Cousin Patty’s Cookies

Technology has made decorating more versatile
Matthew Charron

With a husband who is a chef, Patty Sales cannot generally be found cooking. But baking is a different story.

The namesake of a grassroots East Hampton business, Cousin Patty’s Cookies, she grew up with a wooden spoon and mixing bowl at hand. “It’s very relaxing,” she said on a recent rainy day, perfect for baking. 

Ms. Sales’s decorated cookies come in all shapes and sizes. Individually packaged or boxed, they are perfect for special occasions, and are catching on as gifts. “I paint, too,” she said, so it was not too far a step to make decorated cookies her medium. She gets ideas, she said, from Food Network shows, or online baking sites. She makes her cookies from a “basic shortbread recipe,” but a tasty one, she said, “because if you go to that much work, it should be good to eat.”

But there’s technology involved, too, which helps set Cousin Patty’s treats apart. She invested in a printer that can turn a photograph into an image made with edible ink on rice paper that can be affixed to cookies. 

Over time, her cookies have been decorated with all kinds of images — from a “Grumpy Cat” character for a child’s birthday to vintage greeting card designs, which she is partial to and uses for cookies meant as Mother’s Day gifts. There are Cousin Patty’s cookies appropriate for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other holidays. Gingerbread cookies made to look like a rabbi were even sent into Manhattan on a Hampton Jitney for Hanukkah. And there are many simply intended for a friend. 

 For the Fourth of July, Ms. Sales does patriotic designs.  She has made cookies for a party to which military families and participants in Jordan’s Run, a tribute to Jordan Haerter, a marine from Sag Harbor who lost his life in Iraq, were invited. With three Gold Star families that had also lost loved ones, she made cookies with images of the families’ “challenge coins,” medallions that had been carried by the service members. She’s made cookies for baby showers and bridal showers, and created edible business cards and welcome cookies for real estate brokers to leave for clients who have just purchased a house. 

With an inexhaustible number of possibilities, the print-decorated cookies also, she said, lend themselves to gags, a surprising way to rib someone or make a joke.  

She’s often done cookies as mini books for book clubs and for authors to offer as treats at book signings. Once, they stood in for books themselves. In August, before the East Hampton Library’s Authors Night, Ms. Sales made cookies depicting the cover of Tom Clavin’s “Dodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and the Wickedest Town in the American West.” Mr. Clavin was on hand at the event — but his books had failed to arrive. So he signed a cookie or two instead. 

Ms. Sales’s chocolate chip cookies, the result of tweaking a few recipes to create a custom mix, are a staple and a “crowd-pleaser,” she said.  She also makes her grandmother’s peanut butter blossoms.  “My grandmother, who lived in Montauk — you’d go to her house … she was always baking. You’d probably leave with an apple pie, or cookies.”  Her mother baked, too, and “we were always a big part of it, hands on,” she said. The oven was going whenever there was a bake sale or other event coming up. “As soon as we were old enough,” Ms. Sales said, her mother would say “make them yourself.”

Baking also was a family activity when her two daughters were growing up, and now she bakes with a young child who is a friend of the family, and with preschool children her daughter teaches. “I think it’s important,” she said.

“I’ve always enjoyed baking,” Ms. Sales said. “Wherever I went, I would bring cookies.”  She would deliver a gift of cookies in a jar or tin with an offer for refills. But the “turning point,” she said, came after a friend impressed upon her that people would pay good money for her baked goods. This fall, as Election Day neared, Ms. Sales was making “candidate cookies” for a friend on the ballot. Another friend, a summer visitor to East Hampton who lives in New York City at other times of year, was always amazed at how many people Ms. Sales knows or is related to here. 

“Everybody’s her cousin,” the friend would tease.  One day, she turned the joke into a logo on a Facebook page, but the business continues to be run largely by word of mouth. Although you might encounter Cousin Patty’s Cookies at a local fair or bake sale, you don’t have to wait to buy some. Orders are now taken by email, at CousinPattysCookies@gmail.com.

Patricia Sales
Durell Godfrey Photos