Dempsey & Carroll’s Meryl Gabay sat down with Ron to discuss his experiences in the wedding cake arena.
When did you decide to become a pastry chef?
As a child I enjoyed baking with my mother, who was Viennese. She was my very first inspiration. I was fascinated by her culinary skills, especially when she magically whipped egg whites into a frothy meringue or transformed flaky crusts into ethereal apple strudel. I originally studied fine arts in hopes of becoming a set designer, but decided to become a dancer. I would never have guessed that the art and science of baking would become my life’s passion.
How do you begin the process with a new client?
Most couples book our services six months to a year before the event. We do not like to rush clients into making hasty decisions and we encourage them to come to us with their own vision. Our consultation and tasting typically lasts about an hour.
A cake has to be able to match the style of the event. My role is to artistically combine the individual histories as well as capture their story of falling in love. The end result may be a multi-tiered cake or a smaller more delicate one. Surprisingly so, sometimes a smaller cake can take longer to prepare.
What inspires you the most when sketching a new design?
I am always searching for new inspirations, and find it often in nature. Nature fascinates me! Nature is said to be perfect, but it is its imperfections that I appreciate the most. I enjoy the process of translating that natural beauty to our creations. Our sugar flowers are a perfect representation of the diversity of flowers that exist in our world.
What do you find to be the most interesting challenge when planning a multicultural wedding cake?
Planning a multicultural wedding cake is such a wonderful challenge! I am presented with the opportunity to discover the commonality of what brought these two people together. Every cake has a story. I often ask myself, “What elements will I be able to integrate together to showcase their unity?” I love to offer options that people do not think about. A fusion of different flavors, blending their cultures together and surprising them with an extraordinary wedding cake!
There seem to be many requests for gluten-free cakes. Is this a popular trend?
The trend is that there are no trends! Our brides and grooms are very sophisticated and often know what they would like. I am here to provide my clients with a wedding cake that reflects their personalities and dietary considerations. With this in mind, my team and I have developed a line of gluten-free cakes. We do not, however, make vegan, egg-, or sugar-free cakes. We suggest that if guests have particular dietary constraints that the couples consider selecting a smaller cake to meets those needs and order a larger cake with a more traditional recipe for the rest of your guests.
Can you ship cakes outside of New York City?
The best method to deliver our cakes is by cold vans. We offer this service from New York to most points on the East Coast. Long distance delivery is both extremely complicated and can be very costly! While we have flown our cakes to distant destinations, it is a highly complex process to engineer the delivery via private or chartered plane. Most designs also require the presence of a staff member who must assemble the cake on-site. We then need them to come back!
Do you meet with the other designers that are involved with the wedding?
Yes, I like to meet with everyone involved whenever possible—the stationer, the dress designer, the florist, in addition to the wedding planner. The wedding invitation establishes the venue and theme. My designs vary on whether the celebration is black tie, destination, or an outdoor affair.
For some couples, we have created monograms on their cakes that were adapted from the invitation!
Our sculptured sugar flowers come to life after meeting the florists. I’ve collaborated many times with florist and party planner Matthew David, whose work is truly magnificent!
The bridal designer will share the sketch, which includes the intricate details of the gown along with the color and materials that the bride has chosen which instantly inspires my creativity.
The New York Times has called you the Manolo Blahnik of wedding cakes. I understand why!
In the photos below, Oscar de la Renta provided us with a lace sample along with a beading motif. The transformation from gown to cake is magical.
Photos provided by Brian Dorsey Studios.
Do you have the opportunity to teach your art?
I am a Guest Master Pastry Chef instructor at the International Culinary Center. I teach the fine points of cake art to the career students of both the Professional Pastry Arts program as well as the specialized Cake Techniques and Design course.
SoHo has been your working home for almost 20 years. What motivated your decision to move your studio?
Our studio in SoHo has been a wonderful home for us, but we were offered an opportunity to double our space and the new location was perfect! The streets are wider, which allows for easier truck maneuvering for our deliveries. In addition many dress designers that we collaborate with are in the area, the flower market is now just a few blocks away. Inspiration is truly around the corner!
Ron has always been dedicated to every cake he has created, which has resulted in his undesirable success in the wedding industry. We wish him many years of success at his new location!
Ron Ben Israel
247 West 38th Street, New York, NY.