When you think of Valentine’s Day, you probably picture hearts, cards, flowers and chocolate. But let’s not forget Cupid, with his quiver full of arrows! You know, the chubby, little recurve-wielding cherub famed for arrowing unsuspecting targets to spark intense love.
The bow-wielding cherub inspired Julia Usher, the St. Louis culinary author and baker extraordinaire, to bake a Valentine’s Day creation. Oh, and did we mention it’s made entirely of cookies?!
Usher is an award-winning author and pastry chef who’s known for internationally acclaimed decorating classes and an award-winning entertainment book, “Cookie Swap.” The book is filled with delectable recipes and entertaining ideas, including themes centered on – you guessed it – Valentine’s Day!
But she needed a fun, new concept. “I was thinking about Valentine’s cookies,” Usher said. “Classic hearts and cupids and flowers have been done a billion times over.”
That thought, coupled with a valentine reading “you make me quiver,” inspired an idea that took hold in gingerbread form. She crafted not only a sugar-laced quiver, but also a set of arrows!
Usher baked the archery creations using her popular gingerbread-cookie recipe, a staple of her 3-D cookies. “The gingerbread recipe behaves really well when I’m wrapping and shaping,” Usher explained. Most importantly, the ginger, cinnamon and cloves combination creates a tasty cookie that makes your mouth water long after the last bite.
Usher started by molding the quiver, shaping the gingerbread around a stainless-steel pipe, and baking it in halves. She then used a SugarVeil confectioner’s mat to stencil the lace-like icing. The arrows, also made of gingerbread, feature embossed cookies and icing embellishments.
Although the quiver and arrow designs are intricate, they’re relatively light on icing, which puts the shape and construction of the quiver and arrows at center stage. But these cookies aren’t just for looks!
“The cookie itself is tasty,” Usher said. “It eats well on its own.” A cookie that tastes even better than it looks? I hope I receive a handcrafted cookie quiver for Valentine’s Day!
Make no bones about it: Usher pours a whole lot of love into her cookie creations. It takes hundreds of hours to bake, film, produce and photograph just one project. But seeing the joy on people’s faces makes it all worthwhile. That same joy motivated Usher to start Cookie Connection, “a place to learn, share and celebrate the art of cookie decorating.”
Usher wanted a safe community for “cookiers” of all skill levels to maximize their learning and connections. Besides regularly scheduled editorial and video content, Cookie Connection features user-contributed blogs, forums, how-to’s, photos and interviews. It’s a safe environment where new bakers can dive in and explore the art of baking and cookie decorating. Kind of like Archery 360 does for archery!
Usher is passionate about what she does and the people she impacts. And she boasts an impressive resumé: She holds a Yale undergraduate degree, a master’s degree from the University of California-Berkeley, a master’s of business administration from Stanford, and valedictorian honors from the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts.
She’s also an expert “cookier” who teaches decorating classes internationally, and once owned a bakery. She has published two books that received top awards and honors, and has been featured in “Vera Wang on Weddings” and “Fine Cooking,” and in Better Homes and Gardens magazine, to name a few.
Despite Usher’s many accomplishments, her greatest satisfaction comes from connections she makes online, and the joy she brings others through her creations.
“I’m most proud of the ability to help people when they ask me questions,” Usher said. “I’m giving them advice they find useful, or I’m bringing them joy with something I’ve made. I think that’s probably the most important thing. It’s not something in particular that I’ve made. It’s the fact that people are inspired by it and want to ask questions, and that I’m able to help with questions. That’s all very gratifying. That makes me proud.”
Cupid’s arrow struck Usher with a love for baking. And it struck us with a love for archery. Coincidence that the two collided in Usher’s cookie quiver? We think not! Love is in the air, and it’s a beautiful thing! Spread the love this Valentine’s Day by baking something with your bae, then grab your bow and celebrate your love for archery!