For the Love of the Decorated Cookie

December 8, 2013

 

Piping Bags and Decorating Bottles of Royal Icing in Various Colours

There are many excellent posts advising cookie bakers and decorators how to go about setting a price for their handiwork. Callye at The Adventures of Sweet Sugar Belle has a comprehensive post on pricing cookies by size and by detail of work, etc. and Gail of One Tough Cookie NYC has written a few great posts on not being afraid to take everything into consideration when setting a price for your work.

I have not however, been able to find any posts actually detailing the cost breakdown of cookie baking and decorating. Perhaps you have just started decorating sugar cookies and your friends and family love them, they taste delicious and they look great, everyone is urging you to start selling them and make some money for yourself.  Well, if you are going that route, in order to set a price for your cookies, it is imperative that you know exactly (or as close to exactly) what your costs are.  Ingredients and packaging costs are easy to determine but for many of us, it is difficult to put a value on our own work. We often tend to undervalue our efforts.  As Callye mentions in her post, she first began selling her cookies for $7.00 a dozen.  Seems low doesn’t it.  That’s because it is.  But what is a fair price?  What is going to keep you decorating cookies for others to purchase?  Some people price their cookies at $50.00 and up for a dozen and their customers willingly pay that.  Should you be charging that rate, will your customers pay it?  There is a lot to consider.  What are the costs of ingredients and other supplies in your area? Who is going to be your target market, what are the economic conditions, are you in a major center or a small rural area?  What is the mean family income etc?  What is your skill level, would you call yourself a seasoned decorator or are you relatively new at it?  What level of customer service are you willing to provide?  All of these factors and more go into your cookie price but first of all, you need to know what it is going to cost you to bake and decorate your product.  And just how do you go about determining that? Well, I’m going to show you how I determined what it cost me to bake and decorate a dozen cookies.

A few things you should know before I show you the tables.  I sell all my cookies by the baker’s dozen (minimum order) so this exercise was to determine how much it cost me to bake and decorate 13 cookies.  When I bake, I only bake one batch at a time.  If I’m doing an order for two dozen, I will bake two batches, one after the other.  Even on larger orders, I never bake and decorated more than two batches (36 cookies) at a time.  I do not make a lot of batches of cookie dough ahead of time and freeze them, preferring to have as fresh as possible product available for my customers. Even though I have a convection oven with three baking racks, I only bake one sheet of cookies at a time. May not be the most effective use of my time but I don’t like the way my cookies bake up in my oven when I do more than one sheet at a time. Now, having said that, you should do what works best for you. Though I have amassed a large collection of different cookie cutters, the majority (with some exceptions) of the cookies I sell are 3 1/2″ round fluted cookies.  I prefer it that way and I can usually create any design for a customer on that size of a cookie.  My recipe will yield exactly 18 – 3 1/2″ round fluted cookies so the calculations in my tables below are based on that, then broken down to “per batch”,  “per cookie” and then “per baker’s dozen”.

Another thing to note is that my little cookie business is not near the volumes that would necessitate me ordering supplies in bulk, though I do try to purchase whenever the ingredients and supplies I need are on sale.  The items you see listed below are regular sized items and can be purchased at your local grocery or baking/decorating stores.  The prices listed are my local prices.

At the end of this post I have included a link to a Google Worksheet.  It’s a blank spreadsheet that you can download and save for your own personal use should you decide to do this exercise for yourself.  Just remember that I did the formulas based on one batch of cookies yielding 18 3 1/2″ cookies.  You can change the column heading to suit the yield from your batch.  Additionally, you can change the formula in the *Cost Per Batch* to reflect the number of cookies your batch yields. When entering amounts to match what you purchase, require per batch etc., the formulas will calculate based on whatever you enter.

So, here’s a table listing all the ingredients I used to bake and decorate one batch of cookies and their associated costs. Note that I have not entered any food colouring or decorating sprinkles etc., in these calculations. I use Americolour Food Colouring Gels and I have no idea how many cookies I can decorate from one 4.5 oz bottle but I do know the cost per batch/cookie/dozen is insignificant just as it is for toothpicks, sprinkles, sanding sugar, etc. You may feel otherwise and if so, be sure to enter those line items into your spreadsheet.

BAKING AND DECORATING INGREDIENTS

Ingredient


Price


Amt


Total Yield Per Amt. Purchased


Cost Per Measure


Qty. Req’d


Per Batch


Cost Per


Batch


Cost Per


Cookie


Cost Per


Baker’s Doz


Butter


2.99


lb.


4 sticks


0.75


2


1.50


0.08


1.08


Sugar


2.79


5 lb.  


