Sweater Box Confections: Award-winning sweet treats with a sentimental story
Published 8:00 am Thursday, October 20, 2022
Christine “Chris” Carroll, owner and operator of Sweater Box Confections, could not contain her excitement when the N.C. Specialty Food Association (NCSFA) announced in September that her cookies had won first and second place in the “Baked Goods” category of its annual awards competition. The story behind the name of her company along with the delicious desserts she produces from her home kitchen are as sentimental as they are sweet. The Coastland Times met with Carroll to get the full scoop.
“It’s validating,” the talented baker said when commenting on her recent wins. Chris is a member of NCSFA and has entered the awards competition prior; last year she took home second place for her Salted Chocolate Espresso Shortbread cookie. This time around, that same cookie placed first, with her Chai Shortbread coming in at a close second. 142 entries were entered across 11 categories, with Sweater Box Confections sweeping one whole category.
Carroll said she was “jumping up and down” when they announced the winners via Zoom. Her headphones were in, but her assistant Joyce was there to witness the unspoken sheer joy that Chris embodied during the meeting.
Through NCSFA, members can partake in various promotional campaigns for their individual businesses, contribute to donation-based gift baskets, run paid ads and be featured in the organization’s annual magazine. “Through the Specialty Food Association and Got to be NC Association, I’ve really met some great people,” Carroll noted, “putting me in connection with other food producers and we can talk about similar challenges.”
The entrepreneur has faced several challenges while working to supply the best product she can, but coming up with the name for her business was no feat in the slightest. “My grandmother on dad’s side had worked as baker for few years. That side of the family ended up in Chicago area. I grew up in southern Michigan a few hours away. When we would go to grandma’s, she would fill big white sweater boxes with cookies and fudge for Christmas.”
These were no small t-shirt boxes – Carroll’s grandmother would gather large, deep sweater boxes and bake for months prior to the holidays to fill the boxes with her grandchildren’s favorited baked goods. Tins would be stacked in her freezer only to be taken out when the winter rolled around and stored again for the next season.
Chris reminisced: “She would keep tins every year. I was in graduate school and went up and got a tin of just wedding cookies – my favorite cookie. Shortbread with the pecans.” As time passed, the baker and her cousins would see one another and talk of the sweater boxes. One cousin put together her grandmother’s cookbook and some of the recipes are still used and built off of to this day.
And so, the name “Sweater Box Confections” was born. On each cookie box, Chris has added another sentimental touch. “My other grandmother did embroidery,” she said. One of the pieces of her embroidery colors the inside of each box to include both grandmothers in the packaging.
The “baked goods goddess” prides herself of making homemade, melt-in-your-mouth desserts that bring customers back to the fondest of memories. “I have an Airbnb customer in the neighborhood who will leave our cookies for her guests. She said a gentleman from France told her “my cookies took him back to his childhood when he ate it,” she shared. Everyone has some kind of memory around food and Chris not only loves sharing her own fond memories through her desserts with customers, but encourages everyone to make their own treats as well.
Sweater Box desserts are unique in that they are made with other local ingredients from businesses that span the Outer Banks and nearby areas. The award-winning Salted Chocolate Espresso Shortbread cookie incorporates Ashley’s Espresso Parlor coffee with Hatteras Saltworks salt with Chris’s shortbread recipe. Her Lemon Lavender cookie contains lavender from White Oak Lavender Farm in Harrisonburg, Va. Carroll is working on partnering with other local businesses for future concoctions.
Sweater Box cookies can now be found in locations all over the Outer Banks as well as online through the company’s website as well as through Faire. Prior to growing the business, Chris would simply set up a stand at the Manteo market and sell her baked goods. “It was all very organic, how it all began.” After introducing her desserts to the community through the market and getting to know may people in the area through her prior jobs, Chris was able to establish the company and grow little wholesale accounts in 2014. Since then, the small business has made a big impact on this community.
If you have never tasted a Sweater Box Confections tea cookie, Chris says you really can’t go wrong with which one you try first. When asked which is her favorite, her response was: “Whichever one is in my mouth.”
Other flavors of her well-known tea cookies include a Lemon Poppy Seed, Confetti and a returning addition for fall, Pumpkin Spice. Sweater Box Confections also offers cheese pennies, traditional cookies such as chocolate chip, oatmeal cranberry walnut and peanut butter as well as pies such as the seasonal fan favorite: pumpkin pie.
To learn more about the sweet treats at Sweater Box Confections, visit sweaterboxconfections.com.