Jamaica Crist, owner of Jamaica's Cakes in West Los Angeles, isn't from Jamaica, and she doesn't make Jamaican-style desserts either — despite the countless customers who walk in expecting banana fritters or cornmeal pudding. Crist actually grew up on a farm in Oregon and started her baking career at age 5 making cinnamon rolls with a neighbor.
Crist says she fell in love with cooking when her mom opened a cafe, the now-closed Cafe Diva in Newport, Ore. After working at the Sweet Life, a bakery in Eugene, Ore., she was hooked on pastries and cakes. Now, at Jamaica's Cakes, she's known for her wedding cakes, cupcakes and pecan bars. Some classics in her bakery case, including the pecan bars, will always be there, but she switches up the cupcake flavors and a bar or two each month. If you stop in now, look out for the lemon poppyseed and raspberry cupcakes and peach streusel bars.
What did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a professional ballet dance since I was 3. I grew up dancing and loving it and wanting to do it. I just don't have the right physique for it.
Favorite thing to make for or with your kids? My daughter, Calise, is 3, and my son, Bowen, is only 10 months, so we haven't done too much yet. But if I'm making lunch for Calise, I have her help me stir the mayo in the chicken for the chicken salad sandwiches. But even when she comes in to the bakery to drop something off, she's already interested and she'll ask, "What's in that mixer?" I hope she follows in my footsteps.
Go-to savory bites? For my birthday, I don't necessarily want a cake. I want a cheese platter with some fruit and bread. I don't want cake because I'm around it every day. I have littles bites of everything I'm working on. I love to cook good food at home; I love to do mac 'n' cheese, casserole-type things. I have a good lasagna recipe.
Guilty pleasure? Thin Mints and Samoas Girl Scout cookies are always good. I love Oreo cookies and Oreo ice cream. I like a good straightforward KitKat or Twix. We have a cookie that's smiliar to a Twix bar; we call it a super Twix sometimes. I like some junk food now and again. 7-Eleven candy.
How much cake do you eat a day? I probably only eat like half a cup if you measure it out. I'm like, "Oh, this little bit of crust fell off this cake." You know, just to make sure it's OK. I'm not sitting having a whole piece or anything like that — but you definitely have to do quality control.
11511 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, (319) 478-1971, www.jamaicascakes.com