Chocolate chip. Oatmeal raisin. Snickerdoodle.
When it comes to cookies, these are the classics. They aren’t the prettiest confections in the bakery case, but you don’t feel guilty about gobbling them until only crumbs remain.
You will probably hesitate, however, about nibbling on an edge of one of the artfully decorated sugar cookies from Snickety Snacks.
Twenty-nine-year-old Brittanie Reed and her mother, Wendy Fitt, 51, are the self-taught pastry pros behind a catering company based in Lovettsville, Va., that specializes in hand-painted sugar cookies of musicians and pop culture icons. Among their inspirations? Calvin and Hobbes, the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine and poppy emo rockers Fall Out Boy.
The venture began as a hobby for Reed in 2008. Four years later, her mother came on board, and Snickety Snacks became a licensed business (they also make customized cakes, cupcakes and cake bites). Forget Ace of Cakes. These ladies are the Queens of Cookies.
Their cookies range in size from 2-inch squares to gargantuan rectangles over a foot wide and 18 inches high that require three days to create. Though the smaller-sized pastries are commonplace — Pinterest overflows with examples of intricately decorated sugar cookies — large-scale cookies decorated with such precision are relatively rare.
No matter how little or how huge the cookie, Reed and Fitt start by making a standard sugar cookie base. The bigger the base, the more likely it is to be damaged when it’s being moved out of the tray or onto the board where it will be decorated.
A flood of white royal icing — a type of icing made of confectioners sugar, meringue powder, vanilla and water — creates a blank canvas atop the cookie. Usually there are several layers applied to create three-dimensional surfaces for Fitt to paint — using food coloring instead of acrylics. It’s a painstaking process.
“There’s no erasing,” says Fitt, a former painting teacher. “Water eats away at the royal icing, so perfection is just about required.”
Next, they pipe colored icing onto the white surface to create text and add the finer details.
“It’s like a painting,” says Fitt. “You start by creating the background, and then you work your way into the foreground to complete the picture.”
Some of these intricate art cookies have been commissioned for events by corporate clients like Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue. A year and a half ago, on a lark, Reed and Fitt began crafting oversized cookies for several musicians Reed admires.
She delivers them to the artist’s touring team or venue management when they attend a show; Reed calls them “concert cookies.” So far, they’ve created 16 of the monstrous sugar bombs, which are typically 12-by-12-inch squares.
Though they gift the treats without expectation of any special treatment, they were invited backstage to meet Fall Out Boy, and received shout-outs on social media from singer-songwriter Sarah Bareilles and others. “[A cookie] is the best way I have of saying, ‘I love what you do,’ by doing what I love to do,” says Reed. (Reed says they have no idea whether the cookies eventually get eaten, or are preserved somehow as mementos.)
Reed says these confections present an opportunity for her and her mother to flex their creative muscles. “They’re a great recharge,” she says. “Doing them always gets me fired up.”
They’re generous presents: Reed estimates that one of the large-scale sweets would cost a client between $200 and $250, though they currently don’t sell the “concert cookies.” (By comparison, the 3-inch-square customized cookies cost $24-$36 per dozen.)