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Live Chat with Kristin Grunder, CookieCon 2019 Instructor

Yay! Kristin's chat has officially kicked off!
Hi, Kristin! I am absolutely thrilled to have you here with us today! CookieCon was SO busy that I regrettably had little time to talk to you there, so I plan to do most of my catching up with you today!
JULIA USHER: Thank you so much for having me. I heard so many great things about your class at CookieCon and I wish I would have been able to sit in and listen.
Likewise! I was sad to have to miss yours!
Welcome to everyone joining us today! It's wonderful to have you here too! Please start teeing up your questions for Kristin as I review our basic chat housekeeping rules . . .
First, questions are answered in the order received, but they will not post to the public/viewable area of the chat until Kristin 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.
Second, please ask just 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!
Okay, we're ready to roll! I'm going to start by posting some of Kristin's cookie photos to familiarize you with her work, if you don't know it well already! (Please also check out her bio under the blue "i" icon at the top of this chat room.)
Here's one of my faves of hers - so sweet!
An elegant beauty . . .
Another cutie . . .
Mermaid Class
And more sweet cookies . . .
And one last image (for now, anyway) . . . a sneak peek at Kristin's new cookie shop/classroom! Such an exciting new venture! I can't wait to ask her more about it!
But, first, I want to hear about Kristin's class at CookieCon, since I missed it . . . Kristin, I know your presentation was about simplifying cookie designs, but could you share some of the key reasons for simplifying, and some of the key ways you do that? TIA!
JULIA USHER: When Karen contacted me to speak at CookieCon, I could not believe it! It was such a great experience. She wanted me to gear my message more toward beginner decorators and I thought no more perfect way than to talk about simplifying cookies. I had to learn to keep my sets simple when I decided to go the route of pop-up shops and now I use the same method for my beginner class sets. Doing custom orders was not working for me and my family. I still wanted to make cookies, but I needed something easier than going back and forth with customers and creating elaborate custom sets. Doing custom sets was too hard with my busy schedule. By focusing on themed pop-ups, I was able to figure out a way to simplify my designs, but still make them adorable so that the customers would love them.
We'll have to hear more about your pop-ups later!
But first, I'd love to hear more about your new shop/school. Can you describe what it looks like (or share some more recent photos) and tell us how you plan to use this wonderful new space?
JULIA USHER: Here are a few photos of my shop. This is a picture before we filled our shelves.
Gorgeous! I love the rustic, industrial look!
Good morning everyone
Hi, Heba!
JULIA USHER: Here's a picture of all the beautiful supplies!
JULIA USHER: Here's a picture of the studio section. I can fit 24 students in each class. Everyone can see what I'm working on from the TV above me. I used to teach larger classes, but 24 is a good size for me to where I feel like I can still talk to each and every person there.
Yes, 24 is about the cap for me too, for a hands-on class.
What were the biggest challenges in getting this new enterprise off the ground, and how did you overcome them?
Good morning, Heba!
JULIA USHER: We are currently working on finishing up the kitchen area. Our health plans were finally approved (we submitted them back in November), so we just ordered most of our equipment this week. Getting approval from the city has been the most challenging part of the process. As soon as we get our final approval (hopefully in about a month), I will do all of my baking here. I plan on serving flatbread pizzas and desserts during class. I also want to try to do pop-up sales once a week. I'm planning on having a different theme each month for the cookies I will be selling.
Oooh, yes, I recall (not with fondness) the many bureaucratic hurdles imposed by the city when I opened my shop many moons ago. But it pays to be patient with the bureaucrats and get on their good side!
JULIA USHER: Another exciting thing we will be adding in the shop in the next few months are guest teachers! I already have an amazing list of teachers willing and ready to travel here to teach. Maybe that's something you would be interested in? Hehe!
Yes, let's talk about that offline! I'd love to teach more in the US.
Kristin, I think your new place looks beautiful, the way the rustic and modern come together is so easy on the eyes, I like the set up. I took your class and listened intently to your story and advice, and jokes about your husband.
