LAURIE: Ladies, gentlemen, listen up. You want all of your wedding vendors, and especially your cake maker, to think like (or be) Duff Goldman.
“I’m kind of the anti-wedding industry wedding vendor,” said Mr. Goldman, proprietor of Charm City Cakes in Baltimore, Maryland. “The wedding industry is designed to rip people off. There’s so much nasty stuff that goes on, so many line items. ‘You want us to smile? That’s a dollar a person. You want real silver or china? That’s an extra fifty dollars a person.’ The best wedding party I’ve been to was when a friend of mine got married in Alaska. They came back and we had a camp-out bonfire in rural Pennsylvania. Everybody wore shorts and T-shirts and we roasted a pig. The whole thing was potluck. I made his wedding cake, which was a huge totem pole. It was great because there was none of that weird wedding pressure to do the ‘right thing.’ Of course, weddings are our bread and butter, so I don’t want to say that people shouldn’t have weddings. But, you know, people are financing their weddings. Why are you gonna start off your new life together in debt, just because you wanted to have a big fancy party? Go to the justice of the peace, spend the money on a down payment on a house or go on a blowout vacation.”
Bread and butter indeed: Goldman said that wedding cakes account for about seventy percent of his business at Charm City. In his massive workspace, peopled with his friends, who are also his employees, you’ll see stoner cakes, pink cell-phone cakes (paging Paris Hilton!), handgun cakes. What kind of cakes won’t he do? “The whole round- square-round-square thing,” he said. “It’s totally lame, and it doesn’t look good. It doesn’t have the effect that people want it to have.” Also: cupcakes. “They’re a pain in the ass. It’s just not what we do.” Amen to that. What about, you know, dirty cakes? Silence. Then: “No comment.” Then: a knowing laugh. “Yeah, we’ve done a lot of that.” Not so much for weddings, though. Mr. Goldman recalled a tattooed Baltimore rock musician who requested that an S&M-style ball gag be crafted from black gum paste and placed atop his wedding cake. “I was like, ‘I can, but I would rather not,'” he said. “It’s like, your grandma’s gonna be there, dude.” Duff Goldman doesn’t need to be known among his core client base as they guy who upset the elderly guests with his dirty sex cake. The musician wisely reconsidered.
“This week we’re doing a Mercury DA cop car, like a totally random cop car,” Mr. Goldman said. “We’re doing a space shuttle. We got a craps table. We got a bushel of crabs. Everyone’s into what they’re into.” What would he refuse on principle? “If someone came in and asked for Hitler’s birthday cake, I’d fucking step on their neck, and my whole staff would back me up,” he said. “My last name is Goldman, for Christ’s sake.”
Mr. Goldman has a television show on the Food Network, called “Ace of Cakes.” Fortunately, the allusion to poker in the show’s title is just an attempt by Food Network types to attract the college educated Girls Gone Wild demographic; the host doesn’t perform card tricks or play 5-card stud with Andy Dick or roadtrip to the Borgata on the air.
It’s a show about him and his friends joking around and nursing hangovers and cursing a little bit while they make really impressive personalized cakes, which they then deliver. It is obvious that they take pride in what they do, and are very good at it. Ace of Cakes is currently my second-favorite TV show. (First place: Fresh Meat. ) However, as talented as he is, Mr. Goldman will not be baking my wedding cake. Stay tuned for the story of that very special confection queen.