Thursday, April 13, 2006

Cookies ...

One of my daily blog stops is Whoorl.com, the musings of a woman in Southern California, who is not from Southern California, about her life, her love (named David - because every male in my life is named David, even the ones I read about), and her baby-to-be. She's a very good writer. Her most-recent post centers on a cupcake.

Which got me thinking about cupcakes and their explosive popularity over the past couple years. My cupcake memories are of PTA or Cub Scout meetings in my grade-school gym. There would always be a refreshments table, and the kids had turned cupcake selection into a science, and by "science" I mean picking the cupcake with the biggest schmear of frosting. Typically, the moms who cupcaked were pretty stingy with the frosting, but I ask you: What's the point? The frosting is always the best part of a cupcake. Skimp on that, and, well, it's barely worth eating.

And then there are the cupcake liners. We can put a man on the moon (or on a space station) but we can't make a cupcake liner that doesn't retain 20 percent of the cupcake upon its removal? The only thing worse than a frosting deficiency when you're a child is an inability to suck the cupcake endoderm off the cupcake liner, but those obnoxious pastel paper liners seemed to be designed to disintegrate on contact with saliva. Dammit.

As an adult, I'm amused by the by-gone refreshments table. Those were the days when people didn't obsess about nutrition, so it made perfect sense to serve cupcakes and punch to the kids. Here, honey: Have a hunk of sugar, topped with sugar, and wash it down with a cup of sugar.

Ah, yes, those were the days.

But this post isn't titled "Cupcakes," it's titled "Cookies." Whoorl's post about cupcakes got me thinking - again - about baking for a living. She's preggers, and she waited in a line for 45 minutes to score a cupcake, and was willing to plunk down $3.50 to do it. You can read her post for the fab way she got out of paying for hers, but it started me thinking about the mark-up in food.

Early on in my parents' marriage, they had a pizza place. Not many people know this about my parents, but I could have been the daughter of pizza barrons. Their pizza venture was short-lived (they still use the pizza wheel they used to cut pizzas, back in the day, a remnant of their brief pizza life), but I remember my dad talking about the mark-up in pizza. To this day, it bugs him to order a pie and drop $18, because he knows it cost the pizza place about $1.50 to make it.

But that's the wonder of food: People are willing to pay a lot when it comes to things to cram in their mouths.

Take Mrs. Fields. No, really, take her, cuz I don't wanna buy what she's sellin'. I've never been a fan of Mrs. Fields' cookies, but cookies have made that woman a bazillionaire, and why? Because a dozen cookies in a tin, delievered next Monday morning, will set me back ... wait for it ... $51.97. The cookies and tin alone will set me back $27.99. The rest is shipping, but still.

So a couple Christmases ago, I put together a cookie assortment for Dave's familly, and asked him to ask his wife, who's a catering genius in Chicago (www.limelightchicago.com, if you're in need of a catering genius, and really, who isn't?), if she would help me price a similar selection for a friend who had asked me to bake for her that year.

Now, I'm bad about accepting money from friends. But in this instance, the friend asked me after I was done with all my holiday baking (if I'd known sooner, I would have just doubled or tripled my already-doubled and -tripled recipes), so I bascially had to do everything all over again, just for her. And so, Rita (that's Dave's wife) calculated that for what I was supplying (two dozen each of 14 kinds of cookies), I should charge no less than $225.

Gaa! I couldn't charge a friend $225 for cookies! But Rita used a well-known bakery's price as a guide (she pointed out that her company and bakeries and such buy ingredients in bulk and therefore pay much less than I was paying, buying retail) and said that it charges about $8 a pound for cookies, and there are about 12 pieces to a pound. Yep, $8 for a dozen cookies. Much cheaper than Mrs. Fields, but then, Mrs. Fields cookies are kinda big.

And that was the year I realized just how much I could make, making cookies.

I write about cookies for a freelance client. Mary's dubbed me The Cookie Queen. A couple years ago, my photog friend Jeff (linked under my Links) and I did a little photo shoot in his apartment. He wasn't happy with the lighting, but we came up with an image to run with the story. You get the idea. I wrap the cookies in cellophane, tie it with a ribbon, tie on a handwritten tag, and pile them in a tissue-lined hatbox or some such.

The problem with baking ventures, typically, are the hours. The hours suck. You have to bake before people want to buy the baked goods. Ah, but with cookies, there's not that first-thing-in-the-morning factor. You can open at a reasonable hour. You can close at a reasonable hour. You can have a life.

Of course, if the operation gets huge, you have to bring on help, and I'm a bit of control freak when it comes to my food, so that'd be a bit of a challenge for me, but that would be a good problem to have.

It feels like cookie time is drawing near.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Q! said...

If you ever decide to do actually make cookies for money. I can help you with a website. Q!

1:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reality Check. There is a lot more to starting a cookie business than the cost of the cookies... you may want to consider equipment, packaging, marketing, licenses, health certification, labor, utilities, rent and other overhead into your "costs".

6:31 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Yes, thank you, I'm quite aware of what it takes to start a business. I have friends who have done just that.

6:55 PM  

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