Duff Goldman salutes military with inaugural cake


This May 1, 2011 file photo shows Duff Goldman, the cake master behind Food Network's reality show “Ace of Cakes,” speaking in Los Angeles. Goldman is making the cake for President Obama’s Commander-in-Chief’s Ball. (Katy Winn/AP)
January 20, 2013

At this point in Duff Goldman’s career — after opening bakeries on two coasts, creating a sugary replica of the GE Building for the 100th episode of “30 Rock,” and engineering a 61-pound cupcake to try to set a Guinness world record — you wouldn’t think anything could rattle the founder of Baltimore’s Charm City Cakes. But Goldman’s assignment to design President Obama’s inauguration cake for the Commander-in-Chief’s Ball on Monday seems to have stirred his batter.

“When you’re doing a cake like this, you know that everybody is going to be looking at it,” says Goldman from Los Angeles, where he recently opened Charm City Cakes West and Cakemix. “It’s a lot of pressure. The more recognition you get for something that you do, the greater the pressure becomes, because more people are looking for a mistake. So you really gotta make sure your work is top-notch.”

As you might suspect, the president’s nine-tier cake will be more elegant than some of the extreme confections Goldman created for “Ace of Cakes” on the Food Network. The celebrity baker says Obama’s dessert has a silver, 18-inch base that becomes light blue, then navy blue, as it tapers to the top. The bottom layer will boast red stripes, while another layer will feature red, white and blue bunting. The cake will include not just the presidential seal, but also the seals of the five branches ofthe military, each made with fondant, gum paste and royal icing. Stars attached to wires will appear to burst from the creation.

“It looks like fireworks,” Goldman says. “It gives the cake a lot of movement and makes it really exciting.”

The cake is also an explosion of flavors. Goldman says it will have something for everyone at the military ball: red velvet cake (with cream cheese frosting), lemon-poppy and pineapple-coconut cake (both with Swiss buttercream frosting) and pumpkin-chocolate chip cake (with chocolate fudge frosting).

At nearly five feet tall and 50 pounds, the massive dessert will be no snap to transport from Baltimore, where Goldman’s team was working on the cake over the weekend. It requires a van modified with a second air-conditioning unit to keep the vehicle at a perfect 65-degree temperature for the cake, which will arrive at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center unassembled. But Goldman has previous experience with such delicate moves: His bakery also designed the cake for George W. Bush’s second inauguration.

And yet, Goldman remains jittery.

“We don’t want to be the headline the next day,” he says. “The cake is only going to be the headline if it falls over on a senator or something like that.”

Tim Carman serves as the full-time writer for the Post's Food section and as the $20 Diner for the Weekend section, a double duty that requires ingesting more calories than a draft horse.
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