Thursday, February 6, 2014

Sugar Flower Class with Ron Ben-Israel

So last month I got to check a freaking huge thing off my cake decorating bucket list and took a three day sugar flower class with Ron Ben-Israel via Minette Rushing Custom Cakes in Savannah, Georgia.  I have loved his cakes, especially his sugar flower work, for as long as I have been decorating cakes.  I remember first seeing him on an episode of "Sugar Rush" with Warren Brown on the Food Network, and it was the first time I had ever seen anyone make flowers out of sugar and thought it was amazing.  So it was sort of beyond surreal to find myself actually taking a class from him, but a couple of weeks ago, I found myself flying to Savannah to do that very thing.  Three full days where we were to learn the french tulip, peony, rose, stephanotis, calla lily, and the gloriosa lily. 

Pardon my super crappy iPhone pics

While many people make beautiful sugar flowers, I have always favored his style of flowers. Lifelike and detailed, but not necessarily botanically correct, his flowers retain a fantasy quality that comes from being made from sugar that I personally think looks stunning on cakes.  His use of color and the movement and flow to his floral arrangements on cakes are impeccable in my opinion.

Examples of his work for the class.
The first day of class was a little overwhelming, but super fun.  Hyped-up just from being there, with a lot to accomplish in three days, I felt rushed most of the day and completely exhausted by the end of it, but in that good way that comes from focusing and working hard on something you love. We finished many of the centers, leaves, and petals for the flowers, and by the second day I felt more comfortable and in my sugar flower making groove. We spent part of the second day learning how to make Ron's signature rose, and I think, for many of this, this was the highlight of the class.

My finished roses!

On the last day, we worked on Stephanotis, wiring flowers together, and dusting them.  Finally seeing all our hard work come to life.

I really enjoyed my time in Savannah, and I am so happy I got the opportunity to take this class. While I felt comfortable with the basic techniques of flower-making, I feel like I was able to refine and improve my skills over the three days. Making sugar flowers can be such a finicky task where details placement of the sugar glue or simple tweak or added curve to the flower petal can make a huge difference in how it looks.

My finished flowers. Packed and ready for the flights home! 
As for the overall class itself, Ron was generous with his knowledge and spent the last hour of each day answering questions from the class.  When showing his techniques for making flowers, I appreciated that he didn't just show us how to do things, but explained why he made certain stylistic and technical choices in his flowers and encouraged us to experiment so that we would develop our own style.

And just to hop up on my soap box here at the end…With the proliferation of Facebook and Youtube tutorials, subscription cake schools, and online classes you can purchase, I know many people probably wonder about paying for in-person classes, so here is my opinion. If you have the opportunity, I would recommend it. Yes, they are much more expensive and more time consuming, but it is worth the investment if you really want to improve your skills on certain techniques. Absolutely nothing is better for the knowledge gain and the improvement in your skills then when you participate in live classes with a talented, experienced instructor.  You can ask questions, get immediate feedback on what you are doing wrong, and you have someone right there who can demonstrate the exact right way to do it.   In my experience, the knowledge I gain in classes far outpaces anything I pick up in my own study.  Also, it is just plain fun to spend 3 days surrounded by like-minded cake people.

I graduated! 
I did a little photo shoot with my flowers from class. So if you would like to see them in greater detail, hop on over to my Facebook page (see the side tab).