Julia Usher

Summary of Julia M. Usher’s Ultimate Cookies PR Campaign

Click on this link to download the summary. Please note that the summary only includes activity between October 2011 and May 2012. I continued my own marketing and PR into 2013 without the assistance of a publicist.

Les Dames d' Escoffier International, St. Louis, MO Chapter:
2011 Scholarship Program

MillerCoors, Schnuck Markets, and Les Dames team up to support culinary education in St. Louis!

The St. Louis, MO Chapter of Les Dames d’ Escoffier International is pleased to announce that it is now accepting applications for The Anna Schnuck Scholarship Awards for furthering education in the culinary arts, baking and pastry, and hospitality and restaurant management. The Anna Schnuck Scholarship Awards are made possible by a grant from MillerCoors LLC and are named in honor of the late founder and matriarch of one of their partners, St. Louis-based grocery company Schnuck Markets, Inc. Four scholarships are available in the amounts of $2000 each. Scholarships will be awarded on the basis of financial need, academic accomplishments, references, goals, and culinary experience. 

Applications Due: May 1, 2011

Requirements of Applicant:

  • Must be a female resident of the Greater St. Louis Area. May be a resident already enrolled in a school or culinary program and living outside the area during the school term.
  • Must carry a 3.0 GPA or higher.
  • Must be currently enrolled in a certificate or associates degree program in the culinary arts, baking and pastry, or hospitality and restaurant management.
  • No upper limit with regard to age.

Application Requirements:

  • Two letters of career recommendation.
  • Two letters of personal recommendation.
  • Academic transcripts.
  • A non-refundable processing fee of $20 via check.
  • A 750 word essay focusing on your short-term and long-term goals.
  • A financial aid form completed by your program’s financial aid office. This form will be verified by the Scholarship Committee.
  • All required materials must be included with the application. Do not include photographs or other materials that are not required.
  • A signed application. Receipt of application will be acknowledged by e-mail. If a hard copy is preferred, please include a self-addressed stamped postcard with your application.
  • All applications must be received by May 1, 2011. Late applications will not be considered.

Conditions of Scholarship Award:

  • All scholarship monies will go directly to the school or institution in which the recipient is enrolled. Scholarship monies will be used for tuition only.
  • No part of the scholarship monies may be applied to living expenses.
  • Scholarship monies must be used between August 1, 2011 and July 31, 2012.
  • All applications submitted will be reviewed and measured by the Scholarship Committee’s standardized and weighted criteria.

Social Networks

Mixing Bowl - www.mixingbowl.com
A relatively new addition to the social networking scene (but what social network isn’t?), this Better Homes and Gardens venture connects bakers of all skill levels through groups, blogs, and an extensive and rapidly growing recipe file. There are also some great baking contests (with cash prizes to boot)!

Dessert Professional - www.dessertprofessional.com
Interested in elevating dessert to art? Then there’s no better place than this site, a network comprised primarily of pro bakers and pastry chefs. With eye candy galore and a special group where dessert luminary Tish Boyle dishes about sweets, this site is fully equipped to teach even the veteran baker new tricks.

Baking and Decorating Challenges

Recipes for a Sweet Life - my very own quarterly Pinterest contests
Strictly for cookie decorators, my monthly pinning contests center around a theme, hand-picked by me, and provide loads of inspiration to anyone who follows the contest board. I also offer up special prizes to the person whose cookie photo has the most repins by contest closing time! To see my previous boards and a rundown of the winners of each contest, click here.

The Daring Kitchen - www.thedaringkitchen.com
Other online baking challenges have come and gone, but The Daring Baker (a group within The Daring Kitchen) has soared past the two year mark. Founded in 2006 after an online pretzel-baking showdown between founders Lisa and Ivonne, the site has grown to close to 2,000 members. If you’re eager to see how your skills match up to those of other passionate foodies, check out their monthly challenges. But be warned: You’ve got to be in this game for personal growth and gratification. There are no prizes, cash or otherwise, and the rules are rigorous. Miss two months, and you’re out!

Baking and Decorating Resources

Copper Gifts - www.coppergifts.com beating heart
When I'm in need of a gorgeous, over-sized, keepsake-quality cutter, this site is my first stop. I especially love how you can click on almost any cutter on their site and find three or more decorating options! Copper Gifts has also generously underwritten my upcoming cookie decorating video series, due to release in the fall of 2012. Visit my online store 'round about the end of October to check for the arrival of these videos!

Designer Stencils - www.designerstencils.com beating heart
Stencils used to be relegated to the domain of interior decorators and home re-modelers. But now you can find stencils for cake tops, cake sides, and even cookies! Designer Stencils has the most extensive culinary stencil selection I have yet to see, which is why they rate at the top of my favorite suppliers list! I'm further grateful to them for sponsoring the stenciling video in my upcoming cookie decorating video series, noted above.

