Mom Stories: Meet Samantha Zola, the New York mom giving the classic rainbow cookie an Insta-worthy makeover.
Rainbow-hued sweet treats are having their moment on social media. From technicolored explosion cakes bursting with colorful sprinkles and candy to rainbow bagels and unicorn-inspired desserts, brightly colored foods are definitely trending. But the OG rainbow hued treat has to be the rainbow cookie—especially for a born and bred New Yorker. “Growing up on Long Island, where the traditional rainbow cookie is very popular, this colorful treat always had a special place in my heart. That being said, I knew that they were in need of a makeover,” says Samantha Zola, the founder and baker behind Zola Bakes, a business devoted to creating high-quality, small-batch rainbow cookies.
Samantha’s passion for baking eventually led her to culinary school so she could focus her attentions properly on recreating her beloved childhood favorite. “It wasn’t until I completed my training at the French Pastry School of Chicago and worked for bakeries in NYC, that I was able to do the rainbow cookie justice.”
Now Zola Bakes has a healthy Instagram following and delivers their famous chocolate drizzled rainbow cookies across the country. Samantha shares how she got her start and what it’s like to now run a business with a new baby in tow (her daughter Nellie was just born this past November!).
(Yummy and photogenic: Rainbow cookies from Zola Bakes)
Tell us about your love affair with rainbow cookies -- when did it start?
Rainbow cookies are a part of the New York culture I grew up in. No matter the occasion, rainbow cookies were always present. I was always drawn to the colors of rainbow cookies, but the taste was a different story. In college I made my first batch of rainbow cookies and could not believe the difference in taste when using high quality ingredients in small batches. In 2016, I moved to Miami with my husband for his job. I made a batch of rainbow cookies for friends of ours who were also New York transplants. They could not stop raving about the product and said they would pay to have them delivered. This inspired me to seriously think about starting my own business.
Where did you do your culinary training?
In 2011, I graduated from Binghamton University and attended the French Pastry School of Chicago. Upon completing the program, I moved back to NYC and started working at Epicerie Boulud as a pastry cook in their commissary kitchen. I then transitioned to Magnolia Bakery, where I started as a baker and worked my way up to General Manager. It was there that I learned a tremendous amount about being a leader and running a business.
How did you get the courage to start your own business and enter the world of food?
This was a very scary decision. I was lucky to have the full support of my husband who has been my biggest cheerleader from the start. The strong response to the cookie from friends and family, along with my husband’s support, gave me the courage to embark on this journey. I have taken the business one day at a time and tackled each challenge as it came. It has been the hardest, yet the most fulfilling experience of my professional career.
What was the main avenue of growing your business?
Social media and word of mouth were essential to the growth of my business. I started the company with just an Instagram account. I eventually built a website on Shopify and this past year we started selling our product through Goldbelly.
Which of your creations are your fave?
The chocolate hazelnut rainbow cookie is by far my favorite!
How was your pregnancy? How did you manage to eat healthfully while still tasting and testing your cookies?
The pregnancy was good for the first two trimesters. The third trimester was more difficult given the physical demands of my job. I was baking up until the night before I went into labor. Ultimately, I had a C-section and the recovery was difficult. Luckily, I was able to return to baking after two weeks (holiday season!) and I’m starting to feel like myself again.
What are your tips for other working moms with new babies?
It may seem impossible, but you are capable of more than you think. Do the best you can. When you are at work try to stay present. When you are at home, unplug and spend quality time with your little one.
Do you love all things rainbow? Check out the limited edition DockATot Kindred that fuses color and love into one very special design.