A resolution to learn something new results in a successful cookie baking and decorating business.
Written by Leslie Criss | Photographed by Joe Worthem
For a New Year’s resolution in 2023, Lakyn Kirk decided she would learn something new. She’d actually started thinking about this in October 2022, when she began watching You Tube videos on royal icing and cookie decorating.
“I just really wanted to learn a legitimate skill set,” said the 32-year-old Nettleton native. “I watched a ridiculous number of videos about baking and decorating cookies.”
Kirk had never done much baking at all, so there was no favorite family cookie recipe hidden away somewhere. When she chose an initial sugar cookie recipe and baked her first batch, the outcome was successful — and delicious.
“The only change I made in the recipe was using maple extract rather than the almond it called for,” Kirk said. “My son and I both love maple flavor — we love pancakes and waffles.”
Her first attempt at icing was not as perfect as the cookies.
“Icing is tricky,” she said. “Consistency is key. You don’t want it too runny or too thick. I played and played with it, and one day I realized, ‘Hey, this is actually working.’”
Kirk said she had expected a catastrophe in her early attempts at baking and decorating cookies, but she was pleasantly surprised.
“It was good enough for my son and me to bake and decorate together for Christmas,” she said. “We made them for our family party. Everyone got so excited.”
Kirk was happy her resolution to find a new skill set had come to fruition, primarily so she could make amazing cookies for 6-year-old Jack’s birthday parties and teacher gifts. However, she didn’t expect her cookies to become so in demand.
These days, Kirk is a cottage food baker, making her themed and decorated cookies out of her home. Her sweet side gig even has a name — Bakin’ with Lakyn. And she’s doing much more than baking just for her blue-eyed boy.
“People started calling and ordering cookies,” Kirk said. “I never thought of being a small business owner, but it just took on a life of its own.”
Truth is, Bakin’ with Lakyn is a side business. A single mom, Kirk has worked 11 years for the Mississippi Department of Education. She’s the regional coordinator for the Digital Learning Center at Ole Miss. In the evenings after work and after she’s put Jack to bed, Kirk bakes and decorates cookies.
“I cook from 9 to 12,” she said. “I burn the midnight oil quite often.”
The cookies Kirk has baked and decorated in the year since she first started have run the gamut of designs. She’s baked for every holiday, birthday parties for all ages with a multitude of fun and creative themes, baby showers, school-specific tailgating gatherings and more.
“People come up with reasons to get cookies,” Kirk said, laughing.
Not a week passes now that Kirk doesn’t bake cookies, but she does not tire of it.
“I have enjoyed it so much, it has never felt like work.”
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons almond, vanilla or maple extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
Pinch of salt
In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter until smooth. Add granulated sugar, and beat on low speed until mixture is almost white. Add eggs, and mix on a low setting. Beat in extract just until blended.
With mixer turned off, add flour, cornstarch and salt. Beat dough on low setting until dough cleanly pulls from sides of bowl. (Dough is perfect when it reaches a Play-Doh consistency.)
Roll dough on floured surface and cut with desired cookie cutters. Bake at 350°F for 9½ minutes.
Sugar Cookie Tips and Tricks
· Room temperature unsalted butter and eggs make for the best dough every time.
· Dividing dough in half, wrapping each half in plastic wrap, and chilling in the refrigerator for 20 minutes makes for easy, clean cuts with cookie cutter.
· Use a small amount of flour on your surface and rolling pin for easier dough rolling.
· Let cookies fully cool before icing.
· Freeze dough in freezer-safe bags to use later.
4 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons meringue powder
5 tablespoons warm water
1 tablespoon corn syrup
2 tablespoons extract of choice
1 tablespoon white gel food coloring
Desired gel food coloring
In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat sugar, meringue powder and warm water on low speed until blended. With mixer running, add corn syrup, extract and white gel food coloring, and beat on medium-low speed, about 2 minutes. Separate icing into small bowls. Add 2 to 3 drops of desired gel food coloring to each.
Use a spray bottle filled with water to gradually loosen icing, stirring until it reaches a “glob and ribbon” consistency (see Tips and Tricks, right).
Spoon icing into decorating bags, and use to decorate cooled cookies.
Icing and Decorating Tips and Tricks
· Outline various sections of your cookie with preferred colors to build a “barrier” to hold in “flood” icing.
· Try the “Glob and Ribbon” method for a single consistency that allows a decorator to both outline and flood a cookie. Here’s how: After dividing icing into separate bowls, use a spray bottle filled with water and a spoon to gradually add water to each icing to loosen the consistency. Using a spoon, scoop up a glob of icing, and tilt spoon into the bowl. When the icing ribbons effortlessly back into the bowl, it is the perfect outline and flood consistency.
· Putting less icing in a bag makes it easier to control.
· Let gravity to pull icing to the cookie to decorate more precisely. It takes practice to perfect this technique.
· Putting cookies in a dehydrator at 95°F for 10 minutes dries icing quicker, prevents cratering and leaves a glossier finish.
· If icing is too fluid, add more powdered sugar, a little at a time, until icing is the desired consistency. If icing is too firm, spray water from spray bottle two to three times to loosen icing to desired consistency.
· Properly sealed Royal Icing is good for two weeks on your counter and six months in your refrigerator.
· Adding the white gel food coloring to your initial batch of icing prevents color bleed.