Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links which I may make a small kickback if you purchase through these links. Everything I recommend are tools I use and have found helpful. For this specific post, I asked Lani to provide tools that she could recommend for anyone starting into sugar cookies.
I'm so excited to interview the owner of The Ugly Muffin Bakery! Lani is the best custom cookie artist I know, and I'm so lucky to chat with her about what she does! In this interview Lani talks about beginner tips and tricks for custom sugar cookies along with her must have tools. Everyone welcome Lani Cannon from The Ugly Muffin Bakery!
Seriously though, take a look at her work:
Lani, tell us about yourself and your baking. How did you find yourself doing sugar cookies?
"Hello hello! I am Lani, the owner of The Ugly Muffin Bakery. I offer all kinds of treats but am best known for my decorated sugar cookies. I started out my baking journey as a kid taking cake decorating at my local craft store with a friend and then continuing to bake as a hobby. I didn’t start cookies until I was in my late twenties! It started as a way to keep busy because my job at the time was completely “on call” based and, more often than not, I sat at home with nothing to do. I had always seen these beautiful cookies and wondered if I could make them, so one day I looked up a recipe for the icing and the rest is history!"
What are your top tips for making gorgeous cookies?
"Ohh boy, where to start? The most important thing I tell my students in my decorating classes is this: It is just a cookie.
Don’t put the pressure on yourself that it needs to be perfect because at the end of the day it's going to get eaten and as long as it tastes good no one is really going to be focusing on any flaws that only you will see in the first place.
Another is to not compare yourself to what you see online. I can tell you from experience that what you see online is a facade. That isn’t to say that those cookeirs are incredibly talented, because absolutely they are. But what I mean is you don’t see in those pictures are the hundreds of hours spent perfecting their craft, the countless failures, the late nights, the tears, the messy kitchens, and the thousands of pictures on their camera roll to get the perfect picture for the gram."
What are your must-have tools for sugar cookies?
"Patience haha. Just kidding, but also seriously. Patience is key.
As far as physical tools though my absolute necessities are:
My KitchenAid mixer (in ice blue color)
Disposable piping bags (sorry to the environment, I’m working on transitioning to reusable…they are just so much more of a pain to work with),
A good cookie scribe,
Quality gel colors (AmeriGel is by far my favorite),
Good quality baking sheets with lids,
Oh and who can forget the most important thing of all? COOKIE CUTTERS. I own hundreds. It’s a little bit ridiculous actually. If you really get into the craft of cookie making, prepare to want every cookie cutter ever made. There are some amazing shops that sell 3D printed cutters online. Just be prepared to practice incredible self control.
I also have some other tools that are incredibly helpful for me as a cookie business owner, but I don’t think they are necessary for a beginning baker. These include:
My projector (very few people can free hand on a cookie to perfection without the help of a projector. If they can they are a wizard),
Silk screens and stencils, like these.
My airbrush. I could put my Silhouette cutting machine in this category as well but that is getting really technical."
Find Lani's tools on Amazon! Just click the photo.
Must have kitchen tools in general?
"A few of these are going to be repetitive from my must have cookie tools, but they are so important if you want to bake anything from scratch!
A quality stand mixer of some kind is going to be incredibly helpful. (KitchenAid)
Good quality cookie sheets with lids are a necessity in my kitchen. I use them for everything.
Also, a food scale. I always say that cooking is an art but baking is a science. With baking you can’t experiment and expect the end result to be the same every time. When I make my cookies I weigh my ingredients every single time. This leaves no chance of something going wrong with my recipes. Seriously. Invest in a food scale."
What is your advice for anyone who wants to learn custom sugar cookies?
Go slow and give yourself some grace.
Watch the tutorials.
Test out different recipes until you find one you love. Everyone’s preferences are a little bit different so play around until you find what works for you.
Take a class or two, if you are in Davis County, Utah feel free to schedule a class with me! @uglymuffinbakery on Instagram.The classes are so much fun and the hands-on experience is so helpful. In the end, the best advice I can give is practice, practice, practice!"
Would you be willing to share your delicious frosting recipe?
- 6 Tablespoons meringue powder
- 10 tablespoons warm water
- 2 pounds powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons light karo syrup
- ½-1 tablespoon clear flavoring
In small bowl whisk together meringue powder and water until frothy.
Add Karo syrup and flavoring, whisk again until frothy.
In stand mixer combine powdered sugar and meringue on low speed until all ingredients are wet.
Turn mixer to 4 and set timer for 3 minutes. DO NOT OVER MIX. Finished product will be thick consistency for details.
Separate, color, and add water for desired consistency.
What are some mistakes you made early on when you dove into custom sugar cookies?
"Oh boy. So many! Some of them I still make today! One thing about cookies is that timing is everything.
How long should you mix the icing?
How long do you need to let cookies rest before starting to ice?
How long does the icing need to set before I can start on the next section?
How long does the icing need to let the color develop before it is ready to use?
How long can a cookie sit out for the icing to harden before the cookie is no longer fresh and goes hard itself?
All of these things are factors that I didn’t know I needed to pay attention to when I first started."
What is one baking secret or secret ingredient that changed the way you bake? (doesn't have to be related to sugar cookies)
"Love! Just kidding. Some of my absolute favorite cookies and cakes have come from me absolutely hating the process.
My baking secret is a quiet house with a good show. Most of my baking and decorating happens in the middle of the night because that is when my kids are asleep and my house is quiet. I can put my headphones in, hunker down, and get to work. No interruptions, no distractions, just me and my treats."
Bosch or KitchenAid?
"KitchenAid! But only because I haven’t been able to justify the cost of the Bosch yet. I really do love my KitchenAid. It is probably my most used appliance besides the oven itself."
Milk chocolate or dark chocolate?
"Milk. Dark is a sin."
What's your most favorite dessert EVER?
"Cookie dough. Cookie dough? Cookie dough. That is going to be my answer but honestly I don’t think I have ever said no to any kind of dessert. An old mentor of mine had a sign in her house that said “Never trust a skinny cook” and I live by those wise words every gosh dang day of my life."
What's the worst baking mistake you made when you first started in the kitchen?
"So this actually wasn’t when I first started baking but I will consider it my biggest baking mistake because of how embarrassing it was. When I was first married to my husband we spent Thanksgiving with his grandparents. I was so excited to make this amazing pie for them. I have made it more times than I can count and it has always been delicious. One problem with this cake though is that it is a chiffon and contains gelatin, so sometimes it doesn’t set perfectly. Well I wasn’t going to serve a mush pie to my new family for Thanksgiving, so I added extra gelatin…I can’t remember how much extra I added, but suffice it to say it was too much. That pie looked, smelled, and set AMAZING. Except for the fact that you couldn’t cut through it. It was like trying to chew through a tire. Probably the most mortifying experience in my baking life. Especially since the juice concentrate for this pie is from Hawaii and I hardly ever have it so I couldn’t even make another pie to redeem myself."
Lani, tell us where we can find you and book classes with you!
"Find me on Instagram, @uglymuffinbakery! The classes are basically a girls' night! The host finds up to 7 friends to come. It is $50 per person but if the host fills all the spots, then he, or she, is free! I provide all of the materials and everything. Just come have fun! Classes last about two hours and are located in Davis County, Utah."