A Utahn At CookieCon
Several years ago a new conference popped up in Salt Lake City. CookieCon. A conference for cookie makers. And not just any cookie makers, artists of royal icing, who create edible works of art in an endless array of shapes and sizes.
Since its beginnings in Utah, CookieCon has grown to involve more cookiers and locations. In 2020, the national conference was held in Louisville, Kentucky, and welcomed close to 1,000 people from all over the country with piping bags at the ready. Along with workshops and demos, CookieCon included Cookie Cutter Bingo, Speed Cookie Decorating, even a Cookie-aoke for a fun night singing with friends.
Cindy Atkin, professional cookie artist shared some of her experiences following CookieCon 2020, including favorite classes and current trends.
Cindy: “CookieCon is a place where people who enjoy the art of cookie decorating gather to learn new skills, new products, collaborate with each other. It’s a real sharing community….It’s really interesting because they come from all walks of life. Some people are nurses, and they need to de-stress….I just think the general thing is that they love creativity and they like to bake.”
Cindy’s favorite class turned out to be the Art of Edible Painting, taught by a cookier who described how some painting styles can offer cost efficiency for client orders. As Cindy, explained, sometimes painting a cookie is faster than making seven colors and lining a cookie to be flooded with matching royal icing. However, in this portrait painting class, she practiced a more involved technique, sure to up her game for the next CookieCon Competition.
Cindy: “I could have done that the whole four days. It was moving food coloring around on a cookie without putting too much water. Because royal icing, it’s enemy is water. It dissolves. So, I had to be really careful on how much water. But, it was kind of like watercolor painting, but being way, way strict on how much water…I loved the class because for a person who wants to compete and know all you can do on the advanced level, but it will never make money.”
Where Cindy does succeed in the cookie business is in teaching others and meeting cookie orders with current trends.
Cindy: First of all, trends are in colors. You just think about interior design, so what colors are in interior design are in cookies. What colors are in weddings, people will design cookies for that.”
In 2019, the top colors were blush and gold. For other special events, certain characters pop up again and again.
Cindy: “This year, gnomes are in. People are crazy about gnomes….Last year, llamas. There’s those kind of things. I heard ostriches are coming in. I’m just always researching online and seeing what other people are doing. Then you walk in a store, you’re just always looking around and seeing what trends there are.”
Cindy also talked about trends in tools and ingredients such as isomalt, which comes in sticks or granules for melting.
Cindy: “In the olden days, we would crush life savers or Jolly Ranchers and when you melted them they would be the windows in a gingerbread house. But, now they have isomalt and it looks like glass and you can do--one class had a mermaid but her fins were made of isomalt, so they were transparent. And, then they airbrushed them and touched gold on the ends. It was just gorgeous!”
Cookie makers are also turning to modern capabilities, including 3-D printing technologies to design their own cookie cutters. After four days, Cindy returned from CookieCon with a box full of goodies, ready to add to her cookie repertoire.
Cindy: “You see cookie cutters. I got cookie cutters there thinking about weddings in the future. I got freebies. My box is half full of freebie cookie cutters, tips and stencils and sprinkles, pens. I mean, it’s just so fun for me to peek through this box and remember all the things I bought. You need to go to CookieCon with a budget or else you get in really bad trouble.”