Ron Ben-Israel Cakes Interview
Thank you to Ron and his team for taking the time for an interview! Working with them was an amazing experience.
Ron Ben-Israel has a pretty cool story and background of how he came to be an excellent “caker” and pastry chef. Hear his opinions on the top and upcoming trends in wedding cakes this season.
There are so many trending options to choose from today. What is your opinion on metallic ruffled, naked and painted cakes? Which have you done the most of and which is your favorite?
I believe that we were one of the first to introduce metallic touches on cakes – one of my earliest cakes to get published featured white sugar roses with their edges tinged in gold leaf. As I got familiar with the landmarked mansions in New York City, such as The Plaza, The Palace, and the St. Regis, I incorporated into our cake designs elements from that Gilded Age, literally.
How many weddings have you made cakes for?
We would produce anywhere from about 400 weddings cakes a year, and I’ve been making cakes for almost 20 years. So I’ve baked, iced, and decorated quite a lot of cakes!
Are you licensed and insured?
Indeed, we are authorized to conduct business in the state and city of New York, and fully licensed by the NY State Department of Health, and the NYC Fire Department. We are also under the Rabbinical Supervision of the OK Kosher Supervision. All our employees hold a NY State food-handlers certificate, and are all graduates of esteemed culinary institutions such as The International Culinary Center and The Culinary Institute of America.
Did you go to Culinary school? If so, where?
I, sadly, did not attend a culinary school. I did go to art school for four years, and than spent many years in dance schools and professional dance companies. I learned baking in the field itself from fellow bakers and chefs, and complemented my training with classes and courses. I was lucky to meet my mentor, Betty Van Norstrand, who introduced me to making sugar flowers and opened my mind to contemporary cake decorating.
Do you offer cake tasting?
We offer cake tasting to any client that is interested in our services, without charge.
Is there a “gluten free” choice for those with allergies?
Yes, we offer “gluten free” cake choices that are amazingly good. One can’t tell the difference, and affected clients are very grateful to be able to eat their own celebration cake.
What is the most common flavor of cake? (White, chocolate, red velvet, raspberry)
At our initial tasting we offer a minimum of 20 different options, sometimes more. So I can’t really say what’s the most popular.
What are your options for fillings?
We cover all the basic groups – fruit (lemon, passionfruit, orange, peach), all the various berries, different chocolates, nuts (hazelnut, pistachio, almonds), coffee/ cappuccino, and on and on.
Do you do more work with fondant or other “cream” icings?
All our cakes are frosted with Swiss Meringue buttercream, which is the lightest form of cream icing, and than covered with the thinnest possible later of rolled fondant. We than refrigerate the cake to keep it fresh and moist, and the fondant from drying.
If I wanted to order my wedding cake from you, how long before my wedding should I contact you? And how long would it take you to make my cake?
Most clients come to see us 6 months to a year prior to their occasion; of course, we try to accommodate anyone who contact us closer to the date of their event, but we can’t guarantee availability. As for the time it takes to make a cake, the tasks are divided amongst 12 different chefs and artisans. So even if the cake is completed in two days, it really too much much longer in man-hours. Additionally, we start the process weeks in advance – sketches have to be made, measurements taken and hardware prepared. The sugar flowers are made days and weeks ahead of time – it’s the assembly of the cake that is kept for the end to guarantee a fresh cake.
Have you ever made a cake for any famous people?
Most of the famous people that seek our services ask us not to disclose their identity, and we do respect their wishes. Some of the celebrants that granted us permission are: Uma Thurman, Vanessa Williams, elton John, Robert Downey Junior, Blake Lively, Britney Spears, Lala Vasquez and Carmelo Anthony.
How far from your bakery will you travel to deliver a cake?
I’ve brought cakes to Sri Lanka and Paris, France, but on rare occasions. Even domestic travel to the West Coast or Florida is complex and costly, but we’re happy to take that challenge on. Most cakes would not travel more than four hours by a cold vehicle, which from NYC covered Washington DC, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and New Jersey.
How many people do you have working in your bakery?
We have 8 full time trained chefs, artisans, and administrators, and 3 to 4 interns.
How do you price your cakes? (By size, servings…)
We arrive to the final budget by the size of the cake/ number of servings and the complexity of the structure and design.
Do you have a “minimum size” requirement?
We only have a price minimum, and we would provide whatever can reasonably fit within this budget.
If I wanted flowers on my cake, would you prefer real, fresh flowers or to make sugar flowers?
We can never allow fresh flowers on our cakes, as they could contain pesticides which would put our customers in danger and would expose us to liability.
Additionally, as my staff and I spent years on perfecting our skills, we would like to show them of with wowing the celebrants with our own, all-edible creations. These sugar flowers will never wilt!
If you have any additional questions for Ron or his team, check out the website.