Israeli student Sharona Levinbaum is whipping up a global audience with her outrageous dessert food photos and videos.
Food videos are hot on Facebook and social media right now. There are billions of views and shares for Buzzfeed’s “Tasty” and Tastemade’s lip-smacking professional video clips. Then there are Sharona Levinbaum’s low-resolution, smartphone-filmed dessert delicacies that viewers just can’t resist.
Levinbaum, 27, is a business management student at the Open University of Israel and a baker at heart.
While most people self-censor their food dreams, Levinbaum lets her imagination run amok and films herself making outrageous and wicked dessert fantasies.
More than 15 million viewers have watched her 15-second, slightly out-of-focus Facebook video of a “candy roll” she concocted out of basic pastry filled with Oreos, Kinder chocolate, Nutella and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
More than five million viewers have watched her heart-attack-in-a-bite McDonald’s cake she invented out of burgers, fries, onion rings and nuggets all baked into a pastry.
“I’m always thinking about food,” Levinbaum tells ISRAEL21c.
Until a year ago, nearly no one knew of Levinbaum, the youngest of three siblings from Tel Aviv. The university student had learned the particulars of pastry baking at a local culinary school, and kept her love for flour, eggs and sugar mixtures as a private hobby.
Her idea to make a crazy all-out candy birthday cake for her mother’s husband was a decision that would change her life. She uploaded some photos of the cake, now known as Levinbaum’s Candy Roll, to her private Facebook page, saw the reactions, and decided to make a new one while filming the process.
On February 15 last year, Levinbaum uploaded a 15-second, smartphone-filmed recipe with a calorie count that would make every nutritionist shudder.
“In the first 15 days, it got over a million views,” she says, “and then other sites picked it up. People like what I do; it’s new and fun.”
Moreover, her foodie videos hit social media before “Tasty” – which launched in July 2015 — was even a thing. “Buzzfeed’s food videos weren’t where they are today back then. I have a feeling that I offered short food videos first,” she says.
Comments and shares were quick to come. Like everything in life, some people love what Levinbaum’s offering; others find it repulsive.
There are now more than 90 crazy recipes on her Facebook feed including chocolate cake French toast, toasted pita with Ferrero Rocher “falafel” balls, triple-layer Oreo cake, candy brownies and more.
Levinbaum says she scans the Internet for trends and then thinks up new ideas. She writes the recipes on her smartphone and then films herself making them without a practice run.
“It’s food art,” she says of her creations. “Instead of paint colors, I use ingredients.”
Why Bamba and Oreo heart Levinbaum
And whereas at the beginning of this sweet journey Levinbaum had to hop over to the supermarket to buy ingredients, today she has enough star power that snack-food companies send ingredients directly to the home she shares with her boyfriend and their dogs, one of whom is named Krembo.
Levinbaum says she doesn’t make any profit from her social-media baking inventions and has turned down offers of remuneration from companies whose products she uses. “I want to keep the homey, recreational feel,” she says.
She advertises snack-food brands on her social-media feeds if the manufacturer agrees to make a charitable donation.
“Instead of taking money from the companies, I ask them to donate products to different charities,” she tells ISRAEL21c. “No specific organization, as long as it’s going to a good cause.”
She is also proud that she has been able to gain an international following without having to pose in a “sleazy” way. “I was able to create a buzz and I’m not wearing a bikini. A lot of women who want to gain fame upload pictures that sell their bodies. I’m showing off my imagination and my talent. Not my body,” she says.
But does she eat – or taste – what she bakes?
“Yes,” she says. “I taste almost everything. The Candy Roll is one of my favorite recipes and also the Ferrero Rocher pita toast. People who are looking for munchies will love these recipes.”
And there seems to be a whole lot of “people who are looking for munchies” out there as the viewing numbers on Levinbaum’s video clips continue to rise.
Levinbaum, who also bakes specialty cakes and cupcakes for friends and relatives, is hoping to use the publicity toward advancing her dream of opening her own bake shop. “The things I will make in my bakery are very different than what I make now. What I make on the videos are to get attention. For my bakery, it will be custom made cakes and cupcakes. Not as crazy as my videos.”
Viva Sarah Press (Israel 21c)