Local baker takes ‘home sweet home’ to another level
Once Danna Ness’ homemade shortbread sugar cookies have cooled, the hours of intricate decorating can begin.
She creates detailed, custom designs using homemade buttercream frosting, royal icing, piping, sprinkles and more. But the aesthetic isn’t the only notable thing about her cookies.
“They’re really delicious, I’m not going to be humble about that,” Ness said with a smile.
Everything is made from scratch, and her trips to Costco often include buying baking supplies in bulk. A cart with 32 lbs. of butter and 36 lbs. of powdered sugar isn’t a strange sight.
She’ll bring those back to her home kitchen, where she creates her treats using a couple of Kitchen Aid mixers, a rolling pin, thousands of cookie cutters, a cooling rack, tons of colored dyes, and even a projector.
But what can be customized and designed on a cookie? According to Ness, anything a customer wants.
“I like creating whatever people’s visions are,” she said. “That’s the fun thing about having cookies – they can be anything.”
A quick look at her Instagram, @thedannaness, showcases just a taste of her precision and professional-end goods.
She made 750 corncob cookies for a Sweet Corn Days celebration in Iowa. She’s made cookies with golf carts and tooth-shaped clouds for a dentist’s retirement. To celebrate the Super Bowl in Minneapolis, she created a collection with football helmets and play diagrams.
So yeah, anything is possible.
But Ness never dreamed of being a fulltime baker.
“I just started doing it on the side, and it just kept growing,” she said. “It’s kind of gotten out of control this last year, it’s pretty fun.”
She had worked at a bakery in Iowa and enjoyed the job. After moving back to her hometown of Rochester, she just kept on baking.
“I’ve always had a fun, artistic outlet, and now this has just become my sole artistic outlet,” she said. “That is, outside of making Play-doh creatures for my sons…”
While she’s not the only home baker in Rochester, she said there isn’t any hostile competition; a few of them have become sort of a little clique, and will even refer customers when someone is overbooked.
“No one’s doing cookies though,” she said. “If I’m making 500 of one cookie, it’s going to be 500 of something different next week.”
At the end of the day, that level of weekly variation and celebration keeps her excited to make her sweet treats.
“I love the creativity, I love the baking and I love being part of people’s celebrations,” Ness said. “It’s just fun.”