Thursday, February 10, 2011

It's end of the line for "Ace of Cakes"


Behind the scenes at Charm City Cakes -- the first showing of the final episode of Ace of Cakes, "Charm City Cakes Goes Back to the Future" (with Michael J. Fox and Leah Thompson promised), airs on Food Network tonight at 10pm ET/9pm CT.

by Ken

It's no doubt a sensible decision on the part of all concerned to ring down the curtain on Ace of Cakes. How many more preposterous, pointless cakes can the crew at Charm City Cakes turn out?

Whoever got the idea that the True Miracle of Cake wasn't good enough was, in my opinion, nuts. The True Miracle of Cake, in case it isn't obvious, is that you can take flour, some kind of liquid and fat, some kind of sweetener and flavoring and leavening agents, mix them into a batter, and bake it all into . . . ta-da, cake! Okay, when it cools, you're probably going to want to frost it generously -- I'm thinking a nice buttercream, or maybe an Italian or Swiss meringue. Does it get any better?

Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of bread. Good, fresh-baked bread. Staff of life and all that. But slice off a hunk of, say, a nice
chocolate layer cake (which, as we've noted before, can be stretched to mean pretty much any kind of cake -- like white, yellow, or chocolate -- as long as the frosting is chocolate), and . . . well, there you go! A miracle. Somebody call the pope!

As I've also said before, I wouldn't watch either Food Network's Ace of Cakes, which chronicles Duff Goldman's specialty cake-baking crew at Charm City in Baltimore, or the Learning Channel's Cake Boss, which brings us into the world of "Cake Boss" Buddy Valastro Jr. and his family at Carlo's Bakery in Hoboken, if there weren't frequent testimony to the pleasurable edibility of the often truly amazing cakes they turn out.

Yes, even though it all seems to me a terrible waste of cake, even I can admire -- at least up to a point -- the imagination and skill that goes into the making of these preposterous products.

The two bakeries are different, and complementary in various ways. The Charm City people are very much like a family, only better, because these people have chosen to be working together. As Duff explains in the intro that has launched however many million episodes the show will have racked up as of tonight's finale, when he started the bakery, he hired the most talented people he knew: his friends. In this category fall his right-hand man, the laconic, inscrutable, and unstumpable Geof, who seems to tackle every challenge quietly, methodically, and unflappably, and the infinitely patient and organized Mary Alice, whose skills carved out her role as office manager.

I can't think of a proper segue, so let me just say that I'm not sure we've met any more remarkable character than Geof's dog Cotton, whose personality -- calm and unflappable -- seems an exact match for his owner.

Most of the people we've watched over the years at Charm City weren't previous Duff "known associates." And a lot of the fun of the show has been watching all those people who came into the place with no previous experience of this sort of work (well, where would you have gotten experience of this sort of work, which hardly existed . . . well, before Ace of Cakes) acquire impressive ranges of skills through which they express their particular personalities and talents. However pointless the challenges they take on may seem to me, it's been fun watching them tackle those challenges.

Of course it's been fun watching them week by week, season by season, dealing with one another as well as the outside world -- an outside world in which they were becoming increasingly well-known. They're all celebrities now, at least of a sort. That celebrity will presumably provide many of the Charm City folks with ongoing opportunities. In any case, I assume Charm City is going to go on after the series ends. Certainly the shows will continue to be shown and seen.

I know I'll miss the gang. I wish them well.

(We still need to talk more about Cake Boss, but tonight is Ace of Cakes's night.)



At 6:57 PM, Anonymous Tom M said...

Loved the clip. I worked for Hershey for over 2 years and my favorite spot in the factory was the Kiss line where the freshly deposited, just cooled kisses were headed for the wrapping machine. Just pick 'em up and taste the good.
The peanut sorting machine room was interesting, a family worked the room about 11 of them. Great place, too bad it's Chocolate World but still fun to visit.

At 6:59 PM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Cool, Tom! Thanks for sharing that! I really do love Hershey's chocolate, so it would be a dangerous place for me. (No, I've never been!)



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