Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Major Themes, Historical Perspectives And Significant Comparisons, Contrasts And Connections Between The Ace Of Cakes And The Cake Boss

Okay, I’m just having you on. I stole that title from here, but actually it’s not too far afield from how this post turned out. I simply wanted to watch Ace of Cakes and I couldn’t stop myself from comparing it (the show) and him (Duff) to that other baker (Buddy) and HIS crew and show. Is one better than the other? Not necessarily.

Ace of Cakes

Get Your Kicks on Cake

I haven’t watched that many Ace of Cake’s. Let’s see if I can fall for Duff like I fell for Buddy.

Manager Mary Alice talks about doing a human heart cake for a cardiologist. She’s kind of like Buddy’s sister, Mary, I guess.

I'll tell you right off the bat that the Cake Boss website is heads and tales above the Ace of Cakes'. (Of course, we can’t blame them for having to be part of the monstrosity that is the Food Network website.) But Buddy’s has a fabulous section of bios on all the folks. The Ace of Cakes only features info about Duff.

On to the show...Coming up is Cake Decorator Erica making a sewing machine cake, which is so accurate that it even has a working needle and thread.

Chef Adam comes in at 5:30 am to start baking. He likes being there at that time to bring the bakery “out of its peaceful slumber”. Alrighty then. Adam also likes to come and go as he pleases. He says the only thing that matters is the final product.

By 10 am, everything is in full gear. Executive Sous Chef Geof has come in and turned all the lights on. (He feels kind of bad about doing that.) This morning he tells Baker Ben that he needs TEN carrot cakes. Kidding! That’s not nice.

Mary Alice tells us about a human heart cake, which will have a pacemaker attached. The cake is for Heather’s boyfriend Bob, a heart surgeon. Since there are no bios on the site, I don’t know who Heather is. Is she THIS person? Why does Ace of Cakes have writers? Or more importantly, why are they letting the fact that they HAVE writers out of the bag?

Cake Decorator Lauren is making the heart cake, which Duff says is funny because she’s really squeamish. Geof, speaking seriously, says it’s going to be a problem, because Lauren doesn’t want to look at pictures of hearts and there’s no way to do it otherwise.

He says sometimes work isn’t fun and you gotta do what you gotta do. (Let’s remember we ARE talking about MAKING a heart cake, not DOING actual heart surgery.) But I guess the secret of success in ANY field is to take it seriously.

Lauren asks Cake Decorator Elena to look at the body parts for her. Elena doesn’t seem thrilled.

Duff assigns Cake Decorator Erica the task of making a realistic sewing machine for a retiring home economics teacher. Mary Alice thinks that’s sweet. So do I. Goodness! They show a picture of the woman who is retiring after 33 years of teaching home economics. She looks 30 years old. So THAT’S the secret to everlasting youth - teaching the youth of America how to sew and cook.

Erica is very excited by the project and brings in her own sewing book the next day. For some reason, she’s struck by one of the placemat projects in the book. It’s those jeans placemats that have the back pocket on them for the napkin. Somebody else says, “It’s like you’re eating off someone’s behind.”

WHO would have placemats like that? Really? Those have got to be the ugliest things ever…

Don’t ask…but why, oh, why do I have a matching table runner too? Plus I have enough placemats to feed the entire Gosselin clan.

Back to the anatomically correct cake, Adam (?) says they’re getting to the heart of the matter. Yuck, yuck. Lauren says a lot of the folks in the bakery would be pretty good heart surgeons, because they have very steady hands, they would just have to learn the doctor part. She’s funny.

Mary Alice tells us that she has all new telephone equipment. Duff tells us her husband installed them all. Apparently he was taking too long to start the job and the phones were going haywire, so Duff yelled and shouted a bit (we didn’t see that, we only heard about it) and threw them out. It was kind of hard to talk to customers without a phone. The next day they had all new phones.

If this had been the Cake Boss, we would have SEEN Buddy screaming about the phones and his sisters would have been scurrying around to get them fixed. Duff lives in a much more egalitarian world. Just because he’s the boss AND a man, doesn’t mean everything gets done with just a bellow.

Some of the decorators are assembling a friend’s birthday cake. There is a pile of yellow (pound?) cake in a messed-up stack and they are squeezing icing on it from piping bags. The icing is going every which way and it SHOULD look really awful, but actually it looks like scraps of yummy cake with a bunch of icing squiggles. Nothing wrong with that.

Various cakes are being assembled. One of them is a big poufy bed, all in white, representing the Westin Hotel’s Heavenly Bed. The heart cake is coming together. Lauren wonders if people eat hearts. Joe the dishwasher (think Stretch, but 10 years younger) says people eat raw frog’s hearts. Geof disagrees and says that’s not in the vegan manual.

Erica loves making all the dials and buttons for her sewing machine cake, which is weird kind of machine called a Serger.

