Charmaine Jones The Cake Diva of Outrageous Cakes

From Black Diaprosa Magazine May 1997
Interviewed by Michelle Phipps

In the African-American wedding planner by Harriette Cole, "Jumping The Broom: Wedding Workbook," there is an exquisitely created four-tiered wedding cake with African symbols and colors." This is the mother of all cakes," says Charmaine Jones, the proud creator. "It is the one that started it all. Many people want a cake like that, but they might change the pastel colors to colors of royalty, purple and gold, or African royalty, white and gold." She adds, "In each cake I create, I set the trend like the one in 'Jumping The Broom.'

Charmaine Jones is the owner of the six-year-old Hoboken, New Jersey company, Isn't That Special- Outrageous Cakes. The company is no bakery, it's a cake gallery, where Jones is the sculptor. The former model-music composer grew up in Gary, Indiana, the child of a French pastry chef and a painter-architect.Although she spent a great deal of time helping her mother, she was always in awe of her father's talents and spirit.

Even though Jones now has a successful cake business, her path was not always clearly defined. After she received her master of fine arts from Loyola in Chicago, she went to New York and modeled for 10 years. "I was basically running away from cake," she says. After modeling, she got into the music business. However, she felt that the male-dominated industry was stifling her creativity. Finally, she stopped running from cake and began to examine what the so-called top bakers in the industry were doing.

"I got depressed about the cakes out there. Bakers who were top in their field promised that they can do anything in a cake. So I asked for a grape cake - purple on the outside, grape on the inside. They would say, anything, but that,' so I said okay, I can do that," she reflects. She decided to combine her talents in art and baking. And "finally decided to get into cake because of what was being offered. I had a mission - to set the trends for Afro-centric cakes."

And that she has.

Since Jones' cake appeared in "Jumping The Broom," her wedding cakes have been seen on television weddings, including the day time soaps, "All My Children" and "One Life To Live. " She also did the cake for television personality Geraldo Rivera's 50th birthday, for NBC's celebration of Jay Leno's first year on the air, a life-size bust of Michael Jackson made for People Magazine, and several unusual wedding, anniversary and birthday cakes for the general public. She believes that referrals make it easier for her to get business..
"I don't always have to go in proving myself, because I've already proven myself. I get referrals from people I've done cakes for before, who may want to reorder. We just do everything over the phone and they know it, s good." The creativity comes from a collaboration between Jones and each client. If the client has a themed-wedding, they would come up with an unusual design together Jones is very proud of some of the creations, many of which look extremely realistic. "Each cake is like a child being born," she laughs. So each one is different. When it comes to her specialty, the Afro-centric cakes, she can do edible African tapestry, symbols, edible gold, realistic kente cloth - all in icing. To Jones, creating the flowers are the most time-consuming. She and her staff of eight can spend an entire day creating sugar flowers, getting only a handful.

As a young African-American business, Jones states that it is necessary for her to "have my hand in everything," so Isn't That Special would not fall by. She proudly adds that, "The amount of money we've made so far, has doubled." This maybe because of her credo that a wedding cake should encompass all aspects of beauty - the visual impact as well as the taste. "Unfortunately many people think that you have to sacrifice one for the other. But after the cake is cut, the visual is gone and you have pictures to immortalize it. But the cake must taste good. Otherwise, why do it?" she states pensively. As a means of passing on her expertise to the community, during the slower months in January and February, Jones and her staff will teach the art of cake making. With really good students, she will take the money earned from the classes and utilize it to pay the best student to help with the cakes during the busier months. Right now, she is putting together a book of cake recipes. Charmaine Jones wants to take her business onto the next plateau hope- fully becoming a house-hold name, Cake Diva. She expects to give Betty Crocker real competition. Jones' cakes are extraordinary. They are sculptured works of art, which at times seem too beautiful to cut. But Jones prefers the flowers to be eaten and savored rather than thrown out. She has a God-given talent that will take her to other dimensions of cake design.

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