Just over one week ago today, I had the opportunity of a lifetime when my family and I spent the day at Charm City Cakes in Baltimore, MD with Duff Goldman and Geof Manthorne of Food Network’s Ace of Cakes. To say I was excited for this day would be a huge understatement. Ace of Cakes is my all-time favorite show and, over the years, I have only dreamed about one day getting a glimpse inside the unique bakery or meeting one of the talented artists that work there.
My dream became reality when Charm City Cakes teamed up with Days End Farm Horse Rescue for an online charity auction to raise money for the rescue facility. The item at bid was an afternoon spent at Charm City Cakes, touring the place and meeting the artists, along with the opportunity to make a cake with Duff and Geof. I begged my husband to place a bid, never dreaming that he actually would. Well, I guess he really loves me, or else just got sick of listening to me, because he put a bid in and we actually won!
The date scheduled for our visit was July 28th, which also happens to be my birthday. What a way to spend a birthday! I counted down the day for months.
One week before the big day we packed up our travel trailer and headed east. Days End Farm Horse Rescue invited us to come out and see their facility so we went there for an afternoon and toured the farm. What an incredible place! Anyone who loves horses, or just has compassion for life, needs to check out the work they are doing. They have some amazing stories of saving and rehabilitating horses, often from the brink of death. One of the staff members, Caroline, gave us a great tour and explained all the workings of the farm. It was touching to see all the volunteers there cleaning out stalls, feeding horses and doing whatever work was needed. We were so pleased to know that the money raised from the charity went to such an extraordinary place. If you are in the area, stop by for a tour or check out their website. They are always in need of volunteers and donations.
Finally, the day arrived. We grabbed the gifts we brought from Montana and drove across town to Charm City Cakes. What kind of gifts do you bring two celebrities? Something Montana has a lot of, huckleberries and horse poop.
That’s right, we brought Duff Goldman and Geof Manthorne chocolate covered huckleberries, huckleberry bon bons and an authentic Montana Turd Bird.
We arrived at our appointed time and rang the buzzer on the front door, telling them that Geof was expecting us. This isn’t a bakery you can just walk into, you have to be invited or have an appointment. I was feeling pretty special!
Now I had promised myself for months that I wouldn’t get starstruck and would maintain my head while there but, as soon as I walked in and saw the colorful walls and all the recognizable faces, I just couldn’t help but stand in awe. From that moment on, the rest of the day was like one big dream. Geof came up and introduced himself (as if he needed an introduction). He talked to us for a few minutes then Duff came up and introduced himself as well. I couldn’t believe I was standing there talking to the two of them. They were so welcoming and my husband, who has a similar sense of humor as Duff, instantly hit it off with Duff. The two of them talked cars and guitars and spent more time laughing than anything else.
Geof gave us the tour around the place. Now I have seen it on t.v., in their book and on their website but there is nothing like actually being there. Carts were stacked to the top with cake pans, food coloring, dragees, fondant, ribbon and everything you could possibly need to make a cake.
The workshop area housed shelves of power tools, glues, boards, dowels and so much more. It was a fairly small but heavily used space. While we were there they were working on a hand carved frame for a horse cake.
Ben Turner and the most recently hired artist (I forgot his name but he is amazing!) were sculpting people out of chocolate to go on the horse cake.
There were pictures and creative inspiration everywhere. Even the hallway to the bathroom was covered in artwork that fans had sent them.
Look what they did for me at the airbrush station! That beats a birthday wish in skywriting any day.
I think this is where they photograph their cakes:
Looking toward the front of the shop from the back:
The office area at the front:
Some of the stunning cakes that line the front windows:
This has always been one of my favorite cakes to come out of their bakery, the fast food cake. Katherine Hill is the talented artist behind this cake but I didn’t get to tell her how much I loved her cake because she is now out in their soon-to-open west coast shop in Los Angeles.
Here is one of my favorite artists, Eleana Fox. She was working on modeling some tiny people for a cake. I was amazed at all the detail she was adding to each little person. I loved her work station too, she had hilarious pictures hanging everywhere.
About half way through our tour, Mary Alice Yeskey came in and welcomed us. She was so friendly and talked with us for a little while but had to get to an appointment. She apologized for having to leave and seemed to sincerely want to spend more time visiting with us. Isn’t she just a cutie?!
