Ace of Cakes sweetens Monday
Zombie hands, skyscrapers and Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. What do they all have in common? All have been made into cake creations by cake artist Jeffrey Adam “Duff” Goldman, who came to speak to students in Graham Chapel on Monday as part of the Congress of the South 40’s (CS40) Spring South 40 Week of festivities.
Goldman is the star of the Food Network’s reality television show Ace of Cakes. He is the owner of Charm City Cakes, a cake shop and bakery in Baltimore, Maryland. Along with a team of artists, Goldman designs and creates one-of-a-kind cakes.
Goldman opened Charm City Cakes in 2000. Back then, it was operated out of his house with the help of two assistants. According to Goldman, he only opened this impromptu bakery in order to fund his indie rock band, So I Had To.
In his appearance at Graham Chapel, Goldman took questions from members of CS40 and the audience.
A central theme of Goldman’s answers was the concept of art. In his perspective, Goldman sees his craft and the work of his employees as an art.
“Everyone has an idea about art,” he said. “If I didn’t know my craft, I wouldn’t know my art. My art will suck if my craft sucks.”
This same philosophy carries through to the staff seen in episodes of “Ace of Cakes.”
“You’ve seen my staff,” Goldman said. “They’re pretty much awesome. I have an artistic staff. They are not motivated by money. They are there to do the work, even if it requires staying late.”
Goldman also highlighted the fact that Charm City Cakes originally became a success without a clear business model. Goldman does not have any background in business, but his model is one in which the customer should always be made happy.
“We make nice cakes. We’re nice to people,” he said. “It’s our business model; it works. I don’t know anything about business.”
Several members of the audience asked questions about baking and cooking. While Goldman was not specific about how beginning bakers could improve, he simply advised audience members to practice.
“Practice. Do it over and over,” he said. “Do it ’til you get it right. Buy a book on how to decorate cakes. It’s a pain in the ass; it’s not easy.”
Although on the show it might appear as though Goldman comes up with the ideas for his cakes, oftentimes, unique ideas for cakes come directly from the consumer.
“A lot of inspiration comes from the people asking us to make cakes,” he said. “They tell us what they want, we draw them a picture and then we sit down and talk about it.”
At this stage, while Goldman and his team are usually able to envision a design, sometimes they are not.
“Sometimes, after agreeing with the customer, we go, ‘Whoa, we don’t know how to make this. What were you thinking?’”
Goldman was also asked about the ways in which the reality show has changed his life.
“My personal style really hasn’t changed since high school,” he quipped. “I try not to let [being on the TV show] affect me. I try to hold to not being anything different from four years ago when I started filming. The biggest thing is staying true to yourself. I am not a TV star; I am a cake decorator.”
Goldman was frank when answering students’ questions and did not hold anything back.
“I’m very candid,” he said. “If everyone thinks I talk like I do on a G-rated TV show, beware.”
Students agreed with his comments about the way he talked.
“He’s a very funny guy—very blunt,” freshman Jessica Filderman said.
Other students also liked additional aspects of his personality.
“Duff is a really cool guy. It surprised me how down-to-earth he was, and I just love his attitude,” junior Kelsey Robb said.