Kristen, this isn't a question, just a very warm thank you for your class at CookieCon! I loved hearing your descriptions of pop-up shops and your advice on simplifying cookie design!
DIANA FUZERE: Thank you so much for your kind words! I'm glad you enjoyed my session at CookieCon. I was a nervous wreck.
What was your process when you first decided to decorate cookies? How often did you practice? Were there any times when you would just work on consistency and not bake cookies, or did you do the whole thing from rolling and baking to decorating every time? Thank you so much!
HEBA haha! I'm so glad you liked the class!
DEVINLY SWEETS: When I first started cookies, I dove right in. I would read blogs and watch YouTube videos for hours! I wanted to get a lot of practice when I first started my hobby, so I announced that I was selling baseball cookies for $1 and the money would go to a local charity. I just wanted to practice my consistency. I ended up making over 300 cookies that week. Now, if I needed to practice, I would probably just use a paper towel or practice worksheets. So yes, I practiced a ton in the beginning on actual cookies. It was a lot of baking and eating!
What a great idea - and way to give back!
First, I want to thank Kristin for introducing me to the wonderful world of cookie decorating. My question is: I would like to purchase a projector so I can begin to write on my cookies, but I feel overwhelmed after reading comments from so many that I don’t know what to buy. Any suggestions? Thank you, Kandee Beas
KANDEE: Hi!! I think using a projector will take your cookies to the next level. I like this pico projector here: I would also recommend watching this YouTube video of Baking Sweet Hope before starting. She has a lot of great info:
Okay, so we zoomed through the advance questions at record pace. I hope I didn't post them too quickly...
... but you can always scroll back up through the transcript to re-read anything!
So, we're onto LIVE questions and looking to YOU ALL for them. So, go!
Apologies again for my skipping, slow keyboard . . .
I am finally getting a replacement, but was waiting til next week to get it installed so I would still have my computer for this chat!
Any questions, anyone?
Okay, more from me . . . please tell me what you mean by pop-up shop? There are many concepts of this - what was yours?
Basically, what I mean is I will make however many cookies I can make and then announce I have them available and people will "pop" in and purchase
I'm going to sell what I think is popular at that moment. I think I can still get away with doing a bunch of unicorn and llama cookies, haha!
Ahhh - do you still do that in the context of your new, big space, or was that something you did before the new shop?
I like the idea of pop-ups
I did it a few times before my shop, but mostly for holidays. I would like this to be a weekly event at my shop. So in the case, people won't be able to pre-order. They would need to come in to see what I have. Hopefully people will come, lol
Okay, we've got several great questions in the queue . . .
They will - I think that's more or less Jill FCS's model, and it seems to have been a smash.
It will also keep production so much simpler for you, as you know.
Oh, very cool!! That's good to know!
I gave my first few demo classes at CookieCon and would love to teach some more. What advice would you give me to start up my own classes in Central Florida and elsewhere around the US? Something you wish you knew then that you know now, for example?
The biggest thing that helps me mentally is to have my students fill their own bags (well, at least most of them). When I first started teaching, I learned really quickly that I could not handle filling so many bags myself. I actually think the students really enjoy the experience of doing most everything themselves
I also like to write down my colors so I can see if I'm using too many during class. I normally like to keep to 1 outline which they fill with a tip, 3 floods and then my assistant and I fill any detail bags that the students share
It really saves my sanity to not have to fill hundreds of bags before class
I agree on having students bag. Plus, one of the key things to learn is proper icing consistency. If students never touch and feel the icing directly, it's hard to learn that.
Kristin, Any update on the robbery? So sorry that happened! So glad the cookiers, far and wide, pitched in!
So true, Julia!
Also, please fill in those-not-in-the-know on the robbery, if you want. I'm not sure everyone knows what happened.
NANCY D- thank you so much for asking! We never found out who robbed the shop. The way the cookie community came together to get me back on my feet immediately was amazing! I will never ever forget it!
Those are good ideas, thank you
Samantha - Before I post your first question about airbrushing, can you tell us more about the particular trouble you had? It's not evident in your photo!
