Ag professional’s hobby leads to a start-up side business of cookie decorating classes – Agweek

As the fields around me get harvested, I start writing vacation to-do lists. I’ll never get it all done, but lists feel therapeutic to me. One item I used to do with my mom but now never finish before Christmas is cookie decorating. This year I wrote it up as an activity for my nephews and teenage daughters. I fondly remember my mom cutting out and flooding sugar cookies baked with royal icing. These were the fanciest Christmas cookies we could create I thought.

The Creations of Kate Facebook page piqued my interest in early October when Katelyn Engquist, 29, who lives in West Fargo, North Dakota, shared that she was taking two decorating classes on December 3 in her hometown of Chokio, Minnesota of Christmas cookies.

Aside from my love of Christmas cookies and baking, when I see a farmer develop a sideline or new business niche, I celebrate. I reached out to Katelyn to learn more about how this cookie side business came about and the classes she offers.


Katelyn Engquist began decorating cookies in February 2020, taking classes online and in person, and taking orders from friends in July 2020.


Katelyn attended North Dakota State University, where she earned bachelor’s degrees with majors in Public Relations and Advertising and minors in Agricultural Communications and Animal Sciences. She now works from home for Ag Management Solutions in market development and communications. Based in Mankato, Minnesota, AMS administers several agricultural organizations. After her time at NDSU, Katelyn worked for the North Dakota Corn Utilization Council and the North Dakota Corn Growers Association.

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I share her education and work experience to note that cookie baking and decorating or food science is not part of her education or work experience. But her hobby turned into a business.


After her full-time job, Katelyn Engquist, right, she can take some time to decorate cookies after her toddler Kennedy goes to bed early every night. She said she and her husband Kelly are “homebodies,” which gives her time for her work decorating cookies.


Like many of us, baking was a part of Katelyn’s childhood.

“I’ve always loved to bake and baked a lot with my grandma growing up,” she said. “I have many photos of my brothers and I decorating Christmas cookies with my grandparents when we were little. I remember making so many cookies, baking them too long and icing them with knives and icing. Then after the holidays we threw away a lot of biscuits because they didn’t taste that good.”

Instead of sticking with the old Christmas cookies, Katelyn decided to find a new way for herself to learn more about decorating cookies.

In 2019, she began following several bakers’ social media accounts and learning about royal icing. After her marriage to husband Kelly in January 2020, she took a cookie decorating course at a baker near her hometown in February 2020.

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Katelyn (Blackwelder) Engquist was a former Minnesota milk princess from Big Stone County and a finalist in Princess Kay of the Milky Way in 2011-13, which meant a traditional butter sculpture was carved in her likeness. Her parents kept the sculpture in their freezer. Pictured is Katelyn with her daughter Kennedy and the decorated cookie Katelyn created from the butter sculpture.


“Cue the pandemic and I had a lot of extra time on my hands,” Katelyn said. “I started baking a lot, maybe too much, and experimenting with decorating cookies. I posted pictures of my cookies on my personal Instagram and took my first order in July 2020. Since then, I have been taking custom orders and doing pre-sales on various holidays. I took a break before having my daughter Kennedy, who is now 15 months old, and then didn’t bake at all for the first few months of her life, but in the winter of 2021 I was itching to start decorating again.”

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Katelyn continued to develop her hobby into a business as more friends placed orders and her business grew through word of mouth. She added more general cookie decorating skills by taking online classes and then a specialty class from a woman who created “amazing flowers with royal icing.”


Katelyn Engquist is a full-time farmer from a family dairy farm in Minnesota and has turned a hobby of cookie decorating into a side hustle during the pandemic, which she’s now expanding by offering Christmas cookie decorating classes. Pictured is an example of her work decorating biscuits.


In the rush of the upcoming holiday season, what made Katelyn set aside an early Saturday in December to offer her first public class?

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“I’ve wanted to host a cookie decorating class for a while. I’ve done a few smaller courses for a few groups, both online and in person. My Christmas courses in Chokio on December 3 will be my first courses open to everyone,” she said. “A lot of people make decorated sugar cookies around the holidays, so now is the perfect time to learn the basics of royal icing. Royal icing is made from powdered meringue (or egg whites), which causes the icing to harden and dry well.”

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Creations of Kate Pregnancy Announcement Custom Cookies


Katelyn explained that each contestant gets six tipless cookies and pastry bags filled with different colors of icing and two consistencies: a thicker icing for detail and a thinner one for “flooding,” which she explained as icing a cookie with a thinner icing to fill larger areas in one smooth layer.

“There’s definitely a learning curve with royal frosting and the consistency of the frosting is so important,” she said.

She also wants to decorate cookies that anyone can make.

“My goal is to teach techniques that anyone can replicate at home without having to buy any other equipment or materials,” she said. “I use special equipment like a pico projector, which allows me to transfer words and intricate designs onto cookies. I don’t expect anyone in this class to buy their own projector, so I want them to be able to make pretty cookies with things they already have at home.

Whether or not you make it to rural Minnesota for Katelyn’s first Christmas cookie classes, she shared insights for anyone considering turning a hobby into a business or a side hustle into your full-time job.

“Start small and find a niche that fits you and your family,” Katelyn said.

Pinke is the editor and managing director of Agweek. She can be reached at [email protected] or get in touch with her on Twitter @katpinke.


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