By Sarah Cook McBride
Photos by Kathryn Bell
Instead of laptops and Zoom-friendly backgrounds, Rebecca Pilgreen prefers her home office to be overflowing with color. And sugar. Lots of sugar.
Around the same time businesses began boarding up and schools closed their doors in the spring of 2020, Rebecca began revving up her homegrown business, Sugar Bakings, baking and decorating cookies for local businesses, bachelorette parties, birthdays, baby showers and anything else that could use a custom confection.
“It all kind of started while scrolling social media in 2019,” Rebecca says. “I kept seeing these cookie videos and would think, ‘I could do that.’”
Rebecca decided to give her growing interest some proper schooling, so she attended a cookies class specifically for aspiring cookies artists in Helena. “Then I went home and tried to do it myself and it was, well, terrible,” Rebecca says with a laugh.
Dogged in nature, however, the budding baker decided to keep the apron on. After several months of perfecting her recipe and honing her technique from her kitchen in Brook Highland off Highway 280, Rebecca soon began growing a loyal following of friends and family who couldn’t get enough of her carefully-crafted cookies.
And a business was born.
“For Easter, I did cookie kits and that really took off,” Rebecca says. “Between that and Mother’s Day, those were the pivotal points that I realized this could be something.”
Since last spring, Rebecca has perfected her process. From start to finish, it takes her about four days to complete a “project.” That includes baking the cookies, letting them cool, decorating the cookies and individually wrapping each sweet treat.
“There’s a lot of detail that goes into it and I think people love seeing something that’s personal to them on a cookie,” Rebecca says. “Even if it’s just a logo or a hashtag for a bachelorette party or some sort of inside joke. It’s fun to put that on a cookie.”
A quick scroll through @sugarbakings’ social media feed proves Rebecca’s sentiment. She’s made a cookie for almost everything. Halloween cookies, graduation cookies, wedding cookies, cookies thanking first responders—you name it, she’s baked and decorated it. The cookie artist jokes that since launching Sugar Bakings, her home has turned into its own little storefront. She, her husband and their dog have learned to get used to a constant stream of confections.
“It’s absolutely taken over,” Rebecca says with a laugh. “Our dining room table is just mainly a cookie table now.”
But that’s okay with Rebecca. While she admits that Sugar Bakings is certainly a labor of love, she’s also quick to point out that it offers her a creative outlet that she wouldn’t have otherwise.
“I’ve always kind of been creative, and it’s usually come through in writing,” she says. “The actual artistic part—I’ve never been bad at it—but it’s not something I ever felt really confident in. But it’s been so good for writing, too. When you have a creative space where you can do something else, the mind kind of flows. Writing has been a little bit easier since I started this because there’s been a little bit more creativity going on.”
She also says she’s learned the importance of self-belief. “I think that especially on the creative side, there’s always someone more creative and it’s easy to compare yourself to someone else’s journey,” she says. “I think it’s been good for me to realize that there’s space for everyone. I’ve learned to push past self-comparison and just keep trying.”
With plans to expand and possibly rent a commercial space in 2021, Sugar Bakings is well on its way to becoming something bigger (and sweeter) than Rebecca ever imagined. And while she’s not ready to confirm any definite plans, Rebecca says she aims to continue baking as much as possible.
“It’s been a crazy journey, and I’m still growing,” she says. “But it’s been a lot of fun.”
Tips to Decorate Your Own Cookies
To get social media-worthy cookies, you don’t need to become a professional. Rebecca gave us some quick and easy tips in her own words for creating beautiful cookies worth sharing with loved ones.
You don’t need anything fancy to decorate cookies at home. From the store or your pantry, grab a tube of icing, two-gallon ziploc bags, a toothpick, food coloring and cookies to decorate.
Once you have all your supplies, add food coloring of your choice to the icing. You’ll want two types of the icing.
– Outline Icing: A thicker icing to outline the cookie first.
– Flood Icing: Icing to decorate the cookie. You can add a little bit of water to the icing to give it a smooth consistency.
Fill the outline and flood icings into separate ziploc bags. For your outline icing, cut a small whole in the corner of the bag and trace around the edge of the cookie. Then, take your flood icing and cut a medium hole and decorate the middle of the cookie. Use your toothpick to smooth out the icing on the cookies.
Top with sprinkles and enjoy your treat!