A Conversation with Sylvia Weinstock, Part III

Sylvia and Tammy Elliot of Perfect Wedding Guide
Tammy and Sylvia Weinstock
Photographs by Tommy Martin
Tammy Elliot, President of Perfect Wedding Guide, recently sat down for a conversation with Sylvia Weinstock. Sylvia Weinstock Cakes has been creating cake masterpieces since the mid 70's. She has attracted a star-studded clientele that includes Donald Trump, Michael Douglas & Katherine Zeta-Jones and Whitney Houston & Bobby Brown, to name a few.

Part I of the Sylvia Weinstock interview
Part II of the Sylvia Weinstock interview

Below is Part III of the interview.

Tammy: In terms of the style, you really are the originator of these types of cakes. They really are works of art.

Just viewing wedding cakes pictures gives you an appreciation of this.
They are art. They are a craft, in the sense that the flowers are so beautiful. But we have even expanded beyond that. I have artists with me who can sculpt figures. We can put a figure on a cake, and all sorts of other things. But everything is done by hand and we do not use molds. Each sculpture, say of an animal, is done by hand. We have real artists here. If you are going to pipe a pattern onto a cake it doesn’t come off a sheet. It is piped onto the cake through a tube by hand. This is really an art and a craft.

T: I’m sure it depends on the size and the intricacies of a cake, but generally how long does it take for you to put together a cake?

Wedding cakes pictures don’t portray the time and hard work involved.
You know, I have never figured that out. If we were a bucket florist you would take twelve roses and three ferns and make an arrangement. But we don’t do that, we work with the cake until we think that it is done. Every time you put another flower on, that is labor and time. So we really don’t know.

"...[our artists] use sugar dough instead of clay. They have piping with buttercream instead of a paintbrush."T: What do you do to prep for a cake?

Details not seen in wedding cakes pictures.
S: We get bins and bins of flowers ready, and we use what we need for the cake. If we have leftovers, it goes back into storage.

T: As you mentioned earlier, you have artists working with you. How do you find your team? Do you train them yourself, or do they come in with a certain level of skill?

S: The artists come out of art school and are trained over a period of time, because they are using sugar dough instead of clay. They have piping with buttercream instead of a paintbrush. And we paint with food coloring onto the cake.
Our gallory of Wedding cakes pictures illustrates this well.

T: Do photographers usually shoot cakes for you, or do you try to shoot pictures before the cakes get sent out?

S: We try to do it ourselves, but it’s hard because we are in a rush to get them into the box and ship them out. There are some photographers in town who know me, and I ask them to take some good pictures for me. Although cake photography is one thing and wedding photography is another, so they don’t always give me the shot I want. I prefer they shoot it so the cake is on its own. It’s hard to get good wedding cakes pictures.

Cake artists have piping with buttercream instead of a paintbrush
Sylva hires artists out of art school and train them..
T: How many books have you done?

S: One, and we are working on a second. This one is going to be fabulous. It’s going to be a big cocktail table book which will not only include wedding cakes pictures, but also pictures of cakes e for anniversaries, birthdaies, and any kind of a celebration.

T: How much of your business is weddings?

S: We are known for weddings, but after they get married, they have a baby and there is the christening, a thirteenth birthday or a sixteenth birthday, or a twenty-first birthday. We become part of their lives.

T: You have people you have worked with for years?

S: As a matter of fact, I had a lady here yesterday who was buying her granddaughter a wedding cake. I had done another one of her daughters’ wedding seventeen, eighteen years ago. Some just keep in touch during major holidays etc.

T: When will your new book be out?

S: Well I think everything has to go in by December 1. Then it’s just up to how quickly it will move. This isn’t a how-to. There will be some text, but I find most people just love the wedding cakes pictures.

T: Do you expect people will look at this to get ideas?

S: I hope it is not just inspirational; I want it to be a beautiful book in itself. As for ideas, the moment you put anything in print, it is copied, often poorly.

T: Do you find that happens to you quite a bit? People trying to copy your style?

S: A lot. But we don’t have a style anymore. We have evolved over the years, as I didn’t want to be stuck with a style that is so recognizable. I think we are recognizable because of the quality of what we do. I don’t want someone to walk in and say you did that ten years ago. You have to stay current.

"...I get to make friends out of the brides. You come to understand where she is coming from and what she is like."T: What are the newest trends?

S: The icing can be a color; we have done a pale pink or pale green. Color is really in. A lot more embroidery. Brides who bring us fabric and we try to work with it.
You can see this in many of the
wedding cakes pictures these days.

T: Are you seeing anything change in terms of large versus small cakes or individual cakes?

S: Individual cakes are difficult for us to do, because we are not set up to do 300 little individual cakes. It is very labor-intensive and I don’t think they have the same pizzazz as one grand cake. Mini-cakes are served at the end of the meal, and I think by that time everyone is jaded. If you walk into the dining room and see this enormous, beautiful cake you admire it. People look at and photograph it and you get a lot of power for your buck.

T: It becomes a centerpiece or a focal point for the reception.

S: Absolutely.

A sugar dough sculture
Sugar dough sculptures created by
Sylvia's "cake artists".
T: Do you take a lot of care with telling them how to display it?

S: We work with a lot of hotels that know our product. It’s important to have a sturdy table.

T: Don’t want it falling off!

S: It has happened in the past. Once you place a large cake, leave it; don’t move it. Don’t decorate the table the cake is on, or place flowers around it; let the cake stand alone, and be its own self. It is sort of like a person who wears all of her jewelry at one time; one beautiful piece is all you need. That’s how we feel about the cake.

T: It seems like you work to really get to know the bride and understand her style.

S: Oh yes, I get to make friends out of the brides. You come to understand where she is coming from and what she is like. You see whether she is very tailored, or frilly, or if she likes color. If she dresses in Calvin Klein or Versace, for instance, she is not going to want a minimalist look. And then sometimes ethnicity comes into it.

Just look at some of the wedding cakes pictures and see if you can read the bride.


T: Are you seeing more and more culture being mixed into weddings?

S: Yes, we see that, and it determines the type of cake they are going to eat, just as it depends on the type of food they are serving. Southerners like it very sweet, Asian people like it not so sweet. Italians like chocolates, and hazelnuts. New England likes carrot cake. Baltimore, white cake. There are regional tastes and the ethic cakes. You find many Asian girls want something very simple because that is part of their culture. And Russians tend to want more and more. And we try to cater to each one.

T: What is important for people to remember about Sylvia Weinstock cakes?

S: I want them to remember the cake is the highlight of the room. Not only was it beautiful, and will always be in all of the wedding cakes pictures, but it tasted delicious. That is what they remember, and what they tell me in their notes and phone calls.

T: Do you keep track of how many cakes you have done?

Another cake in the making
Another cake in the mix!
S: No, it’s not a fair way to judge, because some cakes are individual little cakes, others are a two-tiered cake. Or it could be seven or eight layers high. Each one is considered an order, and no two orders are the same.

T: Do you have a certain number you can work on at a time?

S: We take a look at the list and say we have three big ones and four medium ones and I think we can’t do anymore.

T: So you have to manage your schedule?

S: Yes, but I break the rules periodically. You have to some times.

T: Are you in operation all the time?

S: We are twelve months out of the year, but we close for Christmas and re-open in January.

Continue to Part IV...

Read Part 1
Read Part 2