Fancy Flours - www.fancyflours.com beating heart
Not only does this site have a wonderfully broad mix of specialty baking and decorating items (from dragées to stencils to confetti of all kinds), but it also has one of the most original selections online. Pre-printed wafer paper (usually impossible to find) is available here in patterns too many to count. Likewise, their readymade royal icing flowers, sugar gems, and tiny sugarcoated roses are one-of-a-kind! To see some of these products at play, look for the pink toile paper-covered cookies in Cookie Swap’s garden party chapter. Fancy Flours also sponsored my Ultimate Cookies book tour in 2011 (thank you, thank you) and worked up this delicious array of custom cookie kits surrounding some of the projects in that book.

House on the Hill - www.houseonthehill.net
If the size of their catalog is any indication, House on the Hill (HOH) could very well have the world’s largest collection of springerle molds and rolling pins! Even if you’re not a regular springerle baker, HOH’s artfully carved products are collectibles in their own right. BTW, their old-fashioned moss rose and pansy molds were also used in Cookie Swap’s garden party chapter.

Foodie Groups

International Association of Culinary Professionals - www.iacp.com
Be sure to visit this online home of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP), the world’s largest multidisciplinary culinary organization and the best resource around for networking with culinary leaders of all professional persuasions. The site contains information about the IACP annual conference, a calendar of local and regional IACP events, message boards, and the invaluable IACP membership directory. But the latter is for members only, so you’ll have to join now if you want to rub shoulders with the food world’s best and brightest!

Les Dames d' Escoffier International - www.ldei.org
This invitation-only association of professional women leaders in the culinary field has a unique philanthropic charter. If you don’t qualify for membership just yet (it’s trés competitive), be sure to take advantage of their mentoring and scholarship opportunities offered through their local chapters.

Born during one of my more introspective periods spanning several weeks away from the heat and hubbub of ovens and mixers, my site Recipes for a Sweet Life attempts to capture my core - what stirs my soul, warms my heart, and makes me jump out of bed with renewed vigor each day. Sure, I’m all of the titles in my bio - pastry chef, food writer, food stylist, cookbook author - but what really moves me is creating unforgettable, ah-ha experiences for the special people in my life. For me, there are few things as gratifying as seeing guests’ eyes light up at the first glimpse of a spectacular wedding cake - or the satisfied grin on the face of the child who stole the first taste on his fingertip. I share of myself best through food and entertaining, so that’s what I offer you here: my recipes, or rather my prescriptions in the very broad sense, for making life its absolute sweetest. Throughout Recipes for a Sweet Life, you’ll find a treasure trove of party ideas, recipes (in the literal sense), and entertaining tips that I hope will warm your heart, as well as the hearts of those you love. With this taste, go forward, feast on what you find, and, in the process, live life sweetly!

Julia Usher

P.S. I’m nothing more than an email away, so please drop me a line at any time with your feedback on the site. I’m always open to new ideas and better ways of doing things! Also, if you’d like more regular fixes of Recipes for a Sweet Life, please sign up for my quarterly newsletter.

Ever since sampling the dazzling pink daisy cookies at her first cookie swap, Julia has been a lover of all things sweet. As a young child, Julia cultivated her budding cooking skills by riding the apron strings of her mom – an accomplished home baker who ran a tight kitchen. “Make it from scratch or keep it out of your mouth” was her mother’s favorite mantra. By the age of 12 – while other kids were still tinkering with their Easy-Bake ovens – Julia was wowing friends and families with lavishly decorated yeast breads and multi-layer tortes. (Julia was also known on occasion to whip up a very lifelike soap and mud frosting cake for her sometimes pesky little sister.)

Julia worked as a mechanical engineer and management consultant after graduating from Yale in 1984, but even while climbing the corporate ladder, she never put aside her appetite for baking. In 1994, Julia decided to turn her passion into her profession by enrolling in the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. She graduated valedictorian, receiving the coveted M.F.K. Fisher Prize for outstanding scholarship in 1996. One year later, Julia opened AzucArte, a boutique bakery widely lauded for its wedding cakes that tasted as wonderful as they looked.

After tiring of relentless weekend work, Julia closed her shop in 2005 and turned to writing and food styling to satisfy her sweet tooth. She became Contributing Editor at Dessert Professional, a 2008 James Beard Foundation Journalism Awards finalist, and an entertaining consultant, party producer, and prop stylist for St. Louis AT HOME magazine. Over the next four years, her work, written and edible, appeared in Vera Wang on Weddings, Bon Appétit, Fine Cooking, Better Homes and Gardens, Mary Engelbreit’s Home Companion, Gastronomica, Woman’s World, Where Women Cook, and nearly every national bridal magazine.

In 2009, Julia released her first book, Cookie Swap, which subsequently won three prestigious Cordon d’ Or Awards, including one for Best in Competition. And in 2011, she released a second book, Ultimate Cookies, an inspirational collection of edible cookie art projects endorsed by celebrity cake designers Kerry Vincent and Colette Peters. Never one to rest on her laurels, Julia went on to turn her books into e-books and a cookie decorating app that includes 15 instructional videos along with in-depth technique instruction and 20 incredible cookie projects.

Pink Daisy Cookies Dazzle in Julia Usher's New Book, Cookie Swap

Pink Daisy Cookies Dazzle in Cookie Swap
Photo by Steve Adams


You’ll want to savor Cookie Swap and Ultimate Cookies chapter by chapter and cover to cover to fully appreciate what all the rave is about. But in the meantime, here’s what the culinary and publishing elite are saying about Julia’s books.

