Sweet Memories: Jamaica Crist of Jamaica’s Cakes

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Cinnamon Roll from Jamaica’s Cakes

Sweet Memories is a new blog series on Good Food where Chloe Chappe talks to local chefs and bakers about the flavors and memories that inspired their food.

Jamaica Crist got her start as a baker in her mother’s bakery in Newport, Oregon. In College she took baking classes and worked as a baker and then as a cake decorator at the Sweet Life Patisserie in Eugene, Oregon. She discovered her passion for creating and decorating wedding cakes from here experience there. Although Jamaica’s Cakes is known for its incredible custom wedding cakes, Crist also makes and sells pastries. Jamaica’s Cakes is located at 11511 W. Pico Blvd. Los Angeles.

Chloe Chappe: Is there any dish from your childhood or past that you make in your bakery today?

Jamaica Crist: When I was in high school, my mom opened a small cafe.  There are two items she made that we carry at our bakery today…they are her Scottish Oat Scones and her Blueberry Muffins.  The scones are nice because they are still a biscuit style, but not nearly as dry as one may expect and we add a center filling of fruit puree to give them an extra umph.  The blueberry muffins are packed full of blueberries and topped with an oat streusel.  Love them both!

CC: Are there any specific smells or ingredients from your past that have influenced your current creations?

JC: I grew up in the country outside of the small town on the Central Oregon coast of Newport, Oregon. One of our neighbors was like a surrogate grandmother to my brothers and me.  I still remember being about 6 or 7 years old and making cinnamon rolls with her at her house.  To this day, whenever I walk into the shop and get a whiff of the cinnamon rolls out of the oven, I’m immediately transported back to that time.  We make a mean cinnamon roll!  It has been featured on a few “best of” blogs and what not.

scones finished (1)
Scones from Jamaica’s Cakes (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

CC: If you could eat one meal from your past over again, what would that meal be? Why?

JC: This is a hard question to answer because I eat my favorite meal from my past to this day….it is brown rice, baked chicken, and broccoli w/cheese.  My mom always prepared healthy meals growing up and I just love this one the best!  It’s my go to comfort food!  My mom cooked a lot but didn’t do much baking.  She made some great pies and the above mentioned items.

CC: The main focus of your bakery is wedding cakes. Did you attend many weddings as a kid? Do you have any stories of wedding cakes that you loved or despised?

JC: When I was in college, I began working at a cake shop in Eugene, Oregon (The Sweet Life Patisserie).  I started out as their morning baker and worked my way up through basic cakes all the way up to their head wedding cake decorator.  I fell in LOVE with wedding cakes.  I have always loved being in the kitchen and at one point thought I’d open a cafe style shop.  Once I was working at SL for a while, I knew cakes and desserts were the way to go.  Cakes are all about celebrations, happy milestones, birthdays, weddings, etc..people are happy with sugar. The staff working on the cakes, the clients eating the cake, it’s almost always for fun, good reasons. With a full restaurant kitchen, that environment can be really difficult to work in. I’ve been yelled at, there are big egos, it’s hot (all kitchens are actually), everyone is grumpier, it’s just not a pleasant place to be.

I’m not sure what it is about me, but I tend to weed out the “bridezilla” type of brides and get to work with some great people.  I have too many stories to pick just one.  It is always a pleasure when I’m on a wedding cake delivery and I get to see the bride and groom.  More often than not, I arrive while they are either getting married, or prepping for the wedding, so it’s just nice to see them day of and see their joy and happiness.  I’ve also learned to take a repair kit with me on all deliveries after an incident back when I was in Eugene.  I had a far (1 hour away) delivery to go to, once I got there, the cake had readjusted itself.  I had to mcgiver a way to make it work and honestly, no one knew, but it stressed me out!