What is your favorite "go-to" simply elegant cookie? Something that looks great without spending a lot of time. I'm sure I will be getting wedding orders soon.
JULIA We recently got robbed. What's really disappointing is that we weren't even finished getting the shop ready. They took all of our electronics, cash, our giant juke box. I'm so glad they didn't take any supplies though and thankful they didn't trash the place. The cookie community saw what happened and raised money for me to replace things right away. It was incredible
That IS amazing! I am so sorry I missed that at the time!
ALL MIXED UP I like to keep my cookies simple, so my go to is added a simple flower with a PME 54 tip and a leaf with a 51. I really love just a clean base and a beautiful flower on top
Okay, I'm posting Samantha's question about airbrushing, but I'm not seeing the airbrushing issue on this great set . . .
So I am fairly new to cookie decorating and I just bought the Cake Boss airbrush. I tried using it for the first time yesterday and my cookies didn't turn out how I expected. Do you have any tips on how to use the airbrush. I attached a picture, but please pay no attention to the "flowers" because my consistency was WAY off on my icing for those (again, I'm just starting out so I have a lot to learn).
The cookie wasnt smooth anymore when i did the airbrushing. It was like a weird texture-sort of like little bubbles.
Thanks for the clarification, Samantha! So it sounds like the icing got pitted? Any ideas, Kristin?
SAMANTHA I love those cookies! were you trying to airbrush the background on the Home Sweet Home plaques?
SAMANTHA Were you using gold airbrush?
Yeah, the cookies look great - hard to believe you're a beginner!
All I can guess about the pitting is that you applied to much coloring at once, and it got the icing too wet and dissolved it. But I don't see too much coloring on these cookies.
So i airbrushed the gold on the keys and the little signs. And in the pic its hard to tell, but it just got the weirdest texture and the cookies weren't smooth anymore. It was my first time using it and I used Lucks gold airbrush color.
I agree, Julia. That's probably what happened. I still think they look great though!
Metallic colorings have larger particulate matter in them, so they can separate in the container and look lumpy/gloppy when sprayed.
My best suggestion is to stir (not just shake) them, and apply the coloring very gradually so as not to get an over-accumulation.
Thank you! This is only about my 7th time making cookies. Ive been watching as many videos on how to do cookies as i can. So do i just start with a thin layer, let it dry, and keep repeating until it gets to the desired airbrish color i want?
Yes, gradual is always better.
I've actually had that happen to mine when I've painted the gold on my cookies
What mode of advertising for cookie classes do you feel is the best?
I'm going to answer another question from Nancy while Kristin answers the one above, since Nancy's question relates to my airbrush.
Speaking of gold airbrush, any pointers on using metallic airbrush colors so they spray smooth and don't clog the airbrush. I have a Julia airbrush.
NANCY When I first started teaching classes, I advertised on local FB community groups. Now, I have people sign up to get my newsletter, and most of the classes fill up with my subscribers. Whatever doesn't, I post on my IG and FB page and I get the sales from there. Starting in community pages is great, but be ready for people to tell you that you charge too much.
Nancy - First, keep the coloring always moving through the airbrush and try increasing the airflow on the inline regulator. Metallics sometimes need more pressure behind them to pass freely.
If that does not work, send the airbrush back for servicing, as my system should freely pass metallics.
NANCY I do also want to mention that my classes did not fill up right away. I started teaching over 4 years ago and used to have to beg friends to go to my class so that it looked full. My classes didn't start filling up until about 2 years in. I think now that there are more classes around and people know what it is, you shouldn't have as hard of a time filling them like I used to.
I also have a question of how to find cookie classes in my area (Utah)? I would love to have in-person classes to help teach me new things rather than watching Youtube videos . . . or even online classes I can take that are live?
SAMANTHA I know Blyss Cookies teaches in Utah. They are a sister team and are amazing! I was lucky enough to take their class last year at Cookie Con. I would recommend reaching out to them as I'm sure they can either teach you, or know people in your area
Do you add glycerin or corn syrup to your royal icing? I'm always afraid the florals will get TOO crunchy.
