Jean Makes Cakes

In 2006, I was 20 years old and working on my AA in Culinary Arts at College of the Desert, when my brother and his fiancé started planning their wedding. Since I had taken approximately three culinary classes (none of which included pastry) and watched A LOT of Food Network, I volunteered to make their wedding cake. They were on a budget and didn’t much seem to care about cake, so a free cake sounded just fine to them.

My mom was quick to point out that I didn’t know how to make a wedding cake and had never so much as attempted a two-tiered cake, let alone a multi-tiered wedding cake. I told her I would “figure it out,” and I’ve pretty much been “figuring it out” for the past 11 years. 

I’ve still never taken a cake decorating class, I’m still watching a lot of Food Network, and I’m still making it up as I go along. Every time someone asks me to make a cake it gives me the opportunity to practice my art or teach myself a new skill. While I have always enjoyed baking, and come from a family of bakers, the cakes have become less about the baking as they are about the art. Sure, a cake needs to taste good, but in a world where TV shows like Cake Boss, Ace of Cakes, and Cupcake Wars are on a constant loop, people seem to be less concerned about the flavor of the cake as they are the “wow factor.” To me, there is nothing better than taking a slab of white fondant, adding food coloring, and kneading and molding it until I make something identifiable out of it, whether that be a favorite cartoon character or a beloved zoo animal, I enjoy bringing their vision to life.

After more than a decade of making cakes on the weekends and in my free time, I am often asked when I will open my own bakery. I usually say “someday,” because that seems to be what people want to hear, but the truth is this: I will most likely never open my own bakery. The fact is, it’s a lot of work. There is a lot of time, money, and heart that goes into making cakes and too often people undervalue the time that is spent and underappreciate the effort that goes into each and every element on a cake. When I’m making cakes for myself and for my close friends and family, who appreciate what I do, it is my opportunity to relax and practice my art. I don’t ever want to put myself in a situation where my release becomes my stressor. Maybe someday I’ll change my mind on opening a cake shop, and that vague “someday” will become “today,” but until then, I’m happy with my little hobby. But if someone wants to volunteer to come wash dishes, I’d gladly hire my first employee, just know that I can only pay in cupcakes and gratitude.