Baking the Enjoyment of Cakes and Cookies into One
Article by Meghan Smith/ Photography by Josianne Masseau
Most people have had that moment: the dessert conundrum. Do I want chocolate or vanilla? Am I in the mood for cookies or cake? Pie or cheesecake? How can anyone choose just one?
The Muskoka Stuffed Cookie Company makes the choice easier, combining their own passion for crafting and eating baked goods into a sweet experience of your favourite goodies. As their website states: “Have your cake and cookie, too!”
A lifelong Huntsville resident and professional photographer for over 20 years, Kelly Holinshead is also a dessert-lover, a self-taught baker and the genius behind Muskoka Stuffed Cookie Company.
“For years I’ve baked for people I know, especially at Christmas time,” shares Holinshead. “Often, I’ve given away about 30 boxes to friends and family with all kinds of treats I’ve made.”
With the postponement and cancellation of many weddings in 2020, courtesy of the COVID-19 pandemic, Holinshead found herself with free time she would not have normally experienced in the spring and early summer months. As many did during lockdown times, she was baking regularly and giving the finished products away to friends. At Father’s Day she decided to bake and giveaway stuffed cookies for the first time. They were a huge hit.
“People loved the cookies,” she recalls. “The reviews have been great. It’s all experimental but it’s so fun.”
As restrictions lifted, photography work picked up again and Holinshead had little time to continue her culinary explorations. Stuffed cookies were placed on the backburner. She recalls in early November her schedule began to free up. Her husband kindly reminded her of her great idea and pointed out that if she didn’t take the idea and run with it, someone else would.
In less than three weeks, Holinshead was in a commercial kitchen she rents, pumping out stuffed cookies. Her years of baking experience at home did not fully prepare her for her next steps. She had not baked in a commercial setting before and definitely not with the intention of selling the baked goods.
“There was definitely a learning curve,” she laughs. “Commercial ovens bake differently; larger batches are different. There were some things that surprised me, that’s for sure. It has been interesting.”
So far, the journey to stuffed cookie mastery has been filled with culinary creativity. For starters, stuffing a cookie is not as simple as it sounds, let alone making the finished product look and taste great. Holinshead started with family recipes collected over the years, such as her grandmother’s gingerbread and her mom’s best shortbread, along with her own favourites. She knew she wanted to include family classics with a twist and seasonal flavours that everyone would enjoy.
“I wanted to have good varieties for the first launch,” shares Holinshead. “It was really coming up with flavours of items I already love and used in my own baking.”
Her first orders for Christmas 2020 totalled 40 boxes, filled with five different types of cookies. She knew starting off with a “base” cookie or flavour, somewhat similar to ice cream flavours, would be important. The standard dough bases she now uses are vanilla, chocolate and peanut butter, all crafted with brown butter for additional flavour and consistency.
“It took me a bit to come up with base doughs but now I’ve got it down and tweak them slightly, like vanilla to cinnamon spice,” she explains.
The doughs are enhanced with mix-ins, like chocolate chips, dried fruit or candied ginger, and then carefully used to cover indulgent fillings – ganache, frosting, cake, even other cookies. No dessert is complete without the proper garnish. Therefore, each cookie, once completely cooled, is topped with its own glaze, drizzle or other finishing touch.
“I like doing a cookie with something like cheesecake stuffed in and a ganache filling, so there are different textures but complementary flavours,” says Holinshead.
Sweet Salt of the Earth Caramel Crunch. Don’t Worry Be Hoppy. Tapped Out. Nutty But Nice. Muskoka Stuffed Cookie Co. rivals any craft brewery or even Ben & Jerry’s for their inventive names for flavours.
“I really thought about our flavours and what I wanted to name the cookies,” Holinshead laughs. “I wanted to have cookies that had clever names. It’s so fun. Sometimes I even have a name before I’ve fully made a cookie.”
With such a variety of flavours, there’s something for every taste from Muskoka Stuffed Cookie Co. However, these cookies are not for those with allergies. With such a variety of ingredients, these masterful desserts cannot be made without gluten or other allergens.
“I use some pre-made ingredients, so I can’t verify that they’re allergy-free,” explains Holinshead. “It’s not a gluten free kitchen. There are bakers that are meeting that target. But I’ve got some really great ideas coming up.”
Inspiration comes from everywhere. Friends suggesting a favourite flavour, browsing online through recipes or grocery stores, and even wandering the candy aisles. Testing out anything that seems like a delicious combination, Muskoka Stuffed Cookie Company is always looking for new ideas.
“I think about cookies all the time,” exclaims Holinshead. “I’m always wondering what combinations I can put together.”
Measuring in at four inches in diameter, two inches in height and between a quarter to a half pound in weight, these are a heavyweight cookie. Stuffed cookies are a big deal; not only are they massive but Holinshead uses only top-quality ingredients in these specialty treats.
“It takes a long day in the kitchen but its 100 per cent worth it,” she says. “The cookies make people so happy.”
Every part of the business and the baking are experimental. One batch of baking produces about 12 cookies, which gives perspective on how many hours are logged to fill orders with so many different flavours of cookie. With her multiple step process and working mostly as a one-woman operation, Holinshead admits that the whole process can be stressful, but so far, she’s avoided major kitchen disasters, like dropping a whole tray of cookies.
There is not a walk-in cookie shop, at least not yet, and with fluctuating provincial restrictions, Holinshead had the opportunity to approach ordering and product availability a little differently. Most bakers are up in the early hours of the day, scrambling to bake as much product as possible and then, when items sell out, they’re gone until the next day. For Muskoka Stuffed Cookie Company, Holinshead started off by taking pre-orders and continues to regularly announce “cookie drops” online.
“From January to Easter I did weekly drops, with orders on Friday, and pick up the following Friday,” says Holinshead. “I’ve pulled it back a little bit now to once a month, maybe a bit more than that.”
A week or two in advance of the beginning of the month, or before a holiday, Holinshead opens pre-orders for various box sizes, allowing for personal flavour choices. In this way, orders are filled and ready for pick-up locally from the Muskoka Good Food Co-Op in Huntsville on the predetermined date.
In addition to regular “cookie drops”, Muskoka Stuffed Cookie Co. offers both a Cookie of the Month Club and a Corporate Cookie Club subscription. Membership in these delicious clubs ensures that cookies are available for pick up the first week of each month, with flavours hand-selected for your enjoyment.
Basing her schedule on pre-orders, means Holinshead knows just how many of each type of stuffed cookie she’ll need to bake. She can shop for supplies, arrange time in her rented kitchen and plan the amount of time she needs to dedicate to fulfilling each custom order.
“I bake some really original creations, with lots of great ingredients,” says Holinshead. “I’m so happy I’ve done this.”
Although she was disheartened to learn she was not the first person to think of stuffed cookies, Holinshead is sure “there aren’t any quite like mine though.” With combinations like Sweet Buns Cinnamon Crunch, Triple Chip with Brownie Points and Pecan You Pass Me a Buttertart, we’re inclined to agree.
Sweet treats conjure fond memories of special recipes from grandma, holiday dinners with family and nights around a campfire with friends. Muskoka Stuffed Cookie Company rolls all of that goodness (and more!) into one big, delicious dessert for you to enjoy.