NANCY I use corn syrup in my icing because I have found that it has completely taken care of my butter bleed. I do normally pull some icing without the syrup aside and use that icing for my details because I'm so worried they will be too soft when packaging. Does that make sense?
NANCY I use 1TB per 2 lbs of powdered sugar. Once a pull some icing aside, that's when I stir in the corn syrup.
A comment from Samantha about her earlier set . . .
I shook the bottle really well before, so I'll try stirring next time. Thank you! And you guys made me feel a little better about giving these cookies to my new neighbors next door because I was a little embarrassed to do so, lol.
Have no fear, Samantha!
SAMANTHA I can guarantee that your neighbors will love them!
A question from Heba that I think relates back to your earlier comment about advertising in Facebook community groups . . .
Kristin, which FB groups are you talking about?
Thanks Julia. I will keep working with the regulator. Pearl sheen works great but gold is always a problem!
NANCY - Could be your gold is old and too thick - I've never had trouble with gold.
HEBA When I lived in Corona, they had a local page called What's Up Corona? Just a community page where they allow advertising. Do you know of any local FB groups?
Awesome! Thanks so much for the referral! I've tried googling cookie classes and such, but had no luck.
Hey Kristin! I am a huge fan; you were one of the first accounts I followed when I first started my cookie business! You have been such a huge wealth of knowledge!
I am interested in starting classes. I would like your opinion on whether adult classes or children’s classes are easier? Like birthday parties or summer camp type classes for kids...
HEBA-I guess they would be more labeled "groups" than "pages".
KRISTEN Thank you so much for your kind words!
I'll research the local groups to my area but I know of groups that cater to regions of FL, if that makes sense. Thanks
OK, thanks, will check into those.
Just in case you missed it, Kristen also had a question about adult vs. kids' classes, up above.
Posting Kristen's question again here, since it's rather far up: I am interested in starting classes. I would like your opinion on whether adult classes or children’s classes are easier? Like birthday parties or summer camp type classes for kids...
KRISTEN I didn't teach my first kid's class until last month and I have to say that I enjoyed it sooo much! I really do love my adult classes, but adults are so much harder on themselves. Every single kid were thrilled about their cookies and the look on their parents faces were priceless! I guess that doesn't answer what's easier though. I'm still learning how to prep for kid's classes. They get less cookies so that's already less time, and their class is only an hour. They do not fill their bags though, so that takes a while, but I simplify their cookies even more than the adult classes so I do think it's easier. Sorry for the ramble! lol
Also, do you have any resources to get before teaching the first class . . . I know you offer practice sheets (that are awesome, btw!) but I'm thinking along the lines of class size, how to find locations if my home isn’t large enough, class flow (getting started and keeping students moving through designs), and how to wrap things up?
KRISTEN I haven't been able to come up with more resources yet because of time, but I do know that Flour Box Bakery has a really great book on teaching classes. I think that would be a great place to start!
I also taught kids for the first time about a month ago, and, while they leave a much bigger mess to clean up, I did find them easier to please and less hard on themselves to. I also did an ultra-simple cookie with them.
Dotty Raleigh of Sugar Dot Cookies also does live online classes on a range of topics - one is how to teach a cookie class.
KRISTEN I would start by approaching any local paint and sip's. That's where I always taught my classes before getting my own space. They had a nice set up where all the chairs are facing the stage. For anyone teaching classes, I would also recommend having a projector so everyone can see you working on the cookies at the same time. It saves so much time rather than going to each table and showing them what you're doing
JULIA I just loved how proud the kids and parents were. There was no complaining at all. They loved piling on the sprinkles. It was so much fun!
I will add that there are different models for teaching. I operate under a different financial one than some other instructors, so you need to also strike up methods and terms that work best for you and your own personal style/needs.
to = too in comment above. My keyboard is skipping about every other letter, which is why moderation is a bit slower and clunkier for me today . . .
