Photography by Jessica Turner
Becoming a professional baker doesn’t have to start with a 40-quart industrial mixer. Some of the tastiest cookie makers in the neighborhood grew businesses straight from their Lake Highlands homes. These local creatives will satisfy cravings with cookies delivered right to your door.
Carrie DeCicco never baked much before starting Salt Sweets in 2018. But she wanted to help when neighbor Erin Willis asked her to make cookies for the opening celebration of her restaurant, RM 12:20. The cookies were a hit, and a few weeks later, Willis asked her to make cinnamon rolls.
“Give me a cake recipe, and I will totally murder it, but those two things I’m really good at,” DeCicco says. “It blew up from there.”
Her next gig was at Resident Taqueria, then at Vector Brewing and Shady’s Burgers & Brewhaha. Although the restaurants paused partnerships with her during the pandemic, her business never slowed down. She was overwhelmed with delivery orders.
“People were eating their feelings. I try not to eat my stuff, but I do,” DeCicco says. “I was at Shady’s, and I had a three-pack of rolls that had been there for a while. I wondered how they tasted, and they tasted great. That was dinner. You’d think I’d get sick of them, but I don’t because they’re so good.”
The cinnamon rolls are her best-seller, but her cookies come in a variety of flavors for every palate. There’s the classic chocolate chip cookie, which can be elevated with toffee, caramel, bacon and peppermint. Everything is baked with a sprinkle of salt to accentuate the sweetness of the cookies.
She also sells oatmeal cream pies and dough to go.
Most of her business is local, and DeCicco credits her success to the Lake Highlands community, especially the women on the LH Mamas Facebook page.
DeCicco bakes out of her home, but she also rents space at a commercial kitchen. She has two employees to help keep up with orders. She has no plans to open a storefront, but she’s not counting it out in the future.
“I never thought I would own my own business,” she says. “I wanted to be a mom, and I got that wish. Now it’s time to do what I want to do. Everything has been easy. It was meant to be.”
Color My Cookie
Nancy and Sam Major started Color My Cookie last spring to earn revenue when their storefront, Tart Bakery, was forced to close at the onset of the pandemic. They envisioned the cookie decorating kit becoming a product of Tart, but operating the storefront soon became impractical.
“Our retail tanked,” Nancy Major says. “It wasn’t just that people didn’t have birthday parties or weddings, they didn’t have bridge club. They just weren’t going over to a friend’s house.”
The couple started delivering cookie decorating boxes from the back of their cars. People bought them, then bought them again. By the end of last year, Color My Cookie had shipped to all 50 states and Puerto Rico.
Original-size kits include six cookies to decorate, icing, sprinkles, edible water colors, paint brushes and extra decor. Each box comes with a link to an online tutorial where a pastry chef provides decorating tips and tricks.
Color My Cookie has themed kits for every occasion, including birthdays, graduations, holidays and new homes. It also caters to specific interests, such as dinosaurs, tractors and mermaids.
The cookies are shortbread, so they’re a little more crumbly and a little less sweet than sugar cookies. They are pre-iced to preserve freshness and provide a blank canvas for customers’ creativity.
“It helps people feel like they’re pro decorators, but we’ve gone to great lengths that when you get done decorating the cookie, it’s not just cute,” Major says. “So many people buy a decorated cookie and don’t even expect it to be good. Ours are simple and delicious.”
Color My Cookie spread locally, then garnered national attention with features on the Food Network, Today and Delish. As the business continues to grow, Major dreams of having a mixed-use facility with office and production space that visitors can tour and receive a free cookie.
“This is a craft, a treat, an activity and a class,” Major says. ”It meets a lot of needs.”
Sandra Shepherd thought the iced cookies at the shower she was attending were beautiful, but when she took a bite, they didn’t taste very good. The Lake Highlands resident recalled the cut-out cookies she used to make for birthdays and holidays when her kids were young.
“They tasted good, so I thought, ‘Maybe I should make them pretty,’” she says.
Shepherd had never made royal icing, but she perfected her recipe and decorating techniques by watching videos on YouTube. When she mastered that, she enrolled in a cookie decorating class in Austin to elevate her skills.
“It was real trial and error,” she says. “I dropped cookies on the floor. Icing fell off the cookie. I didn’t have a huge background in baking.”
Shepherd’s sugary shortbread cookies come in almost any shape imaginable. She’s made everything from prams for baby showers to crawfish for seafood boils.
Much of her inspiration comes from party invitations. She also searches themes and hashtags on Instagram to see what other cookie artists have created. Instead of replicating their work, she adds her own twist to the design.
“I’ve always been a crafty person, and I love being a part of people’s special days,” Shepherd says. “It brings me a lot of joy.”
Since she started selling cookies about five years ago, Shepherd says her hobby has turned into a full-fledged business. But she doesn’t want it to become a full-time job. Sometimes, that means turning away orders so she can spend more time with her grandkids.
“I make cookies for all [their] birthday parties, but my kids are over them,” Shepherd says. “They like the dough, and that’s what they would prefer to eat.”
Shepherd doesn’t ship and says most of her business is from the Lake Highlands community.
“It makes a difference that I’ve been in Lake Highlands for 30 years,” she says. “I knew all of my first orders. I love my neighborhood and my community. It’s full of good people who care and give back.”