Greenpoint-based Amelia Coulter’s muses are all around her: “I’m inspired by architecture, landscape and regional themes,” says the 27-year-old, who has a degree in sculpture. But instead of putting those images of ironwork and Brooklyn row houses down in a sketchbook or fashioning them into clay, Coulter’s medium of choice is icing.
Moved by the street scenes when she moved to Brooklyn four years ago, she set to creating intricately decorated, hand-piped cookies for friends, finally launching Sugarbuilt last winter. Many of her confections showcase borough icons—like scaffolding-perched water towers and the pastel buildings of Greenpoint—while others range from geometric, earth-toned skull designs for Day of the Dead to the whimsical “bladed tool” collection, featuring peelers and mixers in metallic icing, which Coulter made for the Last Supper arts festival.
Applying such lacy patterns requires artistic skill, but Coulter learned the basic icing technique—which lets you adjust mistakes until the sugar icing sets—while working at a bakery several years ago and says these days she rarely botches a batch.
Best of all, these iced treats taste as good as they look: Coulter carefully pairs her icing flavors with those of the cookie beneath. Her favorite dough blends anise, orange and cinnamon, a nod to bizcochito, a traditional cookie from her native New Mexico; icings might be lavender, chocolate/red chile or ginger-lemon.
This winter she’ll unveil a line of traditional snowflake designs from around the world, which can be found, along with other limited-run designs such as frosty leaves or stovetop tile-inspired patterns, at the Greenpoint Food Market.
Despite the complexity of Coulter’s handiwork, a top seller is a simpler cookie shaped like a fluffy mustache. “Everyone does this,” she says, putting it to her upper lip, “when they pick these up.”