Cookie connection

Jen Burke bakes, sells small batches of masterfully decorated sugar cookies through home business

Jen Burke, of Burke Cookie Co., works from the comfort of her own home, baking and decorating sugar cookies like these bridal shower treats.

Jen Burke, of Burke Cookie Co., works from the comfort of her own home, baking and decorating sugar cookies like these bridal shower treats.

Photo by Ashiah Scharaga

Burke’s pro tip:
Go for it with your whole heart … [but] be consistent in what you’re producing. Don’t have lower standards just because you’re [working] out of your home.

Every night around 8 p.m., after her kids are sound asleep, Jen Burke sneaks to her kitchen, pops on an episode of The Office and ties an apron around her waist. She’s ready to start baking.

Burke officially launched her home business, Burke Cookie Co., in May, inspired by the cookie-decorating videos she watched while rocking her daughter to sleep at night.

Before setting up shop, however, she started out by exploring her newfound hobby. In February, she began baking and decorating cookies for her family and co-workers at Enloe Medical Center’s Nettleton Mother & Baby Care Center. She wasn’t prepared for the explosive reaction: More and more people gushed over the treats and started making requests. That’s when she decided to take the leap and establish her own home business as a “side hustle.”

Because she sells directly to consumers, Burke says, the process wasn’t too extensive or expensive: She looked up the city’s license requirements online, submitted an application, paid a few hundred dollars and was ready to go in about a week.

“I got so much support and such a good response from people, that’s what kind of motivated me,” she said. “This makes people happy.”

The allure of Burke’s cookies involves two key ingredients: a top-secret sugar cookie recipe and her immaculate, thoughtful designs. She specializes in small-batch (one or two dozen) custom orders, but always puts an original spin on her creations.

“I’ve done all kinds of things, from uteruses to unicorns,” Burke told the CN&R. And for different occasions: bridal showers, birthday parties, gifts and holidays. “Every day is a cookie occasion,” she added.

In general, her prices run about $36 per dozen, she said, but that varies depending on the order complexity. She’s been so busy, orders have to be placed two to three weeks in advance. All are picked up from her porch in north Chico.

People often ask Burke how she finds the time to run her business. She’s at work by 6:30 a.m. five days a week, then has a few hours for dinner and play with her kids, Emily and Eli, before it’s time to bake until 11:30 p.m. Saturday is the family’s only full day together, but they make the most of it, going on day trips or visiting the farmers’ market and grabbing breakfast together.

Burke’s husband, Josh, was diagnosed with ocular melanoma—this year marks the third with “no evidence of disease.” While this is a “huge milestone,” Burke said she still feels anxiety and worries about the future. Creating her cookies is a mindfulness practice that helps her cope.

“Life is short. So you just gotta do the things you like,” she said. “Anything you can find like that, I feel you [should] just grab onto it. And there’s an added bonus … [I] make cookies out of it!”