Two weeks ago we were honored to be asked to be a part of Unveiled: The Bridal Event held in Canon Gardens, just next to the Montage Beverly Hills. This outdoor couture event was a fantastic way to see the best of what Southern California vendors have to offer discerning brides.
Superfine contributed the above Mocha cake trio, featuring three shades and flavors of fondant — right to left, we have a chocolate fondant, white chocolate, followed by mocha fondant on the far right. Each cake features a variety of styles of sugar “fabric” flowers, gold buttons, and a couple of ribbons featuring secret love notes taken directly from the actual notes of the bride and groom that inspired this trio.
The note on the smallest cake (above) says “I’ll love you forever.” If you look closely at the chocolate cake, you’ll see a little ribbon on the ledge. That one says “You’re the bomb, babe.” Secret notes like this help personalize a cake the way nothing else can.
Presented along with our cake was a tasting-cake version of our Opera cake. Each slice was made with almond cake stacked with French mocha buttercream, then iced with chocolate ganache and topped with a thin sheet of 23-karat gold.
I wound the show down with friends and champagne on the adjacent Bouchon patio where we could watch the crowd mill about as the sun set. Some high points of the day included seeing friends at 100 Layer Cake, Green Wedding Shoes, Bouchon Bakery, the Montage (met and chatted with Richard Ruskell, current contestant and all-around upstanding chef at the Montage currently competing on Last Cake Standing for Food Network), and Margaret Rowe Couture Vintage Jewelry.
Several years ago I saw a chef on the Martha Stewart show. He was confident, in command of the segment, and had a clear vision of right and wrong when it came to cakes and their decor, including sugar flowers. I read posts about him, watched his videos on YouTube, and as Facebook and Twitter became part of our daily lives, followed him on both.
I learned a lot via observation and practice in my own flower-making. At culinary school I was lucky enough to study sugar flowers and cakes under one of his good friends, Alicia Boada, who taught us his methods. I came close to being able to replicate every fold and shading technique, but couldn’t quite capture the art I saw in his work.
That chef is Ron Ben-Israel, arguably the best sugar-flower expert in the US, and this past weekend I had the opportunity to spend three intensive days under his tutelage learning the intricate steps to produce flowers like he does.
I arrived around midnight the night before our first 9:00 a.m. class began. When I walked out of the hotel in the morning, I saw my first awe-inspiring Live Oaks each hanging with long, light tresses of Spanish Moss. Beautiful. I walked the two blocks under these trees to the class, hosted at Minette Rushing’s Custom Cakes in Savannah, GA. There were 20 of us RBI groupies, each excited to be there and get started. I had been circling his Facebook page like a shark…waiting for the next class to be offered. It turns out, so was Clay from New York, Laura from Italy via Montana, and Tina — she flew about 23 hours from Australia just to study.
An orange grouping of peonies and callas.
We learned how to make several complicated flowers, most petal-by-petal: The peony, rose, and tulip. The sweet pea, calla lily, hydrangea and filler leaves. Enough learning was packed into three days to be able to apply the techniques to just about any flower, so even though we may not have done the dahlia or snap dragon, I think I could safely reproduce them without embarassing myself.
Superfine Sweet Peas
I was really compelled to push myself by Ron’s perfectionism. My sense of order and pattern drives me to have everything level, square, and clean, but Ron’s keen eye for detail could see nature in every fold. He has a natural muscle and sense-memory for exactly how a sweet pea’s outer petal should move. An innate feel for for the curl and color of the aging edge of a rose petal. Does nature introduce cracks into a petal? Strange paper-like folds at the base of a lily? No. So fix it. Do it better. Try.
Sure it came at a cost. Studying with the best in the nation means you’ll be shelling out for the class, hotel, air fare and maybe some tools. Dealing with jet lag, sore hands, and the occasional admonition from the Sensei. But learning to see the fine details through his eyes was worth it. And the friends I made created a nice tight community of flower makers, any of which I feel like I could call on for input. Big hugs and shout outs to all of you and above all, many thanks to Minette and Ron!
Now, for your viewing pleasure, a cute shot of Ron dancing with Minette, all in the name of teaching, of course…
Ron and Minette demonstrating the way the spiral on a rosebud is made.
This Thursday I’ll be flying to Savannah, GA to meet a man I’ve wanted to meet for some time now: Ron Ben-Israel. He is known in the cake world and NYC event scene as a premiere cake maker and sugar flower sculptor, and backs up that reputation with a constant stream of amazing cakes, appearances in fashion magazines, and on the arm of Martha Stewart at so many industry shindigs.
