Cake Monkey Specializes in Mini, Retro Desserts

Elizabeth Belkind and Lisa Olin put their own spin on sweets, serving up mini layer cakes and custom treats.

By Rosalba Curiel August 13, 2008, 12:00 PM EDT

Cake Monkey's Elizabeth Belkind (left) and Lisa Olin.

Photo: Zen Sekizawa for BizBash

Internet Connection: A love of cake and a Craigslist posting brought business partners Elizabeth Belkind and Lisa Olin together. Olin, a film and television producer with a sweet tooth, wanted to open a bakery specializing in individual layer cakes and her favorite childhood treats. With the concept, logo, and bakery name selected, all she needed was a qualified baker. Enter Belkind, a Campanile-trained pastry chef and designer of the dessert menu at contemporary American restaurant Grace. “Because I was familiar with [Belkind’s] background, I knew I wanted her before I even spoke with her,” Olin says. “But then when we met, it was all the better, because we had the same ideas when it came to cakes, like what ingredients and flavors to use.” With their interests in sync, last December the pair launched Cake Monkey Bakery.

Little Desserts, Big Impact: Belkind makes many ingredients by hand, from the toffee that tops three-inch layer cakes like the Cake Monkey Crunch to the marshmallows used to top her “inside-out s’mores.” In addition to mini cakes and playful takes on snack foods like her cream-filled Yo-Hos, she can also whip up custom desserts not found on their existing menu. When Spanish clothing label Mango partnered with In Style magazine to host an in-store event celebrating the label’s spring collection in April, she created tapas-style sweets like crema Catalana-filled pastry cups and pistachio and honey turrón.

Belkind’s creativity also extends beyond the kitchen into dessert displays she creates using tiered platters, fresh flowers, and ribbons coordinated to match an event’s theme. Her platters for an Elle magazine cosponsored debut party for designer Osman Yousefzada at Desiree Kohan’s Des Kohan boutique piqued the interest of stylists, editors, and designers who turned out for the event. “We had more emails inquiring about Cake Monkey than any other [vendor],” Kohan says. “Not only does every single dessert taste exquisite, but the presentation was one to talk about. We had clients taking their own pictures.”

Monkey Business: Belkind and Olin currently work out of a commercial kitchen, but once they find a storefront, the pair hope to open multiple bakeries and perhaps expand their services to include freshly baked bread and coffee. In the meantime, the women are focusing on a variety of clients, such as the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the John Wayne Cancer Institute, and Paramount. Having worked in the entertainment business for 20 years, Olin thinks the bakery’s pint-size pastries would be perfect for premieres of kid-friendly movies. “I’ve been to a lot of those premieres,” Olin says. “A lot of the time, they do mini sliders and I think, ‘God, our stuff would go so well with that.’”

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