One of my favorite things about writing for PRINT is discovering artists working with mediums and in design worlds that I’d never considered. Nothing beats coming upon a creative who takes something from one context and uses it to develop a uniquely magnificent artistic style or point of view. Stylist and baker Alana Jones-Mann is a quintessential example of one such artist whose startling cake designs stun with their beauty and meticulous crafting.
Jones-Mann is an LA-based stylist and completely self-taught baker who initially turned to baking as an escape from her nine-to-five marketing job when she lived in New York. Though she has a background in art and design from attending the New School in New York, Jones-Mann lets her innate creative eye guide her in developing her cake design aesthetic.
Completely captivated by her cakes, I had to learn more! Jones-Mann’s responses to my questions are below, offering a window into her journey and love of buttercream.
How would you describe your design aesthetic?
Colorful, retro-inspired, and tactile.
Bold colors, poppy patterns, and vibrant designs are so clear to your point of view as a baker. Where does your affinity for this look come from?
I’ve always been heavily influenced by the ’60s and ’70s when it comes to all areas of my personal design preferences— especially my style and interior preferences. Those preferences started showing in my cake designs very early on and came out more and more as I became more comfortable in my own decorating style as an artist.
I never felt comfortable or fulfilled replicating other designs that existed and noticed at the time there was so much room for innovation in cake design.Alana Jones-Mann
You’re a self-described “stylist and designer, with an intense passion for crafting and baking.” When did you first start combining your stylist/designer skills with baking?
As soon as I had the fundamentals of the cake-making process down and was comfortable with decorating basics, I noticed my personal design influences quickly started coming through. It was important for me to find my own style of cake decorating and let my personal style shine through. I never felt comfortable or fulfilled replicating other designs that existed and noticed at the time there was so much room for innovation in cake design.
What’s your origin story as a baker? Why do you enjoy baking so much?
Baking wasn’t something I sought out; it was a fun passion I had that magically turned into a job. In the beginning, I was in a busy marketing job and found baking was not only a creative outlet I could experiment with on the weekends but a very calming, meditative experience that brought me back into alignment. I quickly became obsessed with the decorating process— both for how creative it allowed me to be and how it made me feel mentally. Still, to this day, I always find the decorating process to be incredibly calming.
What makes cake different from other craft mediums? What are the biggest struggles you face working with cake?
I love buttercream as a medium— it can be used in many ways and yield the most intricate details. Of course, since it is buttercream and a cake I’m working with, there are limitations in terms of the time and temperature. But I don’t see that as a limitation and more as a fun challenge.
Once I sit down with my buttercream palette, I don’t really know what’s going to happen— I just start piping and go from there.Alanna Jones-Mann
What’s a typical process like for executing one of your cakes? They’re so intricate, I’d have to imagine you plan out everything step by step.
People often think I plan out my cake designs, but I never do! The majority of my cakes are piped freehand, never with a specific design in mind. I think that makes my cake designs feel organic and allows the patterns to really flow. Once I sit down with my buttercream palette, I don’t know what’s going to happen— I start piping and go from there. Getting to work like this is incredibly freeing and makes for a very meditative process while decorating.
Do you have a favorite cake you’ve created?
It’s too hard to pick a favorite, but the needlepoint style I’ve recently been experimenting with is my favorite style at the moment. It feels new and exciting and allows for a different process.