By Sheryl Lilly Pidgeon | Editor-in-Chief
The Little Red Kitchen Bake Shop has been a Brooklyn staple since 2014, when native New Yorker Susan Palmer brought her love of baking (and her two straight wins at the Brooklyn Cookie Takedown) to a hungry public throughout New York City. She now shares her gifts nationwide through her online shop, which rushes treats across the country in as little as one day.
Palmer, who spent nearly a year perfecting the “perfect chocolate chip cookie” before launching her bake shop business, has just scored two 2020 sofi™ Awards from the Specialty Food Association (SFA) for her cookie pies.
The Little Red Kitchen Bake Shop took home a Bronze award for its Elvis Cookie Pie and a Silver Award for its Monster Cookie Pie. The SFA’s 2020 sofi™ Awards is a top honor in the $158 billion specialty food industry.
Little Red Kitchen Bake Shop’s specialty Cookie Pies stood out against over 2,000 entries across 39 categories, beating specialty bake shops and household names alike. Products are judged across a number of different elements including flavor, appearance, texture and aroma, ingredient quality and innovation. All tastings are done blind and for the first time in its history, sofi™ judging was held at the prestigious Rutgers Food Innovation Center following strict safety guidelines.
Sliced like a home-baked pie, enjoyed like a traditional cookie and best paired with milk or ice cream, a Cookie Pie is a small-batched delectable that has been a crowd favorite since 2014. The Bronze sofi™ awarded Elvis Presley Cookie Pie pays homage to the King’s famous peanut butter and banana sandwich. This specialty Cookie Pie is vegan-friendly and filled with organic bananas, peanut butter and chocolate chips. The Silver sofi™ awarded Monster Cookie Pie is loaded with locally sourced peanut butter, oats, chocolate chips and all-natural candy-coated chocolates on top.
Both award winning Cookie Pies, as well as an entire collection of delicious indulgences, are available nationwide at www.littleredkitchenbakeshop.com.
From the start, the Little Red Kitchen Bake Shop has dedicated itself to the marriage of wholesome, natural ingredients and painstaking craftsmanship.
“The perfect cookie doesn’t rely on loads of fancy ingredients or preservatives,” says Palmer. “It’s all about care and technique.”
That approach has helped Palmer grow a nationally recognized brand – and a LOT of happy customers.
Q & A with Susan Palmer
Q: What inspired you to start Little Red Kitchen in 2014?
A: I had been blogging for 3 years at that point and was getting tired of my day job. After searching and applying for positions in other fields without luck, I decided that it was time to take matters into my own hands. Winning the cookie takedowns inspired me to start the bake shop. I felt like I was doing something that people must have really enjoyed, and I loved being in the kitchen, so why not make a go of it? I really wanted to create a delicious line of baked goods without any of the junk in it. To this day I still use almost all organic ingredients and no artificial flavors, preservatives or colors in any of our baked goods.
I spent the year beforehand working on recipes and working with a consultant to build a business plan. Then in May I ran a successful Kickstarter campaign and officially launched in September. It took until March of 2015 for me to quit my full-time job and run the bakery and blog full time. I was very tired those few months working full time, running a blog full time and baking part time.
Q: Where did the name Little Red Kitchen come from?
A: Red has always been my favorite color, and in 2009 my husband and I had purchased a co-op in Brooklyn. It had a tiny kitchen that was 7×7 with a built-in wall oven that wouldn’t even fit a half sheet tray – I had to buy quarter trays. We did eventually remodel the kitchen, but it was still tiny and I painted the walls red to match my red KitchenAid mixer and red Le Creuset collection. One day the name Girl in the Little Red Kitchen popped into my head, and I thought that would be a great blog name! I did start the blog and shortened it when I started the Bake Shop. We’ve since moved away from that apartment, but it’s Brooklyn, my kitchens are still small – however no longer painted red as they are rentals and I do not want to paint it back!
Q: Tell us about your quest to create the perfect chocolate chip cookie. Is it a secret recipe? (If not, please share!)
A: Out of all the cookies out there, chocolate chip has always been my favorite. It was my go-to baking growing up and buying packaged or at a bakery. To me, the perfect chocolate chip cookie has a crispy edge, a chewy middle and plenty of chocolate chip in each bite. A touch of salt on top is an added bonus. It took a year for me to create this perfect cookie. I went through many rounds of testing and mailed samples out to friends near and far for feedback and fed my co-workers at the time a lot of cookies! As you can imagine, I went through a lot of butter and chocolate during that time. Unfortunately, the recipe is a secret!
Q: What was it like competing in the Brooklyn Cookie Takedown?
A: A lot of fun and very nerve-racking! That was my first time baking in such large quantities and it was all at my home kitchen. My first year competing I had a very ambitious cookie, a triple chocolate chip cookie with a duck fat caramel – and I just wasn’t sure how the crowd would react to such a savory ingredient in the caramel. Luckily for me they loved it! Of course, the next year, I took the challenge to the next level and baked French Macarons, which was even more of a challenge! I clearly loved doing it all, despite the hard work because not only did I compete in the two cookie takedowns, but I also competed (and won) in the Ice Cream Takedown, and placed in the Mac and Cheese and Bacon Takedowns.
Q: Tell us about what it meant to you to win TWO top honors – a Bronze and Silver Award in the Specialty Food Association’s (SFA) 2020 sofi™ Awards.
A: I was shocked and thrilled and so full of emotion that I almost started crying. I found out that I won the Bronze Award first because they needed more product for photos, and it was two days later that I learned I had won the Silver Award. I honestly had to keep reading the email to see if it was correct and not a mistake. With everything happening this year due to COVID, I actually forgot when the awards were going to be announced. Normally it’s right before the Summer Fancy Food Show, but everything was pushed back to arrange a safe way for the judges to taste each sample. I think winning this award is very special no matter what year you win it, but it felt extra special this year. I put a lot of hard work into my bakery, creating all of these recipes and ideas myself, and I felt like my hard work was really recognized after winning.
Q: You have so many options in the Bake Shop. What is YOUR favorite cookie?
A: Chocolate chip! Still my favorite after all these years.
About The Little Red Kitchen Bake Shop
The Little Red Kitchen Bake Shop was created in 2014 by Susan Palmer, a native New Yorker who always had a passion for baking. Since she was a small child, she could be found side by side with her mom in the kitchen baking . . . you guessed it – cookies! Soon enough Susan moved on from back-of-the-chocolate-chip-cookie-bag recipes to her own creations, eventually winning the Brooklyn Cookie Takedown in 2011 and 2012. Spurred by her love of baking and the quest to find the perfect chocolate chip cookie, this shop was born. Reach Susan Palmer at email@example.com. And, stay up to date on new flavor releases, special promotions and all things cookies by following The Little Red Kitchen Bake Shop on Instagram and Facebook.
About the Specialty Food Association
Founded in 1952 in New York City, the Specialty Food Association (SFA) is the leading advocate for the $158.4 billion specialty food industry. Representing makers, importers, entrepreneurs, retailers, distributors and others in the trade, the SFA aims to champion, nurture and connect its members to deliver traditional and innovative products to consumers that expand consumption of specialty foods. With over 4,000 member companies, SFA helps its members by providing information, research, educational events, and celebrating the industry through its awards programs. The SFA is known for hosting the Winter and Summer Fancy Food Shows and presents the sofi™ Awards honoring excellence in specialty food. Learn more at specialtyfood.com.