Written by Andi Agnew | Photographed by Paul Wolf
A good cup of coffee can be made even better when accompanied by a slice of pound cake, a hearty scone or a fluffy blueberry muffin. Luckily, visitors to Cups Fondren can have their coffee and their cake too, thanks to Jubilee Perkins of Jubilee Pastry.
A native of Jackson, Perkins spent most of her childhood in the capital city until age nine, when her family moved to Lancaster, Pa. She returned to Jackson six years ago. From a very early age, Perkins developed a love of baking under the influence of her mother and grandmother, who come from a conservative Mennonite background.
“The women cook every day for their families and learn to bake. My grandmother would make bread every day… make dessert for the family every evening. When she would come visit us in Jackson, we would bake together – there’s a picture of me when I was very little, just covered in dough… I loved it.” Perkins says.
In high school, Perkins was known for bringing baked goods for her friends to try. “I would always bring cookies and things to school – people would say, ‘What’s Jubilee going to have today?’” At 19, she decided to attend culinary school in Philadelphia.
Upon returning to Mississippi, she attended Belhaven University and received a degree in Creative Writing in 2015. Perkins also worked as Pastry Chef at The Gathering in Livingston for nearly a year. “That was a cool little introduction to baking and Mississippi culture,” she says. “I could do whatever I wanted. I was their first pastry chef, so they didn’t have any type of expectations for me… I did what I wanted and they liked it.”
Cups Fondren had been ordering baked goods from a large food supply company, but the manager wanted to find a local supplier. Perkins saw an opportunity: “My friend was the manager, and she put me in touch with the owner. We met several times, talked about what the expectations were and had kind of an audition, and she loved everything. I now bake for Fondren, Clinton and Madison Cups.”
Perkins bakes full-time, using a kitchen in the same house in West Jackson where she grew up. She also does private catering, and recently provided birthday cakes and cupcakes to some law firms and architecture firms in the area.
Starting with a family recipe or sometimes a recipe found online, Perkins adds her own twist to come up with a truly unique finished product – and she still relies on friends and family to help test out new recipes. “When I make something new, I have to taste it… it takes me a couple times to get it how I want it. I pawn a lot off on my friends and say, “You guys have to taste this and give me feedback because I can’t eat anymore.”
Baking is a science, and it takes lots of practice to get it right. “When people come to Cups, they see the pastry before they taste them, so you want everything to look pretty. That was the hardest thing, getting everything to look the same. I finally started weighing everything to make sure things were the same size.” Perkins’ main piece of advice for anyone who wants to get into baking is to be patient. “Give yourself some grace. People love baked stuff, even if it doesn’t taste good to you. And don’t be afraid to throw stuff away – you’re gonna mess up. But don’t be afraid to mess up, either, and try again. Because when you finally get something perfect, it’s awesome to be able to serve that to people.”