It’s been a big year for one cookie artist in Washington.
On Jan. 19, 2019, SaraKay Hannel, who owns Fairytale Cookie Co., received a message on Instagram from a Food Network casting agent asking if she would be interested in trying out for the Christmas Cookie Challenge.
After several Skype interviews and baking trials, she was flown out to Los Angeles. Hannel was there for six days, five of which were for filming.
The visit included post- and pre-competition interviews, and a tour of the culinary kitchen.
While Hannel competed against four other cookie artists, several cameramen and producers were filming the contestants’ every move.
“It’s a big challenge getting over the cameramen being there,” she said.
The five cookie artists were challenged to assemble cookie mosaics worthy of displaying in the Louvre Museum.
The creations were judged by Ree Drummond, Dwayne Ingraham and Gesine Prado.
The prettiest cookie platter was awarded a $10,000 prize. Under contract, Hannel has kept the big secret to herself.
The episode will air Monday, Nov. 25, at 9 p.m. It is the first episode of season three.
Hannel’s big year continued in September when a space opened up in Downtown Washington at 5 W. Second St.
Since May 2017, Hannel had been decorating cookies out of her home. Finally, she was going to have a dedicated space for her Fairytale Cookie Co.
“I jumped at the opportunity,” she said. “I no longer have to bake at home.”
She held her grand opening at the shop Nov. 16.
“It was crazy,” she said, noting people were lined out of the door and down the sidewalk.
Hannel sold her entire stock of cookies in just 45 minutes. She had to turn people away.
“It was really heartbreaking to see that,” she said, but she hopes it’s not an everyday sell out.
“If that’s the way it goes, we’re going to need a bigger boat,” she said. Currently, Hannel is the only one working at the store.
Five classic cookies and decorated design cookies are offered each day. She also offers custom decorated cookies, which she said can be time-consuming.
From the stand mixer to putting the finished product in the box can take anywhere from six to eight hours, she said.
Hannel also will host two to three decorating classes a month.
The cookie boutique is on Facebook at Fairytale Cookie Company, on Instagram at Fairytale Cookie Co., and online at fairytalecookieco.com.
Hannel prefers that customers make custom orders through Facebook, and preorder holiday cookies and class tickets through the website. There’s an automatic order form on Facebook Messenger.
“It makes it a lot easier for me,” she said.
The recipes of the cookies are all Hannel’s, noting she will never share them.
The bakery also features a large Rae Dunn collection of dishes ranging from coffee mugs to sugar bowls. But these are not for sale.
“It took me a long time to find those pieces,” she said.
The bakery features a small sitting area for people to drink coffee, chat and grab some cookies.
Gluten free and vegan cookies can be ordered through special order only.
Hannel decorated her first cookie in May 2017. She was working at a cake bakery at the time. The bakery flooded and Hannel found herself with some time on her hands.
Out of boredom, she decorated a unicorn cookie. Then she began baking every night after coming home from the cake bakery.
In July 2017, she featured her cookies in the Lake Saint Louis Farmers’ Market. By October of that year, she was ready to take the leap of decorating cookies full-time out of her house.
By February 2018, she moved her cookie boutique to the Washington Coffee Shop, but was still baking out of her home.
Her newly opened downtown bakery shop is open Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.