WITH HER GORGEOUS looks and tall stature, it's no wonder that Charmaine Jones was a fashion model for more than a decade. But a cake diva? Actually, it's not such a stretch since Jones' mother, a French-pastry chef, taught her daughter to bake early on and because of Jones' superior artistic ability, as well as her master's degree in fine arts.
Jones came up with the idea of a cake-design business when she was planning her own wedding, in 1990 and saw a void in the market. "I wanted a purple-and-gold cake with grape-flavored filling inside, but everyone said they couldn't do it," says Jones. So she baked her own wedding cake and made it to match the brocade pattern of her bridesmaids' dresses but with an Afrocentric twist. She gradually eased her way into the business by baking cakes for family friends and business associates. Since she realized she could't be a model forever, she thought she could make a go of cakes full time, especially once she realized there was nothing ethnic and fresh in the cake market. "Everything is really on the Victoria-n edge," says Jones. "And there's nothing that has to do with Asian, African, Latino or Jamaican cultures.
Requests for Jones' cakes come from all over the country, as well as Jamaica and the Bahamas. For the recent opening of the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island in the Bahamas, Jones created a cake that had live goldfish swimming in it. "It was just the wildest cake I ever did," says Jones. The cake was essentially a four-tier aquarium in a hexagon shape with die resort's signature swordfish on top. It was her biggest endeavor because she had to "waterproof" the cake but still be able to feed the fish. "It sure was a challenge," she admits.
And her cakes are as tasty as they are wild. The cakes are covered in fondant, a sweet, elastic icing that gives a very smooth appearance. Underneath, instead of marzipan, an overly sweet almond paste, she uses butter cream, a frosting that has a nice texture and can be blended with other flavors such as chocolate or mocha. Jones goes through this labor-intensive double-icing process because she believes a cake should taste as good as it looks. The producers and stars of ABC's soap opera All My Children must have thought her work was worth it, too, since she repeatedly gets asked back to the show. After creating a delectable cake for the wedding of the characters Noah and Julia, she was contracted to design another sumptuous creation for the Valentine's Day wedding of Marian and Stewart. To get the color just right for the fabulous pink-champagne cake, Jones had to blend fruit juices together. "It's all trial and error, but it's fun," says Jones.
Her recommendation to couples trying to choose their wedding cake:
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