Cake walk


POSTED: Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Brad Pitt has nothing on chef Duff Goldman. At least that's how it felt during the “;Ace of Cakes”; event last week at Schofield Barracks, where about 500 people showed up to see Duff and his latest creation. Cameras flashed and cheers shattered the air inside the Tropics recreational center, where some people waited four hours for a chance at prime real estate in the standing-room-only setting. Flat-screen televisions displayed a slide show of highlights from the long days of baking and crafting.

“;We have been having such an awesome week,”; Duff told the enthusiastic crowd of men and women in uniform and Army spouses with children in tow. “;You guys are so cool.”;

Ten pastry chefs from the Food Network's hit show traveled to Hawaii to make a cake for the cast and crew of “;Lost”;—with edible replicas of the characters—which they presented in a separate celebration last week. Since the gig for ABC paid the bills, Duff, as he is widely known, volunteered to do a little something extra.

“;We wanted to say thank you to the men and women in uniform,”; he said, “;and especially say thank you to people who have family members deployed.”;

Wearing camouflage shorts, green sneakers, a white chef's jacket embroidered with the logo of his Baltimore bakery, Charm City Cakes, and his trademark earrings and baseball cap, Duff addressed the audience from the stage while the mystery cake remained hidden behind shoji screens, adding to the energy and anticipation permeating the room. On a dramatic count of three from the audience, Army culinary arts specialists removed the screens to reveal a reproduction of a Black Hawk helicopter—complete with moving blades and four bright red lights. Of course, the cake required detailed research, which he and his colleagues conducted over Oahu from an actual Black Hawk.

“;Being inside one of those machines and seeing how they work and how these guys operate them was absolutely incredible, and it really did help us out with the cake,”; Duff said. Viewing pictures on the Internet and examining a toy model helped, but the subtle details came through in the real-life experience. “;I think it really helped us make a better cake—a little more representative of what the machine is.”;

  The Army assisted by providing the “;Ace of Cakes”; crew with a refurbished kitchen facility vacated by the deployed 3rd Brigade. More help came from the Army's culinary arts team—whose members said they learned a lot about structuring and wiring in this atypical pastry creation.

“;It was the experience of a lifetime,”; said Zechariah Gonzales, an Army cook.

“;Ace of Cakes”; is a reality series based on the cake-baking escapades of Duff and his associates at Charm City Cakes. The talented crew fashions only custom-made works of art costing a minimum of $1,000. Watch any episode on the Food Network to get a sense of the astonishing attention to detail and the story behind every element—from the personal history of the families ordering the cake to delivery and assembly.

“;I'll never be able to afford one,”; said Nicole Williams, an Army wife who wore a “;Got Duff?”; T-shirt that she and her friends had printed for the occasion. “;This is as close as I'm going to get!”;