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Baker turned 'cookie activist' makes portraits to celebrate ignored Asian American history

Her immigrant background from South Korea and being one of the few Korean American children in her community fueled her curiosity about her identity.

Baker turned 'cookie activist' makes portraits to celebrate ignored Asian American history
Cover Image Source: Instagram | @jasminemcho

Jasmine Cho, a 39-year-old online bakery owner residing in Pittsburgh, has combined her passion for baking cookies and educating people on the ignored figures and icons of Asian American history in the most unique way. According to The Washington Post, Cho grew up wondering why the contributions of notable Asian American personalities were missing from the pages of her history books in school.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | JÉSHOOTS
Representative Image Source: Pexels | JÉSHOOTS

"I struggled with a feeling of irrelevance and a lack of belonging because I never saw faces that looked like mine or stories that resembled my family’s story in the school curriculum," Cho, who grew up in Los Angeles and Albuquerque, said per the outlet. Being a daughter to immigrant parents from South Korea, she was often the only Korean American child in her community. She began questioning her identity and place while growing up in a foreign country and it eventually prompted her to start baking.


 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Jasmine M. Cho (@jasminemcho)


 

On her Instagram page, @helloyummyholic, she promoted her online bakery which specialized in making custom cookies with edible portraits on them. "They drew so much attention that I felt like I should give them something more to pay attention to," she admitted. She then decided to display her mini cookie portraits of Asian American personalities at local festivals and they gradually received more popularity among people.

"To me, they were edible blank canvases. How I use cookies to teach history," she said during her first TEDx talk in Pittsburgh. Since she started, Cho has made portraits of Afong Moy, who was the first known Chinese woman to visit America in 1834. She also baked portraits of lesser-known figures such as Takao Ozawa. More of her cookie portraits included Ming-Na Wen, the voice of Disney's "Mulan," Ke Huy Quan, George Takei and Tamlyn Tomita.


 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Jasmine M. Cho (@jasminemcho)


 

Unfortunately, her famous cookie portraits are not made for sale. They are mostly displayed on exhibits around several history centers and coffee shops in the Pittsburgh area. However, Cho has shared her cookie-making process and how it is extremely time-consuming. She starts the process by cutting out the outline of portraits with an X-Acto knife and then bakes the sugar cookies using a recipe she modified from some cookbooks she had stumbled upon years ago.


 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Jasmine M. Cho (@jasminemcho)


 

Cho then uses thin layers of icing to create the impressions of skin and hair on the blank cookies and uses a fine-tipped brush and food coloring along with some royal icing to build the details on the portraits. "Each one takes an average of four to six hours to finish. Good cookie art takes a lot of patience," she added. "My cookie faces are the faces of people I wish I’d been able to learn more about when I was younger." Cho also wrote and illustrated a children's book titled "Role Models Who Look Like Me: Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders Who Made History" in 2019.


 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Jasmine M. Cho (@jasminemcho)


 

Cho prefers to call herself a "cookie activist" as her creations are influenced by her willingness to raise awareness about the rising rate of hate crimes committed against Asian Americans. The cookie activist has continued her endeavor by baking these bite-sized portraits on cookies and giving virtual as well as in-person speeches at schools and universities to shed light on the importance of Asian American history. Every now and then, Cho also hosts cookie-decorating workshops around Pittsburgh to spark debate on the ignored history and contributions of Asian American personalities.



 



 

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