When Nicole Singh started to plan her son’s second birthday party in New York, she wasn’t prepared for the prices she encountered. Ever the creative, having studied graphic design, she went the DIY route, renting a church hall and turning it into a mini Disney World. Just like that, the seeds of what is now Cake Divas were sown.
Nicole’s partner and friend of 15 years, Joyah, entered the world of pastries and cake décor more formally. The whimsical bassist and vocalist of local band British Dependency enjoyed four-year stints at Cap Juluca, Altamer and Viceroy after finishing her training at the Culinary Institute in New York. Despite her formal training and experience, she was a bit more reluctant.
“She was like a bug in my ear,” Joyah laughs, remembering Nicole’s persistence. The two started working together in 2011, but it took another two years for Cake Divas to become official. Once convinced, they both took courses in party décor and balloon art. Joyah is happy she took on the challenge: “I’m now doing pastries for my own business, and it’s making me fall in love with my creative side once more.”
Currently, they work in Nicole’s kitchen, but they plan to open a brick-and-mortar location and expand into related services in the future. “Our dream is to have our own spot that’s not just doing cakes,” Joyah explains.
“We want to have a Party City in Anguilla,” Nicole chimes in. “We want to do pastries, ice cream, sorbets, balloon décor… it’s what we both want.” This shared sense of labour of love is at the heart of Cake Divas.
I work well under pressure… when things go wrong i have to become superwoman to figure it out
Crucially, they can each perform the various functions of their business, which comes in handy whenever Joyah is preoccupied with her other love. This past January, British Dependency was back in studio recording their latest album, so Nicole was on her own. “We spoke about it from day one,” Joyah says of her commitment to music. “I hold the fort down,” Nicole adds. “It’s a lot of work, but I love doing it. If I put a smile on a customer’s face, then I’m happy.”
Early in Joyah’s career, while at Altamer, she worked alongside the late French chef Maurice Le Duc, who left an impression. “Everything he did was from scratch,” she recalls fondly. “His skills and technique were impeccable, and I was blessed to be able to learn so many of his methods.”
“She’s old school,” Nicole laughs, adding that the two butt heads in the kitchen every now and again. “I’m always looking for shortcuts to do stuff, but we always get it done.” This symbiosis helps when things don’t go as planned. “I work well under pressure,” Joyah says.
“I panic!” Nicole confesses.
“I like when things go wrong,” Joyah smiles. “It makes me [have to become] almost superwoman to try and figure out how to get it done.”
They both agree, though, that the challenging jobs get their creative juices flowing. Joyah explains, “I don’t really enjoy the everyday stuff. I prefer doing stuff that makes me wonder how I’m gonna get it done.”
We don’t want our cakes to just look good, they should taste good, too.
— Nicole Singh
“It might be a week’s work, because everything we make is edible,” she continues. “Sometimes I feel like a construction labourer – measuring, cutting, sawing.”
The finished pieces are as much art as science, so it hurts when the inevitable happens. “I can’t bear to watch!” Nicole feigns dismay at their cakes being cut and eaten. “But we don’t want the cake to just look good,” she continues. “It should taste just as good.”
“As long as they’re enjoying it, I don’t mind if they dig in to my masterpiece,” Joyah concludes with a huge grin.