It's the day after the opening of Duff's Cakemix in West Hollywood, the place where you decorate cakes instead of ceramics. And business is good.
TV celebrity, baker and pastry chef Duff Goldman is there himself. He's living in Santa Monica while the new place gets established -- actually two new places, which are side by side on Melrose. The other is Charm City Cakes West, the L.A. outpost of Goldman's original custom cake bakery in Baltimore, which has been open for two weeks. Cakemix opened June 21.
When customer Erin Davis can't get Mickey Mouse ears the way she wants them, Goldman throws himself into the challenge. He disappears and returns with two thin gum-paste circles that he has purloined from Charm City Cakes. "It's my bakery. I can steal stuff," he says.
And so Mickey gets his ears, which Davis sprays with chocolate as Goldman gives advice. She's inside a glass chamber that protects other folks' handiwork from stray spray.
Davis has chosen a 6-inch marble cake from the flavors on hand. Other options are carrot, vanilla, red velvet and chocolate. The Charm City bakers make the cakes. "It's not like we're using cheaper cakes and cutting corners," Goldman says.
Goldman will introduce a flavor of the week, which will change seasonally. You can look forward to strawberry shortcake, lemon poppyseed, S'mores, salty dulce de leche, lavender-passionfruit, pumpkin with chocolate chips, and chocolate-peanut butter -- "My favorite," Goldman says. "I have the palate of a 5-year-old."
The price of a cake ($36 for a 6-inch: $52 for a 9-inch) includes filling, fondant, buttercream, colors and decorations from a "goodie bar." Candles and other add-ons such as more frosting or a tiered cake stand are extra. Customers get a paper menu that outlines the procedure, then take what they've chosen to one of nine tables. Tools and advice are provided.
"You can't rush with this," Goldman says. "I don't want anyone looking at the clock. We want people to walk out with their cake full of joy and empowerment." Plans are to photograph the top cakes and display the photos.
The large, airy corner space can handle up to 40 decorators at a time, and there are additional tables for drop-ins who just want to have coffee and a slice of cake or moms waiting while kids decorate.
It's a "brand-new concept," Goldman says. "Hopefully, within three years, we'll be nationwide, and in five years in Tokyo. But that's just me. I really want to go to Tokyo."
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Read more from Barbara Hansen at www.EatMx.com, www.TableConversation.com, @foodandwinegal and Facebook. Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.