On our way to CookieCon 2019 in Reno, Nevada, we would have said, “Yes! We decorate sugar cookies.” But it only took a few minutes for it to become clear that we had entered a new league. Can we decorate baseball cookies? Yes. But can we airbrush seashell cookies in 4 different layers to look super realistic? Can we do a dragon’s eye out of isomalt surrounded by lifelike scales? Can we make a 3-D egg basket that looks regal enough to give to Kate & Meghan? For many of the attendees here the answer to all these questions and more is, “Of course I can. Did you see me on The Food Network?”
Let me tell you what else I don’t need. Cookie cutters. Now let me tell you what I nearly knocked someone over to get to. Cookie cutters. It’s an addiction. Do I have a llama cookie cutter? Yes. But look this llama is looking at you rather than a side profile! Do I have a unicorn cutter? Yes. But look this one is a little bigger and I like the tail better! When online sensation and Key Note Speaker Arty McGoo announced that everyone was getting four new cookie cutter designs, the reaction in the room was the same as when your best friend told you she was pregnant: screaming with your hands up. You can’t believe it’s true. Even Arty McGoo referenced feeling like Oprah when she yelled cooOOOOKkiee CUTTERS! You get a cookie cutter! You get a cookie cutter!
Welcome to the Cookie Artist world at CookieCon. A world where creativity and artistic vision come alive and it’s not only entirely edible, it’s delicious. The cookies melt in your mouth and leave you with hints of vanilla or almond. This world is populated almost entirely by women, although there are the occasional men in the crowd. There are also the husbands who are incredibly psyched that their wives have become online and social media mavens and the husbands who are waiting patiently on the couches in the hall with a glazed over look in their eyes thinking, “I was told there would be cookies.” The women here are unbelievably talented. Some decorate as a career and some do it as a hobby after their day job AND Mom duties. Whatever path led them to cookie decorating, they’ve come to CookieCon to celebrate and connect with others.
CookieCon itself is about more than just cookies. It is about forming friendships, building relationships and exchanging ideas. Classes were taught on subjects ranging from honing your outlining skills to being on the Food Network to hosting cookie decorating classes. Hands-on workshops boosted expertise and created masterpieces. These masterpieces are fleeting though as they are meant to be appreciated and then consumed. Most pieces of art hang on a wall or are put on a pedestal to be admired for years. These meticulously detailed cookies are placed on a platter to be gobbled up. The beauty is in the giving. The cookies are not meant for preserving but rather for sparking joy in others.
Speaking of sparking joy… one of my favorite parts of CookieCon was the button trading. Thank goodness our cookie decorator Christina joined the Facebook group of attendees and learned that we needed to bring buttons to trade. Buttons are a thing at CookieCon. A big thing. Attendees bring buttons with their logo or fun sayings on them and then everyone displays them on their lanyards and bags. The most desired buttons were quickly identified: ones with Nemo’s Dorie wanting cookie cutters, Michael Scott and Dwight from The Office, Cardi B, Lindsay Lohan, etc,.. You’d think the trading would get old, but right up until the end I was on the hunt for the “Frositute” and “World’s Okayest Cookie Artist”. Very clever.
Another showcase for the ingenious is the “Sugar Show”. This is where cookie artists from around the country submit their showpieces in several categories and it is one of the most intimidating parts of CookieCon. Oh you made a replica of all the Beatles and the Yellow Submarine album cover? That can go in the music category. You made a full chess set complete with board and playable game pieces? That can go in the childhood board game section next to the Operation box with the lit up red nose. You made a full on diorama of a bride’s bedroom? That goes in miscellaneous. These things are all incredible. The number of hours that went in to these is huge. I bet big money that there were many missed kids’ soccer games or declined social engagements because these cookies weren’t done. Not to mention the care required to get them to the convention in one piece. We only brought linking paper doll cookies and even then one of our legs broke. I can’t imagine stuffing a large TV cookie with a realistic scene from “I Love Lucy” piped onto it into the overhead bin. I don’t need that kind of stress.
I’m not going to lie, we got swept up in it. We walked into the vendor hall thinking we’re going to get a few things and we walked out of there with an air brush machine, stencils, paper edibles and lots of glittery powder. We don’t even do any of that. Oh – until now. We are SO doing it now. After three days, six instructors, a class on projectors (note to self: order the projector and stand) we are ready to roll. Literally.
We walked out of CookieCon feeling inspired. We learned so much, and we made new friends from places like New Hampshire and Missouri. It’s funny but it took flying to Reno to re-connect with another bakery in our own hometown and to finally meet in person someone in New Jersey we’ve been working with for years. (This is where I plug the Jersey Shore Cake & Cookie Convention coming this October.)
If you are a Cookie Artist or just aspire to be one then CookieCon is for you. It was all it was cut out to be and more!