Today on Sweet Talk I’m chatting with Mike of Semi Sweet Designs. When I first saw Mike’s cookies I was blown away by his talent. Every time he posts his latest work I just oooh and ahhh. He’s one of the most precise cookie decorators I’ve ever seen. Everything is so clean and crisp. I wondered if his Engineering background had something to do with it so that’s one of the questions I asked him below.
Not only does Mike create amazing cookies but his pictures are equally amazing. I love that he incorporates his love for TV and movies into his designs. There’s nothing cookie cutter about him. Thanks for joining us today Mike.
Thanks, Melissa, for inviting me over to your blog today. So happy to be here!
Hello! I’m Mike Tamplin, the guy behind the cookies at Semi Sweet Designs. I love coming up with unique cookie designs in my spare time and document the process, as well as share tips and tricks, on my blog. I’m what you would call a cookie hobbyist. By day, I work full time as an aerospace engineer for Boeing Commercial Airplanes. By night (and usually during the weekends), I’m in my kitchen icing cookies. There’s not a lot of opportunity for me to be creative at work. Decorating sugar cookies fills that void.
Tell me about your name. Why did you choose Semi Sweet Designs?
I liked how “semi sweet” is a familiar term in baking, but also describes my cookie style perfectly. Contrary to decorated cookies that are typically cute and pretty, my cookie aesthetic leans more toward geeky and the unconventional. I like to put a twist on cute treats— a “semi sweet” spin on cookies, if you will.
Where do you live?
I was born and raised in Tampa, Florida and went to college in Orlando at the University of Central Florida. (Go Knights!) In 2006, I moved to the Pacific Northwest for a job with Boeing. I now call Seattle home, and despite the gloomy rainy days, love it here.
How long have you been baking?
Ever since I could remember, the baking aisle was always my favorite aisle in the grocery store. As a kid (and even now as a big kid), I loved gawking at all the boxed choices of brownie and cake mix. I couldn’t wait to head home and bake up whatever baked good we finally selected.
Is baking a hobby or a business?
It’s definitely a hobby. In the beginning, I dabbled with the possibility of making cookies as a business. I took on a few customer orders but realized it wasn’t for me. I found it difficult balancing a full-time job while trying to meet cookie deadlines. Also, if I had a random cookie idea I wanted to try, I had no spare time to make it. It became less fun really fast. Now, I just make cookies in my free time of anything that just comes to mind.
When did you discover your love for decorated cookies?
I entered the world of cookie decorating in November 2011. I was looking for a gift idea for a friend that had everything. He was a lover of cookies, so I Googled a few decorated cookie tutorials online and gave it a shot. It turned out to be a lot of fun. So this would-be, one time, kitchen craft became a non-stop hobby that consumes my free time.
Your cookies are always so clean and precise. Would you say that your engineering background plays a part in how you design cookies? Do you approach cookies with an engineer’s mind?
Haha, I wish I could say it was attributed to my engineering background, but it probably boils down to me being a perfectionist. Even as a kid, I was always anal-retentive with art projects in school. I could show you pictures of tidy, paper mache piñatas I made in elementary school that would make your eyes roll.
A lot of your designs are based on TV shows and characters. Would you consider yourself a geek?
Over the recent years, I’ve slowly accepted my geek status. I watch a ton of TV, play a lot of video games, and went to Comicon for the first time this year. So, there’s probably no denying I’m a geek.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Pretty much everywhere. I mentioned TV before, but movies also give me geeky and pop culture ideas. I do venture away from the nerdy category too. A lot of inspiration comes from just roaming the seasonal aisles of home furnishing stores. Pottery Barn, World Market, Pier 1, and Target are my favorites.
What one item in your kitchen can you not live without and why?
The obvious choice would be my powerful Kitchenaid mixer, but I’m in love with my Joseph Joseph adjustable rolling pin. It’s a time saver and rolls perfectly even dough each time.
What is on your baking bucket list?
Three things come to mind. I would love to try to bake and decorate a cake with fondant, a small one, like a single tier with four layers. I’d also like to try my hand at making macarons, but the thought of delicate process in making them is holding me back. Lastly, I would like to learn to properly pipe a good-looking rose in icing, you know the ones you spin on a flat, metal nail. I just need to get over my hesitations and give them a go.
I really love the photographs on your blog. What goes through your mind when styling a photo?
I’m still a newbie at food styling and don’t quite get it right every time. I try to set up the shot like how it might be presented in a home or at a party. I think setting it up this way makes the photo more inviting and enticing if you can picture yourself being there. Sometimes it doesn’t always work. That’s when I just group them together on a plate and call it good.
What three words best describe your cookie style/philosophy?
This one’s hard. Hmm… unconventional, relatable, and fun?
Aside from cookies and baking what else do you like to do? Hobbies?
I like to keep active. I’ve been playing on a recreational soccer team for about 4 years. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of long distance running to train for my first half marathon in a few months. All this running around helps balance all the sweets I consume. My rat terrier, Indiana, keeps me busy too. He’s a 15-pound bundle of joy and trouble.
Let’s have some fun now.
Royal or glaze?
Chill or no chill?
Sift or don’t sift?
I sift flour, but I don’t sift powdered sugar.
Thick or thin?
Outline & flood or one consistency?
I wish I could master the art of one consistency; it never works out when I attempt it. I feel I have more control of the icing if I make two consistencies for outlining and flooding.
Piping bags or bottles or both?
I use bottles most of the time. I use piping bags for stiff icing details, and when I run out of clean bottles.
Thanks so much for having me over to your neck of the woods, Melissa! I’ve really enjoyed all your “Sweet Talks” and I’m honored to be a part of it.
Until the next Sweet Talk happy baking and creating friends.
Be sure to check back Friday morning for my announcement. No I’m not pregnant. When I mentioned an exciting announcement on my post Sunday I got some of my friends excited. LOL!