Naperville Eats: Karina Kappel of The Artful Baker
By Judy Buchenot For The Sun December 12, 2012 4:30PM
Karina Kappel, of Naperville, uses only a small amount of icing in her decorating bag to allow for better control. Kappel opened the Artful Baker in 2005. | Judy Buchenot~For The Sun
1 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Sift together flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl. Place butter and sugar in mixing bowl and beat 2 to 3 minutes until light and fluffy. Scrape bowl down and cream one more minute. Add egg and vanilla, beat until combined. Add flour mixture 1 cup at a time. Dough will be stiff. You may have to mix in last bit by hand. Divide dough in half. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm.
Lightly flour surface. Roll out dough to about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out cookies, dipping the cutter into flour to prevent sticking. It is helpful to have an offset spatula to slide under cookies in case they stick. Place cut-out cookies on parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake 6 to 8 minutes for 1/8-inch thick cookies or 10 to 11 minutes for 1/4-inch thick cookies. Transfer to a cooling rack.
1/4 cup Wilton meringue powder
1/2 cup cold water
1 pound confectioner’s sugar
1/2 teaspoon flavoring, vanilla, lemon, orange or almond extract — be creative!
Add meringue powder and cold water to mixing bowl. Beat for 3 to 4 minutes until soft peaks form. Add sugar 1 cup at a time, beating between each added cup. Add the flavoring and beat for another 3 minutes until the icing forms medium peaks and is shiny. Cover with plastic or transfer to air-tight container until ready to use. This icing can be colored any way you’d like using gel colors. This icing is a stiff consistency for use in a decorating bag. If using the icing to frost the cookie, thin slightly so it will flow onto the cookie.
Updated: January 15, 2013 6:16AM
Cookies can stop a child’s tears, celebrate a special moment, bring back memories of home, and for Karina Kappel, provide a rewarding career. By decorating a cookie, the Naperville resident found a way to mix all of her passions in one bowl.
Kappel decided in high school that she wanted to pursue art as a career and chose to major in medical and scientific illustration. She mixed anatomy, science and art successfully and earned a master’s degree in the field. But after working as an illustrator, she found the work to be “stifling. I wanted to have more freedom as an artist,” she explains.
Then one Easter, she was thinking about making a treat for a family event that would reflect the season.
“I wondered if I could paint a cookie to look as real as a butterfly,” she recalls.
She tapped into her scientific illustration background as well as her watercolor skills and found that she could make a cookie that looked very much like a butterfly. She began to experiment with other cookie ideas.
On a whim, she entered a decorating contest by Wilton, a Woodridge-based company specializing in candy, cake and cookie creation and decoration tools and classes.
Her submission of a basket of cookies shaped like flowers and bees was awarded the grand prize of free admission to the master decorating class.
Kappel took the class and began to learn many new techniques. She continued to take classes and expanded into cake decoration.
With the encouragement of friends and family, Kappel decided it was time to start her own business. Her husband oversaw the construction of a decorating studio in their home, and The Artful Baker opened in 2005.
In an interesting twist, Kappel was contacted by a medical company who wanted her to make feet-shaped cookies for an event. Kappel pointed out that she could make a foot shape but could include anatomically correct frosting. The company was thrilled by her medically illustrated cookie.
“Not many cookie decorators know medical illustration,” says Kappel who has found a very unique niche in the decoration world. “I had come full circle back to where I started — medical illustration. You never know where life will take you.”
The 44-year-old mother of two is pleased to be able to work from home, and continually draw upon her scientific and medical knowledge to help her make nature decorations more authentic.
Most of Kappel’s cookies are a vanilla cut-out cookie, but she has other varieties.
“I find that people tend to over bake cookies. I tend to under bake them, so they don’t get too hard. The thinner the cookie, the crisper it will be. Softer cookies need to be at least a quarter-inch thick.”
Kappel offers a few decorating tips for home bakers picking up a decorating bag this holiday season.
“One mistake is using the wrong frosting. It is best to use a frosting that hardens so you can package the cookies,” she begins.
She likes to vary the frosting flavor for her cookies.
“It is also important not to put too many sprinkles on the cookies. A little goes a long way. Limit the colors you use also. I prefer a more elegant look to cookies instead of a neon green cookie.”
When piping on delicate designs, use a small amount of frosting in the decorating bag instead of a full bag of frosting. Kappel uses about two tablespoons of frosting, rolls the bag to seal it and then holds it like a pencil for piping her designs. Kappel shares her basic cookie and frosting recipe for others to try this holiday season.
To see more of her realistic designs,