Cake designer Ron Ben-Israel presents a cake for a bride on her wedding day. Cake designer Ron Ben-Israel presents a cake for a bride on her wedding day. Cake designer Ron Ben-Israel presents a cake for a bride on her wedding day. (Photo: Fred Marcus Photography)

Ron Ben-Israel's tips for choosing the perfect wedding cake

The man known as 'Sweet Genius' dishes his best advice for couples on presentation, style and cost.

Since opening his own cake studio in New York’s hip SoHo neighborhood in 1999, Israeli-born Ron Ben-Israel has been commissioned by some of the city’s finest hotels, including the St. Regis, Ritz-Carlton and Waldorf Astoria.

Among his most memorable creations is a towering 100th birthday cake for The Plaza Hotel, a replica of the famed New York landmark measuring more than 12 feet tall and serving 1,500 guests. The Tel Aviv native is also a regular on the Food Network circuit, having hosted and judged on such shows as "Sweet Genius," "All-Star Gingerbread Build" and "Cake Wars."

But with all that acclaim and high demand, Ben-Israel hasn't forgotten what's truly important in his line of work: his relationship to clients. We sat down with Ben-Israel to find out what couples should remember when working with a cake designer to create their wedding cake.

RBI cake collageTwo of Ron Ben-Israel's most detailed wedding cakes. (Photo: Ron Ben-Israel Cakes)

From the Grapevine: Is there one overriding principle that couples should remember when choosing a wedding cake?

Ron Ben-Israel: I believe that couples need to be reminded that they are choosing a cake for themselves, and not for a magazine story. A good cake designer should balance the clients’ taste and expectations with the specifics of the wedding reception in terms of style and budget.

FTGV: Any tips you would share on what not to do while choosing a cake?

RBI: In the beginning of my career, I allowed clients to choose cakes of mine that I later realized were stylistically wrong for the location. An organic field-themed cake of mine didn’t really shine at a grand ballroom of an gilded age hotel.

Ron Ben-Israel attends a New York Magazine Weddings event in New York CityRon Ben-Israel attends a New York Magazine Weddings event in New York City. (Photo: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for New York Magazine)

FTGV: What would you advise brides and grooms who are totally new to the whole thing and don’t know what kind of cake they want?

RBI: Research is the key – get not only ideas from online sources, but it’s imperative to find a baker that your can trust in guiding you through the process.

FTGV: Are there certain cakes that work better with certain themes, seasons, venues, climates or color schemes?

RBI: Absolutely! I’m not always about matching everything, and sometimes I would go against the location’s decor to attract attention to the cake. But it’s always a conscious decision that includes the celebrants’ sensibilities while keeping my own style intact.

Ron Ben-Israel meets with a couple prior to their wedding.Ron Ben-Israel meets with a couple prior to their wedding. (Photo: Ron Ben-Israel Cakes)

FTGV: Let’s say a couple is on a tight budget but just loves your work and really wants you to make a cake for them. How would you handle that?

RBI: I discuss the budget options upfront with our potential clients, and always give them few price/style/scope options. But I would rather not accept a job unless I could provide a stunning result.

FTGV: How important is taste? There's always that one cake that looks absolutely gorgeous but you take a bite and … meh.

RBI: I believe the taste of a celebration cake should be so unique as to create its own memories; there is no excuse in providing a cake that disappoints in that regard. I’d rather have a plainly decorated cake than a dry one.

Ron Ben-Israel teaches "Cake Decorating and Chocolate Work" on Day 1 of the New York Culinary Experience in New York City.Ron Ben-Israel teaches "Cake Decorating and Chocolate Work" on Day 1 of the New York Culinary Experience in New York City. (Photo: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for the New York Culinary Experience)

FTGV: Do you have some stories you can share from a notable wedding where the cake was unlike anything you’d ever done before? Or something memorable about the couple or the wedding?

RBI: I was designing a cake with a bride, drawing inspiration from a Vera Wang gown. I suggested adorning the white tiers with black decorative trims, when our clients asked if I could reverse the scheme – ice the cake in black and apply white decorations. At that moment one of the most important trends for me was created!

FTGV: What’s harder: working with clients or decorating the cake?

RBI: It may be challenging sometimes to find how to please them, but with patience and confidence we create a new relationship with each couple. As for the cake, it’s a work of love, so I don’t see it as difficult — just challenges that need to be figured out.

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