You might expect a show about cakes to be sweet, but if you are watching Food Network's Ace of Cakes (new episodes start tonight at 10:30 pm/ET), you'd be wrong. After all, Charm City Cakes owner, professional chef and Ace of Cakes star Duff Goldman is not your typical cake decorator. He creates amazing masterpieces out of sugar and flour (and sometimes Rice Krispie treats), and his eclectic staff of artists put in long hours to make sure these culinary confections arrive at their destinations looking nothing short of spectacular. From towering flamingos to three-dimensional German shepherds, Duff & Co. use unconventional methods to achieve stunning results. TVGuide.com recently gave Charm City Cakes in Baltimore a call — which was answered by a spunky receptionist (who thought that this interviewer would be male based on the name) — to speak with the part-time rock star, full-time business owner about the show's second season, and, of course, cake!
TVGuide.com: What's coming up for Season 2? What can we look forward to?
Duff Goldman: I think it's just going to be, like, more fun, funny stuff. They're just going for more of what life is like for us, what happens around here, as opposed to a strict how-to-decorate-a-cake kind of thing.
TVGuide.com: I don't see you doing a how-to show.
Goldman: Yeah, it's not really my game.
TVGuide.com: Was that ever offered as a possibility?
Goldman: It was thrown around, but I was just like, "Look, when I started the business, I just figured out how to do it." And I think that has been the driving force behind what we do here, always just figuring out how to do things instead of being formally trained or working in a shop. It's more about, "If you're going to do this right and do it well, you have to have that fire in you." It can be learned, but the desire to learn it can't be imparted.
TVGuide.com: Has your business gotten out of control since the show premiered?
Goldman: Totally out of control.
TVGuide.com: Any wild orders coming in?
Goldman: I think we're doing the 30th-anniversary cake for Star Wars.
TVGuide.com: Wow, that's amazing.
Goldman: Yeah, that's really cool. We're doing a tauntaun laying on its side with its belly split open, and Han Solo holding a light saber, and Luke shoved in there all gnarly and stuff. It should be pretty cool.
TVGuide.com: I have to say that my favorite was the tequila cake. Do you have a favorite?
Goldman: I think my favorite cake was the one I made for my sous chef Jeff's brother. I made this cake of [Austrian painter] Gustav Klimt... or a cake that looked like Gustav Klimt. There was just something about it, it was really successful from start to finish, the inception of it, the process that it went through.... There was so much to it, plus it was for a friend, so it was really special.
TVGuide.com: And that's not your everyday three-tier wedding cake with roses.
TVGuide.com: Do you get requests to do that kind of simpler stuff?
Goldman: Yeah, we totally do, but it's not really our specialty. If people really want it, we'll make it for them, but we put the other stuff first. We book out so far in advance now, we can kind of pick and choose.
TVGuide.com: Anything crazy that you would never do?
Goldman: Not really. If it's mundane, we won't do it. Like, if they want a picture of their kid playing Little League photographed on their cake, it's like, "Look, you can get that from somewhere else really cheap." I'm not doing that. But the crazier the better, I find. Like this week, we're doing a CAT scan, a Jeep and a convertible. We have a leg in a cast for this doctor, we're doing a doctor's bag, and a pregnant woman sitting in a chair with a Dooney & Bourke diaper bag. We're doing a gigantic dime for some reason — I have no idea what the story is behind that one, but that's what they want. It's just like, "Typical week!"
TVGuide.com: We see so many close calls with the cakes almost falling. Have there been instances where something didn't make it in one piece?
Goldman: Actually, in the season coming up, you might see some fun stuff.
TVGuide.com: Oh no! Is that kind of heartbreaking?
Goldman: Um, not really. It actually is kind of cool in the sense that when it does happen — and it doesn't happen very often — seeing everybody pull together and really become a team is, like, the best part.
TVGuide.com: I'd have my whole trunk bubble-wrapped, I'd be so paranoid.
Goldman: Oh, man, you get to the point where... we just build these things sturdy, they're made to last.
TVGuide.com: Yes, using your somewhat unconventional ways, like welding. You don't really see that in most bakeries.
Goldman: Yeah, I never thought that was weird until I started meeting other bakers, and I was like, "Whoa.... " [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: You seem to get along with your staff really well. What's your secret to having a good group like that?
