Big events call for big desserts. Top Tier Treats answers that call in West LA with ready-made and custom designed cakes, along with an assortment of pastries, pies, and treats that rise to any occasion.
For over 13 years, Jamaica and James Crist have run this Pico Blvd bakery, formerly known as Jamaica’s Cakes. Though Jamaica still makes the cakes, renaming the bakery to Top Tier Treats better conveys the range of options offered at the shop, which no longer gets mistaken for a Caribbean restaurant.
“I feel like we’re in a growth spurt with the name change,” said Jamaica. “It’s been two years now, and there’s just been more people and more people.” James added, “I truly feel the thing that has kept us here is the quality of our product.”
Inside the bakery, the signature dessert headlines the top shelf of the front display case in an array of subtly decorated all-occasion cakes. Flavors may include vanilla, chocolate, cookie dough, funfetti, salted caramel custard, or raspberry champagne, among several others. “We make our cakes 100% from scratch, so they taste as good as they look,” James said.
Across more shelves, a spread of muffins, croissants, cookies, cupcakes, tarts, and other single-serve sweets are ready for walk-ins to enjoy, along with a beverage from the espresso bar. Cinnamon rolls and pecan bars are particularly popular choices. Though a limited selection may be available by day, the bakery can take large or special orders in advance.
Top Tier Treats has also continued to expand their vegan options onsite and for custom orders, including the cakes. “We’ve been doing a lot more vegan stuff in general,” said Jamaica, having held a booth at the Vegan Street Fair for several years. The bakery has also maintained its focus on quality ingredients, never using shortening or margarine.
Among the vegan treats, the Peanut Butter Bombs are a find—not just because they’re vegan, but because they blatantly defy expectations of similar chocolate confections. Each ball is nearly 2 inches wide, with a substantial amount of smooth, dense peanut butter covered in a crisp, thin layer of dark chocolate. For the size of each Bomb, you’d expect to find a much thicker outer shell, but this impressive ratio of peanut butter to chocolate offers a satisfying balance of flavor.
Jamaica performs many other balancing acts at Top Tier Treats while crafting elaborate custom cakes for special celebrations, with themes ranging from elegant to funky to not-safe-for-work. Cakes can be carved into whimsical shapes, whether you’re into musical instruments, sports, animals, or even other foods (how about a hamburger-shaped cake?). Different techniques create textural illusions of smooth marble, wavy ruffles, shiny crystals, or even fluffy fur.
Multiple tiers and colorful fondant sculptings can add gravity-defying dimension to cakes accessorized with whatever you can imagine: pudgy unicorns, scaly dinosaurs, pointy crowns, poofy bows. And for an even more personalized touch, Top Tier Treats can also place an edible print of a photo on your cake’s surface.
“It’s always fun when somebody comes up with an idea that I’ve seen but haven’t done, and I think, ‘I can do that.’ It’s art. It’s sculpting,” Jamaica described. “Sometimes I don’t know exactly what I’m doing, but I push myself all the time.”
For actor Dwayne Johnson’s birthday, Jamaica was tasked to create a cake inspired by The Rock’s favorite “cheat” meal: banana chocolate chip pancakes. The cake’s surface resembled a towering stack of 22 pancakes, topped with an oversized pat of sculpted butter, encircled by fondant banana slices and chocolate chip dollops, complete with drippings of syrup. Inside was a banana cake layered with peanut butter mousse.
Jamaica requests a week’s advance notice for custom-made cake orders, given the effort that goes into the design and requisite cooling period after it’s made.
Since wedding cakes demand more planning, Jamaica is known for meeting with brides directly to brainstorm designs. She takes inspiration from the couple’s personality and from their selected wedding materials—invitations, colors, flowers, etc. She also prefers to decorate the cakes with fresh, real flowers (obviously, non-poisonous ones) to give them a more organic look, instead of emphasizing sweetness with hard chunks of sugar flowers.
James believes that for Top Tier Treats, the real test of quality is not when a cake arrives in all its decorated splendor, but after you’ve sliced into the work of art and taken a bite. “Once customers start eating the cake, they no longer see the shape. Eventually, it comes down to taste,” he said. “If it still tastes good, they tell people about it.”