In the studio and classroom at the back of New York Cake & Baking Distributor in Chelsea, co-owner Lisa Mansour puts a size-21 tip on a pastry bag so she can pipe pink-and-purple flowers onto white cupcakes. On a table beside her, she has arranged pink purses cast in chocolate. In the corner is a 10-foot-tall, 12-tier foam tower awaiting its edible decoration.
The confections will appear at the fifth annual New York Cake Show, an event Mansour founded to bring together the cake-decorating community around demonstrations, classes, vendors and a decorating competition that rewards detailed fondant work and stylized piping (this year’s theme is Broadway).
For the first time, Mansour will also hold a black-tie ceremony, the Golden Tier Awards, meant to be the Oscars of the cake world.
“It’s a labor of love,” she said of the eight months of planning for the June 10 and 11 events at Pier 36. Bakers have entered 200 cakes in the competition, up from 130 last year, and Mansour expects more than 4,000 spectators, who will pay $30 to $125 each per day, plus $200 to attend the Golden Tier awards and $150 to take a class. The events solidify Mansour’s role as mayor of the city’s bakers.
“New York is such a successful place for bakers,” said Ron Ben-Israel, a leading cake decorator and a judge for the Golden Tier Awards, along with Sylvia Weinstock and Jacques Torres. “But we never had a visionary to lead us.”
Mansour was born to bake. She learned about caramel and chocolate from her grandmother and decorating from her mother, Joan, who began teaching courses at the family’s dining room table in the 1970s. Ben-Israel is one of dozens of top bakers who learned the trade from Joan.
In 1989 mother and daughter opened The Chocolate Gallery on West 22nd Street. Three years later they moved it down the block to the current 5,000-square-foot space and renamed it. Today Cake & Bake, as it’s nicknamed, is the world’s preeminent cake- supply store, an emporium of baking pans, icing bags and sprinkles that amateurs, professionals and celebrities such as chef Sandra Lee all cherish. The in-house N.Y. Cake line manufactures 1,000 unique items, and Mansour’s namesake label features 45 bright pink, fashion-focused decorating molds. The store also offers classes through its N.Y. Cake Academy. Mansour’s sister Jenny runs a warehouse in Yonkers that’s home to Cake & Bake’s e-commerce sales.
Mansour never tires of cake. She travels to compete in shows, coach new bakers and discover innovative products that she makes a point of stocking. “I have the best selection,” she said.
EDUCATION Mansour studied at Brooklyn College but didn’t graduate because she was so busy at The Chocolate Gallery, which opened when she was a sophomore. “It was too much work to juggle school and the store,” she said.
BIRTHDAY TREAT Mansour is the designated baker for all family events, but on her birthday, she prefers to leave town, dine out and just order a dessert off the menu.
NO PROM QUEEN In high school Mansour would decorate tiered cakes and bring them to school plays and the prom. When she runs into former classmates, they can’t believe she still makes cakes. “Now it’s cool,” she said. “Before, I was a nerd.”