July 9, 2009, Updated September 13, 2012

In the last six months, three new businesses have opened in Israel selling cupcakes. America’s sweet celebratory treat is proving a big hit in the Holy Land.

Several new immigrants to Israel have found that the taste of their childhood celebrations can be turned into a solid business model: cupcakes are becoming the latest rage in the Holy Land. In the last several months three new cupcake businesses have opened up selling their treats online. 

Hayley Rabie, 28, from South Africa opened the first virtual cupcake store in Israel about six months ago with her partner, a Manchester woman named Danielle Levy. Both are new immigrants to Israel and their shop “I Love Cupcakes” has hit the ground running.

They’ve catered events with one of Israel’s top caterers, have imported the cupcake wedding cake idea to Israel, and are now trying a pilot run at Israel’s upscale convenience chain store Tiv Tam, at the chain’s flagship store outside of Tel Aviv. They will hand out free tastes on Fridays and Saturdays.

With a variety of cupcake flavors to choose from, the Nutella cupcake invented by Rabie and Levy definitely takes the biscuit. “The cupcake’s got a lot going for it,” Rabie tells ISRAEL21c. 

Despite the fact that two other online cupcakes stores in Israel popped up soon after I Love Cupcakes started selling its wares, there is no cupcake war in Israel, Rabie insists.

The taste of childhood, and home

“We started our business and as far as we knew at the time there were no other cupcake businesses. From that perspective, we were the first people to start doing it. For us it’s a full time business. This is what we do,” she says.

Both Rabie and Levy grew up with the American-invented cupcake. They associate cupcakes with birthdays, celebrations, good times and home. “Both our moms would make them for us, then we started making them ourselves,” recalls Rabie. 

After seeing the cupcakes back in vogue, when the girls landed in Israel to live as new immigrants, they brainstormed and thought cupcakes were a good opportunity. “It’s something we could offer and make us different,” says Rabie.

Today besides catered events, and a break into a local chain, Americans in Israel have been an important market for I Love Cupcakes. Some moms in America like to order them for their sons and have them shipped to the Israeli army where the boys are in service. 

Competition is just icing on the cake

As for the competition from the two other cupcake shops – Ofer Yeger’s “Cupcakes” and Debbie Stein, from Minneapolis who co-founded “TLV Cupcake Co.” – Rabie sees that there is enough room for everyone.

“For us, we are only too happy that there are other people who believe in the concept. Really, there is enough business for all of us. On every corner in Tel Aviv you can see a hairdresser, a yoga shop, and now chicken rotisseries are becoming popular. There could be cupcakes on every corner too,” she says. Why not? 

Working full-time on cupcakes, she and her partner spent a good chunk of time perfecting recipes before they launched their brand. They are also currently selling them in a café in Tel Aviv and are negotiating a premise for mass cupcake production. 

Unlike I Love Cupcakes, for Stein of TLV Cupcakes, the business — at least for now — is a welcome diversion from her full time job as a professional non-profit fundraiser. She built the business with her partner, who was born in America, and another — an Israeli who’d lived there for 10 years. 

Baking for fun

“What’s not to love about cupcakes?” says Stein who’s been living in Israel for one and a half years. “All of us have professional careers. But in a matter of months, we decided to do it and it’s going strong. 

“My day job is night and day. Now I get enjoyment in both fields. Baking is fun, and we are having a great time with it,” she says.

Her main buyers are the American population in Israel, who like Stein grew up with cupcakes and who saw the recent resurgence in the US, thanks to the TV show Sex and the City

Stein also likes giving the uninitiated Israeli a very important life lesson about her sweet treat from America: “I love introducing cupcakes to Israelis who think they are muffins… which they are not.”

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director

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