Last night I took a royal icing class at my local baking supply store, Pila’s Kitchen. I was so excited to learn some new tips and have hands on experience. Unfortunately, I came away a little bored and underwhelmed.
We were given premade cookies that were hard as a rock and not tasty at all. I would never suggest using their recipes. Also, the base royal icing was never beat to stiff peaks, so it started out runny. Since my biggest issue so far is icing consistency, this was disappointing. I really wanted to see in person the correct look of the different levels of icings: piping, flood, and 20 second. Lastly, the tools we were set up with to use were beginner level. Our (overly watered down) flood icing was placed in piping bags instead of bottles, which is a mess and all the piping bags had number 4 tips. Number 4!! I have never used anything larger than a number 2 or 3 and those are still way too big for the pretty detailing I want to learn to do.
In any case, I played along… and tried not to correct the teacher as much as possible. We all worked together to try different “technics,” but without the proper tools they really didn’t turn out well. After the first couple cookies, we were told to finish the others using what was left. I got bored at that point and just finished so I could leave. Don’t judge the cookies to hard.
The biggest take away was… I’m pretty good! Given a little more practice, I think I will be on par with the experts. Yippy! Maybe I can teach classes in the future.
This week will be very exciting as I start making cookies for the baby shower I am throwing. Stay tuned.Read More
My very first “official” cookies! I am really excited how they turned out. I am getting great reviews from my office on the taste and texture.
I used Sugarbelle’s recipe for both the cookie and the royal icing. I also took some notes from her on how to decorate and color. These are pretty easy. My only issue would be that I noticed a day after the cookies were bagged, the darker pumpkins ended up getting blotchy. From what I can read on the blogs, it looks like I need to do a few things.
- Run a fan or heater on the cookies while they are drying. This will speed up the drying time and also make the cookies turn more shinny.
- Let the colors develop for at least an hour before applying. I am not very patient so sitting and waiting is not really a great idea for me, but a blotchy cookie is even worse. Something to remember is that as royal icing sits it develops the color into deeper shades, so when choosing colors keep that in mind or your brown will turn black.
- Change the meringue powder brand. I bought Americolors, but all roads lead me to believe that in the future I should use CK brand meringue powder or Henry and Henry brand (same brand, just different packaging).
One last bit of news. California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a Cottage Food Law named AB1616 on September 21, 2012. In essence, there is now a way to bake and sell my cookies legally from my home kitchen. There are still a few requirements, but nothing like having to work out of a commercial kitchen. It just adds to the fire in my belly to get better and better at this. You can read about the new law here.
What do you think about my cookies? Wouldn’t they make a great addition on your Thanksgiving table?Read More
So just like I promised, this last weekend I started my piping practice. My girlfriend at the office came up with a great idea for me. Buy a couple coloring books and try to color within the lines. What a great idea.
I have to say, I was really worried after my first try at decorating. I thought I just wouldn’t be able to do this. Making straight lines with icing just doesn’t come that easily. So, I looked up YouTube videos for piping tutorials and studied their techniques. There are a lot of videos available and I found some real inspirations. Check out these fun videos. The first is from www.sweetopia.net and is the most helpful tutorial I found on the entire process of outlining and filling cookies with Royal Icing. The Second is from www.sweetambs.com. She is such an artist! Wow.
Oh, check it out! Remember how I said that Royal Icing could last up to a month if stored properly? Look at this… it’s over two weeks old and still as good as can be.
Anyhow, I stapled parchment paper on my coloring book sheets, made my icing (a little too thin) and got to piping.
The biggest learning points were:
- You have to pipe backwards. What I mean is, color in anything that would be further away first, and then color in whatever is in the front last. For example, on a flower, you would do the stem, then the leaves, then the petals and then the center of the flower.
- Icing consistency is key. I need to go slower with adding the water because it ended up spreading out on the cookie and I couldn’t keep good details.
- Do not move half wet iced sheets around. You will end up with ugly cracks all over the place.
So, what do you think? I’m very excited that it turned out as good as it did!Read More
Today I am enjoying a glass of wine. Why you ask? Well in celebration that TheCookieMaster.com is back up and running. The last 4 days have been spent going back and forth with HostGator. I am still not a hundred percent sure why my website was taken down by them multiple times, but it was. All in all, I think I will still to practicing my cookie skills and leave technology advice to the experts.
If you read this two years from now… DO NOT do what I did. I failed. I had to live chat with a techy to get it fixed.
I was able to get a Facebook page and my business cards ordered. Excited to “friend” all the cookie people!
Follow me at www.facebook.com/thecookiemasterblog
Here are my new business cards. And, I had matching stickers made for the back of the cookie bags, to be used as advertisement.Read More
So, I have spent the last couple days doing extensive research on blog set up AND I have reviewed every cookie blog possible to see what they are doing. In the next week, expect A LOT of changes on here. Man-o-man, setting up a hobby, business and website is no small feat, let me tell you.
Here is the list of my to-do:
- Change Linking Structure/Permalink Structure: which means when you click a link it the future the article name will show, instead of funky junk.
- Fix Some Security Issues.
- Set Up Discussion/Comment rules: include email and name options, automatically close comments after a certain amount of days, break comments into pages, email me whenever people post and approvals.
- Allow linking notification/Pingback: this tells the world I updated the blog automatically.
- Sign Up With Feedburner: Manages RSS subscriptions so people can follow the blog.
- Set Up Analytics: I already have this set up with Google. This allows me to track the attendance of the website.
- Set up Webmaster Tools: I already have this set up with Google. This gave me an easy way to check all my emails in one place.
- Submit the blog to Google for Indexing.
- Install Plugins: These are basically apps that do all sorts of cool things. One I already installed was the contact me form under About Me.
