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One Smart Cookie

The Messy Cookie's Krystina Fisher on turning her hobby into a full-time gig

Self-taught baker and cookie queen Krystina Fisher knows firsthand what it takes to turn a passion project into a full-time job—despite swearing she would never do it herself. “I was initially looking for a hobby,” she says. “I had seen all those addictive cake decorating videos on the internet, but I knew there was no way on earth I could ever get into cake decorating because I’d need to learn how to bake a cake and structure it,” Fisher laughs. Instead, she began decorating sugar cookies for fun in her free time. “I was like, ‘I’m not going to monetize this. I’m not going to turn it into a business. This is just for me,’” she explains. Fast forward to today, and you’ll find Fisher hand painting cookies with watercolors, crafting cookie box experiences, and running cookie decorating workshops as the owner, founder, and baker at The Messy Cookie.

“It’s called The Messy Cookie because my cookies were literally messy in the beginning,” Fisher laughs. “It just started as a fun, cute place to share pictures of what I was doing.” When locals started requesting her decorated cookies for events like birthday parties and graduation, Fisher realized her passion for cookies might be something she could turn into a living. She tapped into her previous experience leading wine tastings and launched in-person cookie decorating parties right before COVID hit; during lockdown, an employee at Wayfair who had attended one of Fisher’s parties reached out about creating a virtual team building experience to boost morale. “That was the first time The Messy Cookie became a realistic idea for me,” recalls Fisher. “I had no interest in doing it full-time when it was just decorating custom cookies, because it takes a lot of time and energy to hand pipe and decorate. The cookie decorating parties were a much more business-savvy direction that allowed me to do what I love, and I’ve been doing it ever since.” 

Fisher eventually launched a cookie party division, called the Team Building Bakery, to run virtual and in-person cookie decorating events. Her most popular cookie experience, called the Cookie Ice Night, begins with a cookie kit shipped straight to your door. “It’s almost like a bakery in a box,” she explains. “I want it to be a multi-sensory experience when someone opens their kit, because not everybody is a baker like me who smells frosting everyday.” Each kit comes with half a dozen sugar cookies in a few different shapes, sprinkles, at least three colors of frosting, and a packet of cookie decorating tools. “We use shelf stable buttercream frosting that we can ship anywhere, even internationally,” says Fisher. “The class is usually an hour long, and sometimes clients want to add a competition aspect to it. I’m really proud that we’ve been able to create a duplicatable experience from the execution side, but I still find ways to make every event as personalized as possible.”

When she isn’t leading cookie decorating classes, Fisher still creates custom cookie designs for clients in the area using three distinct methods: hand piping, watercolor painting, and printing with edible ink. “Across the board, all of my cookies need at least one layer hand-piped,” she notes. “Hand-piped work is the most common for bridal showers, birthday parties, and anniversaries, just because it’s the method that people know exists.” An artist at heart, Fisher’s current favorite decorating style is painting. “There’s something so calming about painting on a layer of white icing. If you talk to any of my clients, a lot of them will tell you I’m trying to incorporate watercolor designs into their sets. I’m honored to have a client base that really trusts my judgment.” 

As a small business owner herself, Fisher enjoys building relationships with other local business owners and often employs her printer, fondly named Edina, to help out. “If a business is having a launch party and wants something fun to give away, I can design some really fun styles of cookies that I can just print off. I don’t have to charge the same rates I would for hand piping, and I can hammer them out much more quickly,” she says. “At the end of day, it’s not all about the money, but when you do this full-time you need to find a way to prioritize it as a business. I feel like the printer has been a huge part of that.”

Having successfully turned her passion into a full-time gig, Fisher is a staunch supporter of the “edutainment” model and dreams of someday leading her own apprenticeship program. “I want to show people how to turn their business into something more profitable, and I think the party style is the way to do it,” she says. “There are so many people who want to learn new things but don’t want to take a full-blown course. If I can pay $60 to sit around a table with my friends and learn how to do something new, I just think that’s the unsung hero of small businesses turning more profit.”

The cookie community—and local businesses in general—have been extremely supportive of Fisher’s endeavors. “I genuinely feel like people want to see me succeed, and I want to see them succeed. It sounds like entrepreneurship is a very lonely path in some places, but that’s not the case here in Portland,” she says. “With any question I have, I know I can call somebody who can help me, and I hope other business owners feel that, too. It’s really special here.”

5 Tips for Cooking Decorating Beginners

By Krystina Fisher of The Messy Cookie

1. For both the icing and the sugar cookies, find a single, simple recipe and stick with it. You'll get comfortable using this recipe and begin to understand how external factors can affect it, instead of trying a new recipe each time and not knowing if your cookies aren’t panning out because of either the recipe or your skill level. (Find our Signature Shortbread Vanilla Sugar Cookie recipe in this issue, and visit simplecookierecipe.com to see our favorite royal icing recipe!)

2. Do yourself a favor and get a stand mixer. Your arms will thank you, especially when mixing royal icing!

3. When you're creating a set of cookies with multiple colors, cleanup is usually insane. Instead of using a different bowl to color each individual shade of icing, use the Single Bowl Method. It's much less messy and—more importantly—makes cleanup a breeze! Simply create your icing in your stand mixer's bowl, then grab one other bowl to use. In this other bowl, start mixing the lightest color of your palette, and then go darker with each set of icing colors. For a more detailed explanation (and even a few examples), check out our video at bit.ly/singlebowl.

4. The trick to baking a flat sugar cookie great for decorating is to run a fondant smoother across the top with light pressure as soon as your cookies come out of the oven. These tools are super inexpensive online and easy to find at craft stores.

5. When you have a mixer full of icing you’re not actively using, take a piece of Cling Wrap and press it across the top of the icing, creating a seal between the icing and the air. This will prevent your icing from getting crunchy, which is a total bear to deal with!

I want it to be a multi-sensory experience when someone opens their kit—not everyone is a baker like me who smells frosting everyday!

It sounds like entrepreneurship is a very lonely path in some places, but that’s not the case here in Portland.

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