I love tipless bags, but I'm always worried that the portion that is cut off will end up in my icing since it's very static. What suggestions do you give your classes when they are cutting off the tips? Do you have a secret way of collecting the cut-offs?
Julia, could you please show us the cookie you taught for that kids' class?
Heba, I don't have time now to find it on my computer while moderating the chat, but it was a layered airbrush style using a multi-layer custom set that I designed for the party. So it wasn't super easy, but they did amazingly well with it. we also had a ton of pre-made embellishments that they could stick all over them, so that helped cover any messy airbrushing!
NANCY D I actually have never thought about that. We have paper on the table under them so they cut the tip off and set it on the table. I show them how to cut the tip off by holding the very end so when they cut it off, the cut off piece is in their hand so they don't have to worry about it floating off anywhere
Oh, here's another question, lol. What's everyone's go-to plain (vanilla) sugar cookie recipe? I'm not a fan of the one I've been using.
This question seems to be for everyone, so chime in.
SAMANTHA I've been using the No Fail Sugar Cookie recipe for years and have been happy with it
I am answering Kristen's next question in the meantime, as it was answered earlier.
Is there a projector you can recommend?
Kristen - Please scroll back up through the transcript. Kristin linked off to a pico projector early on in the chat. Thanks!
OK thanks.
I will give that recipe a shot! Thank you!
What's your favorite holiday for cookie making?
NANCY D I pretty much love Christmas, Easter and Valentine's equally haha!
For cookie decorating designs
We have a fair number of questions (about 5) still in the queue, so I am going to extend chat time a bit more, if that's okay with Kristin?
What guidelines do you use for cookie classes? Timelength? # of cookies?
JULIA sounds good! Thanks!
A comment about vanilla cookie preferences . . .
For me, it's all about the flavoring. I LOVE Apex brand vanilla bean paste with the specks of vanilla beans. I changed my flavoring after the CookieCon vanilla sniffing event. And oh, APEX is made in Maryland, which is a bonus, cause that's where I live!
NANCY For my classes, I call them "cookies and sip". The people that come to my classes are not looking to do this as a business, they just want to have a fun night out. Because of this, I keep it to 3 designs and they get 6 cookies. They have 2 tries for each design which they seem to enjoy. My classes are 2 hours. If I were to do an intermediate class, which I have a few times, I do 6 different designs and the classes can be anywhere from 4-6 hours...
A good comment about teaching while Kristin works on Nancy D's last question . . .
Hi 👋🏼. I would just add to the classes. Do a practice run on family (or friends) to make sure your timing, flow, and speech, drying times etc. are workable.
208BAKES I agree! It's better to practice on friends and family before jumping in right away! I had a group of friends I did my first class with, then, I invited all of my special cookie customers to my 2nd class. I felt ready after that
Agree wholeheartedly, 208Bakes. Lots of people seem to want to get into teaching these days - I'm not quite sure why?? Perhaps it's a perception that it's super glamorous or fun to travel to new locations, but it is hard work and very different than producing cookies for sale. It takes a distinct set of skills and lots of practice, IMO.
That does help, thank you! How do you decide what to charge for a class?
Regarding an earlier vanilla paste comment:
I haven't used the paste but that sounds like it would be a good change. Thank you!
KRISTEN I charge $45 per person for the 2 hour, simple class. If I were teaching intermediate or even a beginning class where people want to learn for their business, I would charge triple that at least
A clarification about a projector question from earlier. Sorry, Kristen, for misunderstanding your question.
I think Kristen is referring to the comment about using a projector to show what she is doing for teaching a class and not projecting on cookies. Is that the same projector you'll want to use for both?
For my "Cookies and Sip" classes, I want people to come back each month, so I have found $45 is a good number. Half my class, sometimes more are people that are returning
Thanks for the clarification. Kristin?
SAMANTHA Here's what I used when I used to use a projector and I would also have a computer camera that was connected to it. Now, I use a video camera that is connected to the tv that's above me. A projector is great though if you're traveling
Back to pricing questions . . .
Would you price a kids' cookie decorating class differently than an adults' class? In my head, that's what I'd do!!
