The Cookie Creative: Manipulating Icing


Everyone has a memory related to cookies. Whether it’s dunking Oreos in milk when you were little or watching your grandma make Christmas cookies, somewhere in your memory is an event involving cookies.

Holly Nolan’s dad was a cartoonist and her mom was constantly baking cookies and cakes. “Getting into cake decorating really married the skills and passions I learned from my parents,” she reflects.

Photography by Cori Robinson

Photography by Cori Robinson

Nolan had been decorating Christmas cookies since she was a kid, but it wasn’t until she started doing cookies and cupcakes for her daughters’ birthdays that she began getting requests for orders. When she started her own company (Pipeline Cookie Company) in Hawaii in 2009, she says, “I decided to only offer cookies because it was what I enjoyed most.”

Cori Robinson has been in love with cake and cookie decorating since she was a little girl. “It’s the funniest thing — Holly and I share the very same story of going to McGlynns Bakery as kids and watching the cake decorators work through the bakery front glass while our moms would shop,” she remembers. “I could have stood there for hours; I found the process so hypnotic. At that time, I knew that manipulating icing in that way was something I wanted to learn.”

img_20160915_115137Decorating cookies as gifts for friends and family for years, Robinson dreamed of how to turn it into a business one day. “I really hadn’t seen many options for royal icing cookies in the Twin Cities so I thought the idea had potential,” she says. “When I moved to the A-Mill Artist Lofts, I found myself in such a supportive creative community and it was actually one of our first events as a community, specifically the Maker’s Market held last December that inspired me to take the leap and officially start The Cookie Creative.”

For Robinson and Nolan, the story could have been one of great rivalry, but when they met on Instagram they decided to make it a story of partnership. As their website says, Robinson had just started The Cookie Creative, and Holly’s business needed re-branding after relocating from Hawaii. They both needed help to grow. Nolan reached out to Robinson, they met (and hit it off instantly), and were soon married — their businesses, that is. The Cookie Creative officially became a duo in July 2016.

img_20160924_091127Having met through Instagram and having a pretty big following on the social media site, the duo agrees that Instagram has played a pretty big role in their business. Robinson divulges, “I’m probably Instagram’s biggest fan; in the beginning, it was the only marketing platform I used for The Cookie Creative and it’s amazing how it’s helped our business grow. I would say that at least 85 percent of our customers have found us because of the app. There’s really a community there that’s connected us to so many wonderful people and fellow creatives around the Twin Cities and beyond. I still get sort of awe struck when I think about it; I’m truly grateful.”

Nolan agrees, adding, “My Instagram presence was pretty new when I found Cori. I had never felt a fear of the ‘competition’ before I saw her work and instantly wanted to get to know her. Even with my relatively new Instagram account I was surprised at how many local people were finding me through not just my own posts, but customers sharing their custom orders and tagging me/us.”

img_20160323_100316Citing a fantastic and supportive creative community on the social networking site, Nolan says, “There are definitely posts that garner more attention than others (baby themes, for some reason, are always a huge hit).  I think that our work stands out from others because we aim for big impact with simple effort.”

Hand-rolled, buttery and delicious, these cookies are baked in small batches and completely made from scratch. Each cookie is then hand-decorated and topped with a sweet layer of royal icing. There is a quality to hand-piped cookies that you’re just never going to find from anything mass-produced. Creating custom orders, something custom tailored for each client, really makes each order unique and personal.

1936518_608057433909_5756112415251558581_n“I have this obsession with quality and it’s important to me that every cookie we decorate is eye-catching and beautiful,” Robinson says. “When Holly and I decorate together, we throw on some music or just talk to one another, like really have a conversation, something real. I find that in working in that environment, it’s easy to achieve this level of flow with the decorating that really yields a quality product. The entire process is about an experience and I think that’s what makes our products stand out.”

But other than being pretty, the cookies have to stand up to the taste test, which is why they only use the best ingredients. “People often tell us that they’re ‘too pretty to eat’ but, really, please eat them!” Nolan laughs. “Real butter and vanilla and the rich yolks from free-range eggs really do create a more flavorful cookie.”

13244017_546884205492187The Cookie Creative only uses butter from cows not treated with rBHT and eggs from free-range chickens. These women like to keep the ingredients simple: butter, eggs, flour, and sugar in the perfect ratios for the perfect melt-in-your-mouth cookie.

“In my opinion, when animals are raised humanely, they give us this beautiful gift of not only increased nutrition but also a richness of flavor that isn’t found in butter and eggs sourced from conventional farming practices,” Robinson says. “It was always important to me to carry that over into The Cookie Creative and it’s important to me that our customers can taste the difference in our product.”

img_20160926_100930“Rather than the repetition and monotony of mass-producing a few designs, I really enjoy the process of working with clients to create something custom,” Nolan says. The process begins when most customers submit a quote request online with some basic information. While some people know exactly what they’re looking for (even bringing in some Pinterest inspiration to replicate), some leave the creativity up to the decorators and just ask for a general theme.

Cookies can be booked with as little as two weeks notice, but for weddings, Nolan says there’s really not a time that’s too soon to start planning. “Just being Cori and myself, unfortunately there are times that we can’t accept orders,” she says. “Six to twelve months in advance would definitely secure your order on our calendar.”

12495074_522016707978937Wedding creations run the gamut of designs: everything from individually hand-piped royal icing succulents to personalized, monogrammed cookies for favors to simple and elegant hexagon cookies with a gold-splash. “Working with royal icing gives us a lot of flexibility to use a variety of decorating techniques to turn our client’s vision into reality,” Robinson says.

Looking for something a little extra? What about a cookie decorating workshop that’s perfect for a shower or bachelor/ette party? The Cookie Creative is more than happy to share their talents in a workshop setting. “We’ll also be offering a holiday decorating workshop in November so you can really hone your decorating skills before December,” Robinson says. “Keep an eye on our Instagram for details!”

The Cookie Creative
Instagram: @the_cookie_creative

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