Pastry chef Duff Goldman may never have actually said, “Let them eat cake,” but he’s built a life around doing just that. Not in the Marie Antoinette way but in a joyous way of creating wild and imaginative desserts at his Baltimore-based Charm City Cakes; a Los Angeles branch, Charm City West; and Duff’s Cake Mix, where Goldman fans can learn to bake like the master.
He has starred in a host of Food Network series, beginning with a 10-year run with Ace of Cakes, moving on to competition-themed Duff to Dawn and, for the under-18 crowd, Kids Baking Championships. In Cake Masters,viewers got to go into the kitchen with Goldman as he and his crew dreamed up and executed cakes like a replica of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts School, a giant Transformer, a life-size baby-elephant cake, and even a nine-tiered star-spangled cake for one of President Barack Obama’s inaugural balls.
Inspired to bake as a child by his Ukrainian great-grandmother, “Mamo,” the Detroit-born Goldman was as interested in art as he was in cooking. He studied at the University of Maryland and Corcoran College of Art as well as at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, in California. He applied himself to graffiti art and did a stage at the French Laundry. And in Baltimore, he opened his own shop, Charm City Cakes, in 2002. His crew consists not only of great bakers but also non-cooking types who know how to work with moving parts, smoke machines, and building materials. Art meets the stove every day in Duff Goldman’s world.
“Hijinks are really important for morale,” Goldman has said of the way his team works. “If everyone’s freaked out and scared of the chef, you’re not going to make good food. I wanted to make Charm City a very fun environment; I wanted people who were goofy and colorful, who could put that energy into their decorating.” Mission accomplished.