11 cups


0.25


1


0.25


0.01


0.18


Eggs


2.99


Doz


12 ea.


0.25


1


0.25


0.01


0.18


Pure
Almond Extract


3.79


43 ml.


8.724 tsps.


0.43


1.5


0.65


0.04


0.47


Bourbon
Madagascar Vanilla Bean Paste


8.99


110 ml.


23.94 tsps.


0.38


3


1.13


0.06


0.87


Secret
Ingredient


9.99


100


20.28 tsps.


0.49


1


0.49


0.03


0.36


Unbleached
Flour


9.69


11 lb.  


33.75 cups


0.29


3


0.86


0.05


0.62


Baking
Powder


5.29


500 gr.


125 tsps.


0.04


2


0.08


0.00


0.06


Icing
Sugar


1.69


2 lb.  


8 cups


0.21


4


0.85


0.05


0.61


Meringue
Powder


8.00


1 lb.  


32 tblsps.


0.25


4


1.00


0.06


0.72


Pure
Almond Extract


3.79


43 ml.


8.724 tsps.


0.43


2


0.87


0.05


0.63


Clear
Corn Syrup


2.99


16 oz.


96 tsps.


0.03


1


0.03


0.0


0.02


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


Totals


 


 


 


 


 


7.96


0.44


5.81


Next to consider is that sometimes my customers order cookies decorated with edible images.  To fill these types of orders you need an edible image printer, edible images and edible ink cartridges.  I know that for my 3 1/2″ cookies I can get 6 images per one sheet of edible image paper so my calculations are based on that.  For a baker’s dozen of edible image cookies, I need to use two full sheets and part of a third sheet  Note that the calculations for the cost of the edible ink is based on Bridget informing us in a post that she figures one set of cartridges will yield about 40 printed sheets of images.  I’ve personally never tracked how many sheets I was able to print from a set of full cartridges. Remember to change the amounts in your spreadsheet to suit the yield of images you get from each edible image.

ADDITIONAL DECORATING SUPPLIES

Item


Price


Qty


Cost Per Ea Sheet


Cost Per Batch


 (6 images per sheet)


Cost Per Cookie


Cost Per Baker’s Dozen


Edible
Icing Images


(Incl.
Shipping)


42.00


24


1.75


5.25


0.29


3.77


Edible
Ink Cartridges (Incl. Shipping)


92.00


40


2.30


6.90


0.38


4.94


So now, all of my necessary ingredients have been taken into account.  What’s next to consider.  Well, once I’ve baked and decorated all my cookies, I need to package them before I present them to my customer.  Sometimes my clients want their cookies to be bagged and tied with a ribbon, sometimes they request custom bag toppers.  Each and everyone of my cookies leaves my kitchen with an ingredients label attached to the back of the cookie bag. Once all the cookies are bagged, I package them into a window cookie box with tissue paper. You will notice that I have not included any costs per shipping or delivery. These are costs that are in addition to the price of your cookies and charged directly to your customer.

PACKAGING AND OTHER DECORATING CONSUMABLES

Item


Price


Qty


Cost Per Ea.


Cost Per Batch


Cost Per Cookie


Cost Per Baker’s Dozen


Cookie
Bags


2.00


20


0.10


1.80


0.10


1.30


Piping
Bags


40.00


100


0.40


2.00


0.11


1.44


Bag
Toppers


8.99


100


0.09


0.40


0.02


0.26


Ribbons


1.00


3600


0.00


0.06


0.00


0.04


Ingredients
Labels


4.00


100


0.04


0.73


0.04


0.52


Tissue
Paper


1.50


20


0.08


0.23


0.01


0.16


Cookie
Boxes


0.59


1


0.59


0.59


0.03


0.59


Nitrile
Gloves


12.99


100


0.13


0.26


0.00


0.19


Now, all my costs for ingredients and supplies in order to bake and decorate one batch and subsequently, a baker’s dozen cookies for my client have been taken into account.  Next exercise was to actually determine how much time I spent to get to the finished product.  The times shown are for this particular dozen of cookies but as you know, times will vary depending on the size of the cookies and detail of decorating involved, how quickly you yourself can roll out and cut a batch of dough, how you actually bake them, at what temperature and for what times, etc.  I always divide each batch of dough into four, begin by rolling out a quarter of the dough and once that is cut, I add the cut *scraps* of dough to the next quarter, roll and cut and repeat this process with each remaining quarter. It works for me! In any case, these tables are based on my baking a batch of cookies and decorating one dozen from that batch.  The particular design called for four different colours of icing including white.

