Back Story: Duff Goldman
Duff Goldman is no ordinary pastry chef. As the owner of Charm City Cakes in Baltimore and Charm City Cakes West in Los Angeles, he uses blowtorches and power drills to sculpt custom-made creations for clients. Preservation spoke with Goldman, the host of the Food Network’s Ace of Cakes and Duff Till Dawn, about his love of history and his architecture-inspired cakes.
Tell us about the first bakery you opened in Baltimore.
It’s in an old church that was built in the 1890s. But it’s been so many different things: a sewing factory, a wine bar, an art gallery. There was a small kitchen inside, and the first thing we did was expand it. The building needed quite a bit of work to get it back into shape, but it was totally worth it.
You majored in history, right?
Yes. I knew I wanted to be a chef, but I wasn’t thinking that far ahead. I thought I should take classes in subjects that interested me. The thing about history is that it’s fun stories—fun stories that really happened.
Is there a moment in history you would visit if you could?
I’d love to be an artist in Italy in the 1400s. The Renaissance was such an exciting time. There were all these new ideas. People were studying nature, art, anatomy, new forms of government.
You make so many interesting cakes—volcanoes, animals, cars. Do you ever make ones of old buildings?
When people order a cake, they want something that means something to them, and a lot of times that’s a building or a place. Maybe something personal happened to them there, or it represents where they’re from.
We’ve done a lot of baseball stadiums, like Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. We’ve done the Taj Mahal. We just did a 100-square-foot model of downtown Baltimore.
How do you turn a building into a cake?
You look at the building in totality, and you think about the things that make it that particular building. When you take a building and shrink it down to 2 feet high, you’re going to lose a lot of detail. You can’t make every single brick or every single window.
So you pick the most important things and put them in the right place and at the right size. Then you draw [the design] from the front, the back, the top, the sides, and you make templates.
Is there any building you dream of turning into a cake one day?
We’ve done the United States Capitol Building several times, and I’ve never been 100 percent satisfied with the outcome. It’s a very difficult building. I’d really like another crack at it.