Spotlight on Little Red Fox Bakery

Kristi Tursi of Little Red Fox Bakery knows how to please the eye just as much as the palate. Dempsey & Carroll’s Austin Ackles recently grilled her about celebrating with sweets throughout the seasons.

 

In just a few words, could you tell us about your bakery? 

I’m the owner of Little Red Fox Bakery located in Essex, Vermont.  What’s with the name, you may ask? When I was six I told my family that I was the owner of Little Red Fox Bakery, thus a dream has become a reality. The majority of my business specializes in ‘Celebration Cakes’ for weddings and ‘Elevated Events’ as the component of my bakery that focuses on all catered events. I incorporate locally sourced and ‘Made in Vermont’ ingredients in all of my bakery goods. I’m lucky enough to be able to use maple syrup that is produced down the road from where I live!

I’m also a food stylist and photographer with ongoing assignments throughout New England and the New York Metropolitan area where most of my work is based. Yes, I focus on the visual presentation, but I live by this rule: Flavor Leads Style.

 

You’re living in a perfect world: So many of us love to bake and everyone loves baked goods! How did you discover this passion?

I’ve been baking since I was a little girl, but the road to opening my bakery and catering business wasn’t a straight route! My mother’s side of the family is Hungarian, so I was fortunate enough to start my baking adventures with some of the world’s most classic recipes. Holidays, birthdays, and special occasions were all opportunities to learn my beloved recipes. I’m not embarrassed to say that on a recent trip to Budapest, Vienna, and Paris, I sampled pastries for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

I studied psychology and art history in college and even pursued post-undergraduate work in those fields, but my love for baking and the desire to run a business ultimately led me to opening the doors to Little Red Fox Bakery.  I love the exactness and precision of bakery life paired with the creative freedom and design work for wedding cakes and sweets.

And you’ve a great deal of experience as a food stylist down here in New York City?

I worked for a few luxury e-commerce sites and quickly segued into food photography and styling assignments–It’s an aspect of my business that I truly love. My work was recently published in PDN (Photo District News) for food photography and I also have ongoing collaborations with brands such as CARGO Cosmetics and Fjallraven for styling and photo work.

 

If you’re planning sweets for a large event, logistically speaking, what is a good direction to go in? And what types of treats might not go so smoothly?

For large scale events, I always work to appeal to everyone’s unique tastes and requirements; treats for people with nut allergies, some gluten free selections, and a show stopper type of dessert to add an element of surprise. I generally try to go with things that tease the palate, so I include a variety of textures: gooey, crunchy, smooth, and fluffy, to name a few. I also always like to include savory sweets, like rosemary or caraway biscotti. The latter goes well with wine at cocktail parties, so you can say that I cover the taste sensations that begin the meal and those that end it.

 

We’d love to hear more about some of the work you’ve done for weddings.

I specialize in wedding cakes, favors, and full service catering under the part of my business known as ‘Elevated Events.’ I love making wedding cakes that incorporate unique details, like calligraphed messages on wafer paper affixed to the surface.

A current trend is to have a dessert table in place of a cake. Brides (and grooms) come in for a consultation and talk about all their favorite memories of getting to know each other and the foods associated with those memories. We like to curate a menu that is truly a culinary reflection of their courtship.

 

Spring is just around the corner. What tastes and textures do you think are best served as people tire of heavy winter foods?

People generally want things with fruit and palettes that are reminders of the awakening of spring on the landscape. Small fruit tarts, fruit mousses in mini chocolate cups, and mini cheesecakes topped with fruit tend to be popular choices. On the more elaborate and fluffy side, we have meringues, a crowd favorite. They are feather light, perfectly sweet, and customizable to pretty much any flavor profile.

 

A truly elegant show stopper is a layered mocha dacquoise cake, which includes layered hazelnut meringue with mocha butter cream. A Spanish Windtorte, a Baroque looking construction of fancy meringue piping, is also excellent as it can be topped or filled with a pastry cream and seasonal fruits and berries – the perfect transition from decadent holiday treats!

 

What goodies do you think can keep cool in the summer heat?