BREAKDOWN OF TASKS INVOLVED IN BAKING AND DECORATING 

Task


Time Required In Minutes


Make
1 Batch of Cookie Dough


20


Roll
Out and Cut 1 Batch of Cookie Dough


10


Bake
1 Batch of Cookies (6 cookies per sheet/3 sheets)


36


Make
1 Batch of Royal Icing


10


Prepare
White Piping and Flood Icing


10


Pipe
and Flood 1 Baker’s Dozen


15


Prepare
Four Colours of Piping Icing


20


Pipe
Monogramming


10


Pipe
Design Detail


67


Apply
Luster Dust to Monogrammed Letters


10


Seal
& Package 1 Baker’s Dozen  


20


Total
Time


228


There now, I’ve shown you almost everything it takes for me to bake and decorate a dozen cookies.  I’m even going further and showing you what is left after I deduct all the expenses from the price of cookies.

 


Cost of Ingredients  & Supplies
in Relation to Price of Cookies


 


 
 

Price
of 1 Baker’s Dozen Royal Icing Decorated Cookies


 


$30.00


            
Ingredients


5.81


 


            
Piping Bags


1.44


 


            
Cookie Bags


1.30


 


            
Cookie Bag Toppers


0.26


 


            
Ingredient Labels


0.52


 


            
Cookie Boxes


0.59


 


            
Nitrile Gloves


0.26


 


            
Tissue Paper


0.16


 


Less
Total Price of Ingredients & Packaging


 


$10.34


Balance


 


$19.66



As you can see, I charge $30.00 per baker’s dozen of royal icing decorated cookies, no matter if it’s a detailed design or a simple design, five, eight or only two colours of icing. I’m comfortable doing it this way but it certainly may not work for you. For me and for the area I live and I believe  for my customers, $30.00 is a fair price for a dozen hand decorated sugar cookies. My cookies decorated with Edible Images are $35.00 a baker’s dozen.
Other cookie decorators charge rates different than mine, some higher, some lower. It’s your decision what you ultimately decide to price your cookies at.

Now, after deducting my expenses, it first appears that I’m *making* $19.66 when I sell a dozen cookies. Not quite.  I haven’t included the time it takes me to go from raw ingredients to a fully finished decorated cookie ready to deliver to a customer. Here is where everyone in the cookie business will tell you, or any artisan for that matter, that you can’t really put a price on your time (but the table below was is an interesting exercise anyway). Some cookies may take you three hours to decorate some may take you less and some quite a bit more. I don’t know if any cookiers charge by the hour for their cookies but I doubt it. Most, charge by the dozen or by the cookie and those prices once again, can vary depending on the size of the cookies and the detail of decorating involved. You really can’t get into the cookie business thinking that you are going to make a great *wage*. You most definitely have to make enough to cover your expenses and hopefully earn something for your time and efforts. Whatever you do make after your expenses, know that most of those *profits* will go back into your cookie business.

 


Calculating Hourly Rate Per One
Dozen Cookies


 


 
 

Balance
after Including Ingredients


 


19.66


Time
to Complete Order (In Hours)


 


3.8


Hourly
Rate


 


$5.17


If you think getting into the cookies business is going to make you a lot of money for very little effort you may want to rethink your decision. In reality, it’s more often a little money for a lot of effort. If you are new to cookie decorating you may look at this chart and think just over $5.00 an hour is low. It’s interesting to note that even if I were to charge $45.00 a dozen for my cookies (a rate that would not fly here at all) I’d still be working for less than my Provincial minimum wage. So, why do I do it?

An hourly rate is not what it’s all about, it’s not why we cookiers wake up and can hardly wait to get into our kitchens and start baking and decorating. I’m giving my customers a great product, one that I’m proud of and one that they enjoy. Cookie decorating is a labour of love and for most of us, a passion. We do it for the love of the decorated cookie, for the challenges a new design can provide, for the love of the craft and for the pleasure our work gives to others. I would guess that most of my fellow cookie decorators feel exactly the same way and if you are thinking of getting into the cookie business, this is the way you should feel too.

Some things to note. The cost of electricity/gas has not been factored in to any of the expenses. You can add that line in the spreadsheet if you like, just as you can add other ingredients and/or supplies. I don’t charge by the hour to make and decorate cookies so I don’t charge for any time spent discussing the order on the phone with my clients or sending emails to my clients, preparing and reviewing the contract etc. Important to note here that you should have a written contract for your clients, especially on larger orders. A contract is beneficial for both you and your client and it should protect both your interests. Include both a Deposit Clause and a Cancellation Clause and if possible a picture of a sample cookie/or sketch  based on the client’s design wishes.  You should not start working on your orders until a signed contract and deposit has been received from your client.

