From Emma’s Kitchen will be at National Landing Market in Arlington, Virginia this Saturday, July 10. Emma’s cookies and cakes stand out through their customizable designs — picture a yellow-frosted cookie with the words “hot girl shit” in impeccable wording, abstract shapes and swirls in pastel colors, and high school mascots or business logos perfectly piped, among others. The designs are almost too perfect to eat — the key word being “almost.” We caught up with Emma to discuss how she got into baking and where she plans to go from here.
District Fray: Tell me a bit about yourself: How did you get started in baking, and how did you get to where you are today?
Emma Thomas: I started baking when I was about 6 years old. My dad traveled for work which allowed my mom to come up with daily activities for me and my brother, indoors and out. I grew up in Northern Virginia, so there was plenty to do to fill our days, but the days we stayed inside to bake changed my life. The memories I have of those afternoons manifested in the hobbies, high school programs and decisions around college and beyond.
Given your background in many different baking techniques, how did you decide to focus on cookies and cakes?
I feel very lucky to have trained in so many areas of the pastry world, literally in different areas of the world too, but I wanted to start my business with what I was most familiar with as an American [baker]. This way I can add my own flare to something simple, and I think this makes my cakes and cookies special and distinguishable. When I feel I’ve conquered that area, I know I’ll have plenty of different and elevated desserts and pastries to revisit, and that I’ll enter a new realm of creativity.
Why do you bake and what do you love most about it?
When I was in middle school, years after my initial baking experience, I turned to baking as a stress reliever. I loved that I could make something so tasty for “free” (free, meaning from whatever I could find around my parents’ kitchen). My family loved this, too. I still love this about baking, among many other things. I find immense satisfaction in progressively becoming more efficient and organized in completing tasks. Most importantly, I absolutely love being able to create beautiful things. How could you not? I love the feeling of being surprised at what I can do. I feel the most gratitude when I’ve had a smooth running, scheduled, and organized week, and [when] my clients walk away loving what I’ve created for them.
What inspires your flavors?
I studied pastry at École Nationale Supérieure de Pâtisserie in France. I had a lot of favorite foods there, but one of my favorites was Biscoff cookies. I think they are perfect, and some other bakers I follow in the UK and Europe use them as ingredients in their own baked goods. I thought my signature sugar cookie flavor should include Biscoff because it represents the time I spent in Europe, and it distinguishes my brand. I also add orange zest to a lot of my breakfast pastries, as well as my cookies, because I think it adds a layer of intrigue and sweetness that isn’t sugar. When it comes to cake, I think a really good simple flavor stands out among more intricate flavors. However, I am really looking forward to testing uncommon flavors that make a really elegant cake.
What is your favorite thing that you’ve created and why?
My favorite thing that I’ve created is a three-tiered wedding cake. I finished it in May 2021, and to date it is the first and only three-tiered cake I’ve made. I watched my boss at Salamander Resort make dozens upon dozens of perfectly tiered wedding cakes during the two summers I spent there. The only reason I felt so confident doing this cake on my own for the first time was by watching her stack and decorate so beautifully. She is one of my biggest inspirations and always will be. I remember stepping back to look at my own three-tiered cake — I checked my phone and took some pictures, and at the exact same time, she had posted a cake of her own. What serendipity! I felt very proud of myself.
Where do you draw inspiration for your cookie and cake designs?
I get a lot of inspiration from wonderful ladies across the country who are full-time cookiers. I admire their drive and attention to detail, and I hold their work to a very high standard. I hope to achieve the same feeling when I am creating my own cookies. I often find unique patterns or aesthetics on Pinterest that I like to use as inspiration [for] my cookies.
What is your favorite part about selling in local markets?
I had no idea how much I would value selling at local markets. I can personally connect to my community in a way I wasn’t able to before, and that is my most favorite thing in the world to do. I am overwhelmed with gratitude when I think of the wonderful people I have met through my business, and I feel so lucky to be able to expect so many more to come.
Do you have plans to expand your menu, and if so, what would you include and why?
I’d love to someday create more intricate and classic pastries. There is a heartwarming beauty that I feel when I see aligned, identical and elegant pastries. It has been a privilege to experience such beautiful food. I hope to extend my experience in French pastry to all those who come to see me on weekend mornings. I am also looking forward to exploring vegan and gluten-free baking. It’s a growing field and I’d have fun learning about new ingredients and techniques.
What are you excited about when it comes to being a part of The National Landing Market?
I’m so excited to be part of such a uniting group. All the vendors are so talented and unique, and those who visit National Landing Market are sure to find something they will love. I grew up loving going to artisan craft fairs, so it is special to me to be part of one.
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