Sweetening the deal: Home cookie business shows attention to detail

By Jason Klaiber

Back when Sarah Germain was involved in the news business, it tended to be unpredictable what slate of stories would come her way day to day.

But now that the East Syracuse resident has made the switch to cookie making on a full-time basis, she’s kept on her toes by the various types of dessert orders she’s entrusted with by her loyal customers.

Formerly a senior producer in charge of a live, late afternoon cable news program, Germain began dabbling in baking as an outside-of-work hobby that doubled as her creative outlet.

As she practiced, she tested out her recipes by sharing them with her colleagues in the newsroom, but eventually she decided to depart from her career in local television news to focus on her passion and officially start a household bakery out of her kitchen called Salt City Sugar.

In the summer of 2020, at the onset of the pandemic, she had her first order to fill when she took up the task of making a box of cookies for a neighbor’s bridal shower.

“I was nervous, but I was like, ‘You know what, I’m just gonna go for it,’ and then it kind of just picked up quickly from there,” Germain said.

Her foundational forte from the beginning has been a classic sugar cookie with royal icing and a thin, soft consistency.

“I’m not a fan of a really hard cookie,” she said. “I feel like sugar cookies can sometimes get a bad rap for being too sweet or hard as a rock. That’s not what I’m going for.”

After meeting New York State’s home processing guidelines and maintaining patience through the “time-consuming” drying stage, Germain applies hand-mixed coloring, intricate designs and a metallic shine to the smooth cookie surfaces.

Since she mostly sticks to bringing the customized ideas of others to fruition with a sprinkle of creative freedom, Germain’s resume is already brimming with a wide range of designs just two years into Salt City Sugar’s operation.

The themes have included ones referencing TV series like “Sesame Street,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” as well as cookies that pull inspiration from the invitations and party decor for wedding receptions and birthday parties.

Others are decorated with holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving in mind. Earlier this month, for example, she made about seven dozen pumpkin-shaped sugar cookies on an assembly line and with extra dough she carved out time to prepare a batch of samples based on the newly released movie “Hocus Pocus 2,” all of which sold out a matter of minutes after she posted a notification online for the flash sale.

Germain artistically layers the details of her freshly baked creations with either a freehand approach or a guided projector that casts specialty text onto the cookies. To bring the illustrations to life, she uses an airbrush for heightened definition and shading, viewing each cut-out shape as a canvas.

When the baking process is completed, she bags and heat seals the sets of cookies and photographs them, capturing a memory to look back on for anyone who thinks their purchased treats are too pretty to eat.

To preserve a separation of business and her private life even with an in-home bakery, Germain runs the orders out to customers who pop in the driveway and hands off the sweets with a hello and a quick chat.

Lately Salt City Sugar has booked requests a month or more in advance, with some single orders amounting to a count of 16 dozen.

“I’m a one-woman show, so that’s a lot of cookies,” Germain said.

When it comes time for pick-up, Germain checks with customers’ availability and arranges to connect with them at her residence near the Fremont neighborhood or another decided-upon location.

She said she hopes to bring her frosted sugar cookies to festivals in the future in addition to selling them at interested cafes and hosting pop-up events. To get to know her customer base better, she also plans to offer and personally instruct paint-your-own-cookie classes.

More information on the business can be found by visiting saltcitysugar.weebly.com, where an inquiry form streamlines the ordering process. The bakery can also be contacted with a message to its Facebook and Instagram pages or an email to [email protected].