By Charles Passy
MarketWatch asked the founder of Baltimore-based bakery Charm City Cakes: What do you serve for dessert on Thanksgiving?
The Ace of Cakes still aspires to be a master of his craft. Especially when it comes to his Thanksgiving dessert.
We’re talking about Duff Goldman, founder of Baltimore-based bakery Charm City Cakes, known for its over-the-top, intricately designed creations. Goldman and his business rose to fame when “Ace of Cakes,” a television show chronicling life in the bakery, began airing on the Food Network in 2006.
Goldman, who has baked cakes for occasions ranging from one of President Barack Obama’s inaugurations to a birthday party for Tony Bennett, has since hosted more shows for the Food Network. And as a judge, he appears in the new season of “Christmas Baking Championships” and also in two Christmas specials.
But Goldman has a life outside of the bakery and the television studio. Her latest cookbook, “Super Good Cookies for Kids,” was released earlier this month. And she continues to play bass in a rock band (music was one of her first loves) in whatever spare time she has.
MarketWatch recently caught up with Goldman, who now lives in California with her family, to learn about her Thanksgiving plans and to ask her a series of financial and other questions. Here are edited excerpts from the conversation.
MarketWatch: Let’s start with the most important question you can ask Duff Goldman before Thanksgiving: What do you serve for dessert on the holidays?
Goldman: This year I’m going to make two pecan pies and two pumpkin pies. There is a South African dish called milk tart. My wife saw a picture (of that) and said, “I want that.” So I’m doing that. I made chocolate ice cream. I made a Chinese Cardamom Five Spice Ice Cream. I made a vanilla ice cream. I’m making mandel bread, (which are) just cookies to dip in coffee. And I’m also making Parker House cornbread and bagels.
MarketWatch: This is for how many people?
Goldman: About 20.
MarketWatch: Feeling Unusual Pressure During the Holidays? Because obviously people know you as a pastry connoisseur.
Goldman: I don’t really feel the pressure. Look, I’m pretty confident in my abilities as a baker, so I enjoy the process. I love baking, and it makes me happy to know that everyone will get really delicious things.
MarketWatch: What is one basic piece of advice you would give home bakers to keep in mind during the holidays?
Goldman: One of the best things you can do is try to stagger your work. So, for example, if you’re making a lot of cakes, you can make your cake batter and roll it out two to three days ahead. You can possibly roll it out a year ahead, put it in the freezer, and it’s good until it’s time to bake it. That way, you won’t be doing everything on Thanksgiving, right? You finish a lot of your work before the big day.
MarketWatch: You have a new children’s cookbook. Why do you think it is important that our children enter the kitchen?
Goldman: Cooking is very important to children for many different reasons. One is that cooking is a lot of fun. It’s like potions class in Harry Potter. Children love to make things and when you can make something and eat it, it is quite magical for children. I think it’s also teaching kids to understand what they’re going to put in their bodies and to know how things are made. What’s in certain things and (what are) the things you can eat a lot of and the things you shouldn’t eat a lot of. By knowing how to cook, they can really control that.
MarketWatch: How does playing in a rock band influence your baking and vice versa?
Goldman: It’s fun. When I started Charm City Cakes in 2002, I literally started it to have a way to pay my apartment rent while trying to be in a successful touring rock band. And it’s kind of true to this day. I’m still waiting for my big record deal to go through. Like all cooking is just my day job.
MarketWatch: What is something you hate spending money on?
Goldman: One thing I hate spending money on is the medical industrial complex, the cost of everything. It’s such a backwards system designed to enrich a few people, and really hurt everyone else. It just has to change, and I don’t know what that (means). I’m a cake decorator, right? I don’t do politics. The profits of these (health care) companies are unbelievably egregious. Every time I pay insurance bills and hospital bills it really irritates me. My family and I are fortunate to have the means to pay for medical care. A lot of people can’t.
MarketWatch: Conversely, what is something you like to splurge on?
Goldman: So, it’s funny. What I really like to spend are tools, like woodworking stuff. I am a carpenter and I like to make things. Like right now, I have this two-year project that I’ve been working on for my daughter (a set of hand-painted wooden blocks) and I’m going to give it to her for her second birthday. I bought some really nice polishing pads that are a little more expensive than they should be. But that’s the kind of stuff I really like.
MarketWatch: What is your favorite possession?
Goldman: My 1969 Fender P (Precision) bass. It’s the softest bass (guitar) I’ve ever played. And I’m like, “Where have you been all my life?” I love my other basses, but when I started playing this one, I thought, “Oh my gosh. It’s wonderful.”
MarketWatch: Any financial advice you’ve taken to heart?
Goldman: I’m pretty bad at personal finance. I have a guy who handles all of that for me now because I’m a creative person. I am good at starting businesses. I’m not good at handling them.
MarketWatch: Do you think you’ll ever retire?
Goldman: My wife and I were talking about what I would do if I ever retired because I constantly need to do things. I build things. I play music. I have so many interests and hobbies that I would go crazy if I just sat down. One of the things we talked about (is that) I love to teach. And if I ever retire, I think I want to get a job, close to where I live in Los Angeles, just teaching high school cooking classes.
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