By: Esther Pransky, Lubicom Marketing Staff
What do a Rubik’s cube, a ketchup bottle, and a hamburger have in common?
They’re all larger-than-life cakes that uber-talented Shaina Dubroff has crafted from layers of cake and cream, buttercream frosting and fondant.
Shaina creates one-of-a-kind cakes for all occasions—from weddings, to birthdays, to ‘just because’ celebrations! Shaina is ALSO the star of Kosher.com’s newest show, Queen of Cakes.
We had a long talk with Shaina, covering her cake decorating career, parking in Brooklyn (a nightmare), the shidduch scene in Crown Heights (that’ll stay between us), and, of course, her new show.
It all started when. . .
Shaina often gets asked how she got started decorating cakes.
It’s a long story, but she was SUPPOSED to be signing up for a sewing course at a local college. Sewing was a nice, practical skill for a proper English girl and future mum.
But, Shaina recalls, her sixteen-year-old self looked at the course offerings and said, “Sewing, that’s boring. There’s cake decorating on the list.” And she convinced her two friends to sign up with her.
When the girls got home, their parents were less than thrilled, and it was Shaina alone who took the class.
Shaina took the course for a year and sold cakes in seminary for pocket money. When she came home, she went on with her lessons but was still a long way from running a full-fledged business.
A few years later, Shaina moved to New York.
She got her first big break when a local store graciously allowed her to set up shop in its Five Towns location. Soon Shaina was selling cakes, but it wasn’t enough to make a living.
In the fall of 2005, when Shaina was engaged and rethinking the whole cake-decorating-as-a-career decision, her boss invited her to Kosherfest.
Kosherfest was a turning point for Shaina, giving her the exposure to party planners and other industry figures that she needed. A Brooklyn bakery soon hired her, and she worked there for ten years, building her skills and her reputation.
“It was a great experience,” says Shaina, “because I got thrown all kinds of work. I got to practice a LOT of things.”
Shaina’s advice to aspiring cake decorators:
Cake decorating like any other skill, is something that needs practicing. It doesn’t take one or two tries to get good. It takes many, many attempts. So, enjoy making cakes for family and friends. The more you do it the better you will become. But most importantly enjoy it and have fun creating.
The Jersey Years
Four years ago, Shaina and her family moved to New Jersey. As much as she loved her job, she didn’t want to travel back to New York.
“I was so DONE with Brooklyn. I wasn’t moving all the way to New Jersey just to come back and go through the whole parking and traffic thing.”
Fortunately, she didn’t have to. A custom kosher cake boutique in Teaneck, NJ was looking for someone to run the business and serve as the head decorator. Shaina moved right into that role.
And where does Shaina get her ideas for her cakes? It depends on the customer. Sometimes a customer will send Shaina a Pinterest board or a Google image and ask her to recreate it exactly. Some customers will have a general idea and Shaina will send them a sketch for approval. Other customers will call her up with a theme and a color and say, “surprise me!”
“When someone reaches out to make an order, I hear more than just, ‘Can I have a cake with ‘x’ on it,'” explains Shaina. “I hear a story. It’s special. And when the person receives the cake, it becomes the highlight of the party. They feel the thought and meaning that went into making that unique cake.”
Quick facts about Shaina’s cakes:
- Yes, the entire cake is edible. The extra elements are made of chocolate, fondant, or even Rice Krispie treats if they need more support. In rare cases, a customer may decide to save money and use plastic figures
- It takes Shaina anywhere from one to three days to plan and create a cake.
- Her favorite cake of all time was a replica of the Vienna opera house. It took over a week to make! (You can see a video of it on Shaina’s Instagram.)
Shaina’s relationship with Kosher.com started in 2018. Jenna Grunfeld, Kosher.com’s managing editor, already knew Shaina and her store. So, when Kosher.com wanted to celebrate its first birthday, they came to Shaina for a birthday cake.
“The vibe of the cake was meant to be what Kosher.com is giving to the kosher community. So, we came up with the idea of a big chopping board, with meat and veggies being prepped. There would be a tablet coming out of chopping board with the Kosher.com speech bubble.”
Kosher.com filmed Shaina making the spectacular cake and published the video on its first birthday. (It’s a must-see!)
A few weeks later, Kosher.com asked to interview her at the Kosher Food and Wine Event. Shaina came with the cake, which had been languishing in the freezer because no one knew exactly what to do with it.
Mordy Herzog, CEO of Royal Wine Corp., was also at the event. Royal Wine Corp produces KFWE and is also affiliated with Kosher.com. He approached Shaina and . . .
. . . offered her a show on the spot!
Shaina accepted, and the rest is history.
Queen of Cakes
Well, sort of. The show didn’t happen right away.
There were rounds and rounds of meetings and discussions. At the next KFWE, Shaina did a live cake decorating demonstration. Kosher.com interviewed her and announced the new show: Queen of Cakes.
What can you expect from Queen of Cakes?
“Cake Boss has come to the kosher world!” Shaina sums up the show.
You’ll be entertained by Shaina in action as she takes a cake from:
- initial cake consultation
- to the sketches
- to creating the decorative elements
- to the finished product.
Oh, and “it MIGHT be funny because we joke while we do it,” says Shaina. We think you can trust her on that!
In the first two episodes, Shaina creates a cake for a very special, deserving bat mitzvah girl. The girl was going to have a much smaller celebration, but Queen of Cakes gave her a “massive upgrade.”
The cake decorating was familiar territory, or course, but the filming was a learning experience for Shaina.
For example, the natural lighting on the second day didn’t match the lighting from the first day, and the crew spent a lot of time fixing that. And then there was the “oopsie” (Shaina’s word) that almost threw a wrench into the whole plan. You’ll see that (and much more) caught on camera in the first episode.
Here are some more facts about Queen of Cakes, straight from Jenna Grunfeld (managing editor and producer) herself!
Is there a story behind the name of the show?
We’d be lying if we said the title for “Queen of Cakes” wasn’t the least bit inspired by Shaina’s charming British accent. While she hails from Manchester rather than Buckingham Palace, she does have a way of making even cake disasters seem fun!
Did anything unexpected or interesting happen while you were filming?
There were definitely a few mishaps. Shaina isn’t just the Queen of Cakes because of her talent— she also has an unparalleled ability to improvise when things aren’t going the way she pictured! She’s also extremely talented at hand painting without a stencil or anything!
What’s something that viewers WON’T see when they watch?
There are a few perks of being on the Kosher.com production crew. For this shoot, one of them was undoubtedly getting to snack on the cake trimmings throughout filming. So you won’t see us snacking on cake and extra frosting all day long. But we were also treated to some British songs and nursery rhymes courtesy of Shaina. Some of them were familiar and some of them… less so.
Can you give us a hint about something especially fun/exciting/unique that the viewers will see?
Let’s just say, it’s not as easy as she makes it look. And those cakes are HEAVY. So while Shaina makes everything seem effortless 99% of the time, that other 1% can sure be nerve-wracking.