It’s bananas. Well, actually, it’s piece of cake. How a Columbia baker went viral for misleading cakes | Food news and features
As a middle schooler, Joi Kyles pored over cookbooks and begged her mom to buy her ingredients.
“Her first meal, you know, most kids maybe start with pig in a blanket or something. Joi made shrimp fried rice and shrimp and chicken skewers. And I was like , you know, it’s gonna cost me some money, you better not mess it up,” Joi’s mom Lisa Roberts said. “At the time, I didn’t realize (it was) his gift.”
Joi, now 25, is using some of the lessons she’s learned to create mind-blowing cakes for her nearly 200,000 TikTok followers.
She’s gone viral, amassing more than 4 million likes, on the social media platform from short videos for her cakes that look anything but cake – from a packet of bananas to a can of corn – until only to have her cut them to reveal that they are, in fact, cake.
Outside of content creation, Joi operates a home bakery, named Joi-filled Delights.
Her success there helped her land spots on cooking programs like “The Great American Dish Off,” which is part of “The Good Dish” TV show, which premiered in late April.
At the start of the pandemic, misleading cake posts that looked so much like real objects that viewers didn’t know whether or not they were cakes until they were cut out began to gain popularity on Twitter and TikTok.
But Joi had participated in the trend for years before it became popular on social media. From an early age, she learned to combine her love for baking with her love for drawing and art.
“It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I realized I could combine art and cake. I was watching like the ‘Cake Boss’ on TV and I was like, ‘Oh my God, he of art and he’s a baker,'” Joi said, referencing the popular reality TV show. “That’s really when the spark really hit me.”
Joi started creating cakes with intricate designs and experimenting with different ingredients and techniques. As a freshman in high school, she started selling her baked goods. Her business continued to grow and after graduation she attended the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Charlotte.
In 2019, she took part in Cooking Channel’s “Freakshow Cakes”, a baking competition TV show where she had the chance to compete for $10,000.
“She wanted to be on the Food Network, it was a dream when we used to sit down years ago and watch all these shows together and she was like, ‘I’ll be there someday,'” Lisa said.
Although Joi didn’t win, she used the experience to grow her business and social media brand.
And when the pandemic hit, her talent for making cakes began to gain recognition on social media. In the summer of 2021, her TikTok following grew after she started posting videos of herself baking emoji-shaped cakes.
“It’s surreal. I love baking cakes. I love having creative freedom and being a content creator really gives me that creative freedom so I can do whatever I want and maybe go viral with it, but it’s really crazy how my videos have exploded and how many people around the world love my work,” said Joi.
Content creation on TikTok has increased since the start of the pandemic. The app, which launched in 2016, is now used by more than one in five adults in the United States, according to a survey from the Pew Research Center. The app is most popular among young adults and has become a site where small business owners share their work – from homemade earrings to wedding live painters to cake decorators like Joi.
Apart from name and brand recognition, the app also allows creators to generate revenue through what is known as the creator fund. The fund allows TikTok users with at least 10,000 followers and 100,000 recent views to request additional money based on factors such as viewership and follower interactions, similar to sites like YouTube , which also pays creators.
“You don’t get paid that much on YouTube, but it’s kind of nice to like, to be able to post, and to let a video earn money as passive income. And there are brands reaching out to you too” , explained Joi.
Her success on the social media app led her to be invited to appear on the show “Is it Cake?” show on Netflix, hosted by former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Mikey Day. By the time she was invited, Joi was pregnant with her first child and had taken a break from baking.
After the birth of her daughter, Gabrielle, she slowed down and took a step back from her home bakery which offers sweets like cupcakes and personalized wedding cakes.
“That’s another reason I love creating content because I have this flexibility with my time so I don’t have as many deadlines so if I need to take care of my daughter, I can do it. I love being a mom, it’s always been my dream,” Joi said.