A few weeks ago I got to peek behind the scenes of the Cake Boss empire. As an insatiably curious former Investigative Producer for Geraldo, it's always hard for me to resist an invitation to the belly of any beast, especially when it involves cake. A big fan of the TLC Cake Boss show, I jumped at the chance to see the Carlo's Bakery operation live and in person.
The reason for the invite? A preview of a new line of bake ware by Buddy Valastro, the Don of fondant (available in stores in September). The additional promise of a decorating lesson and the chance to tour the facility was worth the 8AM call to hop in a luxury SUV on lower Fifth Avenue and plunge through the Holland to Hoboken.
Upon arrival we were greeted by the lovely, warm and efficient Gabrielle, Buddy's assistant. We followed her adorable blonde ponytail around the joint for a tour. No pictures allowed because the TV crew was loose taping an episode of the show. We were then lead to one of two beautifully outfitted classrooms and served platters of delicious Carlos Bakery pastries (hello best crumb cake ever!) and coffee while we waited for Buddy to come brief us on his line.
Like a trip to Willy Wonka land, this was a magical morning for a hobby baker. The factory was mind blowing with a staff buzzing and baking, refrigerators the size of most luxury NYC apartments and an entire wood shop contained within it's pristine walls. Since the popularity of the show, the cake creation requests have become so over the top gargantuan, they need an in house carpentry outfit just to handle the structure to support the weight of the confections. A recent example: The King of Bahrain wanted a life-size talking horse birthday cake that his two children could sit on. All the elements were created here, shipped to Bahrain and his majesty's wish was obliged.
For those of you who live under a rock, the Cake Boss show on TLC follows the operation of Carlo's Bakery, a family business owned and operated by Buddy Valastro and his siblings. Most impressive that day was the appearance of Mary, Buddy's formidable mom, who breezed in while her son was explaining his new bake ware line. Mary needed to check on pastry platters for a church event. The discussion between the two that followed and the dismay on Buddy's face that read "Ma, can you not see I'm a little busy here?" had me looking for the cameras. A typical reality TV moment. Even though Mary has been battling ALS and was confined to a chair, her sparkling eyes and spunky personality made her no less vibrant than the same woman America saw dancing and singing in front of a church in Italy in a previous episode of the show.
It's all about family there for sure. Buddy's little son was working at the factory for the summer, a look of solemn determination on his face as he filled cake pans with batter.
The Carlo's Bakery staff made us all feel like family in the few hours we were there. Following the bake ware presentation, we were all handed our own already dirty iced cakes, settled in at our work stations and Gabrielle led us in a fondant class where we all got to cover our cakes and decorate them using some of the new tools in Buddy's forthcoming line.
This was not my first visit to the fondant rodeo but I learned some new tips and tricks, was loving the tools and it was great fun to work together in a class with other enthusiasts of all skill levels. What impressed me the most was how Gabrielle demystified the process for everyone and made us all comfortable to just plunge in and do our best removing the intimidation factor. They have classes at the bakery and I can now envision myself signing up for one or two in the near future.
The new Cake Boss line features more than 20 collections and over 200 production total. Everything from bakeware to decorating tools are included. There are definitely some standout products from Buddy's new line I will be first on line to purchase.
The line is well thought out and designed to make the home baker feel like the Cake Boss of their kitchen. I will provide a more detailed post on the products closer to launch. The line was several years in the making and brought to market by the Meyer Corporation a veteran company of celebrity chef cookware (including Rachel Ray) in partnership with Discovery Communications. There is a Facebook page for the line and you can follow along on Twitter.
After the class, they boxed up our cakes, let us take our aprons and most of our tools home and handed us a nice fat swag bag. As we were all filing out to our cars for the ride back to the city, we snaked back through the factory and there was Buddy standing in the kitchen hard at work in his apron with a rack of freshly baked red velvet cupcakes. Smiling and saying his goodbyes, he spontaneously handed each of us a fresh cupcake. What a way to make a final impression!
p.s. The following day I brought the cake to work to celebrate a colleague's birthday. A layer each of chocolate and vanilla cake with chocolate buttercream in between. No joke, one of the best bakery cakes I've ever tasted.