Let me guess, you were at a (birthday/bridal/bachelorette/holiday) party last week and saw the most ADORABLE custom sugar cookies. Now you just have to have them for little Sally’s birthday party next month. After finding out who made the ones at your friend’s party, you contact them to request a quote - thinking it will maybe be around $20 or so for a dozen. After all, the ones at Walmart with pink icing and sprinkles are like $5 for the whole box. Surprise and shock run through you when you receive a quote of $42 - $54 per DOZEN. ‘Are you for real?!’ Yes, yes I am very much for real, and let me explain to you why…
Custom cookies are on a whole other level. These are not your standard cookies that you bake in an afternoon and slap some icing on them and call it a day. No, you have to plan and prep, then bake and decorate, wait some time for them to dry, and decorate some more (potentially followed by even more decorating). The whole process usually takes me 2-3 days per order. Which is also why you, as the customer, should plan ahead and try to order your cookies as soon as possible. Because when cookies take that long to complete, I can get booked up VERY far in advance (to reserve YOUR date, fill out the short order form here).
The biggest factors in my cookie prices are ingredients, tools, and time. Let’s start with the cost of ingredients. My cookies AND royal icing are 100% made from scratch. The most expensive ingredients being butter and vanilla extract. No cheap butter here otherwise your cookies will spread when they bake - trust me, you don’t want that. And don’t even get me started about vanilla extract (currently an oz of vanilla costs MORE than an oz of silver!). Add in all the additional ingredients and you’ve got a decent size grocery bill, especially when buying in bulk. We’re not even going to factor in the time spent getting groceries. I try to remember to use the Walmart Grocery Pickup to save time, but sometimes there are those last minute runs to the store at 11 PM (messy hair and sweats = hot cookie mess!) when you realize you don’t have as much meringue powder as you originally thought. D’oh!
Next let’s talk about the cost of all those fancy cookie tools I have - starting with my bread and butter, the cookie cutters. I buy a lot of them at Walmart, Target, Michaels, and Hobby Lobby, but the cutest designs are usually are found on Etsy (One of my favorite brands is Kaleidacuts). They’re the custom 3D printed designs, and they’re the ones everyone wants. They’re also $6- $8 EACH, not including the shipping. That adds up fast, like real fast. Like say goodbye to your last paycheck because you just HAVE TO HAVE these adorable cookie cutters (I'll use them at some point right??). Some additional essential tools include an airbrush, pico projector, dehydrator, cookie rolling rack, airbrush colors, food colors, piping bags, sprinkles, sanding sugar, cookie sheets, and a subscription to Netflix (but really). [Added bonus: check out my Amazon storefront for a list of some of my favorite products and tools. Purchasing from it will not cost you any extra, but I may earn a small monetary reward.]
Now for the ‘time’ component. It takes me 2-3 hours (sometimes longer, sometimes shorter) to bake every order from start to finish. Once they’ve cooled off, I vacuum seal them in bags until I decorate them (usually the next day). Next comes one of the most tedious parts of the decorating process - mixing icing. Y’all, it can take me literally 1-2 HOURS to mix up all the colors and consistencies of icing I need for your order. Sometimes I’m exhausted before I even start! Once I do finally get seated and start decorating, it’s show time. Each cookie gets a base, called flooding. First I outline them and then 'flood' them with thinner consistency icing.
After flooding all the cookies, I have to wait for them to dry before I can add additional decorating details on top. This is where I use a dehydrator to speed things along. Sometimes I’ll let them dry overnight and add the finishing touches the next day. A lot of times, those 'finishing touches' include gold lettering. First, I very slowly pipe the words and then hand paint the gold letters. Hand paint. As in it takes a loooong time.
Once the cookies are dry and finally done (WHEW!), I vacuum seal each cookie in its own individual bag to keep them fresh (another cost - buying a heat sealer and bags). Then you’ve got packaging costs - those cute blue boxes of mine cost money and so does the paper shred, ribbon, and gift tags (mainly for holiday sets) that come with it.
When the cookie crumbles (pun intended) and all is said and done - I usually end up working around minimum wage. Did you hear that? MINIMUM WAGE! For cookies! You must think I'm crazy, but I truly love what I do. I love seeing the look on my customer’s faces when they receive their custom cookies. I love when they use me year after year and refer me to their friends. Simply put, I love decorating cookies and being a part of your festivities. I have some of the most amazing clients who are more than willing to pay the prices I quote them, because they know the quality of product they're getting.
So if custom cookies just aren't in the budget this time, trust me I totally understand. Those soft sugar cookies from Walmart with the yummy frosting work fine to serve at your party (I've had them more than I'd care to admit). But if you want show stopping, delicious, Pinterest worthy, completely custom and adorable cookies - then I'm you're gal. And if you’re ever curious why something costs as much as it does, please feel free to ask me.
Author's note: part of this article was inspired from an article read last year at Cami's Cookie Jar. I could not load the article to link to it otherwise I would.