Photo: Courtesy of Ron Ben-Israel
New York City dessert guru, Ron Ben-Israel certainly knows his way around a wedding cake. Beloved by Britney and Oprah, this famed cake designer is the go-to for celeb-adored sweet treats and the most regal of wedding desserts in his New York City stomping ground. Don't know your buttercream from your fondant? Ben-Israel is here to help with some tasty tips! Here, the NYC dessert guru talks tiers, tastings, and why he's just not that into cupcakes.
How Do You Know You've Found "The One?"
"Just because a baker has a gorgeous Facebook page doesn't mean he can make a good cake," says Ben-Israel. "Vet him through reputable magazines and websites, then go to a tasting and check out his kitchen. Make sure it's clean! You should also ask plenty of questions." A few to put on your list that Ben-Israel suggests: Will the cake be refrigerated? How will it be transported? And is he licensed, insured, and bonded? "You don't want to be liable for damages his team causes," he warns.
"Don't bring too many people to the tasting. You're going to get overwhelmed by all the opinions. When the group is too big, I pull the bride aside and ask her to make another appointment alone or with just the groom."
You can find design inspiration almost anywhere," insists Ben-Israel. "Think about your stationery, your menu, your venue, your story as a couple. One of my grooms tried to propose twice, and each time he was stung by a bee — and he's allergic! He managed to get the question out the second time, before he was rushed to the hospital, so they had bees on the cake to commemorate their engagement!" he shares. "You and your groom can both get what you want. Each tier can be unique, with its own cake and filling. You can even alternate designs."
And Get Fancy
"I love exotic flavors," the cake designer shares. "My favorite of the moment is coconut cake with candied-lime-and-ginger buttercream. And you don't have to choose between fondant and buttercream. Buttercream tends to look oily after a few hours, so to prevent a cake from shining, I put the thinnest layer of fondant over it and it looks perfect — and tastes great — all night."
His Major Dessert Don't
"I'm not a fan of cupcakes," Ben-Israel admits. "You bite into a mound of frosting and you only get to the cake on the bottom, plus you have to deal with paper. I'd much rather see a wedding cake served with extras like chocolate truffles and crunchy cookies."
Savor the Flavor
"The cake cutting is a highlight of the wedding. It's the last ceremonial part of the night, and you've got everyone's attention. Take your time with it so everyone can get photos. That said, I absolutely abhor the practice of smashing cake in someone's face. It's vulgar. And it can ruin a dress."
Details, Details, Details
"For the favor, [get] something sweet and edible, like chocolate bonbons, macarons, or miniature cookies, preferably packed with a custom ribbon or seal." As for an after-party midnight snack. Ron suggests an old favorite — pigs in a blanket! "There's saltiness, flakiness, butter, meat — they have everything." And his take on the always classic floral cake décor? "I love, love tulips, both fresh ones and ones made out of sugar. Making sugar flowers is very meditative," the cake designer shares. Don't believe him? New York City brides can try their hand at wedding cake decorating, too! He offers classes out of his NYC location.