The holiday season means plenty of holiday cookies being baked at retail bakeries, with almost everyone devising their own signature style.
Some retailers enjoy adding custom messages that are piped in icing on top of cookies. Others like pastry chef Celine Zhou of online retailer DeLight Patisserie in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area use a different strategy. Zhou creates stamped messages as an alternative to writing them with icing.
“Some people make cookies with custom messages, but the messages are always written in icing,” she says. “It looks cute, but it tastes too sweet.”
Since her stamped message cookies were first introduced, DeLight Patisserie’s website has seen a huge spike in traffic. Customers request their own message cookies for weddings, showers, birthdays and much more.
People are getting quite creative. Some examples include a variation on a marriage proposal (“Will you marry me?” and below it, “A: Yesss. B: Choice A.”), and relationship status (“Single [ ] Taken [ ] Hungry [X]”).
Zhou says that she has even begun using the cookies as business cards, stamping her name and email address on them.
Her journey into baking and pastry began years ago during a summer trip to France. “A sumptuous September saw our first encounter, a spoonful of its light sweetness, and I was in love with the French tea cakes,” Zhou recalls.
Back in Los Angeles, she searched for a similar flavor of tea cakes everywhere, but she says that no dessert measured up to those in France. So, she embarked on another trip to Paris.
Zhou had previously earned a master’s degree in global business from the University of Victoria in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Then in 2016, she enrolled in the intensive professional pastry program at Ferrandi Paris school of culinary arts. She worked and partnered with chef Jacques Dantas, whose 20 years of experience as a pastry chef in Paris, combined with her own zealous passion, became the secret ingredients for her own version of a perfect tea cake.
Back in Los Angeles, she took a job in pastry prior to opening DeLight Patisserie in August 2017.
“Our mission is to put a smile on your face by offering cakes that are so delicious, you would never believe they are gluten free,” she says of her cake line that includes lavender honey cranberry cake, pistachio cake, and nut butter cake. “We insist on using the best and freshest ingredients, and we say no to anything that will interfere with the purest taste in our cakes.”
The tea cakes are perfect choices for an afternoon tea, an office gathering, a picnic, or even as a gift for loved ones.
“In the French tradition, a dessert needs to be both delicious and aesthetically beautiful,” she points out. “This makes perfect sense to us: who can resist a bite of a tasty and good-looking dessert?”
Adding cookies to her arsenal
Earlier this year, according to the Santa Monica Daily Press, Zhou baked a batch of shortbread cookies for a friend and stamped them with the message, “Wake up, kick ass, repeat.” When other friends started asking for their own custom cookies for birthdays and bridal showers, she realized the cookies could be used to commemorate special occasions.
Zhou ran dozens of tests on the cookies to make sure that the messages she stamped on them remained clear after baking, according to the Daily Press article. She also worked to perfect her cookie flavors: vanilla, matcha and dark chocolate.
When she started selling the cookies online and at local businesses like Cafe Demitasse, she said customers were surprised not only that they were edible, but that they tasted so good.
Zhou said customers flocked to her website to order cookies for weddings and baby showers, asking Zhou to print their names and the date of the celebration on the cookies. She was also surprised to see how many companies ordered branded cookies.
The popularity of the cookies has allowed Zhou to hire two part-time employees and start partnering with restaurants and hotels. She brings an edible business card when she introduces herself to potential clients.
“My cookie card does have my name and email address on it,” she says. “I put a paper card behind it, but with an edible business card, people are definitely more likely to remember you.”