Big celebrations call for big cakes. For more than 12 years, Jamaica and James Crist have answered the call with specially designed multi-tiered cakes that rise to any occasion.
At Top Tier Treats bakery in West LA, their specialty dessert headlines the top shelf of the front display case with an array of subtly decorated all-occasion cakes. Meanwhile, other shelves tempt you with a spread of pastries, cookies and other single-serve desserts ready for walk-ins.
Behind the scenes, while Jamaica multitasks to bake up the store’s selection of treats, she’s also crafting several elaborate cake creations for special celebrations. The custom cakes are fit for weddings, birthdays, bachelor/ette parties and more, with design themes ranging from elegant to funky to not-safe-for-work.
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 preferences in wedding materials—invitations, colors, flowers, etc.
She also uses real fresh flowers to decorate the cakes (obviously, non-poisonous ones). Jamaica prefers this embellishment to add a more organic look instead of emphasizing sweetness with hard chunks of fabricated sugar flowers.
For more boisterous celebrations, Jamaica’s cake designs often come in 3-D shapes. Some of her recent examples include Darth Vader’s helmet, a stack of Nancy Drew novels, and a whimsical unicorn head. The bakery can also frame edible photo prints on top of their cakes.
Jamaica kindly 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. James said they want their cakes to be more than a treat for the eyes and a sugar rush; they need to please the palate too.
“We make our cakes 100% from scratch, so they taste as good as they look,” he said.
They use as few ingredients as possible, and never shortening or margarine. James said the real test of a quality cake is not when it arrives with impressive gravity-defying shapes, but after the work of art is dismantled and the only thing left to evaluate is the taste.
“Once customers start eating the cake, they no longer see the shape. Eventually, it comes down to taste,” James said. “If it still tastes good, they tell people about it.”
If you think you’ve heard about Jamaica’s cakes before, it might not just be from their good word-of-mouth. Until last year, the Top Tier Treats storefront had long been known as Jamaica’s Cakes.
“We would get about three people a week coming in and looking for Jamaican food,” said James. (For the record, they never offered Caribbean cuisine.) “Customers are still catching on,” he added.
After much deliberation, the couple decided to put the confusion to rest and rechristen the shop with a new name and look.
The name change has been a second wind for their bakery, which has survived the rise and fall of baked trends from cake pops to cronuts. The new name also gives customers a better sense of their range of offerings.
In addition to cakes, Top Tier’s desserts and pastries include cookies, croissants, muffins, lemon bars, pies, and more. The pecan bars and cinnamon rolls are among the most popular. The bakery is also seeing demand surge for their chocolate covered peanut butter bombs, which were a hit at last fall’s Vegan Street Fair.
With Top Tier Treats, the Crists’ creativity and diligence have continued to earn positive recommendations from customers. “I truly feel the thing that kept us here is the quality of our product,” James said.