Sweet Genius Ron Ben-Israel Visits Worst Cooks in America Boot Camp

by in Food Network Chef, Shows, March 11th, 2013

Chef Ron Ben-Israel on Worst Cooks in AmericaAs one of the most-successful pastry chefs in the country, Sweet Genius Ron Ben-Israel is known for creating sky-high cakes that are as deliciously whimsical as they are stunningly beautiful. On Sunday’s episode of Worst Cooks in America, however, he was forced to abandon the high-quality demands he prides himself on in his professional kitchen and think back to basics. Stopping by Boot Camp to offer the recruits an in-depth cake-baking how-to, he showed them seemingly simple recipes for creating wow-worthy celebration cakes, but for some of the competitors, this challenge ultimately proved to be nothing short of impossible. We checked in with Chef Ron to find out what it was like helping the competitors turn out their best-possible confections and to learn the most-shocking moment he experienced at Boot Camp. Read on below to get the insider scoop on what went down, plus check out Chef Ron’s easy tips for at-home bakers.

How was your time on the show?

RB: I’m a big fan of the show and always learn something valuable by watching Chefs Anne and Bobby. So I was so excited to be asked to come to the kitchen and teach the recruits how to bake a cake. And they were so sweet and excited to see me! Also, the kitchen was very well equipped with every tool and ingredient that a cake designer may wish for. I was so happy to be there and started demonstrating with great enthusiasm.

What was the most-shocking moment you came across with the contestants?

RB: What I didn’t expect was how bad these Worst Cooks were. Even the simplest procedures proved insurmountable obstacles for them. I didn’t know if I should scream or laugh! Shockingly, the recruits couldn’t tell when a cake was done and either under baked the layers or burned them totally. I noticed that they treated the cake they were constructing as if it were a foreign object. There seems to be a disconnect between their desire to bake and decorate cakes and their physical relations to food.

Why is baking such a challenge and fear for so many people?

RB: Baking is more like science, and accurate measurements and procedures are crucial. But technology has made baking much easier with digital scales, powerful mixers and accurate ovens. Still, so many people are afraid of baking, perhaps because one has to measure the ingredients, mix the batter, and then wait for the results to bake and cool. And there is no going back — in order to correct mistakes, one has to start again from the beginning. There is no immediate gratification when it comes to baking.

What are your top tips for creating the ultimate buttercream?

RB: The first ingredient in a classic buttercream is eggs. And separating the whites from the yolks is the first challenge, as one drop of fatty yolk will contaminate the fat-free whites and will ruin the whole batch. But perhaps the first hurdle is to recognize that a paste made of shortening with powdered sugar is not buttercream at all. The recruits never tasted such a heavenly concoction as the Swiss Meringue Buttercream I made for them, and they were afraid of it every step of the way.

You mentioned making a cake in a food processor. Is there a difference between using a stand mixer vs. the processor?

RB: The food processor method is based on the one-bowl formula, which is popular in commercial bakeries. It’s not as traditional as when starting by creaming the butter and sugar, but I believe it’s far more superior. The resulting crumb is moist, delicate and uniform. This method is really foolproof. The only possible hazard is overmixing.

Want to make your own celebration cake at home? Try these easy recipes for Basic Vanilla Cake and Swiss Meringue Buttercream.

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Comments (16)

  1. EZ Bake Oven says:

    I would have liked for Ron Ben Israel to have hung around for the tasting. . . but I don't blame him for not staying around to for the tasting. Hope the contestants really step it up, they don't have many episodes left for the finale!

  2. M. Scott says:

    Loved seeing Ron's reactions to the challenged bakers.
    Like all companies that provided products for the set, I would have liked to have seen a credit for the MAGI-CAKE Strips provided, instead of being blurred into the background.

  3. mlp says:

    I enjoy Sweet Genius and I adore Ron Ben-Israel so I was shocked when he showed up looking scruffy and unshaved. I know that's a popular look but there's a real disconnect between making cakes of exquisite beauty and looking like a wino. He has talent and skill; he doesn't need to be trendy.

    • MoHub says:

      Did it occur to you that perhaps he is growing a beard? Unfortunately the beginnings of such an enterprise make one look scruffy until enough hair comes in.

  4. jgarner says:

    I have to admit I don't watch Sweet Genius because on that show Ron Ben-Israel strikes me as being a complete and utter jerk, but watching the contestants on Worst Cooks last night made me feel sorry for him. He is very good at what he does and obviously was completely shocked at how badly the contestants were doing with their baking assignment. I wanted to take him out somewhere and buy him a large drink after that.

  5. Robert Ostrowski says:

    To me, Chef Anne put it real bluntly to her own teammates – SOMEBODY has GOT to start stepping up to the plate and prove that there IS a contender for the ultimate grand prize of $25K. But maybe if this week's taped episode had both Anne and Bobby telling their remaining recruits about a baking challenge forthcoming and to figure out a game plan among themselves on what to do, who knows? Ron represents something more on the level of a college-degree achiever; WCA recruits are not so. But right now, I can only see Chet, Elena, Rasheeda and Michael as whom the $25K is for the taking!

    • Robert Ostrowski says:

      I meant to say WCIA (Worst Cooks In America) recruits – not WCA recruits – my bad. But I still believe that baking, of all things right now, should have waited a little longer than it did, because it is clear already to me that there are only 4 potential "graduates" on this. Also, I should have said "LAST week's episode". But I stand by all else I said earlier.

  6. MoHub says:

    I had to wonder whether anyone—Anne, Bobby, or Ron—ever explained the difference between dry and liquid measuring cups. It was painful to watch Carla measuring milk in a dry measuring cup.

    I love Chet, but in the end, I think it will come down to Alina versus Michael.

  7. MoHub says:

    I had to wonder whether anyone—Anne, Bobby, or Ron—ever explained the difference between dry and liquid measuring cups. It was painful to watch Carla measuring milk in a dry measuring cup.

  8. Sherrie says:

    Want to know where to purchase the gelato/ice cream maker !!!

  9. Beth Sinnott says:

    Why isn't your show on anymore?

  10. donkyha says:

    I never post on the Internet for sites, but look on Ron Ben Israel's face for Carla's cake was worth more than I can express. Thank you.

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