Bake Me a Cake

updated 07/25/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/25/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Last March, a business tycoon in Lincoln, Neb., called Sylvia Weinstock in Manhattan with a request. Could she make a cake to serve 600 at his daughter's June wedding?

Easy. On second thought, not so easy. There were no direct flights to Lincoln, and when Weinstock, 64, ships a cake, she doesn't abide layovers. "I'll send my plane," promised the tycoon. But there would be additional cargo. "I wanted to go with the cake so I could assemble it," recalls Weinstock.

Traveling is all in a day's work for Weinstock. Whether headed for Brooklyn or Palm Beach, the wedding pâtissier-of-choice for Eddie Murphy, Mariah Carey and Jane Fonda always takes the cake.

Aided by her husband, Ben, 69, Weinstock covered a 24-layer yellow cake with thousands of hand-molded violets for Whitney Houston, whose favorite color is purple. For Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger, she created a lemon and raspberry fantasy of stars and moons. ("It meant something to them. I don't know what.") "You gotta I like them cakes," says Cyndi Lauper, who celebrated her 1991 marriage to actor David Thornton with Weinstock's Leaning Tower of Pisa. "It had cannoli filling," says Lauper. "It looked fabulous and tasted great." Few knew just how great the seven-foot-high concoction tasted at the Maria Maples-Donald Trump affair. "There were maybe 1,000 guests coming in and out, and it was too difficult to serve," explains Weinstock. In any case, as Sylvia says, "A cake should be a work of art that people look at and say, 'Ahhhh.' "

"Oy!" is likely to be the reaction of the folks who foot the bill. Weinstock's cakes, which can take as long as a month to create, run from $200 to a price tag of five figures. Not bad for a former kindergarten teacher who taught herself to bake in the 1970s while Ben and their three daughters spent weekends skiing. It was through Ben's friendship with fellow skier André Soltner, chef-owner of New York City's famed Lutèce, and an apprenticeship with a celebrated pastry chef, that Sylvia began supplying restaurants with desserts. But it wasn't until 1980—after a breast cancer diagnosis helped her reassess her priorities—that she turned to baking full-time. "I found it relaxing," says Weinstock.

Her big break came when a society caterer saw a wedding cake she had made for a friend. Now Sylvia, Ben and their staff of seven, working in the custom cake shop on the third floor of their home, turn out up to 25 cakes a week during the May-October peak season—nearly a thousand each year. But I'm not finished yet," she proclaims. "I'm waiting for Oprah."

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