Sweet, simple, and perfect with a cup of tea, the humble cookie remains a favourite treat for just about any occasion. But with the recent fervour over cupcakes, meringues and macarons, cookies have become somewhat of a quiet achiever of late. However, cookie proponents abound, as you’ll soon see in today’s Little Wed Hen feature, in which we chat to Amber Spiegel from New York-based cookie company Sweet Ambs.
Amber has always loved baking, but it wasn’t until her graduation from university that she considered turning her passion into something more. She enrolled to study baking and pastry arts at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and soon found herself making pastries and baked goods for food service venues of all types. “I was even fortunate enough to work as a cake decorator at Wilton Industries outside of Chicago, Illinois where I decorated cakes, cookies and pastries for product packaging and the Wilton Yearbook,” she says.
Cookies over cupcakes
In a world where cupcakes and macarons currently dominate, Amber’s cookies stand apart as something a little different from the norm. Amber’s reasons for opting to build a business based on the perennially beloved but often overlooked cookie are a blend of the pragmatic and artistic. “I decided to specialise in cookies because, like a cake, a cookie is a blank canvas,” she says. ” And, since I started this business on Etsy, I wanted to work with something that could be easily shipped. Working with cookies allows me to create edible art that can be enjoyed by people all over the world.”
Cookie decoration and inspiration
Amber’s cookies certainly are a work of art from start to finish. She uses a secret spiced recipe that includes orange zest, vanilla bean and cardamom, all of which she associates with her childhood. “I wanted the flavour of the cookies to be as interesting as the decoration,” she says. And if you think that Amber’s recipe is complex, you’ll be blown away by the sophistication of her designs–depending on the complexity of the design, it can take two hours, or longer, to decorate a dozen cookies.
Amber’s key sources of inspiration come from vintage shops and antique stores, she tells us when we comment on the old-world feel of much of her work, but some are more unusual still: “The idea for my Tiny Rose Cookies came from a cabinet knob in my grandmother’s kitchen.” Another favourite is her Brush Embroidered Cookie, the simple, elegant design of which makes it a popular choice for weddings.
Amber is always happy to prepare custom orders for clients, and endeavours to do everything she can to accommodate the request. “I can match virtually any color, which is great for brides who want a wedding favor that complements their color scheme,” she says. However, since Amber makes everything by hand and does not use an edible ink printer, she recommends keeping things simple, particularly when it comes to things like replicating logos or graphics.
Other than avoiding overly elaborate designs, Amber’s only other exhortation to her clients is to look after their cookies so that they remain fresh. “If you keep the cookies in their original heat sealed wrappers or in an airtight container at room temperature and away from direct sunlight they’ll stay fresh for up to four weeks,” she says.