Zola Bakes: Dix Hills mom elevates rainbow cookies with baking business
When Dix Hills resident Samantha Zola attended Binghamton University, she became her sorority’s unofficial baker. But it wasn’t until she moved to Miami — after studying at The French Pastry School in Chicago and training at Épicerie Boulud and Magnolia Bakery in Manhattan — that she realized Italian-American inspired rainbow cookies would become her calling card.
“The general population does not know what a rainbow cookie is,” she says, standing in the Central Islip commercial kitchen that now houses her niche bakery, Zola Bakes. The owner and namesake of the cookie company that took off during Instagram’s entrepreneurial boom of 2017-18 still seems incredulous about rainbow-cookie ignorance outside of New York.
“It was in Miami that I realized rainbow cookies weren’t being given justice anywhere else. It was rare for me to find them and, whenever I did, they were always a little too dry, and didn’t taste nearly as good as they looked. In New York, they were a staple at any event I attended.” Unsure about what she wanted to do for a living in Florida, an idea hatched. Back to her mixing bowls she went, to start what has since become Zola Bakes.
She returned to Long Island in 2018 to focus on the business, which began out of her house. First, she made personalized cookies for bar and bat mitzvahs, engagements, weddings and other celebratory events.. Back then, “it was 24 hours a day, every day of the week.” In 2019, she found her current space in Central Islip and built a custom kitchen. Now she has a team of three people and is looking for a bigger space.
As with most beautiful food products, organic social media word-of-mouth prevailed and Zola secured partnerships with Goldbelly, Saks.com and the U.S. Open. In the nonprofit world, she works with City Harvest, which just celebrated its Winter Family Carnival with her cookies.
The trays that line the kitchen are dazzling displays. But these little rainbow blocks are more than something to look at — Zola’s cookies are moist, spongy and bursting with almond flavor. Her best-kept secret is a top-shelf, hard-to-secure ingredient.
Zola offers three flavors, each prettier than the next. There’s raspberry jam — the red, orange, yellow cookie; the bestselling Nutella — the green, blue, purple cookie; and apricot jam, the turquoise, teal, mint green cookie. There is also a cult favorite gluten-free variety in hues of purple. All are custom-drizzled with white or dark Guittard chocolate and can be personalized to occasion or holiday, with Christmas and Thanksgiving themes being the most popular.
Although Zola’s cookies are catching on, her newest product, the rainbow brownie ($42 for six), utilizes the scraps from imperfect cookies to create an almond chocolate combination. As Zola instructs, “Pop it in the microwave, then top with vanilla ice cream — my absolute favorite.”
A 20-pack of rainbow cookies starts at $49, and can be delivered locally or shipped nationwide. Those wary of bakery mail-order should know the custom-designed plastic shipping boxes have individual nooks for each cookie so they don’t get destroyed in transit and keep the goods fresh for two weeks. For more information, visit zolabakes.com.