I have been looking forward to sharing this interview with you for quite some time. My sugar cookie hero, Hani of Haniela’s, has graciously offered to answer some questions about sugar cookies, and I’m super excited to share her answers with you. So sit back, grab a cup of coffee (or hot chocolate for those non-coffee drinkers out there), and take in some wisdom, inspiration, lovely cookies, and beautiful pictures Hani has to offer.
1. How did you first get into decorating sugar cookies?
I decorated my first sugar cookies at Christmas time, in 2007, though I made some decorated honey cookies before, I wasn’t really into it then.
I remember I bought an issue of Better Homes magazine (I still have it), and on the cover there were cookies shaped as stars decorated with white and painted with silver and I really liked that look and wanted to do something like that. It was funny though, as I couldn’t figure out where to get that silver thing (now I know..it is Luster Dust). Actually, when I first picked up a piping bag I used canned buttercream frosting to decorate cookies. They were delicious too.
2. How long have you been decorating sugar cookies? How often do you decorate?
It’s been several years since I made my first sugar cookies, and I should say I’m not a daily decorator. Sometimes I go a month without touching a piping bag, and sometime I go a month with a piping bag in my hand. I make cookies for friends and for their parties and celebrations.
I enjoy cookie decorating as a creative outlet for myself. When I have an idea I enjoy seeing it transformed into a cookie form.
I sometimes fear that in those between cookie days, sometimes weeks, I forget everything about cookie decorating. Can you imagine? So far it has been sort of like riding a bicycle, you pick up where you left off, but I always wonder.
When I bake cookies and have a few leftovers, I put them aside in to a bag for later use, and they become my practice cookies. I have about 10 of them in a bag now; they are pretty stale but they work great as a between-boost when I don’t have time to bake but want to realize a cookie idea.
3. What is your favorite cookie design you’ve made?
I can’t really round this only into one design.
I have a soft spot for delicate, lace-like patterns, and brushed embroidery.
I’ve said this many times and perhaps it is time to explore new waters and make something else new, but I still love my Cookie Ring Collection. It was a long process of designing each piece, and I had a great deal of fun and joy seeing it come alive.
Recently I’ve been really enjoying simplicity, something that shines through without being too busy or over done, using only 2 or 3 colors. A more modern style is very appealing to my eye in these days.
4. Your way of decorating cookies is so unique–you use a Ziploc bag instead of a piping bag. What made you decide to use this type of bag?
Back home in Slovakia, everyone uses little bags, or parchment cones to push the icing through, laying it onto a cookie in the most delicate way. I’ve been experimenting with both. Two years ago my mom suggested that I try it again with a little bag. She met up with some Honey Cookie Artists in Europe and they all use plastic bags, so I decided to give it a one more try. I felt the connection immediately. I really like the closeness a Ziploc bag or parchment cone offers me in return. I sometimes outline with a piping bag fitted with the tip though–nothing is set in stone.
5. What is your best time-saving tip when it comes to baking/decorating cookies?
Always start with a clean work space. An organized work station is a great start for a successful cookie decorating day.
6. Where do you get your inspiration?
Everywhere. From a piece of a fabric, pottery, ribbons, scrapbooking paper, postcards, wall decals, flowers, wall papers; and I absolutely love jewelry, (though I hardly wear any), I find lots of inspiration from it. There are the simple things you see around yourself. Simple the better! I even used a coupon from Victoria Secret for a cookie cutter because it had a nice plaque shape.
Since last year I’ve been really into felt ornaments and decorations. If you are looking to be inspired just look around yourself. There is always sometime smiling back at you.
7. What advice would you give to new cookie artists?
Be patient and practice. There are so many things to learn and believe me, we all struggle at times to make the best of our design sketches. Sometimes it doesn’t work, but when it does, it is beautiful.
Nowadays there is a great online presence of talented people who are willing to share their knowledge, offering tutorials and tips on how to decorate cookies. You can find cookie tutorials on my blog, under Decorated Cookie Tutorials.
Some of my favorite cookie places that I adore offer fantastic ideas, inspirations and tips on cookie decorating are:
8. You make a lot of other desserts on your blog. What was the most challenging dessert that you’ve made? The most fun?
My favorite desserts are minis, individual desserts; I’m obsessed with them.
For years I couldn’t get the pate choux to bake properly and then finally in 2010 I had a major break through with my Pate Choux Swans, and it made me so happy that I was able to accomplish something that just few years back I was admiring, wishing I could do.
Generally, I have fun with all my projects, and therefore it is hard to pick just one. I think it would have to be my Owl cake, Tooth Cake, Pagoda Cake and Ballet Cake I made, and the reason is simple: I got to see the reaction of the recipients and that was really fun to see. It was a priceless experience. Plus, I really enjoyed working on these cakes.
During Christmas I make Gingerbread centerpieces and those I absolutely adore making. I give them as gifts to friends.
Before I forget, I love my tri color mint patties. I enjoyed seeing the surprise when I first made them.
9. What is your favorite dessert to make around the Christmas season?
I have to say, though I enjoy desserts and cakes, I think around Christmas it is all about cookies for me. I love cookies. At Christmas time my mom and I would make hundreds of cookies. I’m a simple woman really. My favorites for Christmas are linzer cookies–tender cookie sandwich with a little tart jam inside, with tops that are sprinkled with toasted chopped walnuts.
10. What was the best gift someone has given you for Christmas? What was the best gift you gave?
Every gift I got for Christmas was the best. I get very excited for the smallest mindful gifts; after all, Christmas is not supposed to be all about big gifts, right? (That being said, I won’t say no to a new car, or a brand new kitchen aid mixer–I like the gray color now–or a house if you should be so generous ;-))
I don’t see my family often and being without a family at Christmas you treasure little things, like a crochet angel from my mom, or my favorite childhood movie. I get even more sentimental during Christmas.
My parents always say that the best gift they got was from my brother and me. We made them a treasure box full of things we loved as kids. I think they loved it so much because it couldn’t be bought with any monetary possession.
Thanks so much Hani for answering my questions! If you’d like to see more of her work, head on over to her blog. It’s chalk full of inspiration, tutorials, recipes, and so much more. :) Enjoy! xoxo