I love trifles. The flavors are so versatile, and they can be made in large or small scale; it’s the ‘just right’ amount of cake to cream to fruit ratio! I also love fruits tarts and shortcakes, both of which incorporate fruit and can be made on the lighter side for those 90+ hot, humid days.

Last year, we did an event held in a non air-conditioned old barn at the edge of a river; think ninety degrees, humidity, and mosquitoes. We made a lemon three-tier cake with lemon and lavender infused pastry cream filling. It was a semi-naked cake that we adorned with frosted berries and mint leaves. On the side, I had chilled raspberry champagne-soaked watermelon mini cubes on a stick—they were almost as popular as the cake, maybe more so!

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And how is chocolate best served in the summer?

Hopefully not melted! I think a ganache tart can be served in hot and humid weather quite well.  My two most popular flavors in the summer incorporate orange blossom or lavender; both have a hint of flavor that is balanced by the semi sweetness of the chocolate. I love to garnish the tarts with edible flowers—always a gorgeous finishing touch for tying in the color scheme of a wedding. Time management and organization are key when baking and presenting food, especially when it’s warm. In summer weather, a cooler or two may displace diamonds as a girl’s best friend.

 

As fall returns, what ingredients do you like to bring forward from the back of the pantry?

Fall is one of my busier times for weddings and catered events, so I created a theme called ‘perfect pairings’ to help those planning a Fall wedding with some level of continuity among their sweet and savory choices! I tend to reach for nutmeg, cinnamon, or even smoked maple! I love mulled cider, as it pairs wonderfully with cider doughnuts and apple pies. As a Vermont-based baker, it goes without saying that I sweeten my desserts with maple syrup and maple sugar any chance I get. I think a dark maple syrup provides for the best pronounced flavors in my pumpkin pies, butter creams, and compotes! 15099470_1475730969123730_2837803386319929344_n

I also love chestnuts. I include a chocolate chestnut ganache tart as a holiday selection and I make Chestnut Mignons, a Hungarian specialty with chestnut cream, chocolate, and rum shaped into a chestnut shape and enrobed in chocolate and mocha couverture.

 

For winter holiday entertaining, whether it’s a cozy get together following an afternoon of ice skating, or a more formal holiday affair, what could we surprise our guests with?  

Who doesn’t love to fawn over a dessert table? For a small, casual gathering (after skating, say, by a roaring fire),  I would have a menu that includes cinnamon hot chocolate paired with Belgian brownies and whipped cream, hot cider paired with maple churros, and piping hot mochas with chocolate éclairs filled with blood orange pastry cream. 16122724_271096073310002_9068248877664043008_n

For a formal affair, I love to present a crepes cream cake that looks like it has a thousand layers. Another favorite that I made for a Scandinavian event was the Princess cake; a green dome of pistachio marzipan adorned with delicate pink flowers covering layers of cake, pastry cream,  and lots of whipped cream.

 

In terms of classic recipes, what do you think never goes out of style?

A classic genoise cake, which is a French-style cake that serves as the foundation for simple jelly rolls and many elaborate pastries. It is perfect ‘as is,’ but even better as the cake layers on a scrumptious wedding cake. A genoise holds up incredibly well year-round and can be made with ingredients that a home baker will have in their kitchen.

And when the ovens have cooled and you close up shop for the day, how do you like to spend your down time?

I live in Vermont for a majority of the year and love getting outside to enjoy the Green Mountains! From November through April, my skis are by the front door so I can literally step outside, don my skis, and off I go! In the summer months, I turn into a kayaker. I’m also the happy owner of a German Shepherd puppy, so hiking, trail running, and sailing on Lake Champlain are perfect departures from a chaotic day of baking and decorating (and it keeps the puppy happy)! My time in nature keeps me focused and serves as a beautiful work/life balance! When I’m in the city, I walk everywhere–I’ve been known to walk from SoHo to the UES. I love the contrast of solitude and city buzz. I think art and beauty and truth are found in that contrast.

 

A Spotlight on Ron Ben Israel

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 1333_Ziesig1332_Ziesigwhen 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.1338_Ziesig

 

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!1366_Ziesig


Ron Ben Israel 

247 West 38th Street, New York, NY.

212-625-3369