By Anna Robertson Ham
When it comes to wedding cakes, there is a name in the industry that stands out among the rest. Jay Qualls is renowned for his creations, which have been sought after by not only middle Tennesseans, but throughout the including celebrities such as Reba McEnitre, Miranda Lambert, Martina McBride, Jo Dee Messina, Sara Evans, Blake Shelton and Faith Hill, to name a few. “When I started out decorating cakes full-time as a full-scale business, I wanted to be recognized as a wedding cake designer. One of my favorite creations was the pink heart themed wedding cake I produced in collaboration with Martha Stewart Weddings 15th Anniversary Edition of the magazine.
"That was my first publication,” explains Jay. “I enjoyed producing this cake as it pushed my skill set beyond the limits of anything I knew was possible. It opened many doors for me and allowed me to go on and create many of the country artists’ wedding cakes. One of my favorite’s was creating Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton’s wedding cake. It was truly an artistic collaboration.”
Jay has been featured in numerous national publications and wedding blogs, such as Martha Stewart Weddings, US Weekly, People Magazine, Southern Living Weddings, Town & Country Weddings, InStyle Weddings, The Know and many more. He has also been seen on some of your favorite television shows - ABC’s The Taste, TLC’s Next Great Baker and Extreme I Do’s and Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen. So, it is obvious that Jay’s work truly speaks for itself and has an incredible following. We love his work too... as one of Jay’s cake creations adorns our inaugural issue cover. Can you believe it is a real cake?!
Jay’s talent and passion came from falling in love with cake decorating after he decorated his daughter’s first birthday cake in April of 1992. “I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I had an art teacher in middle school who I was friends with that decorated cakes and I asked her how to make the frosting to decorate the cakes that she made,” explains Jay. “After decorating my daughter’s first cake in 1992, people started asking me to do it. At first, I was doing it for friends and family as a hobby.”
His first company, Maples Wedding Cakes, opened in 2005 and then he started A Frosted Affair, A Jay Qualls Boutique Cakery in 2014 in Nashville. “I graduated college in 2003 and decided to put my new degree to work and open my first full-scale bakery in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. I went on to focus on wedding cakes and groom’s cakes, as this is where my passion led me,” says Jay. “My goal was to be known for producing beautiful wedding cakes.” He is also well-known for being an inventor of “Fondant Fabric.” His love for creating beautiful and delicious cakes is continuously passed on, as he enjoys consulting and teaching cooking classes.
As you can imagine, Jay stays steadily immersed in cake, especially certain times of the year. “During a busy season, when we were doing wedding cakes, grooms cakes and celebration cakes, we would produce anywhere from twenty to thirty-five cakes a week plus cupcakes, cookies, cake pops, brownies and other desserts. Lately, we have focused mostly on wedding cakes. We typically will do anywhere from eight to twelve wedding cakes a week which translates to approximately 500 wedding cakes a year,” Jay says. With all of that cake surrounding him, you would probably think he is over cake... but he is far from that! When we asked him what his favorite cake was, he said, “I would have probably said carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, but my husband recently made me a traditional old-fashioned oatmeal cake that was divine. Simply one of the most delicious cakes I’ve ever had in my life, and I have had a lot of cake!”
Jay knows that every wedding and every person is unique in what they want for their special day and occasion. He prides himself on truly listening and discussing the design to get a feel for what the person or couple envisions. “A custom cake is a luxury for many people. It is very important to me to always give my customer my full attention and create something unique to that person. Sometimes navigating that is not always easy, but ninety-nine percent of the time we hit a homerun and the customer is thrilled,” he says.
“Recently, I have focused my efforts on the business of this industry. I travel around the country and teach what I know and have learned to other people who want to potentially open a brick-and-mortar custom bakery, or hobbyists who want to grow their business in their residential kitchens. I am entertaining the idea of doing more television, possibly a judging competition and continue to work on a self-help book on how to run a small boutique bakery business,” Jay says. “I would like to encourage anyone who has a dream to just do what they want to do and be happy in their profession. I never dreamed when I started this in 1992 that I would be able to go, do, see and meet these incredible people, all because of cake. I never imagined that I would get to work with Martha Stewart, some of the most famous country music artists, that I love and respect, and go to some of the most exotic places I’ve ever seen, all because of my craft. It has been an amazing experience in many ways and I work with some of the most conscientious and hard-working people I’ve ever known in my life.”
To see more of Jay’s work and for ordering information, visit thefrostedaffairbyjayqualls.com.
*Photography By Nicki Hollis Photography