Cody Cousino / Lantern Photographer
Duff Goldman and Geof Manthorne, cake chefs on Food Network’s “Ace of Cakes,” visited Ohio State on Monday night for an appearance at the Ohio Union. Shortly before taking the stage, Goldman and Manthorne sat down for an interview with The Lantern.
“Ace of Cakes” is in its ninth season. How long do you think the show can last?
Goldman: That’s a great question, man. What do you think?
Manthorne: It’s a fine question. I mean, we think it could go forever, right? Obviously, it won’t.
Goldman: I think it will really go until we get sick of it, probably.
Since the start of “Ace of Cakes,” a lot of cake shows have appeared on Food Network and TLC. Do you think your show is the reason for that?
Goldman: Yeah, we pretty much invented it, I think. When Geof and I first started off in television, we were doing competitions. And before we got there, the competitions were pretty dry; they were pretty stark. People would make cakes, they would do their thing, there would be some tears, and that would be it. Then Geof and I started making cakes on there. We weren’t winning at all, but we were making it very entertaining and just sort of being ourselves — just sort of bringing a different generation and a different viewpoint to cake decorating. I mean look at the two of us. I think that’s when they were like, ‘You know, we can make a whole show about this.’ So they did, and because they did that, all of a sudden you started seeing all these people coming out of the woodwork, like, ‘Oh, I’ll make cakes,’ and they’ve got crazy tattoos. All of a sudden the face of the cake decorator would change. People were just a lot younger, a lot cooler, a lot hipper and a lot more adventurous, I think, in what they did. I think we definitely changed that.
When you started your business, instead of hiring a bunch of cake decorators, you hired your friends who didn’t have a background in cake decorating. Why do you think that has worked so well for you?
Goldman: Cake decorators will decorate cakes like cake decorators. There are plenty of people out there who can decorate a cake like a cake decorator. Geof and I started working together, and Geof was an architectural model-builder, so he decorated cakes like an architectural model-builder would — and you can see what he’s capable of. And so, I think it’s because we have all these different people, people like Sherri (Chambers), who are pure artists, or people like Anna (Ellison). These are the people who are artists — they didn’t decorate cakes, didn’t think about cakes. … And I think that’s probably why our cakes are so unique, and they use so many different techniques that you wouldn’t really find in a bakery just because we are coming at it from a completely different standpoint. I’m the only one that ever went to culinary school and I’m not really using — except for the baking part — not really using anything I learned in culinary school for what we do now. And plus, you know, it’s my friends — people that we like to hang out with, people that we do get along with — a lot of serious cake decorators are different.
Geof, coming from a background that didn’t involve cakes, were you hesitant to commit yourself to working in the bakery at first?
Manthorne: Yeah, I think I was ‘cause it was very small when we started. What really won me over was that it would be a way to eat my work, which I could not do prior to that.
Goldman: Geof’s got a sweet tooth.
Manthorne: I do like cake. Yes, it’s true.
What’s the most bizarre cake order you’ve received?
Goldman: If you name it, chances are someone has asked us to make it. I always find the ones for baby showers where people actually want a cake in the shape of their baby, is always a weird one. ‘Cause it’s weird, babies and pets, people are like, ‘Oh, here’s my dog. Make my dog.’ And then, OK, you do have to cut the head off your dog and eat it, you know? And that’s kind of a weird thing to do … You’re just like, ‘Did you think about this before you actually asked for it? Or are you just going to take a knife right to the cake version of your baby’s head?’
Have you ever had to turn down an order because it was too out there?
Goldman: Yeah, all the time. There are times when people ask for stuff, and it’s just like, ‘What are you really trying to accomplish with this?’ Yeah, there are definitely things. We’re a group of people that are very, very skilled at what we do, and I treasure the talent that we have in (the bakery), and I just don’t think that there are some things that we should waste it on. Sometimes an idea can be either just ridiculous or tasteless, or something that we’ll just be like, ‘That’s creative, but I think we’ll pass on that one.’ And it’s not that we’re snobby about it, it’s just something where, you know, we know what we like to do, and if it’s something we just don’t want to do, we’re not going to do it. But that’s pretty few and far between. People know that we don’t do the bachelor, bachelorette party cakes, we don’t do any of that stuff. Besides those, if somebody has a funny idea, we’ll usually do it ‘cause we want to see that. It’s like, ‘Let’s see what that looks like as a cake.’ There was one, the model — that medical thing.
Manthorne: That goes down as one of my strangest cakes … Baltimore has a lot of conventions, and there was a convention of wound care doctors and whatever else — supporters, I guess — and they wanted a cake of one of their training models, which was a buttock.
Goldman: Did you say buttock? It’s a butt.
Manthorne: It was a rump. It was a rump covered in all the different kinds of lesions and sores that a human can have, especially when confined to bed for a long time. So it was a lot of ways of, ‘How do we make this yellow … goo on our cake?’
Goldman: When it was all done, it achieved the desired effect, I think. It was disgusting — they loved it. I can’t imagine being one of those doctors and eating a piece of that cake. That’s disgusting.
On charmcitycakes.com, your bakery’s website, you state that the bakery isn’t open for tours. How many people come to the bakery and try to get in?
Manthorne: Especially when the Yankees or the Red Sox are in town. There will just be swarms of people out there trying to get in.
Goldman: Yeah, they just want to come in. And we’re polite, but we’re just like, ‘We’re filming a TV show and we’re running a bakery.’ It’s a lot funnier to actually sit inside the bakery. We’ve got blacked-out windows and just watch everybody try to see in. I mean, it’s just one of those things where we couldn’t get any work done if we let in the amount of people that come by the bakery to try to get in.
In a normal work week, how many hours do you expect to work, and how many cakes do you work on?
Goldman: We try to do 15 cakes a week, and as far as the hours go, it really doesn’t matter. I mean, if we can do those 15 cakes, I can make payroll and everyone can work four hours a day, and that’s cool. I don’t really care how long people are there, as long as the work is great. … And as long as the cakes are really good and we’re getting the work done, it really doesn’t matter. Some of the decorators don’t get there unti
l 1 or 2 o’clock in the afternoon and stay until 1, 2 in the morning.
What’s your next big event?
Manthorne: We’re making a Duff Goldman-sized baby elephant — as in, like, height.
Goldman: It’s like 5-foot. We’re making a life-sized baby elephant, putting it in a car and driving it to Arizona … We’ve been decorating cakes for a long time and we’ve learned how weird people really can be. You definitely sort of learn a lot about humans and their quirks. And we’ve dealt with so many different kinds of people, it’s crazy.