“The last two-and-a-half years, a meteor hit and we were just like, ‘Whoa, what is this?’” Aria Christian says of the success she and her (nearly) identical twin sister Maya never saw coming. The people who know them best probably suspected they were destined for galactic success — maybe not as food entrepreneurs, though.
But here they are with Twins That Cook, an online bakery that got its first break in March of 2021. That’s around the time that HypeBeast (via Hypebae) discovered it — less than three months after sibling co-founders started accepting money for their thin, crispy-edged, chewy centered, brown butter-based cookies in playful flavors like Peanuts-n-Crackerjacks, Espresso Yourself, or — the result of Aria listening to Drake in the car — Champagne Poppy.
They ship nationally — and the cookies happen to travel especially well; but New Yorkers can have their baked goods delivered fresh out of the oven. That means Raisin-the-Roof oatmeal cookies at their peak; the ones they call BarryS’More (in honor of talk show host Drew Barrymore) when the charred marshmallows and chocolate chunks are still gooey and melty.
“Not to get all tagline-y, but we love to enhance the classics, make them feel more adult,” Aria says. The two of them are a chatty combination of teasing, mutual appreciation, sentence-finishing, and tangent-taking. Their confidence — in both themselves (and each other) and their product — can be traced back to their father, who, more than anyone else, might have predicted where they are now.
Armsted Christian died in 2016 when they were 26. A renowned jazz virtuoso who was a composer and vocalist and, according to his daughters, played “literally everything — I kid you not, everything,” he was also a professor in the Voice Department at Berklee College of Music in Boston.
At home in New Bedford, Mass., he exposed his daughters to the music and culinary worlds from an early age. “It’s like he knew eventually we would grow up to cook for ourselves. He was passing on a tradition, and it felt that way every time we were in the kitchen with him,” Maya says. One of his unrealized dreams was to open a restaurant.
First, they followed him into the performing arts. Aptly named Aria, who, like him, attended Berklee, is a singer, and Maya, an actress (and jewelry designer), went to school in California. Both moved to New York after college.
Stuck in the house during COVID, with few professional opportunities, they found themselves looking at whatever items they had in the fridge and cabinet, and started cooking. Aria posted the dishes they made to the @twinsthatcook Instagram account she created. “It wasn’t until we put up cookies that everyone just went wild,” she says.
“It wasn’t the one we’re selling now,” she says. “But we posted it, and people were just like, ‘Oh my God, so good. Send me some.’ So then, we just kept perfecting it. And it was the chocolate chip cookie, the — OG — the brown butter, dark chocolate with sea salt.”
Then the Brooklyn ice cream shop Lady Moo Moo asked if the cookies might be available for ice cream sandwiches. “We were just honored at that point because we had never made food and got compensated for it,” Aria says. “But this was someone reaching out with more of a wholesale vibe, saying, ‘Can you give me a hundred cookies a week and I pay you for them and they’re going to be sold at my shop?’’ That was the moment they knew they had a business on their hands.
They weren’t about to go into it blindly, though. “We read a million things online, watched a million videos, reached out to our friends who have businesses, our chef friends, and got advice on how to do this and make it a business,” Aria says. She relishes the recipe development process. Maya, it seems, has a flair and patience for logistics.
The ice cream sandwich project along with the twins’ outreach efforts scored them more and more social media hits, enough to land on Hypebae’s radar, which then led to a chef series on IGTV. That generated more exposure and caught the attention of TV host Jake Smollet, who asked them to do a cooking video with him.
Next, Shaniece and Shanae Cole, another set of identical twins, also Black women, picked up on their momentum. The Cole sisters work at Access Hollywood and cover Hollywood red-carpet events; it led to Aria and Maya’s demo spot on the show with Mario Lopez. “We weren’t nervous; we weren’t scared,” Aria says. “Our father, because he was in showbiz our whole lives, always prepared us to be ready for the moment. You may not know when it’s coming but always know when the cameras turn on. That’s it: You’re in star mode.”
Since then, Aria and Maya have been making the national TV rounds with baking spots on the Today Show, as well as Drew Barrymore and Rachael Ray’s show.
For all those on-camera opportunities to reach such a large audience, the twins and their cookies have received hardly any local media coverage at home in New York City where their business is based.
They’re doing fine without the local love. “To be transparent, Black men and women in Brooklyn and New York know us,” Aria explains. “We’ve done so many events. We’ve done so many pop-ups. Within the Black community, we definitely feel like our name has a buzz, for sure. A lot of the non-Black locals, I feel like, aren’t as familiar with us.”
Meanwhile, a bicoastal expansion is already in the works; Maya just moved to L.A. so she can run operations there.
“We’re still very much into our main talents and our love for the arts and all of these things,” she says, “but we’re morphing it all together.”