Friday, April 3, 2009

"Fuck It, Let's Bake!"

Normally when you think of bakers you think of a sweet, older couple who gets up at 4 am every morning to make the bread fresh in their yellow and green tiled kitchen. Their cakes are delicately decorated with sugar daisies and thick buttercream icing that's a secret family recipe passed down for generations.

What you don't think of is a kitchen outfitted with lumber, table saws, sanders and a blow torch, or elaborate cakes filled with movable car engine parts, live explosives and in prefect replicas of family dogs, guitars and even the Hubble Space Telescope (coming this weekend at NASA's Yuri's Night party). But that's how they run things at Charm City Cakes.

(yes, that's a cake)

Famous from the Food Network show, Ace of Cakes, Chef Duff Goldman came out to UMD's campus for a sold-out lecture on Wednesday night. Working in the same office as SEE (Student Entertainment Events) surely has its perks as Tad was able to not only score us tickets, but VIP passes to the after party cake eating party.

Standing at only 5'4", a doughy Duff talked about how he went from spray painting train cars, to welding, to UMBC, to making corn bread and biscuits in hotel kitchens, to snow boarding, to culinary school, to Baltimore where he got his business off the ground by running it out of his tiny apartment with his rocker friends. Cake decorating was a trade he once said was only for housewives, but when he got pigeonholed at a job and realized he was incredibly good at it, he called his dad.

"My dad has a Ph. D. in economics so I called him up and said 'Dad, what do I do?' he said, 'you want to make cakes?' yeah... 'are you good at making cakes?' yeah... 'do you want to sell cakes?' yeah... 'well then make cakes! You want to make cakes, than make cakes!' It was so Jewish it hurt."

With the help of a big time producer brother in Hollywood, plus competing in several cooking challenges across the country where he never took first place because most cooking competitions don't allow cakes to be set on fire, TV show execs started to take notice and boom - Ace of Cakes was born.

"When I was out in Colorado before all of this happened, and my stoner friends all told me 'dude, you should have your own show and we'll call it 'Fuck It, Let's Bake!" and so they did. They make a Monty Python of sorts cooking show, making actual cooking shows look like a joke - complete with having the "audience" smoke pot beforehand to make them "extra hungry." They gave it to Willie, Duff's brother, and well... the rest is history.

"If you come across a chef that doesn't smoke pot, he's lying... or he won't survive for long," Duff said.

The reality show is basically this - someone calls in an order, the baking team made up of hipsters, garage band members and artists all friends of Duff from years ago, design it, they bake, it's awesome, it's enormous and may explode, it's presented, done. One of the main people in the show, Mary Ellen, went to the University of Maryland so Duff called her up while on stage and she gave a shout out to her fellow Terps over a cell phone held up to the mic.

Duff's favorite cake: Hogwarts

One of the most interesting things I took away from the lecture was during the Q&A someone said she had been making cakes for a long time and how important was it to go to culinary school. Expecting Duff to blow it off and say he was too cool for school, he instead explained something completely opposite, saying that anyone can cook a tenderloin but you must be taught the chemical compounds of meringue and the exact temperature for butter to simmer so that your cakes don't topple over.

At the VIP party, Duff stood there and cut the entire red velvet Testudo cake for the 150 guests invited to stay.

Tad and I had a long wait to get a slice but it was worth it - verdict: delicious - can scratch 'have a piece of $2000+ cake made by Charm City Cake bakers' off the list.

Oh yeah, and getting my picture taken with the Duff himself. Check :)

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