NWA cookie artist featured in international pastry publications

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 313 views 

Most would agree that baking is an art. Those who don't obviously have never seen one of Amber Ebbrecht's cookies.

The 29 year-old Northwest Arkansas mother of two has parlayed her passion for art into crafting exquisite cookies, using the treats as her own mini-canvases. Since trying her hand at cookie design just one year ago, Ebbrecht has become a premier dessert artist, receiving recognition in international culinary publications and selling hundreds of her unique creations through her online shop, Cebe's Cookies.

A life-long artist, Ebbrecht has always had an interest in creating beautiful pieces. She is a skilled seamstress, oil painter, art teacher and crafter. Last fall, while searching for new a creative outlet, she decided to try her hand at cookie design. She found inspiration and instruction from several cookie artists online through Pinterest, blogs and other sources. She made her first batch in October 2013 for her son Collin's second birthday. Using the party's "Thomas the Train" theme, Ebbrecht crafted red and blue chevron, initial and number cookies that echoed railroad in their shape and overall design.

That batch gave Ebbrecht the cookie bug. She began experimenting with an array of techniques, flavors, and designs. She launched her Etsy shop on Nov. 3, 2013 and took her first order two weeks later.

Through the power of social media and word of mouth, Ebbrecht's cookies have become increasingly popular. Orders routinely come in for birthday parties, baby showers, engagements, and other occasions on her Etsy store, Cebe's Cookies, which she named in honor of her sons, three-year old Collin and 17 month-old Benjamin (C.E. and B.E).

Each cookie requires a fair amount of time to bake, prep, and decorate. Depending on the level of detail, batches may take several hours to complete. Ebbrecht views every cookie as a piece of art, cutting them individually by hand and tailoring the design to each customer's request.

"Most often, customers send me an invitation or a color scheme to use for designing their order," said Ebbrecht. "I use those for inspiration and then figure out how to go about creating them."

Ebbrecht employs a wide-array of icing types, including royal icing, fondant, and edible paint. She hand paints many of her cookies, creating depth with layers and shading. She has fun with her theme batches, which range in style and pattern. Cebe's offers everything from delicate quilt designs and detailed florals, to film or holiday-inspired themes. Some batches are uniform sets, while others have a more whimsical feel that include a variety of shapes and colors.

It didn't take long for Ebbrecht's works of art to garner attention from several industry experts. In mid-2014, Ebbrecht's cookies caught the eye of a renowned pastry artist who helped bring attention to Cebe's Cookies.

"A famous cookier (cookie artist/chef) shared my work on her 'Sugar Artist Spotlight'," said Ebbrecht. "She has a ton of followers, so that was major exposure for my work. That spotlight led to the magazines."

"The magazines" are two internationally-renowned pastry publications, U.K.-based "Cake Masters" and "Cake Design France." The October 2014 issue of "Cake Masters" included a full-page spread featuring a finished set of Ebbrecht's Harry Potter-inspired Halloween cookies.

"They sent a description of a Halloween theme they were going for and then asked the artists to design a set," said Ebbrecht. "I included dripping candlesticks, jack-o-lanterns, colorful boots, and more in the batch. It was a really fun set to create because I am a huge Harry Potter fan."

Cebe's Cookies will soon make its debut in France, as well. "Cake Design France" contacted Ebbrecht asking for her to do a 12-step tutorial on her cookie design process. Distributed in 11 countries, the publication is entirely in French, so Ebbrecht's directions were translated by the magazine. Ebbrecht also included photos with her two-page feature to better illustrate the steps.

"I was absolutely blown away when they got in touch with me," she said.

Recognition in the Parisian publication is especially meaningful to Ebbrecht, who spent a summer abroad studying art in France. It was there that she first experimented with pastry art.

"That summer, I took to making cakes and cupcakes that were inspired by French architecture," said Ebbrecht. "I would put my own twist on the designs. It was similar to what I do now in a lot of ways, but with cakes instead."

Ebbrecht also is interested in the science behind the art, playing with flavors and ingredients. Most cookies are made using her classic vanilla almond recipe, but her shop also offers chocolate hazelnut, pumpkin spice, orange creamsicle, maple bacon chocolate chip, lemon poppy seed, cinnamon roll, mint chocolate chip, and gingerbread varieties.

Ebbrecht is experimenting with herb and floral flavors, as well.

"Some people may think it sounds a little nuts at first, but I am working on recipes such as a chocolate rose and chocolate lavender," said Ebbrecht.

Once launched, they will join the vanilla rose and vanilla lavender options that Cebe's already has on its menu.

Although each batch is a true labor of love for Ebbrecht, she definitely has her favorites.

"Probably my quirkiest cookies were a set I made for my dad on Father's Day," said Ebbrecht. "I made a batch featuring some things he is never without, including a Route 44 Sonic cup, his mustache, tools, and one to resemble his favorite greasy old work shirt — hole included — that he wears when working in the garage. He loved them. Those were really special to me."

Ebbrecht is undoubtedly proud of what she has been able to achieve with her cookies in such a short period of time, and of the recognition she continues to receive for her works of art.

"It is simply amazing to me the response it has received," said Ebbrecht. "I am really thankful for it. Cookie art is a win-win for me because I am able to create and the final product is something edible that others can enjoy. Fellow cookiers joke about "cookie think," and how we always are finding inspiration in the things around us to create a new batch. It is a real thing and it makes me happy to be able to take things I see and translate them into treats."