Because Jehonna Kane studied at BYU–Hawaii, she said she grew to love the Hawaiian culture and traditions, so she began to incorporate them into her work. She said she also tries to ship local produce from Hawaii to Utah to use in her baking. Hawaiian flavors like lilikoi and coconut are popular flavors at Maile Cake Designs, she explained.
Kane, a graphic design alumna from the Philippines, said her baking skills are all self-taught because she relies on her graphic design and multimedia art background from BYUH to decorate her cakes. Kane calls the cakes her “edible canvases.”
She said she opened up a shop from home in Hawaii in 2020 before moving to Utah, and in just a year, she has put together an impressive portfolio, a strong social media presence and even a television appearance.
Kane described her recent appearance on ABC 4 Utah. She said she was approached by a content producer looking for businesses to promote. Maile Cake Designs was chosen for its unique business design, she explained.
Hawaiian cakes in Utah
“What I do is a little bit different than just regular, pretty cakes,” Kane said. She said her cake designs focus on two themes: Wabi-sabi, the Japanese philosophy of finding beauty in imperfection, and impressionism, capturing beauty in time. “I see cakes as art,” she said.
“Even though it’s edible, it can be art. … Despite the fact that wedding cakes are meant to be eaten and dismembered, I believe accepting and enjoying the artistic beauty in the moment is important.”
She said she makes an extra special Swiss meringue butter-cream frosting, that her customers love, to put on all of her cakes. “It acts just like acrylic, just like paint.” She explained she uses a palette knife to create artwork with the buttercream on her cakes.
Kane said she brought back the Hawaiian traditions and flavors to Utah to encourage the Polynesian culture there through representing the communities of islanders in the state. “There’s a lot of Polynesian influence here, and not a lot of us are being represented in the wedding industry.” She explained she wants to give the communities more exposure in hopes of helping them to live their culture even though they are far from home.
Kane said she uses the traditional Hawaiian maile vine as a symbol for her business. The Maile Cake Design website explains maile is a vine that grows in wet forests of Hawaii. “In ancient Hawaiian wedding ceremonies, a strand of maile is used to bind the bride and groom together to symbolize their commitment and union. … The maile lei embodies the spirit of Aloha.”
Kane’s first cake
Kane said she started her business from home after designing a cake for her sister’s wedding during the pandemic. Jen Bilan, Kane’s sister and BYUH alumna, recollected the cake.
Bilan said it was the first time Kane made a two-tiered cake, and it wasn’t easy. “[Jehonna] used a couple of boba straws for cake support. It was chaotic. We were laughing and giggling nervously because we didn’t know if it would survive.” She said Kane added some artistic embellishments to the cake, improvising with bouquet flowers and gold leaf foils.
Kane said because she loves the process of designing and baking, she forged these two passions together and started making wedding cakes. She added she took advantage of the new market of couples getting married during the pandemic.
More than a cake
Daria Fuell is an elementary behavioral specialist in Utah who hired Kane to design and create her wedding cake. Fuell said she found Maile Cake Designs on Instagram. “When I found Jehonna’s page, I fell in love. … I saw how she could do incredible artistry with her craft.”
Fuell said she was amazed at Kane’s talent and loved Kane’s watercolor and oil painting styles. “It was the most perfect thing I could ever think of [for my wedding].When I heard she was available for our date, I think I literally started jumping up and down because I was so excited to work with her.”
Kane said the process of making a wedding cake starts with knowing the couple. “Every couple and relationship is different. They give me a brief overview of their dynamics, and then I dive deeper to find what sparks joy. It makes it super meaningful for them.” She said by learning about her clients, she can take her designs “beyond the Pinterest board.”
After she gets to know her clients, she said she works with them to develop a sketch of the cake they want. “The wedding couple plays a major part in designing the cake. It is a collaborative effort between the couple and the cake artist.” In total, Kane said the design process takes about four months, and she produces one or two cakes per week.
Fuell said Kane added the lyrics of the couple’s favorite song and artwork to match the flowers on their wedding invitations to their cake. These personalized details made the cake a special symbol at the wedding, she said. “It really became something that was personal to us.”
Fuell said Kane was very personable. She explained she knew a lot of professionals in the wedding industry who treat clients as clients, not friends. In contrast, she said Kane “understood our cake wasn’t going to be like anybody else’s. It really made us feel like we were valued to her artistry.”
She said after everything, she considers Kane a friend because of the connection they developed while working on the cake.
A word of advice
When it comes to starting a business, Kane told BYUH students it is important to find a support system or “a tribe of like-minded individuals.” She said her biggest support is her husband.
Running a business from home with two children in tow is no easy feat, Kane said, but she encourages mothers to try their hand at running a business too. “It’s possible to juggle both motherhood and a business. You can do it. It takes a village, so finding support is the biggest thing.”
Business owners should also take things one step at a time, said Kane. “Success doesn’t happen overnight. It is a process. Take a break if you have to, but don’t quit until you have really tried.” •