Monday, March 23, 2009

Cookie Art in Los Angeles

The smell of vanilla, butter and cinnamon floated out through the office door. The fragrance was warm and inviting and smelled of course like cookies! Our tour of Monaco Baking Company’s newly opened factory and showroom started with a tour of the new offices and bakery, and ended with a box full of gorgeous cookie to take home. Monaco has been baking up cookie art since 1994, starting out with a huge order and the front cover of the Williams-Sonoma catalog. Indeed, this is cookie art, with each cookie handcrafted by a team of cookie artists. Watching them work was fascinating. Several decorators quickly iced Easter egg cookies with a deft dunk, quick swirl and swipe with one finger to eliminate extra icing. Other decorators piped stars on flags, outlined star fish and sea horses, or added petals to pastel flowers.

Monaco Baking specializes in highly decorated cookies, cut from unique molds and then iced and decorated to perfection. Royal icing provides a rich flat surface in dazzling icing colors where cookie artists use their craft to embellish details, coloring in sections, placing dots, stars, eyes, buttons, and leaf outlines. The cookies are then allowed to dry, and finally tightly wrapped to retain freshness and protect the colorful creations for shipping. Over the past decade, the company has grown the cookie collection to include more than 5,000 artistic designs.

I had the privilege of getting to know and working with Monaco Baking when I was served as the senior buyer of gourmet foods for a specialty retail company. I worked closely with Stephanie Cigana, V.P. Product Development at Monaco, to develop seasonal cookies that matched our product themes and images. Stephanie is a talented designer with a great eye for detail and color. Philip Moreau, Monaco's President and Founder, handles the business side of things and has developed efficient systems for controlling the company’s inventory, operations and packaging functions. Philip also served as our tour guide on this trip!

Monaco’s cookies are available in several different flavors, including cinnamon sugar, vanilla, lemon zest, chocolate and classic gingerbread (other flavors are also available). The cookies range in size from about 6” tall to mini cookies, each about 1 ½”. The company also makes giant, oversized cookies for special occasions including a 3’ tall nutcracker.

And although during the peak of their season, the bakery produces more than 150,000 cookies a day, probably the products they are best known for are their unique holiday gingerbread creations, which includes everything from mini-gingerbread house Christmas tree ornaments to giant gingerbread mansions, as well as gingerbread trains, lighthouses, cottages of all shapes and sizes, and a scrumptious gingerbread bird's house.

Monaco has been baking cookies for major specialty retailers from their inception, including Martha Stewart, Harry and David, William-Sonoma, Starbucks and many more. The cookies are baked fresh daily, contain 0 grams of trans fat and are certified kosher. Not only are these cookies beautiful, they are also quite tasty. The dough is sweet, but not too sweet, and has a great crumbly, buttery texture. The biggest challenge for most folks is that they are almost too pretty to eat – but in the car on our drive home, we managed to overcome those challenges!

Monaco's products are available at many retail locations, including those listed above. Many of these specialty retailers also offer Monaco's incredible cookies on their websites as well. Cookies not only make a great gifts for every celebration, they also make great party favors and decorations for special events too! For a delicious selection of Monaco cookies, be sure and take a look at the retailers listed above. One of my favorite websites for cookies and other sweet treats is The site offers dozens of cookie assortments, to fit every price range and color preference, including this Baby Boy Blue collection. Prices for cookie assortments start as low as $19.99 with free shipping on select orders.

For more information regarding Monaco Baking and custom cookie collections, you can also check out their website,