Cookie Art

12/01/2022 01:46 AM By Lisa Anderson
The Chews Letter
Jessica Crouch
Jessica Crouch
Story by Cynthia McFarland • Photos by Joshua Jacobs

Cookie Art

Self-Taught Baker Fulfills Her Destiny

One firm, sweet, buttery bite of Jessica Crouch’s amazing cookies and there’s no doubt this Marion County baker is doing exactly what she was meant to do.

The culinary creator behind Ocala Cookie Couture is a wife, mother, physical therapist assistant, and full-time cookie magician or, as she puts it, a “cookier.”

Raised in Broward County, Jessica was just 3 years old when her adoptive parents moved to South Florida. The family relocated to Citra in 1991.

“It was a very different world from South Florida,” recalls Jessica, who graduated from North Marion High School.

Jessica and her husband Shane have four children: Carley (22), Austin (20), Lucas (17), and Quentin (14).

While busy as a stay-at-home mom for over a decade, Jessica did “odds and ends” jobs, such as babysitting and house cleaning, before going back to school. She graduated from the College of Central Florida, in 2018, with her physical therapist assistant degree.

Her cookie adventure started earlier. Like many children, Jessica was in the kitchen when young, but that wasn’t what sparked her to launch a cookie business. “I always helped my mom make Christmas cookies every year. We baked them, burned them, used bought frosting and put sprinkles on them,” she laughs. “There wasn’t any real talent.”

Getting Started

Jessica is the first person to admit her “cookie destiny” came about due to some life-changing friendships—and divine guidance.

“The cookies wouldn’t have happened without God,” she says simply. “I feel this path was laid out for me, and every piece has fallen into place.”

From 2007 to 2016, Jessica was part of a women’s Bible study group called “M3: “Moms, Muffins, and More” that was mentored and led by Ruth Bell. The members were mothers whose children attended preschool at Grace Building Blocks (now Graceway Academy).

“She changed my life,” says Jessica of Ruth, who was battling breast cancer while still living out her faith and inspiring others.

With Ruth’s encouragement, Jessica baked her first cookies for a fundraiser in 2013. They were so well-received that, for the next two Christmases, she sold them at the preschool.

By 2015, Jessica was getting orders and selling regularly. Ocala Cookie Couture was “official.” She later formed an LLC.

“Ruth...died February 28, 2015,” says Jessica. “She did get to see my business take off, and...I know she’d be happy to see how it’s grown.”

Leaps and Bounds

Jessica started her cookie venture with a butter shortbread recipe from a friend in her Bible study group. She’s never changed recipes, because it’s so popular with customers.

While her fledgling business had great support from the women in her original study group, word-of-mouth from satisfied customers has caused it to grow exponentially. “It’s been a huge blessing. I can’t escape giving glory to God, because that’s how it’s grown,” says Jessica.

She did become a physical therapist assistant and works at UF Health The Villages Hospital, where she loves working with patients. At the same time, she’s passionate about growing her cookie business.

When filling orders, Jessica uses her thousands of cookie cutters. She’ll also cut out dough freehand or print clip art for the patterns, when a customer has an unusual request—such as a recent one for submarines.

She’s completely self-taught as a baker, including mastering royal icing techniques. Having added an Eddie edible ink printer to her array of equipment, she’s able to print logos and pictures on cookies. “This opens up a whole other avenue,” she states.

“If I’m not learning, I get bored, so I always want to learn more,” says Jessica, who credits YouTube videos and local cookie groups, including Nice Ladies, with helping expand her cookie skills.
decorated cookies on a plate

Pretty and Tasty

Jessica describes Ocala Cookie Couture as a place “where art and cookies collide.”

“One of the biggest things I hear from people is that my cookies actually taste good; they’re not just pretty,” she says.

Her beautifully decorated cookies make an appealing addition to special occasions of all sorts—from birthdays and holidays to weddings, showers, and more. A favorite holiday order is for her Christmas Advent Calendar box, featuring 24 days of delectable cookies.

“It’s never lost on me that I’m part of someone’s event,” notes Jessica. “When I’m working on any order, it’s not just some sugar I’m handing to someone; it’s going to be a memory for them.”

She typically has 20 to 45 minutes invested in each cookie, depending on the detail of decoration.

Now that her oldest children are in college, the family’s schedule has slowed just a bit, allowing Jessica more time in the kitchen.

Social media continues to help her business grow, and she has plenty of ideas moving forward, such as offering quarterly cookie classes.

Whatever comes next, the future is sure to be sweet.
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