Also, I do want to point out that I never pre-flood any cookies for these particular classes. If I had to do that, I would charge more
HEBA I charge $20 for the kid's classes. They get 3 cookies and the class is only an hour
Again, this gets back to my point of pricing and setting class terms that work for you. What one charges is a unique function of how much advance prep they do and other overhead costs they might have to cover. I understand the desire to know ballpark, benchmark pricing from others, but it's always best, IMO, to work up your own pricing based on your own labor and cost fundamentals.
Speaking of mess, what's the best way to efficiently wash and sanitize bottles used for flood icing? I love those Sweet Sugarbelle bottles!
An aside from Nancy on her use of vanilla paste in her recipe . . .
My recipe uses 3 cups of granulated sugar and butter and 9 cups of flour, (plus other ingredients) so I use 2 tablespoons of vanilla bean paste.
Ok thanks.
I agree with Julia
Found some kids' class images. This was one cookie done by the sister of the guest of honor - I think she was about 9 years old.
Kristin, does the paint 'n sip place take a cut of the price, and how much if so?
yes, I agree with you, Julia, my area is different from Kristin's so those prices are too low Thanks for the advice though ladies.
Thanks, Nancy! I'll definitely try out the paste. I've heard nothing but good things about it.
NANCY I don't normally use bottles, but I did for my last kid's classes, and IMO it was not worth it for how long it took me to clean them. It probably took about 3 hours for me to clean all of them where when I use bags and each person gets 1 tip, I just throw the tips in the dishwasher and throw out the bags. I soaked my bottles in soap hot water and then sprayed the icing out with my sink sprayer. Then I had to continue to soak to make sure I got everything. Maybe someone has a better way? I do love the bottles though!!
I also used pre-bagged icing for the kids' class. Bottles get tough to control when not full, and I hate cleaning them even more than I hate cleaning bags.
Yikes! I just fill them up with soapy water and shake shake shake.
Adorable! Love that you trusted the kids with more complex designs!
Thanks, Samantha. I'll post more images if there's a lull.
I’m new to cookies. I’ve just been sticking to tipless bags. Is there a tip you recommend starting with to get the experience? I’ve used tips for buttercream cupcakes in the past.
HEBA when I approached the owners with my idea of renting the space, they had never had anyone ask before. I just threw out a number of $125 and they accepted. Another place I approached which was a boutique, wanted 40% of my sales which was a big no no for me!
Another kid's cookie from the same event.
Thank you.
JULIA Wow! Those are amazing!
The boys got more sidetracked than the girls . . . LOL . . . more freeform airbrushing and airbrushing of each other!
ASHLEY I still use tips in my tipless bags when I'm outlining my cookies (#2) and when I add flowers at the end (#14, #54pme and sort of tip that has a lot of teeth)
What my demo cookies looked like for this event - BTW, it was more of a party and not a class per se.
Any other questions for Kristin?
Thank you for your questions!
If not, I'd like to close by telling her what a thrill it was to have her here! What a wealth of knowledge she has!
No. Thanks Julia & Kristin on this fun chat! I wish you all a lovely weekend.
Thank you ever so much for spending time with us today, Kristin! I am so glad to have had more time with you since CookieCon was so whirlwind!
Thanks for all the great info!
One more question . . . our last . . .
Thank you for a jumping point! Do you have a favorite tip when you do any writing?
Thank you SO SO much for having me, Julia! What an honor to even be asked!!!
ASHLEY depending on the size of the writing, I normally use a PME 1.5 or 2. Personally, I feel my writing is a lot cleaner and easier with that brand of tip
Thanks again, Kristin, and thanks to all for joining and making this such a lively chat. Our next chat is tentatively scheduled for April 13 but I am still firming up those details. Stay tuned and have a great rest of your weekend!
Thank y’all so much for answering all my questions!! 😘😘😘
Thank you so much! I have learned so much this morning and look forward to putting it to use!
Yay! I'm so glad! Thank you!
Signing off now! XOXO
This chat has ended.
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