Behind the Scenes of Cake Masters

Get an inside look at all the work Duff Goldman and his Charm City Cakes West crew put into creating the epic cakes in Season 1.

Photo By: Darren Hafford ©DHP Darren Hafford Photography

Photo By: Darren Hafford ©DHP Darren Hafford Photography

Photo By: Darren Hafford ©DHP Darren Hafford Photography

Photo By: Darren Hafford ©DHP Darren Hafford Photography

Photo By: Darren Hafford ©DHP Darren Hafford Photography

Photo By: Darren Hafford ©DHP Darren Hafford Photography

Photo By: M.J. Loheed ©2012

Photo By: M.J. Loheed ©2012

Photo By: M.J. Loheed ©2012

Photo By: M.J. Loheed ©2012

Photo By: M.J. Loheed ©2012

Photo By: M.J. Loheed ©2012

Photo By: M.J. Loheed ©2012

Photo By: M.J. Loheed ©2012

Photo By: Adam Rose ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Adam Rose ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Adam Rose ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Adam Rose ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Adam Rose ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Going Back to the Docks

For the 30th anniversary of Dockers, Duff was asked to create a cake for the celebration to be held at the company's headquarters in San Francisco. President Lisa Collier came to Duff's bakery to meet about the cake. "How do I take khaki pants and make it cool?" Duff asks, but he decides his cake will be a tribute to the city with local landmarks, a dock, a boat and a crane. And it all had to be complete in one week.

Dealing with the Unexpected

Geof and Marc braved the cake delivery up and over the steep hills of the city, and the cake made it to Dockers in shipshape. But after setting up the smoke mechanism for the steamboat, Geof encountered an issue. "Why would it work on the day of the delivery," Duff said sarcastically. With just six minutes to spare before the cake had to be revealed, Geof made a miraculous fix. "I was determined to make that thing work," he said.

Right Down to the Details

Duff unveiled the cake, complete with a steaming steamboat, a foggy cityscape made from combining water and dry ice, and a remote-controlled dock that moves shipping containers from one end of the cake to the other. The cake also included a dozen miniature Dockers-wearing people, made by artist Caroline McFarlane-Watts. "All these outfits are exactly to Dockers specs," Duff explained. "Caroline knew exactly what I was looking for."

Celebrating the Company and Its Employees

Everyone was greatly impressed by the cake's size and look. "The office scene is definitely my favorite," said Duff of the miniature workers inside a cutaway on the skyscraper cake. Immediately after the unveiling, employees gathered to line up for slices of the cake, which Duff and Geof carved on the spot and handed out. "Duff did an amazing job," said Lisa. "I think this cake was more than worthy of the 30th anniversary of the brand."

Firing up the Palate and the Imagination

Duff and his crew have been asked to create a cake to celebrate the 45th anniversary of Tapatio hot sauce, created by Jose-Luis Saavedra Sr., aka Grandpa. His son Luis Jr. invited Duff and Geof to tour the factory, which inspired Duff to create a cake involving fire. "You're crazy," Luis told Duff. But after hearing Duff's idea for a giant sombrero cake filled with sugary replicas of Mexican foods, such as street corn, Luis and the rest of the family were thrilled to see what the cake masters could come up with.

Sugary-Sweet Realism

At the center of the cake will be a giant hot sauce bottle-shaped cake that will shoot fire; next to that will be the sombrero-shaped Mexican chocolate cake with a brim filled with foods and edible replicas of the famous hot sauce bottle. Geof goes to work on creating them out of isomalt. "That would have knocked you out," Geof said after testing the breakability of one of the bottles. Duff plans to later fill them with mango-raspberry coulis to mimic the hot sauce — in sweet form.

Fire in the Hole!

To pull off the flaming features of the cake, Duff called in Elia, who created both the fire-shooting apparatus for the hot sauce cake and the brand's logo out of metal, lit from behind in fire. But before the team could present the cake, a fire marshal showed up to check on the safety. Luckily, everything passed muster when Elia demonstrated how it worked. Elia even helped assemble the cake as the guys rushed to finish in time for the big reveal.

Living Up to the Challenge

"This is one of the best cakes we've ever made," said Duff, noting the feat it took to pull it off, as well as all the work that went into making the array of Mexican foods out of fondant and gum paste. Worried at first that Grandpa Saavedra wasn't going to like it, Duff was excited to get Grandpa's stamp of approval. "This is exactly what we had anticipated," said Luis Jr. "This is worth a 45th anniversary cake." Afterward all the kids had the chance to take a smack at the piñata, which was made out of isomalt.

A Cake That Transforms

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Transformers, Stephen Davis, executive vice president and chief content officer for Hasbro, contacted Duff's bakery to see if Duff would be up to making a cake. Immediately Duff dreamt up a design for a 7-foot-long cake featuring Megatron and a transforming Optimus Prime. "[It's] the one thing that I've wanted to do for 10 years, but I've never attempted it," Duff said of the challenge in creating a cake with motion.

Dreaming Maybe Just a Bit Too Big

The crew completes the cake in time for the event. It features a cake landscape with a 3-foot rice cereal treat Megatron and a 4-foot Optimus Prime cake. The only hitch: The actuator that enables the transformation doesn't have enough power under the weight of the Optimus Prime cake. "This may finally be the cake where we've gone too big," said Geof, unsure whether the cake will work at all.

