Featured Foodie: Meaghan Mountford
Meaghan Mountford decorates cookies. Probably some of the most amazing cookies you’ve ever seen. Meticulous, clean, and direct, Meaghan’s decorating technique is nearly flawless. From a googly-eyed marshmallow monster to a 20-piece snowman, you might say Meaghan builds cookies like a carpenter builds a barn: smooth lines, exact measurements, everything in its place. But the greater allure of Meaghan’s work comes from her personal style. Take her choice of subject matter — Marvel superheroes, MTV, Twinkies and Snowballs (to commemorate the snack food giant’s recent bankruptcy claim) — Meaghan makes cookies that appeal to all ages, but hang on to a distinct thirtysomething sense of ironic whimsy. Her designs are playful, nostalgic, topical, and reveal a person who, despite her talent and accomplishments, just doesn’t take herself too seriously. I was first introduced to Meaghan when I found her Melting Snowman Sugar Cookie, which has gone viral on Facebook and Pinterest. Credit for this popular cookie doesn’t often come back to Meaghan. Her response? ”I’ll just wait for my windfall of riches. Someday… someday.”
Meaghan is on the cusp of a book release. Sugarlicious promises to be a cornucopia of ideas for decorating not just cookies, but also cakes, cupcakes, cake pops, marshmallows, and just about anything made with butter and sugar. Here at Key Ingredient, we are delighted to feature her as our first Featured Foodie. Enjoy!
Name: Meaghan Mountford
Blog: the decorated cookie
Hometown: Washington DC
1. How long have you been decorating cookies and what got you started?
Back in 1998, I was managing a paint your own pottery store. One day, a woman walked in, she saw my display pieces and asked if I wanted to work for her, as she was opening up a decorated cookie shop in the same complex. I had never picked up a bag of frosting, but I said sure, thinking I’d help her out through the holidays for a few weeks, and then I would discover what I really wanted to do with my life. I stayed for almost a decade! I left in 2007 when I had my daughter. Over the course of those years at the shop, I worked side by side with the owner to evolve the business. Customer requests became increasingly complicated, intricate and sometimes plain bizarre, and we just kept coming up with ways to fulfill their requests. Figuring out how to decorate a Golden Retriever, a washing machine, or a human lung (a miniscule snippet of what I’ve put on a cookie) helped hone my skills! And by the way, the shop is still thriving, Bundles of Cookies at www.bundlesofcookies.com.
2. Why did you start blogging?
After leaving the cookie store to stay home with my daughter, I started a home-based business selling cookie decorating kits that I designed. I began blogging to gain an internet presence to promote the kits. But then blogging consumed me. As I developed deeper relationships with fellow bloggers and my readers, the blogging grew and the business shrank. I closed up shop earlier this year to devote more time to writing and blogging. In addition to my own blog, I’m the Edible Crafts editor at CraftGossip.com and I contribute content to Celebrations.com and Houzz.com. Oh right, and I have a four-year old!
3. If you had to choose a few cookies to introduce people to your style, which would they be, and why?
The Melting Snowman Cookie. Oh Mr. Melty. I invented the melting snowman cookie back in ’08. Then he kind of went viral as someone created their own version, then someone copied that and copied that and so on and so on until he took on a life of his own. Blogging lets you share your creativity and enables you to find inspiration from others in return. This is what is most wonderful about blogging. The risk, of course, is that your ideas may move more quickly than you do. So I’m afraid others have found greater fame from Mr. Melty than I, but I’m still waiting for my windfall of riches! Some day… some day…
Gerbera Daisy Cookie Pops. Anyone who reads my blog knows I’m especially fond of putting treats on a stick. And I also decorate a LOT of flowers. There are so many varieties of flowers, and they lend themselves well to sweet versions.
‘80s Tribute Cookies. I love the ‘80s! I graduated high school in 1990, so the ‘80s was my coming-of-age decade. Madonna gloves, leg warmers, hairsprayed hair, the comb in the back pocket, The Breakfast Club… the memories could go on forever. These cookies pay tribute to that decade and illustrate my obsession with edible writers. I draw on a lot of food!
Over-the-rim Cookies for your Cosmo. I’m always, always, always trying to come up unusual scenarios for cookies. I spent so many years decorating complicated objects on cookies, I now tend to focus on simple designs but with something, anything that makes them unique.
Cotton Candy Heart Cookie Pops. Case in point, these warm and fuzzy cookie pops for Valentine’s Day were conceived waiting in line at Michaels and spotting a tub of cotton candy. Super simple to decorate, but kind of weird. They were hugely popular though.
4. What is your baking philosophy?
This one is easy: Simple recipes. Real ingredients. No sugar or butter substitutes. And everything in moderation.
5. Who is your kitchen hero?
My love affair with Martha Stewart started in 1997. I still have very heavy boxes of early Living magazines in my attic! But the list of those I admire and whom continually awe me is long. My kitchen heroes are my blogging buddies, those amazing women who bake and blog and are hilariously funny and kind and supportive. I never anticipated developing such friendships over a computer.
6. Tell us about your book. Where are you going from here?
Sugarlicious!! Sugarlicious is the fruit of my blogging labors, to be sure. My first book, published in 2007, Cookie Sensations, is a how-to on cookie decorating. But blogging has led me far beyond the cookie to decorate marshmallows, cake pops, cupcakes, cakes, candy, anything sweet. I wrote Sugarlicious for those like me, interested in creating edible art, even for those completely confused by all the tubes and tubs in the baking aisle of the craft store. It includes recipes and how-tos for decorating all those sweets above, for putting treats on sticks, working with fondant, using edible writers and icing sheets, piping icing and frosting, painting and stamping on sweets and much more. Covering so much in one book was a massive undertaking for me, especially as I wrote much of the book with a toddler pulling on my arm, but I’m really, really proud of the result. It will be on shelves (many shelves, my publisher has been hard at work getting the book in all the stores!) in February. Where I go from here probably depends on how well it sells (so buy lots of copies, please!). I’d love to keep writing cookbooks until my ideas are exhausted. (See Sugarlicious on Amazon here)
7. Do you have any advice for aspiring bakers?
There is so much knowledge and advice and stories of trials and tribulations at your fingertips. While I will warn of the addictive properties of blogging, getting involved in online baking communities, reading and commenting on blogs, seeking out information even if you yourself don’t blog is a great way to learn and find inspiration. Also, sometimes cakes fall flat, cookies spread, icing gets splotches and flour explodes all over the floor, even with years of baking under your apron! Blame the oven or the kids and just try again!
8. Name one key ingredient you always have on hand.
Powdered sugar. I always have powdered sugar. I live in fear I’ll run out of powdered sugar, so every time I go to the supermarket I buy a bag. As a result, I have a ridiculous amount of powdered sugar in my cupboard!