Published October 15, 2012
Forget campaign buttons. Don’t let bumper stickers mar your car. Yank political yard signs out of the lawn.
These days you can proclaim your political preference by the dozen. This is year of the political cookie, the cookie with a message: “Stay Poor. Vote Democrat,” sugar cookies, or “Protect Medicare Now” shortbreads.
Several bakers across the nation have blended their baking and politics by creating deciduous treats that whet appetites and stir debates.
Marla Romash was a TV and print reporter and Al Gore 2000 press secretary before she turned her political passion into baking. After taking a break from politics, Romash, who lives in Maryland, decided to attend culinary school, but didn't think about political cookies until some business associates asked why, as executive pastry chef at Marla's Magic and Dreamz Catering company, she never combined the two. That got her to thinking, and last year, the Political Cookie Company was born that specializes in custom made, hand-decorated sugar cookies. There are “Keep Left” and “I Miss Bill and Al” as well as “Red States Rock” and “You Can’t Blame Bush Anymore.” “I do both sides,” says Romash, “but I want to be very clear. I am a die-hard Democrat.”
In addition to Romney and Obama, Romash reflects the political zeitgeist with shortbreads depicting Sarah Palin, John Boehner, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, Nancy Pelosi, and Hillary Clinton, among others. Many feature familiar caricatures commissioned from Hartford Courant political cartoonist, Bob Englehard. While Romash still works in politics and indulges her savory side at her Dreamz Catering company, pastry she says, where she belongs.
St. Louis-based Melodee Lang also switched careers, from Certified Public Accountant to baker, doing both for more than 20 years. “I was a single-mom who had to get two sons through college so I needed a second job,” she explains. After years of gifting clients with baked goods, Lang opened her online bakery, The Elegant Cookie, which also specializes in gift baskets. “I never thought I’d ever read countless books on ‘search-engine optimization,’” she laughs. She also never thought she’d open a brick-and-mortar bakery but she did, just two months ago. “The upside of a down-economy,” she says, “is great deals on retail space.”
Lang’s cookies and donuts are all photorealism and buttercream. Edible-ink cartridges by Kopycakes (for Canon and Epson printers) let her download Obama and Romney images, which she got from each campaign, onto edible frosting sheets. “It’s kind of like rice paper,” she explains.
She floats the images onto her soft, chewy, sugar-butter cookies and Krispy Kreme-type donuts, both frosted with her “proprietary buttercream variant” (that’s the CPA talking.) The paper literally melts away leaving just the image.
Twenty two-year-old Texas State University student and online bakery owner Hayley Callaway’s “Patriotic” line includes beautifully decorated “Stop The Obamanation: Vote For Anyone Else” sugar cookies as well as “Democrats: Change That Matters” ones. That being said, Callaway is Romney all-the-way and says she’s “proud” of his debate performance.
“Anything you can do on paper,” she says, “you can do on cookie.” Royal icing is her “paint” or “ink” and cookies are her canvas. Royal icing, a mixture of confectioner’s sugar, egg whites, or meringue powder, and vanilla, which you can thicken or thin, color or flavor is a cookie baking staple. Her Aviation and Army Pilot Line Art cookies, part of her “Patriotic” line, showcase her expertise in baking and a self-professed lifelong obsession with doodling.
She started HayleyCakes and Cookies as a college sophomore to make money for an additional Music Ministry degree. The music school folded but the cookie website took off. These days Callaway’s mom, a home economics teacher, travels up from Houston to help with big orders and Callaway’s newly-minted fiancé handles deliveries. She hopes to open a bakery when she graduates.
Callaway plans on watching the upcoming debates. Not just to cheer Romney on, but because, the college senior explains, “we get extra credit for watching.”