The natural accompaniment to cake is, of course, ice cream — which may be why Duff Goldman is making it his next business venture.
The "extreme baker" who became a national fixture with his "Ace of Cakes" television show on the Food Network has sealed a deal with Blue Bunny for his own ice cream line. The cake-inspired flavors are set to hit freezer cases this month and will be sold in the Baltimore area at stores including SuperFresh, ShopRite, Food Lion and Walmart.
The ice cream line is the latest venture by Goldman. Although "Ace of Cakes" has aired its last episode, Goldman has other television shows in the works and is slowly building a business empire around his name.
Goldman has his own line of cake-baking products that are sold by Michael's, Party City, Walmart and Target. He plans to open a bakery in Los Angeles in June, the first outside Hampden, where he got his start and where the Ace of Cakes show was taped. He also has written a cookbook and does speaking engagements around the country.
Other chefs such as Paula Deen, Rachael Ray, Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay and Wolfgang Puck have gained celebrity and eventually amassed fortunes by expanding their brand.
Goldman's partnership with Blue Bunny began more than a year ago at the New York celebration of the 150th anniversary of the A&P supermarket chain. Goldman made a cake for the occasion for Blue Bunny, which brought an old-fashioned ice cream truck filled with the company's products.
"All these customers came out to see Duff Goldman, and it hit us right between the eyes that all these fans were also our customers," said Curtis Hansen, marketing manager for packaged ice cream at Blue Bunny.
Stanton Kawer, CEO of Blue Chip Marketing Worldwide, brought Blue Bunny and Goldman together during the A&P anniversary party. He said Goldman's down-to-earth but comic personality resonated with guests.
"The affinity that shoppers had with Chef Duff was really amazing," Kawer said. "He is such a genuine, approachable person, we knew there was the real potential to extend the relationship with Blue Bunny."
Market research later confirmed that Duff's fans and Blue Bunny's customers were indeed of the same demographic makeup, Kawer said.
Goldman doesn't bake the cakes that go in the ice cream, but he played an active role in choosing the flavors that bear his face: Chocolate Lovers Triple Chocolate Cake, Strawberries are Forever Shortcake, I Do I Do Wedding Cake, and Red Carpet Red Velvet cake.
He visited the Blue Bunny plant in Le Mars, Iowa, where he tasted cake samples and ice cream flavors, making sure the textures and tastes met his standards. He also approved the final products. He said jokingly that he felt like a 4-year-old kid playing in the walk-in freezers — and being enthralled by the bunny statue that greets visitors.
It was at times a balancing act coming up with flavors that the general population would like but that also piqued Goldman's quirky taste buds. For instance, the curry banana flavor Goldman proposed didn't make the final cut.
"Duff is one of the most creative minds out there, and if we went with some of his ideas, we'd be selling $30 ice cream," Hansen said.
Goldman said he keeps some cake flavors on the menu at his bakery even though they don't sell well, like the peanut butter and jelly cake.
"I can get pretty optimistic about what the general population will like," Goldman said. "But I understand that there has to be the right balancing act between making me happy and making what people want to eat."
Goldman is the first celebrity Blue Bunny has ever signed to promote its products.
"You have to find the right match, and you have to find the right celebrity," Hansen said. "We're not looking for a celebrity just to have a celebrity. We're looking for a partnership."
Financial details of the deal were not disclosed, but generally such arrangements are set up as licensing deals in which the celebrity receives a fee and sometimes more if sales meet certain targets.
One marketing expert said Goldman is smart to build on his brand while his star is ascendant.
"Fame passes fast in our culture these days," said Jamie Rice, chief strategy officer for Carton Donofrio Partners, a Baltimore advertising and marketing firm. "If he's going to leverage this, now is the time to do it."
Rice said that it's also important for Goldman to choose brands that are visible and products he really believes in, noting that the match with Blue Bunny seems like a good one.
"You have to be credible," Rice said. "People see through stuff easily. If it doesn't feel credible, all of a sudden you're seen as somebody doing it for money, and that ruins your brand."
Goldman said he is being very strategic about what he associates his name with. His favorite Blue Bunny ice cream as a child was the "bomb pop," he said, adding that he would never want to see his name on something totally unrelated to cake.
"If one thing slips through the radar, and it's something that's not good, that damages everything," Goldman said. "I think of it in terms of my bakery and what I want associated with it," he said, calling his bakery "my baby."
Hansen said Blue Bunny will eventually introduce more flavors inspired by Goldman.
But one thing is for certain: It won't be banana curry.
An earlier version of this article misstated one of the ice cream flavors. The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.