Ace of Cakes star creates tons of sweet flavours
Rick McGinnis/metro toronto
Duff Goldman, owner and head baker at Baltimore's Charm City Cakes and star of the cooking reality show Ace Of Cakes, shows off a custom-made beaver cake at Toronto's Cosmopolitan Hotel.
Gonzo baker Duff Goldman, the star of the Food Network show Ace Of Cakes, admits that the major drawback of a TV show about food is that nobody knows just how the food tastes when the credits roll. It's especially galling for someone like Goldman, whose Baltimore shop, Charm City Cakes, makes dozens of wedding cakes every month, a centrepiece dessert that's generally as unloved as it is ubiquitous.
Goldman says he's proud of the way his cakes taste, not just how they look, though there's no denying that it's the look of Goldman's cakes — audacious sculptures in fondant and butter cream — that is what made him famous. Wedding cakes, however, have been sculptures for so long that taste is an afterthought for too many bakers and clients.
"People started getting more and more focused on what the cakes looked like," Goldman speculates, "so they stopped caring about what they tasted like. We're out to change that — we have tons of flavours, a lot of them really fun. We have a peanut butter and jelly cake, for instance."
The peanut butter and jelly cake is the key to what Goldman does, both in his bakery and on his show, for a clientele who want edible fun, in any shape their imagination dictates — which could be a German Shepherd, a jeep or a hand held aloft in the universal "devil horns" gesture beloved of heavy metal fans, surrounded by flames and dancing sock monkeys, all of which he has made for Charm City Cakes clients.
"Cakes are joy personified," Goldman states. "They're physical manifestations of happiness, and people are drawn to that. The show is about seeing these things in progress, seeing them actually getting made."
The show, which stars Goldman and the friends he hired to work in his shop, revolves around a week in the life of Charm City Cakes, with its challenges and deadlines and abundant goofy humour, all building to the weekend, when most of the week's work has to be delivered and consumed. It also features Goldman wielding the drills, saws, blow torches and arc welders that are his stock in trade, and which set the young baker apart from his competition at the cooking competitions where his reputation began.
"When I first started competing, I'd show up with my cake stuff — spatulas and mixers — but I'd also have a Dremel and a belt sander and maybe an arc welder," he says. "I just know I can build things — I can take an engine apart and put it together. I'm good with my hands. If we have to build an armature for a cake, I'd build it out of copper plumbing, solder it together, wrap it up in plastic so it doesn't touch the cake, and build the whole structure for the cake. I don't know if it's the right way or the wrong way, but it works for us."