After the tour, it was time to get working on the cake. We had already picked out our cake flavors several days before so they had the cakes iced and ready to go. Our top layer was Cardamom and Pistachio and the bottom was Peanut Butter Cup. And both, by the way, were extremely yummy! I have heard people say again and again, “Their cakes look great but I wonder how they taste?” I can tell you first hand that they are fantastic. The flavors were incredible and the texture was just perfect. In fact, I am embarrassed to say that my family of four ate almost the entire thing before it got too old and had to be thrown out.
Duff and Geof asked me how I wanted to decorate the cake or what I wanted to learn. Here is where my starstruck brain began to freeze again. I couldn’t think of anything. I couldn’t even think about what colors I wanted to do. It was my chance of a lifetime to do or learn anything with two of my favorite cake artists and I went blank! Fortunately my girls were there so I remembered that my oldest daughter’s favorite colors were orange and green. I requested those colors and then my husband reminded me that I have been wanting to learn how to use an airbrush properly since I have had a lot of struggles with mine. Duff suggested we pull out some flowers and use those to practice airbrush skills. He took the girls back to the room where the flowers were stored and Geof and I got busy coloring fondant.
We then went over to the sheeter where Geof taught me how to use it, as well as some techniques for rolling out fondant. Geof is a soft-spoken guy but boy does he know his stuff!
He covered one cake:
And I covered the other:
I then met Duff over at the airbrush station and he showed me the correct way to use an airbrush. I quickly discovered some things I had been doing wrong. The neat thing about Duff is that he is hilarious and a ton of fun but when it comes time to teach he takes it very seriously. He explained things very thoroughly and made sure I understood what I was doing.
He also taught the girls how to use the airbrush, which they loved.
Duff was so great with the girls. They decided that they wanted to make two dachshunds, that look like our pets, to top the cake. Duff showed them how to use the fondant to make little wienie dogs.
At this point Mary Alice was done with her appointment but was getting ready to leave for the day. She brought us some Charm City Cakes t-shirts and other gifts then took some more time to visit with us. I was so grateful for the gifts but just as grateful to have a chance to talk with her. She is just your regular, down-to-earth mom, juggling work and home life. We chatted a little about the trials and joys of motherhood and she showed us a picture of her adorable baby boy. I so enjoyed talking with her that I think I could have chatted all day.
Before she headed out, we had Duff and Geof open the gifts we had brought them. They all appreciated the candy but the Turd Bird was the real hit. Mary Alice couldn’t believe it was made with a real horse turd. Duff was more than happy to pose with it for the camera.
He took it around and showed it to everyone.
It was getting close to the end of the day so we got back to work at finishing up our cake.
Once it was stacked and the borders applied, the girls took the dogs and the flowers and went to town.
Duff showed them how to use flowers to cover mistakes (a secret every good decorator knows) and how to hide the insertion point of the flowers. The girls loved getting creative with all the decorations.
We ended up with a fun, adorable, and super tasty cake. It’s not too often that a girl gets a birthday cake made by her kids AND her favorite celebrities!
I had brought my copy of the Ace of Cakes book, in hopes of getting a few autographs. As we were finishing up, Duff hollered out to everyone to come over and sign it for me. I felt so honored that everyone would just drop what they were doing to take a minute to sign my book. Now I just don’t ever want to read it again, for fear that I will ruin all those signatures!
As they were all signing my book I got a few more pictures.
Take a look at these cool cassette tapes that Mary Smith was making out of gumpaste.
And, of course, we couldn’t leave without getting some pictures with Geof and Duff.
I just love this shot they took with my youngest daughter, Faith.
Before we knew it, it was time to go. It was the fastest and most surreal afternoon I have ever experienced. The whole gang is exactly like they seem on t.v.; super talented and a lot of fun. They really are a group of great friends who are having a good time together while creating some incredible cakes. Mary Alice once mentioned in an interview, that working at Charm City Cakes was like being at Disneyland. I can totally see why she said that. I feel fortunate to have been able to be a part of this amusing gang, if even for just a day. It is one that I will never forget.
Until next time, God Bless and Sweet Dreams.