Skip To Content
    Posted on Jul 23, 2016

    We Watched Super Fancy Wedding Cakes Get Made And It Was Awesome

    We visited Ron Ben-Israel's (FREEZING COLD!) Manhattan cake studio to see ~where the magic happens~.

    by ,

    Ron Ben-Israel is one of the most well-known wedding cake bakers in the United States.

    Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

    Ben-Israel is known for his show-stopping cakes and realistic sugar flowers and The New York Times called him the "Manolo Blahnik of wedding cakes."

    With a pedigree that high, we decided to visit Ben-Israel's (FREEZING COLD!) new Midtown Manhattan studio to see ~where the magic happens~.

    Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

    Ben-Israel and his team of eight make around 300 cakes a year, and many of them feature his signature sugar flowers.

    Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

    "Some are simple and small, and some take 4-5 days to complete," Ben-Israel told BuzzFeed of the edible blooms. "Some giant roses can take five days and have over 100 single petals."

    Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

    He said making them is "very meditative, and very exciting."

    A combination of sugar, some vegetable gums, and "lots of secrets and magic" go into each blossom.

    Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

    All of Ben-Israel's cakes are Kosher, including the certified gelatin he uses.

    Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

    And the finished product is nothing short of a work of art.

    Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

    Ben-Israel attributes his success as a cake baker to his art background, ballet training, and military discipline.

    Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

    He actually claims to have coined the phrase "sugar flower" back when he first learned how to make them 20 years ago.

    Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

    "I went to a cake supply shop to buy a pan, and I ran into the woman who became my mentor, Betty Van Nostrand," he said. "She was doing a course on how to make sugar flowers, and I was just enamored. The techniques were called gum paste flowers at the time, but I hated that term. I called them sugar flowers, and now it’s become the standard to call them that."

    Ben-Israel's been featured on the Food Network and baked for Elton John, Uma Thurman, and Robert Downey, Jr. — and yet, he never went to culinary school.

    Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

    He went to art school and then served his three compulsory years in the Israeli military before becoming a dancer. After years of dancing professionally, he put his sweet tooth and love of sugar to use: He started helping showroom designers by making display windows, and working for caterers.

    "The funny thing that happened is that they asked me to provide cakes for the displays, and I realized there was something to be done with food," he said. "I started taking classes, and developed a relationship with a mentor."

    A lot's changed in the cake world since Ben-Israel first opened his own shop in 1999, he said. The most noticeable trend? The decline of the traditional "basket weave" cake.

    Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

    Ben-Israel rejected the basket weave's ubiquity early on. "I didn’t see the logic in it because it didn't always match the style of the wedding. The reception would be in a gorgeous Manhattan location from the 1940s, so why make a cake with heavy amounts of frosting instead of doing something that tied everything together? I started looking at periods like Art Deco and Art Nouveau, and made every cake show the particular sensibilities of the couple."

    This approach, in addition to his use of unique cake flavors, earned him a reputation for making changes in the industry.

    Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

    "I never call myself an artist, I call myself a baker," he added.

    These days, he says tall and narrow cakes that mirror Manhattan's skyscrapers are all the rage.

    Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

    Colors like gold and rose gold are also popular requests.

    Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

    As for flavors? "For spring, multiberry, made out of all of our favorite berries, is popular. I also like salted caramel."

    Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed Life

    Some of the more unique requests he's received include green tea and a rainbow-colored cake for a same-sex wedding.

    Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

    A year ago, Ben-Israel moved into a brand-new space in Manhattan's Garment District. There, he teaches classes and operates a fully functioning bakery, a design studio, and a showroom.

    Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

    From there, he'll add to the total of more than 10,000 cakes he's baked and "hundreds of thousands" of people he's made happy.

    Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

    After all these years, Ben-Israel can't pick a favorite part of baking, per se, but "what I like the most is seeing bride and groom cut the first slice and feed each other with a mouth full of cake. That is so, so exciting."

    Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed