Have your cake and live in it too: Inside the five-storey TriBeCa building that is home to A-list baker Sylvia Weinstock
20:15 GMT, 5 October 2012
Heavenly creations: Mrs Weinstock has created celebratory cakes for 30 years
Sylvia Weinstock, the go-to wedding cake maker for everyone from Molly Ringwald, and Michael Douglas to Donald Trump, Sean 'Puff Daddy' Combs and the Saudi royal family, has revealed the secrets behind her biggest masterpiece yet – her Manhattan home.
The 'Leonardo Da Vinci of cakes' and Iris Apfel look-a-like, now 82, decided to buy a burnt-out TriBeCa building in 1980; its four stories in complete disarray.
But now, thanks to her husband, 82-year-old Ben, that same building has been transformed into a five-storey wunderkummer, with three floors for the apartment and two for her cake shop below.
'You couldn’t even call it a building,' she recalls to the New York Post. 'It was a burnt-out shell. We’d just left Long Island, where we’d sold a five-bedroom house with a gorgeous backyard and a family room for about the same amount of money the owners wanted for this. I said to my husband, “What, are you crazy What are we buying”'
But unbeknownst to him, Mr Weinstock was buying the couple's future, which at the time couldn't foresee Sylvia Weinstock Cakes and the success it would bring the couple.
So the then kindergarten teacher and attorney borrowed money in order to buy their $175,000 four story building.
'The neighborhood then was nothing,' Mrs Weinstock remembers of the then gritty area.
'As I look back now, we should have borrowed more money and bought some more buildings. But we didn’t know. We were just lucky to be able to get this one thing.'
Over two years from 1980-1982, and with the help of an architect, Mr Weinstock designed and installed lighting systems and the fixtures in the living room, building dream-worthy floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall bookcases.
Icing on the cake: The building Mr and Mrs Weinstock bought in 1980 has been transformed into a five story wunderkummer, with three floors for the apartment and two for her cake shop below
Masters den: The couple's 2,400 square-foot apartment includes a compact and cozy kitchen
'We did a complete reconstruction,' the cake queen said of her 2,400 square foot apartment.
two years ago, she had one more request for her DIY husband: 'For our
60th wedding anniversary, I told Ben I wanted a new master bedroom, bath
and garden. So he designed them.'
Mr Weinstock also added one more level to the building, and now, their three story, two-bedroom, two and a half bathroom apartment, with 12-foot ceilings, boasts a
400-square-foot roof deck accessed by floating glass stairs, which all
sits above two floors of Sylvia’s cake business – and they did it all
'He’s a retired lawyer with handy
hands,' Mrs Weinstock says of her beloved husband. 'He can always fix
anything mechanical. He’s a plumber, an electrician; he’s what they call
She added of their DIY decorating:
'Ben saw the dining table in the window [of a thrift shop], but it was
too expensive. He saw it again and again, and finally he said to them:
“Do you want to keep this forever or work with me on the price” They
wanted $3,000, but he said, “I’ll give you $700 cash right now.” So he
Fit for a queen: The new master bedroom includes 12-foot ceilings and a new bathroom
New floor: Mr Weinstock also added one more level to the building, and now it boasts a 400-square-foot roof deck accessed by floating glass stairs, which all sits above two floors of Sylvias cake business
Partners in crime: For the couple's 60th wedding anniversary, two years ago, Mrs Weinstock told her husband she wanted a new master bedroom, bath and garden
'Everything has some kind of personal
meaning,' she continued. 'We have artwork from the people we love, we
have a teapot that belonged to my mother (she keeps flowers in it), we
have two chairs from Ben’s law office – they’re called Bank of England
chairs – and we have a ficus tree that we got when we first moved in
here, and it thrived.'
And now, every day, the pair take their keyed elevator down to their cake business.
Mrs Weinstock explains how she become
the wedding cake maker du jour in the early Eighties, and stayed the
wedding cake maker du jour for 30 years: 'I was a teacher, but I was
always a homemaker. I liked setting a nice table, I liked to cook, I
liked to bake.
'I made a cake for a friend, and she
put it in a store window. Someone saw it and told her caterer about it.
When the caterer saw it, he said he’d never seen anything like it. So he
started ordering cakes.
Cake of art: Mrs Weinstock said, 'What we do is highly detailed. Its a once-in-a-lifetime item. I cant say, “Ill do it better tomorrow.” Its the moment that counts. It has to be perfect. So theres a lot of pressure'
Bridal style: Called the 'Leonardo Da Vinci of cakes,' Mrs Weinstock has spent 30 years creating magical masterpieces for weddings
'He ordered one, then two, and then more. Soon
hotels were ordering my cakes. And we were off and running.'
Mrs Weinstock discovered she had
breast cancer at age 50, just as her business was taking off, and credits the cake-making to her full recovery.
are 24 hours in a day – I worked 26. Seven days a week. Ben left law
[to work on the cakes’ packaging], and the two of us were in the baking
business. It helped me get through the chemo. I didn’t have time to be
sick or tired.
'There’s joy in it and sometimes it’s
frustrating. What we do is highly detailed. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime
item. I can’t say, “I’ll do it better tomorrow.” It’s the moment that
counts. It has to be perfect. So there’s a lot of pressure.'
Rapt rapper: Mrs Weinstock has made cakes for Sean 'Puff Daddy' Combs (pictured), as well as Michael Douglas, Mariah Carey, Donal Trump and even the Saudi royal family
Star cakes: Actors Molly Ringwald, Jason Biggs, Jenn Harris and Craig Bierko cut a cake made by Mrs Weinstock
Cake maker about town: Fran Drescher and Sylvia
Weinstock (left) and fashion TV presenter Robert Verdi with the cake
Mrs Weinstock's cakes, which go for
$17 per serving at her TriBeCa store, can cost thousands of dollars.
After writing two cookbooks, Sweet Celebrations, and Sensational Cakes,
the 82-year-old is will open her first retail store in Japan, with plans
to expand into China and the Middle East.
'I would like to license and brand
our name,' she says of her business, which will be inherited by some
employees (her three daughters aren't interested in carrying it on).
'I would like this name and the quality of what we do to go to people who’d appreciate it.'