HomeAway Hobbies: Custom Cookie Decorating

Leah McGarry, HomeAway Product Marketing Manager, talks about her delicious side project, Sweet and Sour Showers.

When did you first get into baking/cookie decorating?  I’ve always enjoyed cooking and baking, but just started decorating cookies 2 years ago.  My friends were all getting married and having babies, and I was constantly involved in throwing showers. In order to keep things interesting, I tried to make each one a little different and cookies were an easy way to do something custom for each friend. Plus, I thought a new hobby would make the otherwise stressful task of throwing a shower a little more bearable.

When did you decide to turn your hobby in to a business? My best friend and I  started to get pretty good at decorating and when people saw our cookies at showers and parties, they always asked if we sold them. So, we just decided to go for it as a little side venture, mostly selling to friends and referrals. We were expecting to cater mostly to girls throwing wedding and baby showers (hence our business' name, Sweet and Sour Showers), but our most common requests are actually for kids’ birthday parties.  Christmas, Valentine’s Day and graduation have also been really popular.

Have you had any formal training?  I’ve mostly learned through reading tutorials on the internet and LOTS of practice.  My friend and I also took a class at "Make it Sweet" in Austin, Texas, which was a fun way to learn some new tips.

How many cookie cutters do you own? I probably own about 200 cookie cutters – basic shapes, holidays, wedding, baby, etc.  I also try to re-purpose cookie cutters for other designs – like beer mugs made out of a baseball mitt cutter.

What design do you most enjoy making ? Some of my favorite cookies are our Mexican fiesta platter, cowgirl cookies and elephant baby shower.  I love when people order something we’ve never done before, and we get to try something new!  I would prefer not to do the same design twice.

What's the most elaborate design you've ever completed? Any time we have to free-hand an exact shape or logo, like the University of Colorado Buffaloes or even guitars, it can be a little tricky.  The baby tutus and beach wedding cookies are also pretty time-consuming.  The most elaborate cookies probably take about 6 hours for just 2 dozen.

Where do you get your design inspiration? I mostly use Pinterest, and I follow some other cookie people on Facebook.

How many cookies have you made since you've been in business? We’ve made close to 3,000 cookies in the last 2 years.  Our biggest order was 400 UT cookies for a fraternity's parents’ weekend event.

What's your favorite cookie flavor to eat?  I do really love our sugar cookies (I promise they taste good!), but my favorite cookies are French macarons.