Wild Ones: Alana Jones-Mann & Ziggy
The LA artist and baker’s designer confections are all about peace, love, and pugs. Don’t let them eat cake.
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For Alana Jones-Mann, baking is no flash-in-the-pan pandemic hobby. The Los Angeles-based cake designer’s pointillist-style confections look more like works of art than sweet treats: cakes being the canvas for buttercream frosting flower-power patterns, retro geometric shapes, and rainbow swirls that resemble ’70s shag rugs and Missoni dresses. When she’s not dreaming up groovy desserts for such clients as Aidy Bryant, ModCloth, Vans, and Art Basel stars The Haas Brothers, Jones-Mann is playing with her new pug puppy, Ziggy. We caught up with her to talk everything from pugs to Pride to Beyoncé.
You’re a proud pug mom. What made you fall in love with the breed?
I am! I grew up with larger dogs and didn’t know a lot about pugs until I moved to NYC, where I would see them everywhere. I would get so excited every time I passed one on the street — their cute, squishy bodies, curly tails, and super expressive faces. I was hooked. Riley was my first pug. Ten months later [I got] Dylan. Riley was independent, loyal, and loving. He taught me so much about myself. And Dylan was like no dog I’ve ever met — he felt more human than dog, and there aren’t words to describe how special he was. Due to a genetic spinal issue, he slowly lost mobility of his rear legs and required a wheelchair once he turned eight. But he never let that damper his spirit! He was the most happy-go-lucky little guy.
I knew he depended on me for his well-being, but it wasn’t until he passed earlier this year that I realized how much I depended on him for my well-being too. He had such an uplifting spirit and being in his presence was something magical — he exuded pure happiness. I think that’s how all pugs are on some level — it kind of feels like you’re living with your biggest fan who is always staring at you adoringly like you’re the best thing in the world. And I’m clearly a pug loyalist, having just become a pug parent yet again with my new adorable pug son, Ziggy.
Ziggy is so cute. What’s he like?
Ziggy came into my life in April. My boyfriend and I knew we wanted to get another pug, but we also needed to take some time as we both had a very hard time with Dylan’s passing. It had been a month since Dylan passed, which still felt soon, when we met Ziggy. We were holding him and instantly knew he was ours. It was magnetic — we just knew he was the one.
It hasn’t even been three months with Ziggy, but it feels like he’s been part of our family for much longer. We’re madly in love with him. He’s absolutely hilarious, still learning and discovering so much about his new world. For a puppy he’s incredibly well-behaved and hasn’t destroyed anything…yet. Aside from his obsession with eating dirt and leaves (and anything else on the ground), I’d say he’s completely perfect.
Do you bake from home, and if so, does Ziggy (and did Riley and Dylan) have the best seat in the house to wait for cake to fall on the floor?
I have always loved baking from home alongside my dogs, even though they aren’t allowed in the kitchen while I bake or decorate. Riley and Dylan were professional cake scrap scavengers — as soon as they were allowed back in the kitchen, they’d immediately scour every inch of the floor for crumbs. A lot of my work over the past decade has been done from home and being able to spend so much time with my dogs has been a major aspect of why I love my job so much.
Your pets’ adorable faces have inspired dog and cat cakes. How popular are orders for pet-themed cakes?
Aside from a handful of pug cakes and cupcakes, I have only done a few other custom pet-designed cakes. Portraits are not my strong suit, so I always recommend people go to other bakeries that specialize in that because there are so many talented bakers out there!
When commissioned to design a cake for artists of other mediums, what’s the process like?
Nowadays most people that are interested in a cake from me are looking for one that is done in my shag piping style, and since I pipe all of my shag cakes freehand, the process is more about collaborating on the palette and any design influences they may have beforehand. There’s a lot of trust that comes with ordering a cake that’s done freehand as you don’t know exactly what it’s going to look like. It’s an incredible feeling to have that trust between collaborators.
What has your favorite collaboration been...and what would your dream collaboration be?
A couple of years ago I did a collaboration with ELLE Decor that was really fun. They sent me samples of rugs they were going to feature, and I created cakes inspired by each of the rug designs. I think getting to see my work in print and having something tangible to flip through and revisit made it extra special for me — it added a level of permanence to the impermanence of my work.
As for dream collaborations, making a cake for Beyoncé has always been at the top of my list. But isn’t it every artist’s dream to collaborate with Beyoncé?!
Are any of your cakes safe for dogs to eat?
They definitely are not safe for dogs, but Riley and Dylan would probably want me to mention that a few crumbs and floor scraps don’t hurt! I think dog nutrition is very important, and I like supporting companies that are experts in the healthy dog food and treat arena.
Love that you always design a cake for Pride. Did you bake any rainbow cakes this year?
Pride is such a joyful, fun celebration. And making desserts that are joyful — during an extra special time — well, it doesn’t get better than that! I obviously love a rainbow palette, and actually have a rainbow cake order this week. Getting to have a job that revolves around celebrations is incredibly fulfilling and I feel so lucky to get to take part in celebrating happy moments in time with so many people.
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Samantha Gurrie is The Wildest’s editorial director. She was previously the senior editor at NYLON magazine, co-publisher of Four&Sons, and director at Puerto Rican dog rescue The Sato Project. She lives in L.A. with her husband and rescue Pit Bull mix Midnight.