in the kitchen with…
Busy mother and entrepreneur relaxes by getting ‘in the zone’ with baking.
Story by Carol McGarvey
Photography by Ben Lochard
Featured in September/October 2020
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There aren’t enough hours in the day for the multifaceted Brooke Mickelson of West Des Moines. But with a confident spirit, she makes it all work.
She is the wife of John Mickelson, a managing partner in Midwest Growth Partners, a private equity fund, and the mother to four active sons, Jack, 12; Tucker, 10; Hansen, 8; and Hunter, 6. She has an elementary education degree and was Miss Iowa in 2004. Raising sons is a family trait. Her twin sister, Brea in Iowa City, has three boys.
As a social media influencer with thousands of followers on her blog and on Facebook and Instagram, she is a motivational speaker who exudes confidence and who aims to instill that same encouragement in others. “If people can combine their talents and work together for a greater goal, there’s nothing that can stop them,” she says.
She and two friends, Meighan Phillips and Lori Willis, are the developers of the popular “Wave” T-shirts, playing off the idea of a University of Iowa fan who suggested in 2017 that the 70,000 fans at Kinnick Stadium turn and wave to patients and families in the Stead Family Children’s Hospital next to the stadium at the end of the first quarter.
“In 2015 our youngest son, Hunter, was diagnosed with a congenital kidney disease, so we quickly learned our way around the hospital,” she explains. “Later Meighan’s daughter also was there for treatment. Meighan called me and said there must be something we can do to pay back for the care of our children. With Lori, we came up with the T-shirt idea.” At this point, they have raised $1.2 million for the hospital. They are constantly creating new “Wave” merchandise and finding new retail outlets.
In addition, Brooke is a huge fitness fan and trains a group twice a week. When her sons were little, she had a mom ’n’ baby stroller fitness class. In 2016 she was in the Business Record 40 Under 40 class.
Solace in baking
With all this going on, Brooke finds solace in baking. “John says I’m ‘in the zone’ when I bake.” She specializes in cookies and cakes with word of mouth as her best advertising. A general week, depending on the season, might bring orders of 300 to 500 cookies and four cakes.
“When I’m baking and decorating, I love to think about the celebrations where the cookies and cakes are going. It’s so fun to be part of them,” she says. And she has many options. In a pantry with see-through containers, Brooke has amassed an estimated 2,000 cookie cutters, rows and rows of bottles of food coloring and sprinkles, as well as large containers of flour and sugar. And, yes, she has taught classes on dough techniques and decorating.
She has won a number of blue ribbons at the Iowa State Fair and also has sponsored two cake contests, My Favorite Birthday Cake and Mardi Gras King Cake.
While her vanilla and chocolate sugar cookie recipes are her specialty, she is sharing recipes for Caramel Apple Cookies and also for Bourbon Butterscotch Filling for spreading between layers of 8- or 9-inch cakes.
Brooke’s decorated cookies sell for $4 each; add 50 cents each if cookies are wrapped individually. Cakes cost $75 or $125 if they have decorated icing flowers or other extra embellishments. •