Goldman: They're all my homeys. [Laughs] They're all friends that went to art school or have art backgrounds or have cool skills, instead of [me] hiring people like culinary students, for example, who want to tell you how to do things. When I graduated from culinary school, I thought I knew everything. Instead, I'm hiring people who aren't from that field at all. Jeff was building architectural models before he came here.
TVGuide.com: Any plans to expand to more cities?
Goldman: It's in the works. We're looking at stuff, entertaining offers. My main focus is just making sure that the cakes that we're making are awesome. If we can do that in other cities, I'd love to, but if it's not feasible then I'm not going to do it. It's definitely not a money thing. I live above the bakery.
TVGuide.com: You actually live there?
Goldman: Yup, I live upstairs. They snuck upstairs that one time, caught me napping. I have this huge basement, and half of it is my gym and half of it is where my band practices. So it's like everything is here.
TVGuide.com: You never have to leave.
Goldman: Yeah, I have to literally force myself to go outside sometimes.
TVGuide.com: Any more Food Network Challenge episodes on the horizon for you? That's where a lot of people first saw you.
Goldman: Yeah, I don't know. I don't know if they really want me to....
TVGuide.com: 'Cause you're a ringer?
Goldman: Actually, no. I only won one of them.
TVGuide.com: You did some cool stuff, though.
Goldman: When I did that last one, when we won, I was like, "Let's just do this thing right." So I called my friend Mike [McCarey], up in Seattle, and I was just like, "Listen, how do we win this thing? I know I got the skills, but I just don't have it together. How do you go about winning one of these things?" He coached me through the whole process of practicing, practicing, practicing, which I never do. I think one of the reasons the Food Network really liked us [doing Ace of Cakes] was because we were really good TV. I was like, I don't need to prove that I'm good on camera anymore. Now let me prove that I can actually do stuff, make something awesome. So we did the Cereal Skylines challenge, and it was a hill of fun.
TVGuide.com: Very stressful, though.
Goldman: The challenges are really stressful, because most of the time, we have a week to do [a cake], but there you have six or eight hours. It's a much different environment. So, yeah, if they come up with a really cool idea, I'd love to do [another Challenge]; and if they want me to judge, I'd definitely do that. Even if they want me to commentate, I'd do that, too. I can talk like the dickens, we all know that!
TVGuide.com: Now, do you actually eat cake, or are you sick of it at this point?
Goldman: I love cake. [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: Really? I worked in a doughnut shop for a long time, and I can't look at a doughnut anymore.
Goldman: [Laughs] I worked at McDonald's, I love McDonald's. I worked at a pizza joint, I like pizza. I love cake.
TVGuide.com: Well, I'm really looking forward to new episodes.
Goldman: We're doing really funny stuff, but it's also got the stress, too. It's very real. The hell week that we had last time is nothing compared to the hell we have this time. We had 40-something cakes in a week, and we just totally got slammed. And it was really due to the fact that one of the orders was for 13 cakes, another order was for five cakes, another was for three cakes.... We only have so much space on the wall for clipboards. Yeah, it doesn't look like so many and then you're like, "Oh, that's not one cake, that's 13. Uh-oh." It was kind of like a perfect storm. We have busy, busy, busy time, and then we have downtime. Like right now it's winding down, and then our last episode is doing the cake for the Super Bowl. And then as soon as we're done [preparing for] the Super Bowl, half of the staff is flying to Mexico from Baltimore and half of us are going to the Super Bowl to make the cake, and then flying from Miami to Mexico.
TVGuide.com: For R&R?
Goldman: A little R&R. I'm taking the money I won from the Skylines challenge and treating everybody.
TVGuide.com: What a cool boss you are!
Goldman: I'm the coolest boss ever. They get two months of paid vacation.
TVGuide.com: Yeah, you really are the coolest boss.
Goldman: It's important. For example, we're taking all of February off, the middle two weeks of August, the week of Thanksgiving and the week of Christmas. These guys really, really, really work hard. Again, as long as we're keeping the lights on and paying the mortgage, I'm not really sweating making a whole lot of money, it's not really my game.
TVGuide.com: Well, you're on your way to being a big star whether you want to or not.
Goldman: Yeah, I guess so! [Laughs] I can't even leave the place now without somebody being like, "Hey! That guy!"
Reality-TV fans can find scoop on American Idol, Project Runway star Tim Gunn's new show, and a Dancing with the Stars injury in the Jan. 22 issue of TV Guide.
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