Julie Jones is not going to estimate how much time she spends on the richly detailed cakes and tarts that have made her an Instagram sensation. The British baker and cookbook author admits that the scope of her projects requires her to work in stages, during quiet moments throughout the day, but often late at night, too, when her children are asleep. Decorated with feathers and rosebuds and adorned with all kinds of ornaments, her sophisticated pastries resemble composed art pieces. And, impossibly, Jones admits, “they really do taste as good as they look.”
Working out of her home kitchen, in Cumbria, Jones gained a following after she began sharing weekly baking projects with her mother, Joyce Armstrong, who was suffering from dementia. As living together became more difficult, on a whim Jones suggested baking together. “We made a cake together one afternoon, and the difference was shocking. When we baked, she was calm, serene, relaxed. My mom was given a job to do, and perhaps that’s what made her feel more human again.”
“They really do taste as good as they look.”
Although her mother passed away last year, Jones continues to inspire thousands of other families and caregivers, and her followers have emerged as a support network. “They almost saved my own sanity,” she says.
Jones learned to cook as a child, and as a young adult she became a chronic entertainer. “I fell in love with feeding people because of the appreciation that I was given,” she says. After hosting countless dinner parties and supper clubs, she quit her office job at age 30 and enrolled at a catering college in Carlisle. Shortly after graduation, she discovered she was pregnant with her first son, Oscar, and her mother was diagnosed. Temporarily, Jones put her professional cooking career on the sidelines.
But thanks to the power of social media, Jones has found her voice and made her name, and especially during these times of social distancing her posts are more liked than ever. The timing is ripe for the arrival of her second cookbook, The Pastry School, which debuts this month. In addition to the labor-intensive desserts she is known for, it does include a few nods to a balanced diet. Don’t miss the essential recipe for fish pie.
Elena Clavarino is an Associate Editor for Air Mail