Artisan baker Kat Rutledge, of Blenheim, recalls her 9-year-old self being arm-deep in 100-pound lots of cake mix at the kitchen table.
Her late mother, Joy Payton, formerly of Rotorua, was a baker by trade, and baked and decorated wedding cakes that were shipped throughout the country and overseas.
"I learnt from her - I learnt from watching her."
Today, Kat capitalises on the skills she has gleaned from years of baking, putting them to good use in her made-to-order cookie business, ibicci, launched in August last year.
All the time, effort and faffing around involved in cake baking and decorating caused Kat to find an easier, more fitting alternative that added a special extra to her other business, Made To Order gift baskets.
The cookies she made paid heed to the recipient's taste - both their taste buds and interests, which added a personal touch to the gift.
"Every set [of cookies] I do that go into gift baskets tells a story," she says.
"It's something handmade with love and it means something."
Kat has a staple number of shapes she likes to "cookie-fy" such as houses, castles, crowns, space rockets and hearts. But there are many other quirky shapes and designs she is willing to try.
"It does take time to get the technique - I'm always learning and always trying something new."
Her edible art is based on a simple cookie dough recipe of either vanilla, chocolate or gingerbread, sometimes with variations. On top, she spreads or pipes royal icing, which has to be a certain consistency based on which method is used, and if requested, will even emboss a picture or design.
"It's about manipulating the icing to the way I want and building it up in relief," she says.
Kat uses a combination of tools to make and decorate her cookies, including specialty cookie cutters, rainbow dust pens, gel pens and food colouring, most of which is purchased from online homeware and commercial kitchen equipment retailers.
The images and designs on the cookies ranged from intricate, delicate water colours to bright, funky patterns.
Since launching the venture last year, Rutledge has had about 126 ibicci orders, most of which were for people around Blenheim and Marlborough, and a few from England, Australia and existing clients around New Zealand. However, she had not kept count of how many cookies she placed in her Made To Order gift baskets.
Kat also sells her cookies at the Marlborough Artisan Market in Wynen St, Blenheim, on Saturday mornings.
Kat is keen to take an online course on how to make cookie cutters, so she can experiment with other more unconventional shapes.
Future projects include creating a cookie relief of all of the Hobbit characters and cookies based on characters from the book by New Zealand author Peter Gossage, How Maui found his Mother.
- The Marlborough Express