- Akismet: Spam Filter
- Permalink Redirect: Keeps only one URL for duplicate pages aka… it’s good for search engine performance.
- All in one SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Pack/ WordPress SEO by Yoast: Again… this has to do with search engines being able to see the website.
- WordPress Automatic Upgrades: Duh… it upgrades the blog automatically.
- WP Super Cache: Makes the blog load faster.
- Google XML Sitemaps: Sitemaps help users and search engines navigate quickly.
- No Self Pings: AKA fix a flaw in step 4.
- Feedburner Feedsmith: Install the Feedburner that we set up in step 5.
- WP BD Backup: Back up the blog in case I ever get hacked… PLEASE DON’T HACK ME.
- Better Internal Link Search: Makes search engines search entire blog not just titles.
- Dynamic Widgets: Gives access to move items in the sidebars.
- Login Lockdown: Keeps other people out of the blog dashboard.
- WP Optimize: Keep the blog running smoothly.
- CommentLuv: Gives commenters the ability to leave links to their own blogs.
- Digg Digg: Social Media Buttons, I need Facebook for sure.
- Subscribe to Comments: Allows people leaving comments to be notified whenever other people leave additional comments.
- Broken Link Checker: Scans blog for links that end up broken over time.
- Aweber: Subscription via email and email list controls.
- Total Page Views – This is fun to encourage people to repeat visit by incorporating give away products for hitting special marks.
I am sorry I don’t have a clear understanding why I need to do all of these things… I just know that multiple expert bloggers say I do. Figuring out what I need to do and how to do it, seems to be easier than understanding why. But I have been assured that once all these steps have happened, I will have the BEST BLOG EVER!! Well, maybe not, but Google Search should find me at least.
In addition to all of that, I need to start reaching out and branding/marketing my sight in order to find readers. The following are the tasks I must set out to do:
- Blog Commenting: Comment on as many blogs as possible related to cookie decorating
- Article Marketing: Leaving links to my articles where ever appropriate
- Link to Others/Buttons: There is a boomerang effect of traffic when you link others blogs on your own page. I need to place my “button” for others to grab & grab all the buttons of related sites too.
- Guest Blogging: This might take a while but both my guest blog elsewhere or a known blogger guest posting on my sight are very important marketing tools.
- Forum Marketing: Find forums to post on and insert the blog line on my signature.
- Pintrest: I need a PINit button, I am not sure if I should create an account myself or not.
- Twittering: This shows up in many lists as a must do. I’m sorry, but I just don’t think it’s me…
- Company Facebook and linking back to the blog.
Once all of this is incorporated and I get some traffic to my sight, it will be time to add ways of making money:
- Incorporate Google AdSense: I already started the signup process and just need to install.
- Affilate Sales: Clickbank and Amazon Associates Program are two. These makes sense to me, since I already buy all of my supplies online and link to Amazon.
- Federated Media Publishing: I noticed a lot of cookie bloggers us this. It is a lot like AdSense.
- BlogHer: A female blog area that also links to advertisement opportunities.
- Etsy Shop: This is to actually sell my cookies. We are a bit off from that.
Lastly, there are a couple things I need to work on that are not cookie or technology related:
- Business Cards: I am going to be meeting a lot of amazing cookie decorators at CookieCon. I want to be able to ask them to visit my sight and give me input.
- Aprons: Again for CookieCon, my mom and I are going to where a logoed apron to the banquet.
- Photography: The more and more I look at other peoples blogs, I realize that my iPhone just isn’t going to cut it for pictures. That means borrowing, then buying a nice camera… and taking a class or two.
- Design My Own Name Tag for CookieCon
By the way, keep your eyes out for a fun blog on my first cookie class that takes place October 8th!Read More
I have already compiled a list of the most amazing cookie decorators and their blogs. I am in serious awe of what they can produce, and it is because of them that I am doing this now.
1. Callye aka. Sugarbelle – www.sweetsugarbelle.com : Sugarbelle was the very first blog that I happened upon. She has by far the best how to’s and descriptions for all sorts of decorating needs. Check out these Owls she recently made.
3. Sue aka. Munchkin Munchies - www.munchkinmunchies.com : Sue doesn’t just make cookies, but the ones she does are very different. I love that she makes hotdog cookies, interesting BBQ platters and neat cookie kits. Look at this Bag o’ Bones kit. Isn’t that a neat idea?
4. Melissa aka. Honeybee – www.simplysweetsbyhoneybee.com : I love Honeybee because she recently started blogging in the last year. Her cookie idol is also SweetSugarBelle. I am inspired that she is making such great cookies already. I am also inspired that she works all day, like I do… so she keeps me energized to practice at night, instead of sitting on my butt watching TV. Check out these pumpkin cutter owls she made, as part of her first cookie decorating invitation from SweetSugarBelle… I hope one day to be asked to participate too!
5. Shoot! I couldn’t decide who I liked the best. So, number 5 is shared with Glory aka. Glorious Treats – www.glorioustreats.com AND Lisa aka. TheBearfootBaker – www.thebearfootbaker.com. They both have easy to navigate blogs, with lots of great photos. Sometimes, all you need is pretty cookies to look at, and these ladies deliver. And no, Halloween is not my thing at all… but tis the season.
By the way! I am totally excited that I received an email yesterday notifying me that there were some openings at CookieCon!! Yes, CookieCon, a convention in Salt Lake City that is all about Sugar Cookie Decorating. And, yes, you guessed it… most of my Top 5 Favorite CookieMasters will be teaching me something new and special or at least be attending. I am even more excited because my mom will be joining me on this adventure. Yahoo! Click here to read all about CookieCon.Read More