Jay Qualls, Cake Designer
Maples Wedding Cakes
352 W. Northfield Blvd., Suite 4E, Murfreesboro, 867-2229
Since he opened his shop in 2005, cake designer Jay Qualls has created cakes for the likes of Sara Evans, Jo Dee Messina and Martina McBride. Recently a Qualls-created seven-layer pink fondant wedding cake with hand-piped scroll work also graced the pages of Martha Stewart Weddings magazine's 15th-anniversary issue.
"For a cake decorator, the pinnacle of your career is to be a part of one of the most recognizable brands in the marketplace," he said. "I have always been a fan of (Stewart's) work and her methods of fine living and ‘perfectly perfect' standards."
How did you learn to bake?
I had many, many trial-and-errors along the way. I still can't make a decent biscuit to this day. My mom showed me a hundred times.
I learned to bake from my mom, grandmother, and my art teacher - all of whom are no longer here, but always here with me in spirit in the bakery.
How did you begin designing wedding cakes?
I made my first birthday cake on April 25, 1992, for my daughter's first birthday party. We had just bought our first house and I was in college, and we simply couldn't afford to buy a store-bought cake.
I borrowed a frosting bag, a sheet pan and buttercream recipe from my art teacher, and she showed me the basics. It took me eight hours to do a single quarter-sheet cake with borders that would take me literally 5-6 minutes today.
Later that same year, I decided to try my hand at a wedding cake. I had the forethought to videotape it - I still have the tape. It is terrible, but good for my first attempt, I think, to not to have any training whatsoever.
What's your most memorable wedding cake story?
Last year, my worst nightmare came true, for the first time in 18 years. I got a call after delivering a cake while relaxing on my deck. The girl called my cell phone and asked, "Jay, are you bringing the cake?" I said, "I don't have a cake for you today - not for two more weeks." She said that guests were arriving in 15 minutes.
I told her to push the cake presentation to the end of the reception and that I would be there with a cake. Cake 911!
I put the call out to my staff and we all pitched in. Not only did we get a cake split, filled, covered in fondant and decorated, it was the cake she ordered. The first call came in at 5:45 p.m., and I was at the venue delivering the cake at 7:31 p.m. All was well. Still not sure how the dates got confused.
What ingredient could you not live without?
What's most rewarding
about making wedding cakes?
My quality of life is the most rewarding. I have a beautiful shop, a fully spacious, comfortable kitchen to work in, a great staff and a great support system of friends and family. I also really enjoy meeting new people and hearing the stories of their lives and designing cakes for them that make them very happy.
If you could bake for anyone, who would it be?
I want to make a cake for Oprah Winfrey, Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn more than anything in the world.
Always in your home refrigerator?
Hmm. Well, food really isn't that important to me. I barely eat, and I am very picky. You can always find 2 percent string cheese, yogurt and Popsicle brand tropical sugar-free popsicles. You must try them - they are awesome, and only 15 calories. Great snack.
I think it would be white beans, cornbread baked in the triangle iron skillet, homemade dumplings, my mama's potato salad, macaroni and cheese and her fresh-baked scratch coconut cake for dessert.