This article was originally published on November 24, 2015 and has been modified and updated for our new website.
DIY blogger, designer and baker Alana Jones-Mann, 30, is the genius behind this beautiful Otomí inspired cake. She spoke to us about what it took to create her masterpiece and whether or not she plans to create more Mexican-inspired treats in the future.
How long have you been working in this business?
I started my blog in 2012. At that time, I also began to focus more on event design and baking...all in an attempt to live a creative life. I love what I do, and feel so lucky I can do it as a job each and every day.
What inspired you to create an Otomi-style cake?I have always loved beautiful handmade embroidery, and had noticed myself becoming particularly drawn to Otomi embroidery. I became fascinated with the patterns and colors, and loved how unique each and every single piece I studied was.
How long did it take you from start to finish? Well, I was using a cake that was frosted with vanilla buttercream from an earlier cake design I was experimenting with. So, my blank canvas was already set! As for the piping, it took me a couple of hours to prep and color all the buttercream. Once I was ready to get to work, it took me 3 hours to do all the piping. I could only work for 30 minutes at a time so that the buttercream didn't get too warm. I'd add a couple animals then put it back in the fridge to reset, and then repeat...over and over again.
What kind of labor did it entail? Just piping with a small decorating tip. As long as you have the right consistency for the buttercream, it really isn't as difficult as many probably assume it to be.
How do you prepare for a project like this? To prepare, I simply just have to be inspired by something, and I'm a big believer that inspiration is everywhere. Once I had the idea for the cake I researched and analyzed the designs, patterns, and colors for a couple of days. I was so inspired during this process as well.After my research, I got to work. Unfortunately I was too "in the zone" to take any pictures of the process for this cake; however, I am planning on doing a couple more embroidery style cakes that you'll be able to see on my blog in the future. They won't be the Otomí embroidery, but the techniques used will be similar.
What kind of cake is it? It was a vanilla cake frosted with vanilla buttercream. All of the piped animals and details were also buttercream that had been colored with gel food coloring.
Who did you make it for? I made it for myself! Cake requests are often for ideas that I've already created, so I like to create my own ideas first. Allowing myself the time to create cakes that stem from my personal inspirations is essential to my creative process.
Who ate it? My boyfriend and I, as well as a few of our friends.
Do you plan on making more in the future?I'd like to make more embroidery cakes, but can't see myself making another Otomí embroidery cake. I think it's important to not remake my designs too often, as it allows me the time to think of new ideas.
What would this cake retail for? Unless there was a very special and meaningful request, I wouldn't offer this cake for sale.
You mentioned Mexico is a place you hold close to your heart. Can you tell us a little bit more about that? It certainly is! I spent the first 20 years of my life in San Diego, and a lot of my family live close to the border. I loved taking trips to Mexico as a kid. We'd often just hop in the car and drive to Rosarito or Puerto Nuevo for lunch. I can remember being a kid and feeling so inspired and in awe as I watched traditional Mexican folk dancers performing in Old Town, San Diego. Watching the beautiful and colorful dresses twirling around that day is one of my earliest and most vivid childhood memories. The colors, beauty, and food of Mexico—there is nothing else like it!
Otomí comes in so many different patterns, colors, etc. Would you consider doing solid prints? So many different colors and patterns—they sure are magnificent! I initially had assumed there was one underlying pattern constant in true Otomi works, but found that there wasn't. Each pattern I observed was completely unique. It seems as if each design's pattern is determined by the specific embroiderer, and I absolutely love that. I don't think I'd feel comfortable replicating such a beautiful tradition. But I would love to travel to Hidalgo to see the embroiders at work and potentially take home a piece of their handcrafted art for myself.
Do you plan on making any other Mexican-inspired treats? I recently made some Día de los Muertos inspired desserts and a few years ago I made a pseudo-embroidered skull cake. My cactus cupcakes were also inspired by my hometown landscape, so they're slightly Mexican inspired. As for future treats, I don't have anything planned at the moment, but could absolutely see myself being inspired by Mexico again in the future.
Please visit Alana's website to see more pictures of her Otomí inspired cake.