One of Modern Reston’s main goals is to discover local people doing extraordinary things. It turns out that the more we explore Northern VA, the more talented people we unearth. Luckily for us, this area is a treasure trove of entrepreneurs and creatives. One such find is April Balmaceda of Prelly Cookies.
April is a self-taught baker and cookie decorator in Arlington, VA. Her amazingly detailed cookies caught our eye on Instagram (oh, Instagram. How I love thee…) and we just HAD to find out who was behind them. April was gracious enough to answer some questions to give us some insight into her process.
Do you have a shop or are your cookies home-baked?
I am a home-based baker and operate under Virginia’s Cottage Food Law. I would love to open a small cookie shop one day, but my family moves around so much due to my husband’s career in the US Air Force. So, a cookie shop will have to wait until after he retires and we are not moving around the country every few years.
When did you start baking and do you have any formal training?
I first became interested in cookie decorating in 2009 — when I was planning my daughter’s 1st birthday party. I have always been a fan of edible favors and wanted to give decorated sugar cookies as her party favors. I had already chosen the mod monkey as her birthday theme and wanted to make cookies decorated as monkey faces. I turned to the internet and discovered cookie guru Callye Alvarado of Sweet Sugar Belle. I had so much fun decorating those monkey faces! I didn’t bake or decorate sugar cookies again until my daughter’s 2nd birthday in December 2010. After my son was born in April 2011, I became super interested in cookie decorating and started reading everything about it. Ever since then, I’ve been completely and utterly obsessed with decorating cookies. I am a self-taught cookie decorator–all due to so many amazing and wonderful cookiers who share their knowledge. I was also fortunate to take two cookie decorating classes with Angela of Oh, Sugar! Events in 2013 when we were still living in Los Angeles, CA.
Tell us about your decorating technique.
I mostly decorate my cookies using royal icing. There are so many fun ways to decorate a cookie with royal icing. I use a variety of decorating techniques to achieve the look I want, but also use edible markers and luster dusts for detailing. Airbrushing is another decorating technique I enjoy. It is much easier to airbrush a pattern, like quatrefoil, than piping it. My favorite technique is probably piping words/names/letters.
What types of cookies do you offer and do you ever experiment with new flavors?
Currently, I only offer three flavors of decorated sugar cookies: classic vanilla bean, vanilla-almond, and chocolate. My icing flavor is always vanilla. I have experimented with red velvet, ube (taro), and lemon-almond sugar cookie flavors. My goal this year is to actually experiment with more cookie and icing flavors. I do have plans to start offering other treats like chocolate-caramel pretzel rods and chocolate covered oreos soon.
What are some of your most popular items?
I really don’t have one particular popular item, since all my cookie orders are customized to each customer’s needs.
Do you offer gluten-free or nut-free options?
I do not offer gluten-free cookies, but do offer nut-free options. I am a home-based baker so I do not have a nut-free kitchen. But, my classic vanilla-bean or chocolate sugar cookies are great cookie flavor options for any customers with nut allergies.
What is the craziest cookie you have ever made?
I’m not sure about the craziest cookie I’ve ever made, but I think one of the coolest was a set of gender reveal cookies for a friend. Her husband is also active duty military so they are far away from family. She wanted to share in the fun of finding out the sex of her baby so she asked me to make gender reveal cookies. She mailed the cookies to her family members to let them know that she was having a girl. The gender was revealed when they bit into the cookie. So fun!
Any final word of cookie wisdom?
For those who are interested in decorating cookies: Allow yourself to be a beginner. Do not expect yourself to make perfectly decorated cookies from just reading or watching a few cookie decorating tutorials. Cookie decorating is a lot of fun, but it’s a lot work and takes a lot of time. Enjoy every sweet step in your cookie decorating adventures!
Local (Northern Virginia) orders only
Located in Arlington, VA.