A few weeks ago I inadvertently became head of the baby shower planning committee for my close friend Natalia, who is Vegan. I was stumped on finding a beautiful & delicious cake. Luckily, Jana who is also a close friend of Natalia happens to be a delicious and gorgeous cake artist.
Jana doesn’t just make Vegan cakes but it’s really nice that she can make them. And her Vegan cakes are better than all of the Vegan bakeries around town that I have tried.
Photos of Natalia’s Cake: Roman Cho
The cake was Chocolate and she made Vegan Red Velvet Cupcakes as well. Both were Delicious!
How long have you been baking?
The first crazy cake I have ever made was in February 2009. It was a giant gnome for my brother in law. I had no previous experience…I just thought I could do it. I had watched lots of cake shows and online tutorials and that was essentially my cake decorating education. Then in October I made a guitar cake for our best friend’s birthday and based on that cake, I received my first official order. By November, I had a blog spot up and was taking orders. I did 8 other cakes by the end of the year. In 2010, I did 42 cakes. I still continue to learn and teach myself new tricks and techniques. We mostly learn from failing….and that is part of the job.
At what point did you decide to turn it into an art form?
I think it was always an art form for me. My husband is an artist, we are surrounded by many many talented artist friends…and I wanted my own niche. I never wanted to make traditional cakes, wedding cakes and things that were expected. I was interested in shaped cakes from the start. Also, my husband, Matt, being a graduate of Art Center and as my partner, really drives the artistic side of it. He pushes me artistically to create the best I possibly can. We work on most cakes together. He is in charge of carving, sculpting and color…I call him ‘the color master.’ The first cake we made that I realized we were making an edible piece of artwork, was the Jesus head cake. It had really pushed us technically and artistically and I was so proud of the way he came out. After that, I always strive to make the weirdest, most unique and interesting cakes I can…but above all, the most artist cakes we can create. What we do is art, it is just edible art.
What is the most difficult cakes you have created?
Hands down, head cakes are the absolute hardest!! They require so much structure and are so technically difficult, they give me a mini stroke every time we do one. Gravity is not my friend when working on a head cake. We have had some major disasters! The absolute worst was a head cake we did for a school rally of their mascot, a centurion….He started out okay…but was gradually getting worse and worse…We didn’t chill him properly and the hour drive to the school completely ruined him…he looked like the one who had had a stroke! It was bad!! I never posted pictures of that one…and never will! The Elvis cake was also a bit of a nightmare. We were having trouble with his face…his famous lip in particular and he looked like he had had some bad plastic surgery by the end of it. Travel also made this one sag and bunch…but since it was ‘fat Elvis’, it actually worked for the design and just made him look fatter. The dummy cake was pretty intense too. It was so huge, that gravity really did a number on this one. The cheeks started to sag first, then the ears didn’t want to stay on…the hairline kept slipping! Finally we just had to deliver him and he was more of an old man dummy than a child dummy….his ear fell off at the party. So embarrassing! But that is part of the job, now I can laugh at it and we have learned from every failure.
What materials do you use?
I prefer to work with fondant (a pliable sugar dough)..It is really necessary for the type of cakes that I do. It enables me to get a clean smooth surface and it makes the finished product look real and professional. Not all people like the taste of fondant, but it is easy to pull back when eating the cake. I also use gumpaste (which is like fondant, but dries much harder..almost like porcelain) This material is good for anything that must stand on it’s own and keep it’s shape, especially roses, flowers, little figurines, etc..
I have a box full of edible food dyes, edible glitter…I have cutters of all shapes and sizes, and tons of crafty tools…but I also use whatever I have around me that will work. For example, I use shot glasses to mix colors..a nob from my paper towel rack to make round indentions and just about anything round to cut a perfect sized hole. It’s about being resourceful!
How far in advance do you need for custom orders?
I always say, the earlier the better. Some people contact me months in advance. But I also get last minute orders and try to accommodate them all. I prefer at least 2-3 weeks notice. Especially on carved or shaped cakes, as they require much more planning. Plus, my calendar fills up pretty quickly so if you want to place an order…the early bird gets the worm!
What is your favorite type of project to work on?
My favorite types of cakes are always the most unique ones…anything out of the ordinary…a burrito, a cat’s head…a giant mustache. ‘The weirder, the better’ is my motto. I personally love working on food cakes. I get such joy out of making sugar dough look like a McDonalds hamburger…I also love working on the little details. Anytime I get to recreate a tiny boom box, the Dunkin Donuts logo, or make a penguin party complete with mini keg, bbq and hot tub…those are my favorite!
Where are you located and how can people contact you for orders?
I am based in Los Angeles, Culver City to be exact..but have known to deliver as far as an hour, depending on the cake…cakes are terrible travelers! Right now I do not have a store front…but that is the dream! I do all of my design, planning and prep work from my tiny apartment kitchen and rent commercial kitchen space when needed. I can be contacted through my website, http://janasfuncakes.com under ‘contact’…There are three brief basic questions I will need answered to get started on an order. Or I can also be emailed at email@example.com.