If you love cake (who doesn't?), and if staring at the most unbelievably spectacular cakes on earth is your thing, then you've no doubt seen Duff Goldman—star of Food Network's Ace of Cakes and the upcoming Worst Bakers in America—work his magic with sugar, butter and fondant. The cake master, whose full name is Jeffrey Adam "Duff" Goldman, is also the executive chef of Charm City Cakes in Baltimore and L.A., and his cake creations run the gamut from confections that look like deli or sushi platters (why?), to giant cans of beer, to childhood favorites such as Mr. Potato Head and the Incredible Hulk (made for comic book creator Stan Lee’s 89th birthday, pictured below), to icons like the Capital Records building in Hollywood. And his cakes aren't just about the visuals: They come in delicious flavors ranging from bananas Foster to dulce de leche. Custom cake orders at Duff's booming bi-coastal business start at $600 a pop, and must be ordered two weeks in advance.
At Duff’s Cake Mix on Melrose in West Hollywood, you can register for a DIY decorating class, like the actress Busy Phillips likes to do. She's a regular and is actually a good cake decorator, according to Duff: “She’s really into it.” He’s also about to start filming with Haylie Duff at the L.A. County Fair for her new Cooking Channel show.
The Feast stopped the King of Cakes in the middle of his crazy-hectic schedule and asked what some of his favorite wacky cake requests have been; his biggest cake disaster ever; what not to do when ordering a wedding cake; and his favorite cake project of all time. Grab a slice of cake, and read on:
Duff's Craziest Cake Requests:
Katie Perry's Cake Video:
"Katie Perry made a video called 'Birthday Cake,' which she shot in the L.A. bakery, and we had to make like 70 cakes for different shots. We had to spell things out with cakes and candy and frosting. It was cool but a ton of work. It took five days to prepare with the whole team working on it, and the shot was done in one day, but she was super nice and cool. She really loved it,” confirms Duff.
The Black Leather Cake: In one couple, "The groom was a guitar player in a big rock band (I can’t say which one), but they wanted the cake to look like black leather with metal studs and they wanted a ball-gag on the top tier. So I said, hey, it’s your cake, but your parents and grandparents will be there and you might want to reconsider. Looking back on pictures of your wedding in 10 or 15 years, you might be wondering why you made that decision. So it was still leather-clad looking, but I talked them out of the ball-gag.”
The Roasted Pig Cake: One couple wanted to roast a whole pig at their wedding, but the parents (who were paying for the wedding) refused to go along with the plan. So the bride and groom hired Duff to make a wedding cake that looked like a whole roasted pig. “It was a hit and the parents loved it in the end. It was so realistic and kind of gross.”
The Hiking Cake: “Once I had a second-wedding couple that both had kids: boy and girl, 9 and 11. They dropped the kids off for an hour and let the kids design the wedding cake, with no caveats, to surprise the parents on their wedding day. The kids ended up designing a cake of the family’s favorite pastime: hiking. It was complete with a VW bug and all their hiking 'buddies' sitting in and on the car with their gear, including stuffed animals and little backpack clip-on monsters and creatures.”
The Pie Cake: “When my sous chef Jeff got married, he only wanted pie at his wedding. So we made him a wedding cake that looked just like a pie and didn’t tell him.”
Favorite Cake Ever Created:
“I made a life-size working R2-D2 cake (pictured above) for George Lucas [Star Wars creator], which we delivered to the Skywalker Ranch. He is such an amazing guy and it was an honor to make a cake for him,” says Duff.
Biggest Cake Disaster:
Making a cake for a chef’s wedding and driving it up a steep hilly driveway at a private golf club in Los Angeles with about 30-40 well-known chefs in attendance, including pal Michael Voltaggio of Top Chef fame. The cake was really tall and fell over in the car. The team had to go back to the shop and remake the cake and right before the sit-down reception, at the last minute, they all carried the cake in. It got a standing ovation from the guests.
Future White House Cakes?
We might be seeing more of Duff's cakes in the White House. For Bill Clinton’s inauguration, Duff made a giant replica of the Capital Building, and for Obama’s second inauguration he created a tall cake (pictured above) with all the branches of the military. “Being close to Washington, D.C. we get a lot of those requests,” says Duff. So odds are that he just might get asked to make a cake for the next administration, but will he accept no matter what? “I will make a cake for anyone who wants a cake, even Trump,” he says. “I’m an equal opportunity cake maker. I’m a businessman, not a politician.”
Duff’s tips on what to never do when ordering a wedding cake:
Never go to a cake shop unprepared.
Bring pictures of cakes that you like with you. “It’s better to figure out what you want before you have someone like me sitting at the table with you,” he says. People feel pressure and sometimes make a snap decision and then second guess it later. “Do the research before and come in prepared, and you will get the cake you want.”
Don’t succumb to intimidation.
Never be afraid to tell a designer that you don’t like something that they suggested. “Some people would rather get a cake they are not happy with than risk offending the decorator. It’s your cake. Don’t be intimidated. Any cake designer that would be offended by that (your comments) should not be making your cake.”
Don’t wait until the last minute to order your dream cake. “In a lot of cases, by the time you get to the cake you have shot through your budget already with the venue and the menu," says Duff. “It’s unfortunate because, maybe I’m biased, but the cake is one of the most important things you will have at your wedding.” Think of the pictures and maybe cut back on that karaoke machine rental.
What we can expect to see on Worst Bakers in America.
Duff Goldman and co-host Lorraine Pascale from the BBC will work with 12 of the most disastrous bakers in the country for a baking boot camp on Food Network's Worst Bakers in America, airing in early October.The talentless bakers will be split into two teams, and over six weeks, the hosts will attempt to transform the recruits into pastry experts for the chance to win the $25,000 grand prize.
How bad are the novice bakers? According to Duff, “One contestant was just kneading cookie dough like bread dough and adding food coloring. I asked him what he was doing and he said 'just adding flavor.'" Another was asked to fetch a lemon and brought back a lime. “He said, 'Lemons are the green ones, right?'"
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