Written by Marianna Saran
Tammy Holmes is the stunning face behind absolutely gorgeous cookies. Her cookie journey began six years ago, decorating them for special occasions and the holiday seasons to share with family and friends. Just over a year ago, Tammy took her couture covered cookies to another level and started selling them to customers.
In the not too distant future, Tammy hopes to expand her business, with a variety of ready-made products that people can use for their desserts. She would also like to focus on creating online tutorials, in a bid to share her amazing decorating techniques with the world. Tammy has created an amazingly elegant tutorial on decorating cookies exclusively for the Australian Cake Decorating Network’s July issue of CAKE! magazine, due out on July 20th, so be sure to check that out!
In the lead up to the magazine’s release, Tammy took some time out from decorating to chat with me, here’s what she had to say.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, where you are from and how you got into creating cookies.
I am from Chicago. I started out making cookies just for fun – a holiday thing. I used pre-made dough from the grocery store and I think all I had for pro supplies were some icing bags! Then, a couple of years ago, I decided to sell my first set and give the proceeds to charity. After that, people started requesting them.
What is it about decorating cookies that you love?
The creativity. It’s fun to design something new, something that no one else has created. It’s also fulfilling to create something specifically for someone that brings them joy.
Your cookies are very artistic, have you studied art?
Does high school art class count?! I also took one drawing class in college. I sucked. And, I’m not being hard on myself. I was REALLY bad! Oh, and I had an aunt who would take me to ceramics painting classes when I was 13. I actually use the skills I learned from those classes to decorate cookies. As far as any cookie or food training goes, I’ve never had any.
You cookies creations are very unique and have a “modern vintage” feel, how do you come up with these ideas?
You know, I never realized that I had a style until you asked this very question! Looking back on my designs from over the past couple of years, I definitely do have an aesthetic that is both modern and vintage – not just in my cookie designs, but in every aspect of my life. I seek out and try to focus on things that appeal to me visually, and I keep files of them. Whether it is magazine clippings, Pinterest boards, pics on my phone, etc., the more I focus on those things, the more they feed my designs. As a creative person, my mind tends to easily wander, which is why I don’t follow a lot of people on social media sites. It’s not that I’m not interested in what others are doing, it’s more about me trying to keep my focus on what feeds me personally on a creative level.
What medium do you use to cover your cookie?
Traditional royal icing. I use fondant for accent pieces.
What mediums do you like to use to decorate your cookies?
Royal icing, fondant, edible papers, edible lace… anything I can get my hands on!
To decorate the perfect cookie it all starts with the baking, do you have any secrets to baking the perfect cookie?
Use less sugar than you think you need.
What tips do you have for us to decorate the perfect cookie?
Take your time learning to get the right icing consistencies. It’s the least fun part about decorating, but it’s the most important. No matter how awesome your design idea is, if you don’t have the right icing consistency, it’s going to be difficult to work with and the end result will most likely be disappointing. It took me many batches to finally get this myself.
What is something that you should never do when decorating a cookie?
Don’t rush the basics. Take your time getting the right icing consistency and icing colours and give your base coat enough time to dry before doing any type of second layer decorating.
Have you had any cookie disasters?
Many! Pretty much every time I make cookies, there is a disaster. Recently, I made a last minute set that didn’t dry in time. I put them in the oven briefly to help speed up the process. Big mistake. The icing designs melted and the edges yellowed. I had to do a quick save and what was meant to be a simple, sophisticated design, ended up a more shabby chic design. They ended up really pretty though and most importantly, the client was happy.
Cookies are a completely different ball game to cakes, what sort of time line do you work on when doing a cookie order for a client- from baking to decorating?
Cookies are a time sensitive product, but not as sensitive as cakes. While I always make orders fresh, they do last for weeks, if not months. I typically start an order 3 days before the delivery date. They don’t take three days to make, but there is always several hours of drying time needed in between icing layers and packaging.
What’s the best way to store your decorated cookies?
Store them in a cool, dry place. You can freeze them, but I don’t recommend this if anyone is planning to give them as a gift, as the designs can become smudged when condensation forms from thawing.
What’s your favourite cookie that you have created to date?
My most favourite cookie that I have made thus far is one that I did for fun. It is far from perfect and every time I look at pics of it, I think about how I should have done things differently. It’s a bit elaborate and a lot of people did not realize it was a cookie. It is the extra-large, bright floral, black & white striped butterfly cookie. The design inspiration was a gorgeous chair I came across on Pinterest.
Do you experiment with cookie flavours?
I’ve only experimented with flavours a bit, but I’m definitely interested in experimenting more. Thus far, coconut is definitely my fave. I use organic shredded coconut, which can be difficult when trying to get a clean edge (cookie and icing wise) but it tastes so good!
How do you come up with the colours for your cookies? Do you mix them?
When I have an idea of what I want to do, I look through my collections of photos and pull pics that evoke the style or vibe I’m going for. If I have trouble coming up with exact colours, I pull up colour schemes on Pinterest using the colour(s) I already know I’m going to use, and go from there.
Can we expect to see a book from Tammy Holmes in the future or perhaps some online tutorials?
I am definitely looking at doing tutorials in the near future. I’m thinking of doing some free helpful basics tutorials and some pro-level purchase tutorials on specific designs and techniques.
Do you think you will start up some hands on cookie workshops?
I would definitely like to do classes or workshops. So, if there are people in the Chicago area, who are willing to give me their hard earned dollars to teach them cookie stuff, I will happily oblige!
What are you currently working on?
Besides custom orders, I am currently designing my website and working on some new products.
Where do you see your business in 5 years?
In 5 years I hope to have a full-time sweet business that not only includes custom cookies and other sweets, but also ready made products for people who want to be able to serve designer sweets at home without having to invest in all of supplies or time learning all of the techniques.
Keep up to date with the beautiful cookie creations that Tammy makes on her social media sites:
Facebook – Facebook.com/Tammy.Holmes
Instagram – tammy_______ (7 underscores)
Twitter – TammyHolmes0
All images have been provided courtesy of Tammy Holmes and are subject to copyright ©
Blog post reproduced with permission from Marianna Saran of Marianna’s Caking Me Crazy
As a former news journalist and mother of two, Marianna Saran has taken her passion for writing and cake decorating and transformed herself into a new aged cake journalist. She loves to blog about her cake and cookie creations and tries to push herself to explore new mediums of decorating, even though some are quite intimidating at times. Interviewing renowned cake decorators from across the globe gives her a spark of inspiration as she hears their stories. It reminds her that in life all you need is love from your family and friends, a cookie in one hand and a piece of cake in the other! Sit back and enjoy the journey as you follow Marianna on a roller coaster of sugary creations! Check out what else Marianna is up to at her blog and on Facebook. http://mariannacakingmecrazy.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/MariannasCakingMeCrazy