Turn on the Team Duff lights. It’s Showtime for Hollywood Cakestars!
By Erin Eckert
Melrose Avenue is known as the place “cool kids” hang out and undoubtedly why Duff Goldman chose this location for his new concept store Duff’s Cakemix. This lovely place is a do-it-yourself shop attached to Charm City Cakes West, which is an offshoot of their original location in Baltimore. With such an enormous clientele following the success of Ace of Cakes, Duff was able to guarantee the same service & quality by opening a location to serve his fans on the West Coast ~ where we recently had the delicious opportunity to attend a Cake & Champagne tasting event led by the fun and fabulous Duff Goldman himself. How could one pass up this festive evening with this creative wonder? This was indulgence at its finest. Duff is much more than a simple cake decorator. He was a creative kid with interests in music & art, particularly in graffiti. Here in LA they feature the exact same flavors, ingredients & soulful artistry as in Baltimore. You can choose prebaked cakes or cupcakes to decorate to your heart’s content. The storefront stands out along the trendy designer strip with its unique neon signage & orange white color scheme.
A large “Team Duff” was proudly ablaze above the decorating tables. It made us visitors feel as if we all were a part of the creative process about to unfold. Walking into this vast industrial workshop full of wonderful colored frosting kits, perfect sugar roses along with an edible airbrush booth, makes you feel as if you are back in elementary school art class where you can’t wait to put your apron on and get messy. Duff dove right into a lecture on his beloved buttercream, on which he is a self-proclaimed expert.
Who knew there were French, Swiss, and Italian versions of buttercream? Italian is his favorite as it is the most stable and is only 40% fat by volume as compared to our American grocery store version at 100%. His cakes are never frozen, always fresh. While all educational, all we could think of was devouring the cut pieces awaiting us in the corner. Whisk pendant lights are aglow above the community butcher-block tables with our “Flavor Menu” on display which we drool over while champagne is served.
The cake flavors included: “Chocolate Espresso” which is brewed daily and added to the butter; Bakery favorite “Cardamom & Pistachio” which has hints of toasted cardamom, roasted pistachios and Swiss buttercream; “Butterscotch Walnut” has toasted walnuts ground into the mix while a homemade butterscotch drizzle is added. We tried the “Ginger & Green Tea” which is light and fresh.
The next was “Vegan Chocolate” which was exceptionally good and you wouldn’t know it was missing some of our favorite ingredients except for the name. They have Vegan & gluten-free baking days so there is no cross-contamination. The last – and our personal favorite – was their “Carrot Cake” which their secret is to add a little Chinese 5-spice and steep into the cream.
There were so many other flavors we would have loved to try! S’mores, Lemon Poppy Seed, Bananas Foster, Brown Butter, and Duff’s personal favorite, “Pumpkin Chocolate Chip”. It was the perfect atmosphere for mingling and it was fun to banter back and forth with other wannabe cake connoisseurs. In due course we were sent home with our own box of cupcakes and frosting to decorate our own little pieces of heaven. What a treat!
Q&A with Duff
1. What do you resolve NOT to do this year?
I think I am most resolved not to eat like someone who has been in this industry for his whole life. I am resolved to eat as if everything I taste is new to me. My palate has become somewhat jaded and I don’t like it!
2. What are you toasting to this 2013?
Health, Love, and the new industrial revolution. May we embrace all three in their own fashion.
3. Charm City Cakes West – what was the most rewarding part of opening it up?
I think the best part of opening here in LA has been the warm welcome we have received by Angelenos. Everybody we meet tell us how happy they are that we are here and making the kinds of cakes that we make. That’s such a nice feeling knowing that people here know who we are and what we do and they LOVE it!
4. Where are you headed this year?
Well, I was named as an official Chef Diplomat for the US State Department. I just got back from an outreach trip to Bogota, Colombia where I met with culinary students. This year, I’m scheduled for Algeria and possibly Tel Aviv and Shanghai. I think I’ll also be doing some really fun things with Charm City Cakes, and don’t be surprised if you see me filming something…
5. What is it that you know now in the culinary industry that you wished you knew ten years ago?
The more you believe you know everything, the less you allow yourself to learn.
6. What current culinary trends excite you the most?
I think the most exciting culinary trend now is the back to basics mentality of many new chefs. Diners nowadays are so much more informed and knowledgeable about food, restaurants, and chefs that people are really cutting out the smoke and mirrors and fancy words and ingredients that nobody has ever heard of. Instead, we are re-learning the fundamentals of cooking and applying this new re-discovery of the things that excited us when we were all young cooks just starting out to what we are doing now, ergo, our food has a deeper presence in our minds and on our plates and in the mouths of our guests.
Visit Duff’s Cakemix!
8302 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90069
Toll Free 855-4-CAKEMIX