Duff isn’t just the “Ace” of the bakery

By By Samantha Stahl

GoodTaste! Pittsburgh Food & Cooking Show

Saturday, Nov. 7, 9 a.m. through 5 p.m.

Monroeville… GoodTaste! Pittsburgh Food & Cooking Show

Saturday, Nov. 7, 9 a.m. through 5 p.m.

Monroeville Convention Center

Student Tickets $10 with ID


Cake decorating virtuoso and Food Network star Duff Goldman wants you to go crazy.

That’s the advice he got shortly before graduating college, and it’s worked out pretty well for him.

“I’m not going to claim credit for that advice. This legendary chef, Gary Danko, told it to me at an event I was working,” Goldman said.

“We’re chilling out afterwards, and my friend asked him what kind of advice he had for people who were about to graduate. And he said, ‘Honestly, just go crazy. Make yourself be heard. When you get out there, just go nuts. Go crazy.’ And I was like, that’s actually really good advice. It sounds so cliché, but the only thing that can stop you from being anything is yourself.“

As the lovable, quirky star of his own reality show, “Ace of Cakes,” Goldman has clearly managed be heard.

The series, now in its seventh season, follows the daily hustle of Charm City Cakes. For those living in a Food Network-deprived cave, the appeal of the Baltimore-based shop is its ability to make customized cakes.

Goldman and his team of artistic friends have managed to craft everything from a replica of Hogwarts for the fifth “Harry Potter” movie premiere to an edible version of Wrigley Field.

The story behind these confectionery masterpieces is the subject of Goldman’s new book, “Ace of Cakes: Inside the World of Charm City Cakes.”

Co-written with his brother, Willie Goldman (who is also Duff’s manager and co-executive producer of the show), the duo set out to create something that would give an authentic glance at the captivating bakery.

“It’s not a random famous person and a ghostwriter — it was really written by us. My sections sound like me talking — they’re all grammatically incorrect,” Goldman said.

“Publishers and editors kept saying they wanted to make a cookbook. I didn’t really get that idea — it would be pretty boring. On the show there’s not a whole lot of actual cake baking going on since we only have 22 minutes. If we took up that time with mixing flour and butter and sugar it might get kind of old.”

“There are plenty of cake cookbooks out there,” Goldman said. “We really wanted to invite people into our world and say, ‘Hey look, this is what we do, this is who we are and this is where we came from.’ This is a little slice of what goes on behind the scenes and how the whole thing started.”

So the book was born. And with seven years worth of stories and experiences, Goldman said the hardest part was selecting exactly what should go in it.

“We just tried to pick a really good variety to highlight our relationships with our customers, each other, the Food Network and the production company. We compiled everything and just had to pare it down, pare it down and pare it down. There was so much we wanted to put in there,“ Goldman said.

One of Goldman’s favorite stories is about a cake for a video game convention.

“We made a character from the game ‘Warhammer’ called a Squig. It’s like a meatball of teeth. It was one of the most impressive cakes we’ve ever made, period. It was the size of a small bear. When we delivered it, there was a crack, so I was trying to fix it, and there was a huge crowd standing around watching. I had red food coloring, so I put it on under my eyes and started screaming. They took a 360-degree photo of me, animated it and put me into the game. I came running out of nowhere wearing this giant suit of armor with pastry bags and a giant spatula cutting stuff up.”

If making a cameo in a video game doesn’t signify success, what does?

Goldman and his team have garnered triumph from their creative outlook. Utilizing methods ordinarily reserved for sculptures, Goldman explained that they frequently scour the Internet and hardware stores for new materials. “For a motorcycle cake we did, we had to find a food-safe fog machine that had water-soluble solution. You probably wouldn’t want to eat something near a regular one.”

Another time they “did a cake for NASA of the Hubble Space Telescope and Jupiter. We hung it from the ceiling and put in a motor so it would spin. Then we had to hang a light to shine on Jupiter, so as it spun you could see the moons of Jupiter rising and setting. We had to cover this giant ball in fondant and use the smallest cord possible so it wouldn’t cast a shadow.”

Their weapons of mass consumption are ever-changing.

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” Goldman said. “We have to look at every cake and say, ‘OK, how are we going to make this?’ It’s a really neat creative process, because we’re constantly reinventing how we do things.“

Goldman is making his way to Pittsburgh this Saturday as part of the GoodTaste! Food and Cooking Show. Producer Dee Weinberg started the event five years ago.

“We’re all fans of Duff, we all watch his show. We’re just very excited about the magic that’s going to happen when he takes the stage,” Weinberg said.

The cake connoisseur will be in good company. Also taking the stage is “The View” co-host Sherri Shepherd and “The Early Show” food and lifestyle contributor Katie Lee. Food sampling, wine tasting and cooking demonstrations will round out the day.