What do People Magazine, Martha Stewart Weddings, and TLC have in common? JAY QUALLS…that’s what!!!!
Jay Qualls is the owner and head designer of the premier custom-cake bakery Maples Wedding Cakes in Murfreesboro, TN. Jay has become one of the most recognizable wedding-cake designers on the map, and most recently due to his appearance on TLC’s hits show The Next Great Baker hosted by The Cake Boss himself Buddy Valastro.
Jay has been super busy since his appearance on the show, but he was kind enough to answer a few questions on his way to Alaska for our ‘Vendors We Love’ Blog Series….because Jay and Maples Wedding Cakes is definitely a vendor we love.
Tell us about Maples Wedding Cakes…what’s the climate like in the shop…who really runs the show?
Well, everything is pretty much the same except for the people stopping by the shop to say hi, ask questions about the show, or to have their picture made. Production has remained the same. It is a bit more difficult to get work done in the studio now I must admit.
What has been your biggest inspiration?
I’m inspired by many things everyday. I suppose my biggest inspiration that keeps me doing what I do is that I always have something to prove to myself. Now it has become challenge to me. How much can I accomplish in this industry? I have some plans up my sleeve that I will share in another interview. I’m inspired by my colleagues, fashion, other cake artists, Nature. Many, many things inspire me.
How do you start the cake design process and how do you take it to the finished product?
Unless it is an original design for display or marketing, the design process all starts with the client and ends with the client. The client ultimately has the final say about design but I try very hard to listen to the client and determine her style. It is my job as an expert in my field to guide the client to a beautiful outcome and not something she is going to look back on 10 or 20 years from now and have remorse.
You were recently on TLC’s The Next Great Baker…what was that experience like and how has it changed your life & business since?
Careful what you wish for! It was a great experience. I didn’t go there to win honestly. I went there for exposure and looking back now to find out what I’m really made of. It was very, very, difficult. It was long hours, hard physical labor in unbelievable situations. It certainly has been a whirlwind for sure. It has given me many opportunities that I would have never gotten without that type of international exposure. I am traveling all over the United States and Canada teaching, lecturing, and demonstrating my craft. All the fans have been amazing and getting to work side by side with some of my cake idols is a dream come true. Crazy!
You have been traveling all over and meeting tons of new people…what is your fondest memory so far?
Hmmm…that is a tough question because there have been so many. I think one of my fondest memories was when I was asked to do an 80th birthday cake for a sweet southern lady from Alabama who was a fan. They drove her all the way to my shop so I could surprise her with her cake. When I was posing with her and her cake, I actually cried that I could touch a woman’s life with a cake after 80 years of her life and all she has seen and as many cakes as she has gotten. She still wanted mine. It was an unforgettable moment for me.
What is your favorite design element and technique…for those who don’t know, whats your trademark?
It is strange, until I did the cake for Martha Stewart Weddings, I never considered myself as someone who could pipe. Piping is a skilled art. After being asked to do that cake I fell in love with it and practiced, practiced, practiced and now it is one of my favorite technique. I’m also known for putting jewels or brooches on my cakes. I’m working on doing them in sugar as well. There are some great techniques that I am working on and going to be doing new designs around them. I love the art of string-work which is piping done with royal icing. It is beautiful and I feel so peaceful when I’m doing it.
Describe your perfect wedding cake?
Wow….that is a tough question. I get asked that question a lot. Hmmm? I’ll answer the best I can as of today because I change my mind everyday…LOL! I would say round, tall, tier’s will be different heights, 2 colors, maybe all white or soft ivory on white…it must have piping for sure. Maybe jewels. Not sure. See…I get lost every time I start to design my vision of the perfect wedding cake. I have too many techniques in my mind to design just one. That is why I like the diversity of designing for clients.
If you could make a cake for any couple…who would it be?
The Royal couple of course and Oprah and Steadman.
When a new client comes to Maples Cakes what can they expect?
They can expect to have a pleasant experience with knowledgeable staff. We make the tasting and design process an experience that hopefully will be a fond memory. They will get to sit in a luxurious beautiful studio with over 50 cakes on display. They will be able to taste at least 5 of our most popular flavors of cake, and our delicious buttercream and white chocolate fondant. We will spend as much time as we need until we get there cake designed. Sometimes they are surprised how quickly it comes together. Most of our cakes are unique designs, but that is usually determined by the client. It makes me feel good when they pick one of my original designs for their wedding.
Is there a Philosophy behind the work at Maples Wedding Cakes?
Martha Stewart has a standard called “Perfectly Perfect”. I have striven over the years to set and maintain a standard of excellence when we produce every single cake that would live up to that expectation. My philosophy is that my ability and skill set should be level with the bride’s expectation. I find that makes for a wonderful working relationship because we are able to do our best work and make our clients happy. Another important element is that I think CAKE SHOULD TASTE GOOD and BE MADE FRESH! Never freeze cake people! Never!
Anything else you would like to say…
Thank you to all of our former clients for allowing us to design their cake and be a part of their lives. Thank you to all my fans who have reached out to me and follow me to see what I’m doing next. Speaking of which….keep your eye on me. I just developed a new company called Jay Qualls Holdings, LLC. Just wait till you see some of the things I have planned. Great things coming this year! Until next time! Eat More Cake! Jay