Makin’ Bakery is a home bakery run by Denton resident Jennifer Carlile, providing pieces of art in the form of cookies to the community during COVID-19.
Jennifer opened the bakery in November 2019 with an Instagram page, allowing her to showcase her skills and the designs she has created through some of her independent and commission-based work.
“I started an Instagram page just to kind of keep myself accountable,” Jennifer said. “You know, you have to start somewhere.”
She began to push her business forward in June of this year by planning out a Halloween-themed pre-sale, where customers could pre-order a set of designed Halloween cookies online. Jennifer decided to do this after putting the business on hold for six months because of her full-time job as a program manager at a software company and moving into a larger space.
“Once we moved [to a house], I was like, ‘I’m gonna try it again,’” Jennifer said. “‘I’m going to pick a holiday. I’m going to do some holiday cookies and do a pre-sale and just kind of get it out there.’ And so that’s what I did at the end of June, and ever since then it’s just been kind of go-go-go.”
The name of the bakery comes from Jennifer’s mother, who refers to any pastry or baked good as “bakery.”
“My mom calls anything ‘bakery,’ like any baked goods is ‘bakery’ to her,” Jennifer said. “Whenever I would call her and ask her what she was doing, she’s like, ‘Oh, I’m making bakery.’ I’m like, ‘What is that?’ I mean, she came over from Vietnam and so she has her little accent. So, that’s why it’s kind of like an inside joke.”
Customers can find the bakery on Instagram or Facebook and order custom sugar cookies fit for any occasion, Jennifer said. Designs are made of royal icing, which is icing designed to dry into a hard coating that allows for intricate designs to be layered on top of the cookie.
“My signature flavor is with a lemon royal icing on top,” Jennifer said. “But I do offer just regular vanilla royal icing too.”
Jennifer learned how to decorate cookies using royal icing for intricate designs by watching videos of other bakers on Instagram. Through her experience, she has learned the decorating process is not as easy as it looks and requires time and effort.
“It takes a really long time just free-handing everything,” Jennifer said. “And I think time-lapse is great and it’s fun to watch videos, but I also think it kind of harms the cookie community because people think that you can decorate a cookie in 30 seconds when in reality it could take 20 minutes. And so it’s just realizing that going slow is okay.”
To help with consistency in each design, she makes use of a Pico Projector, which projects the designs onto the cookie as a guide.
“I’m kind of a perfectionist when it comes to the cookies,” Jennifer said. “So when something isn’t perfect, I’ll just scrap it and toss it.”
Jennifer draws on her creativity and interest in crafting to help her design and decorate her cookies.
“I don’t have a background in art,” she said. “But I’ve always been creative as far as doing things and making things. [My husband and I are] really big into DIY. I love doing things with my hands. Crafting has always been really big for me.”
To order cookies, customers must submit a Google Form that details how many cookies are needed and what type of design is wanted. Jennifer then provides a quote for the order, which usually falls around $45 per dozen.
“A lot of the times, people send me inspiration photos,” Jennifer said. “There are times when some people are like, ‘Do whatever you want to the cookie,’ but for the most part, a lot of people actually come with very specific designs in mind. So they’ll send me [photos] from another cookie set and I try to change it up a bit and not do a direct copy of their art.”
The process of fulfilling an order spans over the course of four days. The first day is for baking the cookies. The second is for flooding, which means to “flood” the cookie with a base coat of royal icing of the background color. The third is for adding the design and details with piped royal icing.
“The whole island is covered when she’s rolling out dough and mixing everything,” Jennifer’s husband Justice Carlile said. “There’s jars of colors for the icings and things that I didn’t even know existed. Now there’s a little projector and all sorts of stuff to help with designs.”
The fourth and final day is for packaging, snapping photos of the finished product and either delivering them or having the customer come pick them up.
“I picked up the cookies from her, and she was really nice, it was easy to find where to pick them up,” recent customer Jaire Miller said. “Her packaging was really cute. She wrapped everything really cute. And then she also took that time to write my name on the card [and] say thank you.”
Jennifer is looking to expand Makin’ Bakery’s menu with other traditional cookie flavors, such as chocolate chip and double chocolate, and gluten-free and vegan cookies.
Coming from a Vietnamese mother and a Taiwanese father, Jennifer also hopes to begin making traditional Asian desserts, such as various red-bean flavored desserts. These desserts make use of red-bean paste, which is a sweet bean paste filling used traditionally in East Asian desserts.
“I love making red-bean anything, like sesame balls,” Jennifer said. “It’s really hard to find red bean paste unless you go and make it yourself now because you can’t find any cans of it in any of the stores. [I love] a red bean cake and I’ve looked into doing pineapple buns. I would love to start making those things, it’s just finding the time.”
Another goal she has is to have a separate space for the bakery with a commercial kitchen, where she can teach cookie-decorating classes and ship cookies from. Since she runs the business out of her own home right now, Jennifer said she has to operate under the Texas Cottage Food Law, which only allows for delivery or pick-up services for her products.
“I would love to have a brick-and-mortar space somewhere where I could actually do cookie classes because I’ve had a lot of people ask me for things like that,” she said. “But especially during this current time, it’s just not a comfortable place to do anything like that, whether it’s at my house or somewhere else. And then, with a commercial kitchen, I would be able to ship cookies.”
Featured Image: Owner of Makin’ Bakery Jennifer Yin Carlile holds a small batch of her homemade cookies in her Denton home on Nov. 2, 2020. Image by Meredith Holser