The heart cake is finished. Ewww. Duff admires all the little blood vessels she's made. Dr. Bob comes in with Heather (I still have no idea who she is) and he’s amazed.

Katherine, Anna and Geof say it’s so hot that something is going to go wrong. They crank up the air conditioning so high that Mary Alice is wearing a goofy crocheted scarf and hat. Other cakes are cracking. The bed cake is problematical. Ben and Catherine are having a hard time working on it.

The next day, the “Heavenly Bed” cake is even more messed up. Cake decorators are summoned to come in and fix it. Duff decides to drive it to New York and then fix it there.

Erica adds every detail possible to her sewing machine cake. It is amazing. Some lady delivers it and the home ec teacher is completely thrilled.

Back to Duff, he’s in the back of the truck, which is taking the bed cake to New York. They’re on the New Jersey Turnpike and Duff takes an exacto knife and starts to cut away the bad parts of the icing and then he cuts himself. (This is all while the truck is moving.) He says he tries to put a little part of himself in every cake, but not usually that literally.

They arrive at the hotel and do all kinds of repairs on the cake in the hotel kitchen, pretending to the hotel manager that nothing is wrong. Actually it’s a disaster, but somehow they fix it (these cake bakers are like super heroes!) and the cake is incredible. It really does look like one of those big, fluffy hotel “heavenly beds”.

So how does Ace of Cakes stack up against my friend the Cake Boss? I like that Duff doesn’t have an ounce of self-consciousness about the whole starring-in-a-television-show thing. Duff totally doesn’t take himself seriously. And, actually, Buddy could learn a thing or two from him about how he treats the women in his life (or at least in his bakery).

Duff treats everyone equally. Women aren’t marginalized. Men aren’t part of a special inner circle in his world. Buddy's treatment of his sisters and wife, not to mention his mother, is very old school stereotypical. He puts them on a pedestal, while at the same time relegating them to a lower social standing, just because they are women.

But, heck, it's Buddy and he's just so lovable that you give him a pass. (I do anyway.) I just hope his son, the little prince, won't be the only one to get a shot at running the bakery in the next generation. I hope, his daughter, the little princess, will be in the running too.

This is what it comes to - Duff and crew are like your super cool college friends. They’re awesome and so talented and, clearly, they’re a lot of fun to be around. They're like the cool Presidential campaign you worked on and got fired up by. But Buddy and crew are like your family. They scream and kvetch and come up with embarrassing moments, but you’ll always go home to them because they’re comfortable and they’ll always be there, even if they are stodgy and old fashioned.

I guess, in this case, familiarity breeds affection and I feel like part of Buddy’s family. Duff and company? I love them as friends. Great, fun friends, but Buddy? I just love him to pieces. So I guess I’d take a fire-spitting cake over a pace-makered one anytime, plus let's not forget about those cannoli.


Emily said...

Are those your placemats? They must be. I would like to know more about them. Where do you get placemats like that?

Dhanggit said...

what a great post!! and i love this line; "familiarity breeds affection" :-)

Beth said...

I'm glad you didn't ding Ace of Cakes after only one viewing. I've seen Buddy on some of the Challenge shows, and will agree this is really personal preference. Me? I love Duff and the gang!!

BTW, Charm City Cakes does have a website:

Sue said...

I said DON'T ASK! Where would someone get placemats like that? In the 90% off bin in a craft store when no one was looking.

Thanks so much Dhanggit,
Yeah, it just hit me about Buddy, the more I watch him the more I love him.

Hi Beth,
I've watched Ace of Cakes before, I just never made a close study of the episodes.

Duff IS great and much more socially forward than the Cake Boss and crew, but I guess I need more time with him to develop the relationship.

Of course, he has a website. I was on it FOR HOURS, trying to find reference to those other millions of folks on his show. That’s where I found out that his cakes start at a $1000, with 50% down and the balance paid 2 weeks before the event, which I have absolutely no problem with, by the way. There's only a picture (with NO caption) and no description anywhere of who they are and what they do. Is that the difference between family and hired help, maybe? If you don't include Mama on the website, you'll hear about it at every family dinner.

Emily said...

Also, for some reason I don't watch cake shows. I think it's because I can't decorate cakes at all.

I think you should should throw some bleach on the placemats and tear holes in them. Then they would be vintage placemats.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I rarely watch Cake Boss, but caught some of it a coupleof days ago while doing the hamster wheel thing on the treadmill at a hotel gym this week. I couldn't help but think of you and your affection for the show. A big cake got dropped on the floor. Why did they have to carry it down a staircase? I'd have carried the parts down first and assembled it at the bottom.

Sue said...

You should BE the star of a baking show, not watch them.

You are sooooooooooooooo funny. I love that idea...and I would never ever do it.

I have to admit that moment seemed more scripted than authentic, but what's food television without a little slapstick? If they'd assembled it AFTER carrying it, there would have been no drama and no occasion for Buddy to scream at people. But c'mon, isn't Buddy adorable?!!