While many businesses, managers, and even bakers may take the cookie cutter approach to business — doing things the same way over and over again — Cathy Webb approaches each cookie she bakes individually. Admittedly, her passion for baking and ornate hand-decorating fuels her obsession with cookie cutters. “As a photographer would collect lenses,” she says, “I collect cookie cutters.” Over a lifetime, Webb has amassed an assortment of nearly 1,300 cutters — enough to create almost any size or shape of cookie imaginable, from Santa, bikinis, and flowers to baby grand pianos, fish, and oil rigs. No matter what the order, Webb is likely to have the cutter.
Webb’s background is in fine art and sculpture, and her skills are best executed in the kitchen, painting intricate cookie designs, molding fondant and gum paste, and mixing unique icing hues from her color wheel. For nearly a decade, she worked with a marketing team delivering cookies and catering lunches for Tri-State businesses before launching her own online business, Cathy’s Designer Cookies, in 2005. A few months later, she began to teach cookie classes at Evansville’s Kitchen Affairs (which is currently for sale and will close at the end of the year if not purchased) and continues to instruct in Viking Cooking Schools in St. Louis, Chicago, Louisville, Ky., and Nashville, Tenn. Webb enjoys occasionally seeking out cookie cutters in antique stores, boutiques, and cooking stores, though she searches online in those rare instances she doesn’t have a shape or size requested by a client.
Her vast collection includes old, new, handmade, plastic, copper, and tin cutters, and is organized in plastic storage bins according to seasons and holidays. Within a bin, Webb groups like cutters in dozens of plastic storage bags — the spring bin includes Easter, and the Easter collection includes cutters shaped as chicks, tulips, eggs, and bunnies. In addition, Webb has multiple variations of a shape. “I probably have about 30 apples,” she says. “I may use one with a stem, one without a stem, or one with a bite out of it.” One of her favorite cutters, the Eiffel Tower, produces the most difficult shape to decorate and ship, and some of her antique cookie cutters are more than 75 years old. After use, Webb hand washes her cutters and lets them dry at least 24 hours to prevent rusting.
From Cathy’s Designer Cookies to her group and private classes, Webb sees herself accumulating more cookie cutters. “I’m always looking for them,” she says, “and I may forget what I have, so I’m going to buy it just in case.”