Cookie Swap - It's Pretty Sweet Cookie Book Cover Buy it! Cookie Book Cover Buy it!

"This really is the ULTIMATE cookie book. Whimsical, elegant, colorful, and creative!! What more could you ask for? You will not be disappointed.”

Colette Peters

Celebrity Cake Decorator; Owner, Colette's Cakes


Apr 01, 2019 2:48pm

Julia Usher baking in her home kitchen
About Julia
Julia Usher, author, stylist, pastry chef entertains for friends

Julia and Friends at Cookie Swap, Drawing Numbers for First Pick
Photo by Greg Rannells

Sharing special connections, passions, and ideas is a large part of what Recipes for a Sweet Life is all about. Here are some of Julia’s favorite social networking sites (each with a sweet twist) and other online resources for baking, decorating, entertaining, and general food know-how. An extra plus: Julia’s reflections on what she loves most about each of these sites. Oh, and if you’re wondering what’s up with the teeny beating hearts, they designate companies that are especially near to Julia’s heart given their support of her books and other projects.

Social Networks
Baking and Decorating Challenges
Baking and Decorating Resources
Foodie Groups

Social Networks

Mixing Bowl -
A relatively new addition to the social networking scene (but what social network isn’t?), this Better Homes and Gardens venture connects bakers of all skill levels through groups, blogs, and an extensive and rapidly growing recipe file. There are also some great baking contests (with cash prizes to boot)!

Dessert Professional -
Interested in elevating dessert to art? Then there’s no better place than this site, a network comprised primarily of pro bakers and pastry chefs. With eye candy galore and a special group where dessert luminary Tish Boyle dishes about sweets, this site is fully equipped to teach even the veteran baker new tricks.

Baking and Decorating Challenges

Recipes for a Sweet Life - my very own quarterly Pinterest contests
Strictly for cookie decorators, my monthly pinning contests center around a theme, hand-picked by me, and provide loads of inspiration to anyone who follows the contest board. I also offer up special prizes to the person whose cookie photo has the most repins by contest closing time! To see my previous boards and a rundown of the winners of each contest, click here.

The Daring Kitchen -
Other online baking challenges have come and gone, but The Daring Baker (a group within The Daring Kitchen) has soared past the two year mark. Founded in 2006 after an online pretzel-baking showdown between founders Lisa and Ivonne, the site has grown to close to 2,000 members. If you’re eager to see how your skills match up to those of other passionate foodies, check out their monthly challenges. But be warned: You’ve got to be in this game for personal growth and gratification. There are no prizes, cash or otherwise, and the rules are rigorous. Miss two months, and you’re out!

Baking and Decorating Resources

Copper Gifts - beating heart
When I'm in need of a gorgeous, over-sized, keepsake-quality cutter, this site is my first stop. I especially love how you can click on almost any cutter on their site and find three or more decorating options! Copper Gifts has also generously underwritten my upcoming cookie decorating video series, due to release in the fall of 2012. Visit my online store 'round about the end of October to check for the arrival of these videos!

Designer Stencils - beating heart
Stencils used to be relegated to the domain of interior decorators and home re-modelers. But now you can find stencils for cake tops, cake sides, and even cookies! Designer Stencils has the most extensive culinary stencil selection I have yet to see, which is why they rate at the top of my favorite suppliers list! I'm further grateful to them for sponsoring the stenciling video in my upcoming cookie decorating video series, noted above.

Fancy Flours - beating heart
Not only does this site have a wonderfully broad mix of specialty baking and decorating items (from dragées to stencils to confetti of all kinds), but it also has one of the most original selections online. Pre-printed wafer paper (usually impossible to find) is available here in patterns too many to count. Likewise, their readymade royal icing flowers, sugar gems, and tiny sugarcoated roses are one-of-a-kind! To see some of these products at play, look for the pink toile paper-covered cookies in Cookie Swap’s garden party chapter. Fancy Flours also sponsored my Ultimate Cookies book tour in 2011 (thank you, thank you) and worked up this delicious array of custom cookie kits surrounding some of the projects in that book.

House on the Hill -
If the size of their catalog is any indication, House on the Hill (HOH) could very well have the world’s largest collection of springerle molds and rolling pins! Even if you’re not a regular springerle baker, HOH’s artfully carved products are collectibles in their own right. BTW, their old-fashioned moss rose and pansy molds were also used in Cookie Swap’s garden party chapter.

Foodie Groups

International Association of Culinary Professionals -
Be sure to visit this online home of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP), the world’s largest multidisciplinary culinary organization and the best resource around for networking with culinary leaders of all professional persuasions. The site contains information about the IACP annual conference, a calendar of local and regional IACP events, message boards, and the invaluable IACP membership directory. But the latter is for members only, so you’ll have to join now if you want to rub shoulders with the food world’s best and brightest!

Les Dames d' Escoffier International -
This invitation-only association of professional women leaders in the culinary field has a unique philanthropic charter. If you don’t qualify for membership just yet (it’s trés competitive), be sure to take advantage of their mentoring and scholarship opportunities offered through their local chapters.

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