|Jenny Kashanian, Joan Mansour and Lisa Mansour
All photos Lieba Nesis – click images for full-size views
I wish I would have known before attending Law School that the most lucrative profession might be cake making. All those weekends I spent baking an apple pie with my grandmother I viewed as a hobby – licking the bowls, eating the raw batter, devouring the pie before it was fully done-were all trademarks of my childhood. When did cakes become an industry – and why didn’t my family tell me before the fierce competition set in?
|The store opening|
The opening of NY Cake’s 6,000 square foot flagship space by doyenne Lisa Mansour along with Jenny Kashashian on 118 West 22nd Street is paradigmatic of this unstoppable trend. Instead of tech, real estate, or hedge funds, the new billionaires will be the cake bakers. Forbes next cover will feature those who made billions on cakes with a supplementary issue on the best places to buy ingredients, what are some new exciting innovations in cake baking, and where the industry is headed. All kidding aside, it is doubtful Joan Mansour knew 30 years ago when she was baking cakes with her daughters that they might be part of a growing Empire whose potential is seemingly endless.
Joan started selling cake supplies in the back of her husband’s pharmacy on 50th Street relocating to more than three different locations as the business expanded. This magnificent store which sells cake supplies bakes the cake on the premises and has an accompanying cafe which produces the cakes right from the nearby kitchen is genius. Entering the store there was a 3-D mural depicting the Manhattan skyline created by cake artist Colette Peters which was comprised of baking tools such as cake candles, cupcake tins and cake molds.
|The cafe with the kitchen Academy behind it|
While “NY Cake” has been in the business of selling cake supplies for decades this is the first time they are producing and selling custom cakes with organic ingredients. The cakes are decorative, beautiful and expensive with prices ranging from $1,500 to $10,000. The space contains an “Academy” where people will be flying in from all over the world to learn the intricacies involved in baking a cake. In the Cake Academy students can learn how to bake and decorate in a state-of-the-art kitchen that can host 22 students seated and 30 standing- I would rather stand so I can burn off some calories. Classes are led by master Lisa Mansour along with renowned guest instructors Collette Peters of “Colette’s Cakes” and Michelle Doll of “Michelle Doll Makes.”
Prices for the three-day-workshop will range from $40 to $595. I can’t imagine coming home from college and telling my mother I would be attending NY Cake Academy. I am wondering if they will soon be giving out degrees where you can say you have A Ph.D. – literally “Papa Has Dough” – in cake making. The Academy is also open for kids birthdays, bachelorette parties (you have easy access to whipped cream to put on your male dancer) and corporate events with prices ranging from $100-$150 per person.
|Michelle Doll and Ron Ben-Israel|
The opening night this past Thursday, October 18th featured a number of “Cake Celebrities” including renowned cake decorator Ron Ben-Israel. Ron called himself a “poor shlepper” and when I asked him about his business he told me to read it on his website – apparently cake making can go to your head. Ben-Israel said he doesn’t care about making cakes for celebrities since all his clients are stars. Despite my better instincts, I looked up Ben-Israel on the internet whose cakes are referred to as “The Manolo Blahnik” of wedding cakes.
Ben-Israel started off as a dancer and ended up as a baker discovered by Martha Stewart who saw one of his cakes in a window-this is a “Hollywood True Story.” He has produced confectionery pieces for the opening of the Mandarin Oriental and Ritz Carlton and has appeared on The David Letterman and Oprah Winfrey Show. He also appears as a host and judge on a number of cake shows including “Sweet Genius” and “Cake Wars.” The only information he gave was that he learned all he knows from the NY Cake Academy who let him attend free classes in return for working as an assistant.
After I had tasted the delicious white pretzels, pastries and chocolate covered popcorn (which was all free) I was desperate to leave before I needed to be rolled out on one of the cooking pans.
– Lieba Nesis