered to flood cookies for me. But I'm not sure I'll take her up on it because she is busy with her stencil biz
Thanks so much Tina!
See you later, Tina. Thanks for joining us as faithfully as always!
What are your favorite sources of inspiration, beside the color inspiration you mentioned you get from places like Design Seeds?
I'm heading to Portland later today, Barb! it's about an hour south of me
Thanks, Barb! my IG is danyscakesbydanylind ... come find me
Lezlie, I love pillows. I save pillows on Pinterest all the time. They have color, design & texture ideas, all in a cute square.
Hi, Manu! Glad you could join us after all!
What is your favorite "paint" and how do you mix it?
I will! Thanks!
I just make cookies for my grandkids but I love learning (and practicing) new techniques.
Here are those Big Mac . . . thanks, Ann!
Sorry im in a hotel and my connection is lagging terribly.
Barb, I use Americolor gels mixed with water. I just add a drop of water and keep some concentrated color and some watery color so that I can vary the depth of color.
Done by Dany recently, of course.
Which do you find more challenging, conceptualizing a design or executing it?
Water? That's interesting! I had always read you "need" alcohol. thanks for that!!
Mulberry, it depends on the set. Sometimes it takes me many days to think about a design for a set, and I change my mind a lot. I think I usually find that once I can wrap my mind around WHAT I'm doing, exactly, everything falls into place, and executing it isn't the most challenging part.
And which do you PREFER doing, conceptualizing or executing?
Hi, I am sorry to be so late and to have missed the chat. Dany, your cookies are beautiful (and your cakes too!). Glad to see I will have a lot to catch up.
Barb, you need alcohol for metallic dusts.
Okay! Thanks for that tip!
Julia, that's tough. Sometimes I really enjoy the design part. But it's satisfying to just have a bunch of easy cookies to knock out while I'm watching Netflix ... not too much thinking and second-guessing
Yes, the metallics aren't water soluble. But I have another question on painting (on the point of water vs. alcohol) for Dany after she finishes the last one.
But the artistic part keeps me going.
I have to leave but thank you Dany and Julia! I love these chats!!
Thanks so much Barb! I hope I answered your questions!
So, back to alcohol vs water - can you elaborate on why you choose water as an extender and not alcohol? Many others use alcohol, as it evaporates more quickly and leads (possibly) to less risk of dissolving the icing.
In other words, what do you find to be the advantages of water and how do you guard against dissolving/pitting the icing surface?
Water works fine for me. I don't use a lot of water, literally a drop.
You did! Thanks!
One last question is all we have time for, I'm afraid . . . here it is, from Ann . . .
Dany, what is the thickness of your cookies? Do you use different thicknesses for different projects?
If I'm painting something that uses a lot of colors and I hydrate my gels with alcohol, it evaporates too quickly and I'm continually adding alcohol. The water stays longer and works fine
As Dany answers that, I want to thank her profusely for taking time out of her weekend to be here with us today.
Ann, my cookies are thick! about 1/2" thick.
Don't use too much water with your gels or on your cookie and it won't pit. Just a drop of water in a few drops of gel.
I just extended the chat so it wouldn't cut out on us midstream.
Thank you, ladies!
It is tough to type fast and keep up with all the questions!
Thank you Mulberry_T!
I will be doing an in-depth Cookier Close-up interview with Dany too in the next week or so, so stay tuned for that. The questions there will be different!
Thank you for having me! It was fun!
The typing is tough. I hope my site hosts update to a video format one day soon!
But you did GREAT!
Thanks too to everyone online for such great questions!
See you next time, and have a terrific weekend, everyone!
Yes, thank you everyone!
I noticed that at CC and wasnt sure if you did that for the occasion. I think its great! Thank you Julia and Dany for the chat!
No, I actually made some of them thinner for CC, Ann, because they weren't for eating.
I like fat cookies and I cannot lie
Closing the chat now! Thanks again, everyone!
Thank you so much. I have a lot to learn, but find the cookie making community so great.
It is a great group - very generous and willing to share what they know. That, to me, is what makes it most wonderful!
This chat has ended.
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