Sylvia Weinstock Interview
of Wedding Cakes)
She's called the "Queen
of Wedding Cakes" and for a good reason. You see Sylvia Weinstock makes
and bakes the cakes for the very rich and famous. Her client list includes
Mariah Carey, Maria Maples, Eddie Murphy, Tom Arnold, Whitney Houston, Chynna
Phillips and William Baldwin, Cyndi Lauper, Jane Fonda, Alex Baldwin and Kim
Basinger, Wayne Newton and Oprah Winfrey. Sylvia creates more than 500 cakes
a year in all shapes and sizes. She's done a leaning tower of Pisa, a cake
shaped like a golf ball and a bust of Picasso, to name just a few. Her cakes
can be as tall as 12 feet high and feed as many as 5,000 people.
Prices for a Sylvia Weinstock cake can go over $10,000. We're proud to
present an interview with the make of the "Rolls Royce of Wedding Cakes-Sylvia
Q- Ms. Weinstock, are you the only wedding cake maker to cater to the
rich and famous, or are there others?
A - I have no idea. There may be (others).
Q- Is word of mouth how your reputation and business spread?
Q- So you don't have to do a whole lot of advertising?
A- We don't advertise at all.
Q- What was the attraction to making fancy cakes? Is that something
you always wanted to do?
A- Well, I was a pastry chef so I wanted to do something that nobody
else was doing. People were baking cakes, but they weren't making wonderful,
Q- You served an apprenticeship with a celebrated pastry chef. Are you
able to name that person?
A- There was a man called George Keller. He used to be a pastry chef
at Caravelle in its hey-day. He was an excellent chef, and that's who
I worked with. He was retired when I went to work with George.
Q- Do you take apprenticeships?
A- We have a working bakery. It is very difficult for us to take students.
The only time we have to work with people, is with professionals. We
take students periodically from the schools to work alongside the professionals,
but not on a temporary basis. Once we train them, we want them to stay.
Q- Do the clients tell you what they want or do you show them pictures?
A- Well, I think it's a cooperative venture. The clients come in and
some know what they want and some have no idea. They know they want
something wonderful, and we take it from there.
Q- And you don't just make cakes for celebrities, do you?
A- No. The bulk of our business is people who have selective taste and
they're having a celebration and they want something wonderful. It
could be the average girl who saved her money up for awhile who's decided
she wants to do something wonderful for her wedding, and she's our
Q- Your husband was doing what before he started assisting you?
A- He was an attorney. He's retired, and now he works with me.
Q- Could you have been as successful with your business had you started
in Syracuse rather than New York City? Did you have to be in a big city?
A- Let's take another area, not Syracuse. Take Oshkosh. Some place a
population that appreciates what you do. I have had the great fortune
actually of doing this work at a time when people could afford it. You
can do something great, but you have to have a lot of luck, the right
place at the right time, with the right product. You have to be in a
major city. You could be a very good baker and decorator, but you're
dealing with a very limited population. Who's going to buy your cake?
It's so labor intensive. I get calls from people around the country who
want to go into the cake business and it's going to be very difficult
for them, because where's the population coming from that can afford
what these people do? It's so labor intensive. It takes so many hours
to create these flowers, the decoration and the design on the cake, that
who's going to pay for it? You have to have a clientele that can afford
Q- And you've got the clientele!!!
A- We have a mixed clientele. I really truly feel our cakes are affordable
We're probably cheaper than the wedding dress, frequently. A girl will
save up her money and spend a couple of thousand dollars on a dress
that she wears once. What we create is about the same price range.
Q- When you step into a room and see one of these elaborate cakes, it
is quite impressive.
A- Oh, it makes the whole party. It really does. It is so spectacular,
and it is so wonderful. And then people say is it as good as it looks?
Then when they find it's true, that's where your business comes from,
and you don't have to advertise. You established a name and a reputation,
because you're good at what you do. I think that's the name of the game.
Q- To be quite honest, prior to this interview, I'd never heard of anyone
who did what you do.
A- When I first started doing this in 1975, nobody was doing it. At this
point, everyone wants to do it.
Q- It makes you wonder, before 1975, where did people get their cakes
A- Well, I'll tell you what, they didn't have this look. They had royal
icing which is hard surface that the English do. They had cakes that
may have tasted good like the French do, but not necessarily quite as
beautiful. They didn't have the same artistic look to it. It's almost
combining flower arranging with craft skills with your hands 'cause you're
making something edible out of sugar. So, it becomes a whole different
thing. I don't think people did it before. I do stress something; you
have to have a passion for what you are doing, because the hours are
long. It's not as glamorous as people think. You have to have the skills.
You must do this in a legitimate shop. You have to pay your dues. You
have to know what you are doing. You don't want to disappoint anybody
with an inferior product. Don't expect to make a lot of money at it.
You make a living. So the glamour part is just the surface. It's really
Q – You will fly the cakes to cities across
the United States?
A – And across the wor1d. We’ve been to Japan. We’ve
been to Saudi Arabia, Mexico. I mean a variety of places that we go.
Q- Have you developed your own recipes?
A- Some of them are classics that have been out in the world for a long
time. Some of them are variations on the scene. There isn't anything
Q- How long on average does it take to put one of these cakes together?
A- Well, it takes a couple of hours to bake a cake. It takes a little
time to chill it, fill it, and ice it. But, that's not what you are
talking about. You're talking about what does it take to decorate a
beautiful cake and that I can't tell you, 'cause we have no idea what
the man hours are involved in making one of our cakes, Every time you
add another flower or another decoration you're adding time and labor.
What we want to strive for is not to count a flower like a dozen roses,
but to do something artistic and beautiful. Therefore it's very hard
for me to tell you what we're adding to it in terms of money. We just
work with a round number, I guess.
Q- How do you get such a perfect finish on the icing?
A- How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice.
Q- Your one wish was to make a wedding cake for Princess Diana. Had
she not died in that car accident, would you have gotten that wish?
A- I don’t know. It would've depended entirely on the British loyalty
to their own people. Like at the White House; they would have to use
a chef in the White House otherwise they would be incurring a great deal
of disservice to them. These are the people that work for them all the
time so I guess they would have to use the people that are with them.
And, you can understand that.
Q- You'd slight somebody's feelings.
A- Yeah. You can't do that. You have to understand that. That's your
sense of professionalism, too. You may want to do it for them, but
it may not happen. But, I have different goals now. I think my goal
now would be to make a wedding cake for a granddaughter and since they're
very young at this point in time, that gives me a nice, long time to
practice. One has to have a passion for what one does in life. If you
can find something that gives you that wonderful sense of accomplishment,
a feeling that you've created something wondrous, that people are pleased
with, I think you've achieved something. And although we realize that
cakes are fluff, that's what life is all about. We want some fluff
in our life. The moments of joy rather, than heartache. It’s
a pleasure to do something that gives somebody pleasure.
Q- Are you working pretty much around the clock, seven days a week?
A- No. I work just about seven days a week. The art work, seeing the
clients, setting it all up is the beginning of the week, on a Monday.
But, we deliver cakes on Saturdays and Sundays.
Q- You are a busy woman.
A- Well, we are busy and we're very grateful to be busy, because the
flip side of that is not have a business, not to be able to pay your
staff. People that work with me are absolutely wonderful, and they
work with pride and dignity, and they're just great people.
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