Jessica Vargas and the perfect sugar cookie

When Mel Giedroyc instructed contestants in the Biscuits episode of The Great British Baking Show to make their biscuits “identical and … as crisp as Paul Hollywood’s hair” the request might have seemed relatively simple, namely to people who’ve never baked before.

Even seasoned bakers know it can be difficult to get those biscuits (AKA “sugar cookies” to us Yankees) to even look similar, let alone identical. Some cookies bake differently than others, or the frosting process goes awry. It can get ugly fast!

Jessica Vargas knows.

When she was a teenager, Vargas worked at a bakery in Fort Worth, Texas. She admits, she was not great at her job.

It didn’t take long for that to change. Vargas moved back to Los Angeles (she was born here) when she was 18 years old. She made some cookies for her supervisor at an internship and promptly received a cookie order from the craft services department at her internship. Soon moms were ordering cookies for birthday parties, and Little Sparks Cookies was born!

Jessica Vargas making a video

Vargas concedes, she wasn’t great at decorating her cookies when she started. But she taught herself through an age-old method: trial and error. Now, her icing and piping can get so elaborate it takes her ten minutes per cookie—as it did when she was filling an order for 350 Dios de la Muerte cookies. Given that she only had three days to fill the order, she did what a lot of us do when we’re stressed and under pressure: called mom.

Her mother flew out from Texas to help her get the cookies done.

Vargas bakes hundreds of cookies a week out of her home kitchen and delivers them herself to weddings, birthday parties, and celebrations of all kinds. She was kind enough to share a cookie recipe with us. For beginning bakers, the video below walks you through each step, and provides a few tips and tricks. Feeling confident in your baking? The video above provides a great recipe in two minutes. Enjoy, and if you’re up for sharing, post a picture of your confection using #SoCalBakes and tag us @PbsSoCal!

Cut Out Sugar Cookies
Makes 1-3 dozen cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter-room temp
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking powder

With a hand mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Mix flour and baking powder; add to butter mixture slowly. Mix on low for about one minute. Knead dough with hands to incorporate all flour in to dough. Refrigerate dough for about one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Sprinkle surface and dough with powdered sugar and roll dough out about 1/4″ thick. Use spatula to transfer cookies to baking sheet. Bake for 7-9 minutes depending on size of cookies. Let cool for 30 minutes, and begin icing.

Makes enough for 12-36 cookies depending on size.

6 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon meringue powder(optional)

Mix all ingredients with a hand or stand mixer until you get the desired consistency. If too watery: add powdered sugar, too hard: add water.

3 tablespoons meringue powder
5-6 tablespoons water
4 cups of powdered sugar

Mix all ingredients in a bowl with a hand or standing mixer for about 5-7 minutes. You will have a whipped consistency. Add tiny drops of water for desired consistency.