Article by Mary Rumore • Photos by Bryant Chaffin
Most people wouldn’t expect a chemical engineering major at Mississippi State University to spend her days baking and decorating cookies, however, that’s exactly how Caroline Lightsey, founder of Cotton District Cookies, spends her time.
The Laurel native’s love for cooking and science began at an early age.
“I have enjoyed being in the kitchen ever since my grandmother made my first apron with orange polka dots,” she said. “I was blessed to have parents and grandparents who, instead of distracting me with toys or television, invited me into their workspace— be it the kitchen, the business, the sewing room or the garden—to teach me how to work safely. From the time I was three, I was given small tasks like scrambling eggs or sifting our to help with meals.”
In fifth grade, Lightsey tore her ACL and was not able to have it repaired for years. Because sports were no longer an option, she spent her afternoons watching Food Network and baking with anything she could nd and her nights watching her youth minister’s wife bake cakes. When she asked Lightsey to take a baking class with her, Lightsey gladly accepted. “Since then, I have continued to bake for friends and family all while chasing my dream of a career in healthcare,” Lightsey said.
After graduating college in 2015, Lightsey moved to Jackson and worked part-time in a retail store and nannied for two families. In 2016, she applied for an accelerated nursing program but wasn’t accepted, so she began working at a medical clinic to gain healthcare experience. Nine months later, Lightsey applied for the engineering program at MSU and moved to Birmingham to save money for school. While in Birmingham, she worked for Execusuites where she said she was surrounded by people who encouraged her daily. She wrote down all their encouragements on sticky notes, which inspired her to begin Cotton District Cookies.
“The sticky note collection eventually led to the idea of Cotton District Cookies in May of this year,” she said. “My goal was to provide a way for people to send encouragement to others, and the best route to do so is through my first love, baking. Cotton District Cookies provide just that. “I see daily the joy it brings to the recipient of the delivery, but also the joy it brings to the giver as well.”
Cotton District Cookies offers decorated sugar cookies, thumbprint cookies, chocolate chip cookies, and custom cakes. Lightsey said, while baking, she follows recipes exactly, using a rolling pin or ice cream scoop as a guide to make sure each cookie is the same size or thickness. “The only instruction I divert from is a timer,” she said. “Instead, I wait until I can smell the cookies or cake, then I take them out.”After the cookies or cake has cooled completely, Lightsey decorates them with royal icing on cookies or flavored buttercream on cakes. Lightsey said her favorite part of baking is that everything she uses has been handed down to her from her friends and family. “This is my favorite part of baking,” she said. “It is a constant reminder that none of this would be possible if it weren’t for the people who have helped me along the way. I feel like I’m making those people proud with every batch or cake I bake.” Cotton District Cookies also offers classes for adults as children for parties and events, as well as fundraisers.
For custom orders, email cottondistrictcookies@ gmail.com or visit their Instagram. Under the Cottage Food Law, Cotton District Cookies cannot offer items for sale over the internet, therefore a quote will be sent directly to the customer by text message or phone call. All items are donation only.
Cotton District Cookies on Facebook and @cottondistrictcookies on Instagram.