Nicole Joseph did not plan to get into the cookie-making business, but, like most of her endeavours, what she does, she does well.
Her sugar cookies are moist, have a great texture, and, like her icing, are not too sweet. And of course, they taste great.
The designer, artisan and creator told Business Day she has always been fascinated by the culinary arts, so when she went to a fair about eight years ago and a booth allowed people to decorate their own cookies, she tried it, then signed up for a class.
At the time, she made cookies for the class and posted photos of them on social media. Then she donated a cookie "bouquet" as a door prize for a friend’s fundraiser and posted them as well, and people started asking her to do more.
Several years later, in 2017, she had the idea of making and selling dumplings of all types, since almost every culture has dumplings.
“I registered the business as Stuffed Kitchen, to indicate things stuffed into other things, but also (because) when you eat and you feel satisfied, you feel stuffed.”
But instead of dumplings, the 51-year-old mother of two kept getting more requests for her decorated sugar cookies. So in 2021, she started to start selling them through Stuffed Kitchen. At the time she was using the recipe she was given for her cookie class, but, when she decided to make them as a business, she developed her own recipes for both the cookies and the icing, which were completed just before Christmas 2022.
She also wants to have her own signature style, so she uses her skills as a former mehendi artist, decorating most of her cookies with intricate piping. Not to mention that she likes putting cookies on sticks.
All her feedback was positive, with people telling her the cookies are not too hard or soft, but moist and rich but with a light, fresh taste. She explained that she gets that consistency and taste because they are made with a lot of real butter – which is her largest cost and makes the cookies expensive to make.
“Over time I figured out I don’t want to be a production baker. I want to design and create cookie products that are geared towards specific occasions, like Christmas, Easter and Valentine’s.”
He business model is to bake a batch for an occasion, and people would order from that batch. When it’s done, that’s it. No extra orders. In that way, she could bake fresh and ensure a quality product.
However, she also gives clients the option of buying plain sugar cookies with separate icing so they could dip the cookies in as much icing as they want, with a minimum order quantity of two dozen.
In addition, she is in conversation with a few specialty stores to sell her cookies, and in the future, she intends to take orders for custom cookies for special events, creating wedding or party favours.
She is also creating a chocolate cookie recipe.
“I haven’t abandoned the dumpling idea. It’s just that I kind of go where the tide takes me. As a lifelong learner, a lot of the time I experiment with things.”
Woman for all seasons
Joseph has loved crafts since the age of seven, when she made her mother, Catherine Earle, a poinsettia Christmas card. She cut out all the petals, painted each one individually and was completely, happily absorbed in the task.
She also did art for CXC at Holy Name Convent where her teacher, the late Yvonne Spencer, encouraged and helped her focus on the positive aspects of her work. And for her CXC final project, she studied the work of and interviewed her favourite artist, Peter Minshall.
“He is my big influence. He’s a masmaker, a designer, an artist, an artisan, a craftsman. Speaking to him and seeing his work was the thing that made me realise a creative career is possible and it doesn’t have to be one thing. You can follow your muse wherever it goes.
“And for me that means you have to be meticulous about how you go about your craft. My mother always said to do something well or don’t do it at all. That’s my baseline.”
After secondary school, Joseph said, her mother encouraged her to study banking and computer technology, but she had no interest in it. She had several jobs and eventually landed in an advertising agency, where she was introduced to graphic design and printing, and started freelance design. In 1998, she left the job and went freelance full time, designing publications such as annual reports, cookbooks, autobiographies, and presentation posters.
In addition to being a graphic designer, baker, and mehendi artist, Joseph is also an “art jewellery” maker.
“My thing is about sustainability. So I tend to work in non-traditional materials, primarily in garbage.”
Instead of working in precious metals, she creates jewellery out of paper, cardboard, papier-mache, T-shirt yarn, resin, and, more recently, copper wire. She even started making and decorating wine boxes from leftover plywood after a construction project.
She explained that since she grew up in a single-parent home, her family did not have much and used a lot of hand-me-downs. This made her very conscious of wastage. Also, her mother used to work in Pointe-a-Pierre, so during the August vacation they would volunteer at the Wildfowl Trust.
“Being in that environment, you can’t not start to understand how important ecosystems and sustainability and treating the planet with care are. That was a big thing growing up.”
Joseph’s range of interests is not surprising, as she loves to take classes and short courses.
“If I have even a passing interest in something and there’s a class, I will take it as long as I could afford it.”
So she's done courses in photography, bag-making, furniture making, metal smithing, Carnival arts, mehendi, jewellery, ceramics, fabric design, dressmaking and design, batik, and business development, to name a few.
“I’m not limiting myself if I enjoy doing it. It’s scientifically proven that learning new things forges new neural pathways.
"Also, as part of a creative practice, I find the more I learn, the more they inform other things.”
Joseph and her cookies can be found on Instagram and Facebook at stuffedkitchentt.