Pooky Studio: “Everything Beautiful And Artistic In A Biscuit”
Yes, this is a cookie.
By Lisa Green
Pooky Amsterdam makes cookies that are such works of art, it’s hard to believe anyone would dare eat one. But people do, and they should, says the Hudson-based artist/baker behind Pooky Studio, the art cookie craft bakery whose creations include baked structures, villages, cookie pops, crowns, avatars, stamped cookies and the likenesses of magazine covers. Because as beautiful as they are, they are as enjoyable to eat.
“It’s not just about how they look,” Amsterdam says. “They have to taste amazing.”
Amsterdam’s occupations have varied as much as her cookie lineup. She’s been a standup comic and worked on Wall Street for many years, licensed “to sell everything but God,” she says. When her cookie business took off, she left Wall Street, and over the years created a lot of cookie magazine covers, including the annual Vanity Fair cover for its yearly parties at Morton’s. Her portfolio includes cookie boxes in the shape of the New York Public Library for Brooke Astor, and cookie portraits of the Lauder family. Her specialties have been sold at Bergdorf Goodman and Barneys New York.
Amsterdam, in apron and pearls.
In 2009, she moved herself and her business to Hudson, and also runs an animation company, Pooky Media LLC. (She declined to reveal her “real” name, saying Pooky was a nickname that stuck.)
Although her degree was in economics, Amsterdam was always connected to her creative side. She graduated high school early to go to the Art Students League, and also studied painting and skeletal structure (it’s helped in the construction of the cookie figures) at Boston University’s School of Fine Arts. The cookie baking started earlier, thanks to her Aunt Lee, whose cookies with sugar paste colors inspired the young Pooky to start experimenting with edible food colorings.
Today, most of the food coloring she uses is natural and she bakes with Hudson eggs and cream. There’s no frosting involved, so there’s a certain earthy quality to the baked surfaces of the cookies.
“I love the alchemy of baking,” she says. “You take sugar, butter, eggs and flour, and create the material that can be made into anything.” Combine the top-quality ingredients and their extraordinary artistry, and you’ve got “inner beauty cookies — they make you beautiful inside.”
Recently, she’s created a collection called Skyscapes, which reflect the colors in Hudson’s sunrises and sunsets. A custom-ordered cookie features a portrait of Ella Fitzgerald. She’s also rendered Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in cookie form. Amsterdam loves fashion (she’s on the board of The Second Show, the Hudson thrift shop) and felt called to do a Met Gala figure, either Anna Wintour or Amal Clooney. Amal won. “I feel really happy with it,” Amsterdam says. “I’m always trying to push myself artistically and make the product the best it can be.”
(You, too, can get a likeness of yourself in cookie form; submit a picture and Amsterdam can replicate it at just about any size. They ship really well, she promises.)
Despite the complexity of these cookies, she says making 200 pieces a day is not a problem. She recently finished making a dozen roses on a lollipop stick for Mother’s Day. Some of the figurative cookies (like the Game of Thrones ones — chocolate with black food coloring made from licorice) take longer, 10 or 20 in a day.
Currently Amsterdam rents commercial space, but hopes to get a commercial kitchen of her own. One of her long-term goals is to employ people. “The ability to give somebody a job is one of the best things you can do,” she says. All of the cookies now are custom made and special ordered, but she would like to find a partner or store that would sell them on site.
“Cookies satisfy so many sensory requirements — taste, smell, visual,” Amsterdam says. “I’m happy to be in the business of something so joyous.”
And about that dilemma of whether to eat these works of art or not? Amsterdam has a solution.
“I recommend people order two. One to eat, one to save.”