Love for Ultimate Cookies:

“This really is the ULTIMATE cookie book. Whimsical, elegant, colorful and creative!! What more could you ask for? You will not be disappointed.”
Colette Peters
Author and Owner, Colette’s Cakes

“This time the clever cookie comes in the guise of Julia Usher. I love the fact that she has created an instructional book with clear intent, [and] thoughtful and excellent recipes topped with quality decorations. I see a lot of adequate decorating out there, but this work is inspirational. Cupcakes had better not rest on their laurels: I can easily be persuaded to put them aside when enticed by the decorative crumbs of Julia’s cookies. Beautiful book, beautiful work . . . I recommend to all edible artists.”
Kerry Vincent
Food Network Challenge Judge, Hall of Fame Sugar Artist, Author

“Julia Usher has integrated insane creativity with a passion for cookie decorating to produce one of the most inspirational sugar art books ever printed. Ultimate Cookies delivers a lip-smacking guide to creating gorgeous cookies for any season.”
Nancy Quist
President, Fancy Flours, Inc.

“Julia Usher is the most talented and creative cookie decorator I know. Her techniques are flawless, as are her beautiful cookies, and this book is the ultimate reference for beginners as well as seasoned cookie decorators. Flip through these pages and you’ll soon find yourself in the kitchen, creating awe-inspiring edible works of art and decorating like a pro.”
Tish Boyle
Editor, Dessert Professional and author of The Good Cookie and The Cake Book

“Astonishingly beautiful cookie creations with effective, user-friendly explanations make Ultimate Cookies an absolute must-have resource for experienced and new decorators alike. Every page is an absolute delight!”
Marian Poirier

And more love for Cookie Swap:

“Julia Usher’s over-the-top cookies and detailed, theme-inspired swaps promise joyful sharing and sweet memories for year-round entertaining.”
Flo Braker
Author of Baking for All Occasions, The Simple Art of Perfect Baking, and Sweet Miniatures

“A cookie is one of life’s most precious, delicious gifts. Swapping them with friends is all the better. Julia Usher’s gorgeous and doable ideas inspire us not only to trade cookies at holiday time but the whole year through. Filled to the brim with mouthwatering recipes and delectable photographs, Cookie Swap is a sweet treat to savor and celebrate.”
Nancy Wall Hopkins
Deputy Food and Entertaining Editor, Better Homes and Gardens

“Julia Usher is one smart cookie…and luckily, we can now all be invited to her Cookie Swap! Her new book has it all: complete basics for beginners, everything a home baker needs to perfect the simple art of "something out of nearly nothing," and imaginative creativity for pros. Well-tested recipes are reliable, fun, and scrumptious; photos are enticing; and party ideas are both practical and budget conscious. Essential for all bakers, this excellent guide to year-round cookie swap parties is a winner.”
Susan G. Purdy
Author of Pie in the Sky

“Julia Usher’s lovely cookies will inspire you to become a dedicated cookie decorator.”
Nick Malgieri
Author of The Modern Baker, How to Bake, and Cookies Unlimited

“Encouraging Christmastime cookie swappers to up the ante with plans for eight themed swaps, Usher produces a wealth of eye-catching bakery, decoration and entertainment ideas for hosts of all experience levels. Usher’s suggestions . . . are sure to appeal to fans of the Barefoot Contessa and Martha Stewart (no surprise from the designer dessert maker whose work has appeared in Chocolatier, Better Homes and Gardens, Bon Appétit and Modern Bride).”
Publishers Weekly

"No wonder Usher — who grew up to get a degree in mechanical engineering from Yale
University, earned an MBA from Stanford University and at 47 is an accomplished
pastry chef and cookbook writer — is intent on drawing folks back to the kitchen. She knows, firsthand, the heart-filled connection that’s sparked there. And she has just the ticket to get us all baking the honest-to-goodness way."
Barbara Mahany
Food Editor, Chicago Tribune

"With its thoughtful invitation, decorating, and cookie-making suggestions, Cookie Swap reads like one giant cookie-themed Come Party With Me! Move over, Martha. This book, with its cute-named cookies, stunning food styling, and personalized party ideas, establishes Usher as a serious pastry party authority."

"There are more than 100 beautiful photographs in Cookie Swap, and Usher’s cookies are so artfully and impeccably decorated—she did all the food styling herself—that anyone with an appetite for baking or crafts is bound to be inspired, and, in addition to the highly detailed recipe and decorating instructions, that’s what makes this book so invaluable. Whether you’re a student or a pro, this book is an extremely useful guide to cookie baking and decorating and is a great addition to any culinary library."
Leite’s Culinaria

"Every recipe in this book is more than worthy of being included in a cookie swap, or given as a gift. The book provides inspiring photos with suggestions for packaging and displaying the cookies, as well as ideas for invitations that you can make to host cookie swaps throughout the year. [As for its] food porn rating: 5 [stars out of 5]. Artistically styled photos throughout the book make it fun to look through for inspiration or just to fantasize about cookies."
Food Network Canada