Finally, if you are going to use the spreadsheet available in the attached link below, just be sure if adding more line items, that you enter a new row between two existing rows that already contain the formulas so the totals will include the amounts in the new rows. Be sure to copy and paste the formula into whatever new rows you add.  Highlight the link below and then right click to see the file.  You can download it onto your own computer from there.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B15eWWuyAmLEYlQ1d0pxa3BuQWM/edit?usp=sharing

 

For more information about the cookie business, pricing considerations etc., visit the following sites for a wealth of great information:
Cookie Pricing by Callye of The Adventures of Sweet Sugar Belle
The Elephant In the Room by Gail of One Tough Cookie NYC
Another Darned Elephant by Gail of One Tough Cookie NYC
Extra! Extra!!!! by Gail of One Tough Cookie NYC
Tips on Taking Orders by Lisa of The Bearfoot Baker

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer @ Not Your Momma's Cookie December 9, 2013 at 4:37 am

Wow – this is such an incredibly informative post! Thank you so much, Paula, for all of this work!

Reply

Mardi (eat. live. travel. write.) December 10, 2013 at 5:54 am

What a GREAT post Paula – SO thorough!

Reply

Paula December 12, 2013 at 11:48 am

Thank you so much Mardi. I appreciate you taking the time to read it and leave your comment.

Reply

Julie December 11, 2013 at 10:28 pm

Great post.
I had done a similar calculation myself and had the same kind of reflection that you have.
I have trouble with evaluating how many orders I can take without feeling swamped. Do you have any tips on that ?

Julie

P.s. You forgot to take in the time it takes to go buy the supplies.

Reply

Paula December 12, 2013 at 12:15 pm

Hi Julie ~ thanks for visiting and for leaving your comment. As I noted in the post, I never work on more than two batches of cookies at a time (36 cookies). On the premise that it takes an average of two days to completely finish a batch (based on the cookie being flooded and having to wait overnight to decorate the dried flood icing) I figure that I can do three small orders a week without feeling overwhelmed. Understand that this post was also based on my cookie decorating being a hobby based business and should not be taken as reflecting any costs associated with running a store-front cookie business. In the case of larger orders, I know that I can decorate 200 cookies in a full week without feeling overwhelmed, so should a large order come in I know that I have to book out 7 days to do this one order. Here is where a contract is important. Booking off a week to complete a large order prevents me from accepting any other orders during this time and having a contract with a cancellation clause and down-payment clause covers not only some of the loss of revenue in the event the order gets cancelled but also covers some of the potential loss of revenue from orders I had to turn down during that week.

As for leaving out the time it takes to purchase the supplies. That was intentional. I’m always buying supplies, for my own use as well as for customer’s. Calculating the cost per individual client was not a concern for me personally.

Thanks again for visiting Julie. Hope my answer helped you a little.

Reply

Julie December 15, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Thanks for the reply. It will help me evaluate the time to complete an order and how many orders to accept as I am also a hobby based business.

Reply

Jacquee December 13, 2013 at 5:58 pm

WOW, Paula!! This is so thorough! Butter is around $6. around these parts… I need to move where you are. :)

Reply

Paula December 14, 2013 at 10:29 am

Hi Jacquee! The prices shown are the prices I paid for the ingredients/supplies. Butter sells here for about the same price as your area. I always purchase it when it is on sale and in my area two stores will regularly have butter on sale. Thank goodness!

Reply

Deb December 14, 2013 at 9:29 am

What about factoring in the cost of your license and business liability insurance in your overhead costs?

Reply

Paula December 14, 2013 at 10:35 am

Hi Deb, thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment. You can certainly add those costs and others to the downloadable spreadsheet. I did not as this was just an exercise to determine as close to possible, the cost of completing a baker’s dozen cookies rather than the full costs of running a cookie business.

Reply

Sue {munchkin munchies} December 14, 2013 at 9:31 pm

I appreciate how much time went into these calculations, Paula! WOW! Many people do not understand all the time and effort t takes to make/decorate one cookie! I do enjoy it very much! At this point I rarely make cookies for a paying customer, mostly just for fun:)

Reply

Paula December 16, 2013 at 5:12 pm

Thanks for reading this post Sue. I think all of us who decorate cookies will agree that though there is a lot of time and effort involved, it is one of the most enjoyable ways to spend your time.

Reply

Lora December 30, 2013 at 1:46 pm

I am way impressed with this. Food for thought.

Reply

Susan February 24, 2014 at 10:13 am

Where did you get the coupler bottles?

Reply

Kathleen April 15, 2014 at 4:01 pm

Wow! What a fantastic post! Thanks for this information.

Reply

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