Learn how renowned wedding cake master and Food Network's Cake Wars judge, Ron Ben-Israel, got to where he is today - and all about those gorgeous sugar flowers!
Brief history of your business and how you got to where you are today?
I started baking in my mother's kitchen as a child, and I've always had a sweet tooth. When my artist's grants dried up, I sought out jobs in bakeries and catering kitchens. At the same time, I would design store windows and tabletop showrooms - that's where the demand for designed cakes began. People started asking me to provide them with cakes for events, and I never looked back!
How were you first introduced to Satin Ice?
I used to work with Kevin O'Reilly, (Satin Ice Founder and CEO), when he was with another fondant brand, and would actually call him to complain about the irregularities with the product. When he started his own company in my home state, I was one of the first to try it and provide feedback. I'm so proud to have been a part of this process from the very beginning.
(Below - Kevin O'Reilly and Ron Ben-Israel)
Is there one particular project that stands out as significant or that you are particularly proud of?
Every cake is special to me, but one of the largest and most complicated cakes we have ever made was a replica of the famed Plaza Hotel in New York City - for their 100th birthday. The cake ended up being 12' tall and 8' wide, featuring extensive use of Satin Ice.
I wanted to move away from what was known as "cake decorating" at the beginning of my career. Therefore I adopted the use of Satin Ice early on, as opposed to using Confectionary/American Buttercream to finish the cake. Rather than follow the traditional festoons that were so popular in the cake community then, I used architecture, bridal fashion, stationary and nature itself as forms of inspirations for my work. I believe my work is known for its' clean and neat execution of sugar flowers and delicate surface details.
My favorite cakes are always the ones we design for the next season's collection. When Satin Ice came up with the wonderful assortment of pre-colored fondant, we were able to provide cakes in deep colors of black, purple, and red. This year we've introduced wedding cakes in deep stunning blues that made such an impact- they became a trend!
Most challenging cake to date?
The Plaza Cake that stands at 12 feet and weighs more than 3,900 pounds. In honor of the historic New York City hotel's 100th birthday, Ron Ben-Israel along with his team of 17 bakers constructed the $120,000 cake in just one month's time.
What advice or tips can you offer to Satin Ice newcomers?
Learn how to use the product correctly. Watch my videos on the Satin Ice website to see how to work with it economically and efficiently.
Describe your cake decorating style in just 3 words:
Neat, extravagant, organic.
If you weren't decorating cakes, what would you be doing?
Choreography. (Did you know: Ron was a professional modern dancer for 15 years before getting into cake!)
What is a 'regular' day like for Ron Ben-Israel?
Early morning begins with going over emails and making plans; production meetings with my staff; making sugar flowers and coaching the team; meeting clients and sketching their cakes; phone calls to chefs, florists, and wedding designers; entering financial data and signing checks; working some more on cakes; working out or going to theatre; cooking dinner at home or going out with friends, followed by collapsing into bed.
What is your creative process for making cakes?
Meeting with the client is always the first step. During the initial appointment we try to see what they have in mind for their reception. Together we research the motif and ideas they bring us, sketching and looking at cake designs and inspirations such as the bridal gown, the season of the year, the location, the menu, the stationery and of course, the floral arrangements. Many times, we'll consider a period in history or art, and incorporate family tradition and background.
Who or what is inspiring you at this very moment?
I'm very excited about how well educated our current clients are in fashion and style, and how open they are to play with me while we strive for the perfect cake design.
What are the big trends you are seeing right now in cake art?
Lots of gold, bold frosting colors, tall cakes with many sugar flowers and interesting surface textures. Minimalism is passé, as well as cupcakes - thankfully.
If you could create a cake for anyone in history (past or present): Who would it be and why?
I would like to create a cake for the famous ballerina Anna Pavlova. She already has a dessert named after her, which is one of my favorites. I would incorporate her beloved swans into the cake design.
(Did you know: Ron Ben-Israel and his team made the wedding cake for the Sex and the City 2 movie? The cake was a custom design and stands at 6 feet 4 inches tall with approximately 4,100 Swarovski crystals and retails at $32,000!)
Finally what is the next "big thing" for Ron Ben-Israel this year?
Teaching at our own new facility at the heart of the Garment District of New York City. This will be the first time that small groups of students will be able to visit the bakery, and learn side-by-side with our bakers and artisans.
Ron Ben-Israel is hitting the road this month as one of the headliners of The Americas Cake and Sugarcraft Fair (TACSF) in Orlando, Florida.
What excites you most about being a part of The Americas Cake & Sugarcraft Fair (TACSF)?
Seeing all my friends, colleagues, students, and teachers all at the same place.
How do you feel this show will impact the cake community?
I believe it will be the most energetic and successful annual event for our community.
Could you give us a sneak peak of what you have in store for your TACSF appearance?
I will engage the audience with a peep into my cake world - how we approach our clients, the process of the design and execution, and how we setup the dream cake.
Name: Ron Ben-Israel
Location: New York City, USA
Education: Four years of fine arts training and was introduced to cake decorating and mentored by Betty Van Norstrand.
Business name: Ron Ben-Israel Cakes
Facebook , Twitter, Instagram: @RBIcakes