They had their cake, and they hate it, too


October 19, 2007|By LAURA VOZZELLA

The wacky bakers at Charm City Cakes recently whipped up a big confection made to look like a bright yellow newspaper box. It was for a party celebrating City Paper's Best of Baltimore issue, which, as it turned out, bestowed one of its Best Of awards on the bakery. But the honor felt more like a pie in the face.

The bakery, featured on The Food Network's Ace of Cakes, took the paper's "Best Cakes" category in 2003. This year, it won "Best Form Over Function."

"There's no denying that the carefully sculpted confections of Charm City Cakes are beautiful," the paper wrote. "Actually, they're more than that - they're daring, vibrant works of art, custom-made to charm any whim, no matter how formidable or bizarre. ... But beauty and presentation come with a price, and in this case, you'll pay with both your taste buds and your wallet."

The paper complained that the cakes are pricey and that the fondant icing, while "great for sculpting elaborate designs," is "at best flavorless."

The bakery welcomed the backhanded compliment like a stray hair in the cake batter. Charm City felt especially burned because the staff had worked so hard on the party cake, Willie Goldman, the brother of bakery owner Duff Goldman and a producer on his TV show, said in a letter to City Paper last week.

While more elaborate creations take more time and cost more, he said Charm City's traditional wedding cakes "are exactly on par with bakeries local and nationwide."

As for the taste, Goldman didn't actually stick up for fondant - that pliable, rollable icing with the consistency of Play-Doh and a less-than-complex ingredients list (sugar, water, maybe some corn syrup). The fondant is there for looks and to form a flavor-sealing shell around the cake and a second, tastier layer of icing. Bakeries everywhere use the same stuff, Goldman said.

"Is there a tastier fondant out there only you guys know about that you could perhaps turn the rest of the world on to?" he wrote.

City Paper editor Lee Gardner responded that the paper makes its editorial and catering decisions separately. I've never had a Charm City Cake, so I can't weigh in. But it seems unlikely that a kitchen baking in 50 flavors - including pumpkin chocolate chip, ginger and green tea, and beurre noisette (whatever that is) - wouldn't take taste seriously. And then there's that 2003 award, which says the cakes "taste as good as they look."

They couldn't shut him up

Ed Norris' comeback was dramatic enough when the ex-commish landed a radio gig in the city that sent him to the slammer. Now, he's really back on top.

The Ed Norris Show on WHFS-FM is Baltimore's highest-rated talk program among adults ages 25 to 54, according to the latest Arbitron ratings. Norris averaged 49,100 weekly listeners in that coveted age group, while WBAL's Ron Smith had 46,200. Rush Limbaugh drew 27,600 to WCBM.

Here's how WHFS is promoting its good news: "First he led the nation in crime reduction. Now he leads the city on the radio." And, my favorite: "They took his badge, but they didn't take his brain."

Precious lives on between hard covers

Regret The Error is a new book by Craig Silverman that opines about the media's failings and, even more fun, reprints "300 of the FUNNIEST and MOST SHOCKING Media Corrections of Our Time." I'm proud to say The Sun made the cut with this ditty from June 7, 2006:

"Because of incorrect information provided to The Sun, an article about Charles Village in Sunday's Maryland section reported that Precious the Skateboarding Dog had recently gone `to the great skateboard in the sky.' Precious is still alive."

The 21-year-old mixed breed - veteran of 1,100 parades and political rallies, two David Letterman shows and Ladder 49 - was ailing at the time. Well known for her colorful costumes and fickle political tastes (Bob Ehrlich for Congress, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend for governor), Precious was a no-show at a Charles Village festival, where The Sun picked up exaggerated reports of her death.

At the time, owner Don Crockett was not amused. But the Baltimore County political activist, who campaigned for Martin O'Malley later that summer with Precious II, was tickled to hear about the mention in the book.

"She just keeps staying alive," he said. "I can laugh about it now."

Connect the dots

For the Regret The Error sequel: "A headline on Page 2B of yerterday's editions of The Sun should have referred to the Alcazar Ballroom, not the Alcatraz Ballroom." And yes, the correction in Sunday's paper really did read "yerterday's." ... The Philadelphia Inquirer is polling readers to see if they think Edgar Allan Poe's remains should spend eternity in Philly instead of The Greatest City In America. Baltimoreans, feel free to stuff the ballot box at news_breaking/20071015_Let_this_body_be_lifted_evermore_.html. Results so far: Philly 178, Baltimore 138. ... Someone posted his two cents on Poe's fate on The Sun's chat site, under the politically significant initials "MOM." "If you want him it will cost you $1.7 billion, $2.2 billion if you wait until next year." ... A stunt on Letterman this week had some guy leaping over a line of six interns. One of the leapees was Phil Kessel, who lives in Baltimore.

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