Ron trained as a ballet dancer early in his life, but soon realized that it’s not a career you can easily continue into your mid- and later-life. He’s a natural artist, and decided to hone his sculpting and baking skills by training with the best teachers he could find. After educating himself, he spent years innovating his own style of flower making and building his cake atelier business in SoHo, NYC.
We’ll spend three days together at Minette Rushing’s Custom Cakes location in Savannah while he teaches us the intricacies of making sweet peas, gardenias, roses, peonies, and more. I’m thrilled to be going, and can’t wait to start adding these flowers to future cakes!
If you’d like to see Ron in action, take a look at this great interview I found of him on YouTube:
Professional photographer Erin Feinblatt took photos at the recent wedding of Rebecca and Tony in Pasadena, California, and was kind enough to send on some photos of the cake we did for them along with pix of the happy couple. Thanks Erin!!
Congratulations Rebecca and Tony!! May you have many long years of love (and cake!) together.
Hi All! Many of you have been asking for pix of the cake with the sugar Calla Lilies — well here it is! The photographer, Claudio Cambon, was working in The Terrace Room of the Sunset Tower Hotel (the same room Vanity Fair hosts their Oscar party in every year). He had almost nothing but candlelight to shoot by, so I was really happy to see these shots of the cake, taken by candlelight.
This cake was a champagne cake filled with hazelnut buttercream and iced with a white swiss buttercream. The bands are gumpaste, tinted to match the couple’s wedding stationery, and the Calla Lilies are handmade sugar flowers by yours truly. For more on the flowers, see my post in early April about the process of making them.
Thanks Claudio, and congratulations Darcine and Howard!
Congratulations, Rebecca and Tony! They got married yesterday and lucky for us they wanted a Superfine cake! This one is lemon cake throughout with vanilla bean icing. The exterior is our housemade white chocolate fondant and it’s decorated with over 500 sugar flowers in graduated shades of orange.
For this cake we zested and juiced 30 lemons, colored, cut, sculpted and shaded the flowers from gumpaste, and baked the cake you see above plus a sheet cake decorated with flowers just in case they needed a few extra pieces.
The wedding was held in a stunningly landscaped acreage of a large family-owned Pasadena home. The decor was gorgeous, and the wedding was catered by famed Pasadena caterers Simply Elegant, so the food was guaranteed to be good.
As you might have noticed, the web site is now live! I’m so happy it’s done — this cake will be the 6th in the Gallery section and I can’t wait to get it up and live. Soon, soon.
Hi Superfiners, Long time, no blog post. As you can see I’ve been pretty busy with our latest assignment, a wedding cake with sugar flowers. The assignment was to design a cake out of three round tiers. It had to feature flowers that fit a design of my choosing, show some fine piping, some kind of embossing or sculpting on the cake, and had to be completed alongside our regular in-class tasks and homework assignments.
To the left is the result of my work. I colored my fondant in three different shades of sage green (Americolor’s “Avocado” gel paste), then covered these 6, 8, and 14″ tiers.
I let that set up then made up some royal icing and piped the white coral and little pearls between each tier. I shaped many many shells in fondant and placed them in small piles around the coral. If I didn’t have to follow requirements I’d have made these out of white chocolate…can you imagine getting a slice of this cake and a bonus chocolate shell on the side? I love it.
Throughout the week we were being taught how to make different flowers out of sugar. Typically sugar paste (aka gum paste) is used due to it’s incredibly hard and durable final state, but it takes a long time to dry. Instead we used fondant for our flowers, and it worked great. The flowers were admittedly a little more fragile, but heck, that’s the nature of what we’re going for: Fragility and fine appearance. We were taught two lilies (stargazer shape and calla), a peony, roses, stephanotis, orchids and accents like small buds and leaves. On this cake you’ll see roses, orchid buds, and stephanotis. Today I spent the morning petal-dusting the flowers to bring them to life with colored centers and edges, then floral-taped small sprays of flowers together and placed them around the cake and on top.
This module was my favorite by far: The work was challenging, but so incredibly fun. Channelling all my energy and creativity into this cake was incredibly rewarding and I can’t wait to do my next one!!
Monday we start our sugar and chocolate module in which we make showpieces. I’m guessing these will be tall sculptures in both mediums, so I’m stocking up on the Aloe to squirt on the burns. Sugar is dangerous folks, don’t try this at home!!
Superfine Bakery is an appointment-only couture bakery specializing in custom cakes for clients in the Los Angeles area.
We are inspired by all facets of the baking tradition, but at Superfine we focus on the art of the edible celebration centerpiece. Our aim is to reinterpret and reframe traditional forms to bring modern, luxurious cakes to your event and make your cake as spectacular as the occasion itself.