Last Thursday, Duff Goldman hosted a preview event for Los Angeles Food & Wine at this cake decorating studio and bakery, Duff’s Cakemix. This year, Duff will be front and center at a cooking demonstration during this year’s food extravaganza. He is well-known for hometown shop in Baltimore, Charm City Cakes, and that led to a show on the Food Network, Ace of Cakes, where he and his motley crew of highly artistic bakers and decorators envisioned and created super detailed and fun cakes for a number of clients and special events. The evening’s event would pit pairs of decorators against each other, culminating in a top winner chosen by Duff himself. No pressure, right? Right…
The evening began with wine and grilled cheese–grilled cheese from Eric Greenspan. He and his team served up one of his favored pairings. It’s called the The Champ, and the grilled sandwich features short rib, taleggio cheese, arugula and pureed apricots and capers on raisin bread. Although he will not be on the big event’s weekend billing, this was a great place to showcase a couple of the goodies that will be on his new restaurant’s menu. A little birdie told me the grilled cheese eatery will open later this month or early September. Stay tuned! Once L.A. Food and Wine Co-Founder David Bernahl and Chef Duff gave us a quick hello and intro to the evening, we were off. The real games had finally begun.
Duff’s chosen theme of the evening was California cuisine. We could do anything with our cakes, as long as it hit on that idea. We had about 30 minutes to make our blank, white, fondant-covered cakes look like a gorgeous canvas. We had everything at our disposal–spray painting for background color, colored frostings and fondant for letters and various shapes, plastic tools for cutting, candies and sprinkles for decorating and more wine to keep the creative juices flowing. After a few walks around the room, it was clear folks came to win! The final cake on our table was lovingly titled Cali Nights. It encompassed the jokingly gritty “truth” that underneath our penchant for things like avocados and wine (surprise!), there is a deep love for In-and-Out burgers and fries, bacon-wrapped dirty dogs and tacos from spots that may have a number following the name. Unfortunately, our cake required too much of an explanation, and that may have been our downfall!
The competition was fierce, and my weak decorating skills plus a couple of glasses of Italian wine, made things that much more difficult. No excuses, of course. Unless you are kind enough to consider it an excuse! Walking around the room, it was clear that undercover bakers, artists and general creatives were lurking about, and it showed in their edible masterpieces. The top winner was the Cali Cobb Salad made by Lynn Chen of The Actor’s Diet. Check out the detail, and you’ll know why. She and her partner nailed the hard boiled eggs, blue cheese, tomatoes and carrots with precision. They should definitely call Duff for a side gig. My Cali Nights cake may not have been quite the piece of art that night, but at least I can say that I had a lot of fun. This was a actually my second time visiting Duff’s Cakemix. The first drop-in was for a friend’s birthday, and that evening’s TarHeel Carolina Blue Day cake proved to be an entertaining project as well.
The 2013 Los Angeles Food & Wine blow out begins August 21 with a special Founders’ Dinner. It is a very high-priced kick-off for all the big ballers out there, but you can hop into the fun on August 22 through August 25. Various demos, pairings and tastings in Santa Monica, Downtown and Beverly Hills will take place during the day and evening hours, so there is a little something for everyone at any time. To purchase tickets early, visit the L.A. Food & Wine website.
Disclosure: We received a private media invite to this preview event. All opinions expressed here are our own.