Pulling Off a Last-Minute Miracle

Just before the cake reveal, Fon Davis, the transformation mechanism's designer, showed up with a stronger actuator. But there's no time to test the cake when the people from Hasbro and a crowd of fans are eagerly awaiting. "This has to work," said Duff, willing a miracle as he triggered the button. The semitruck transforms into Optimus Prime, leaving everyone in the audience agape.

A Transformative Success

"I'm blown away by how much he totally hit it out of the park," Stephen said after seeing the transformation in front of his eyes. Frank Welker, the voice of Megatron, and Peter Cullen, the voice of Optimus Prime, both of whom were celebrating birthdays, were on hand to witness the spectacle. "It was such a cool moment," said Geof. "I think I saw Peter Cullen eat four pieces of cake."

An Epic Cake for an Epic Project

There's no job too big for Duff, and that includes making a cityscape cake of Hollywood. The Friends of the Hollywood Central Park project needs a cake for its annual fundraising gala. President Laurie Goldman hopes to raise money for the future 38-acre park to be built over Highway 101, and Duff wants to re-create that dream in 34 square feet of cake. "This is why I love making cakes in LA," he said of the job.

Old and New, All-in-One Cake

To pull off this architectural feat, Duff and his crew did research on all the famous attractions of the city; they included in the cake landmarks such as the Capitol Records building, the Chinese Theatre and, of course, the Hollywood sign. To show the progression from old Hollywood to new, half the cake is in black and white, and the other half is in full color with the new park over the highway. "It's like coming to life," Duff said of the concept.

Detailing the Cityscape

Using easily carveable carrot cake for the mountains, chocolate cake for the Capitol Records building, yellow cake for the organization's logo cake and rice cereal treats for the smaller buildings, the team is able to re-create Hollywood in a scaled-down edible form. Each detail was tediously produced down to the palm trees. Duff even brought in production designer and art director Jessee Clarkson to build a lifelike highway with vehicles, signs and streetlights.

Sweet Promise for the Future

"This was the coolest cake I've ever seen," said Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles, upon seeing the cake for the first time at the gala event. "It was all there. It was perfect," said Laurie, impressed Duff took on the challenge and delivered it. "The reaction to this cake was one of the best I've ever seen," said Geof. "I think we all felt really proud that we were a part of this idea for the future of Los Angeles."

Pulling Off a Monster-Sized Cake

The owners of Monster Jam have asked Duff to create an epic cake to celebrate Dennis Anderson, the creator of Grave Digger, one of the most-popular monster trucks. With only four days to make the cake, Duff called in his special-effects guy, Elia Popov (right) from Jem FX, to help pull off a fully operational chocolate ganache-slinging cake. "That is going to be a cake," Duff said, pointing at the real monster truck behind him.

Revealing a Monster-piece

Duff personally carved the body of the cake out of chocolate and vanilla sheet cakes, using 30 pounds of buttercream to coat it. After covering it in black fondant, his team of decorators spent many hours decorating it to match the real monster truck. The cake alone ended up 5 feet long and 4 feet tall, not counting Elia's operational base. After lifting the creation into place, Duff was ready to reveal it. "Once this thing goes, it's going to be covered in chocolate," said Duff, before turning on the cake.

At One with His Art

With chocolate ganache going everywhere, Duff runs into the line of fire — and gets covered with chocolate ganache. "It was like a firehose of chocolate in my face," he said. The crowd of 14,000 fans cheers on, witnessing a spectacular, never-before-seen monster truck cake spring into action. Dennis was quite impressed: "It works, it moves — and you can eat it!"

Digging In to Grave Digger

"You're not going to see much better than that," said Geof, who, after witnessing the spectacle, assists Duff in passing out pieces of cake to fans, who can't believe it's actually edible. "It was a big, sloppy delicious mess," said Duff, happily cutting up slices while covered in chocolate. "Duff had every detail down," said Dennis. Afterward, Duff and his decorating crew stay to watch Dennis and Grave Digger in action, capping off a memorable event.

When Skylanders Come Calling

With less than a week's notice, the people at Activision called Duff's bakery to see if he and his team could create a cake to celebrate the five-year anniversary of the video gaming company's Skylanders game. "We love projects like this, but we [usually] have three weeks or a month to prepare," said Geof Manthorne, Duff's right-hand man. But after meeting with the production team, Duff and Geof are on board despite the time crunch.

Delivery on Demand

Mark Muller, bakery general manager and Duff's voice of reason, helps Duff carry the Spyro portion of the cake to the event held at the Activision headquarters. Spyro has an LED light in his mouth to mimic his dragon-like fire-breathing qualities. Unfortunately, Mark had to put the kibosh on the Kaos portion of the cake emitting real, live electricity for fear of injuring spectators or melting the cake. LED orbs will have to do.

Coming to the Rescue

Luckily, the genius who helped with the special effects, artist Fon Davis, showed up just in time to help iron out some technical difficulties. "This is straight-up MacGyver," said Duff after Fon had to hotwire the remote control to operate all the characters, including Eruptor — who, in this case, is spewing pudding instead of lava. Duff presented the approximately 300-pound cake to hundreds of screaming kid fans.

Captivating Everyone's Imagination

The production team is so impressed that they can't stop calling the cake “amazing.” And Duff blows the minds of the kids in the audience when he proves it's really a cake by cutting into the creation and serving slices. "It really captured the feel, tone and essence of the Skylanders franchise," said Richard Horvitz, who voices Kaos.

More Cake Masters

Learn more about Duff Goldman and his creative team, and go behind the scenes at the bakery and see their creative process.

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