'Ace of Cakes' star Duff Goldman gives the 'skinny' on Los Angeles indulgences

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August 26, 2013|By Stephanie Citron,
For The Baltimore Sun

Last year, Baltimore's "Ace Of Cakes" star Duff Goldman added more layers to his rising confectionary empire, founding Charm City Cakes West and Duff's Cake Mix in Los Angeles.

Strategically centered near the world's most prominent movie and television studios and the city's swankiest neighborhoods, Goldman caters to L.A. 's famously extravagant (and often half-baked) personalities, who relentlessly challenge him to take his cakes to the next tier. And when the Food Network's baking alchemist is not commuting coast to coast, he serves as a culinary ambassador for the American Chef Corps, a government initiative assembled to trade culinary techniques with chefs around the world.

We managed to persuade Goldman to take a break from cake to share his favorite sweet spots around Los Angeles.

You have two enterprises in Los Angeles: Charm City Cakes West and also Duff's Cakemix. What is Cakemix?

It's a do-it-yourself bakery where people can come and learn how to what I do, create custom cakes. …. Essentially, we invite them to play with food. People are amazed to discover that pretty often, they actually can work with one of us.

Where are the shops?

They're right next door to each other in West Hollywood. We put a bunch of windows in the wall so people in Cakemix can see into Charm City Cakes and watch us work.

What made you choose West Hollywood for the location?

It's central, and it's nice being on Melrose [Avenue], there's a lot of good traffic.

Good traffic? That sounds like an oxymoron in Los Angeles.

[Laughs.] Yeah, well, it's a really cool neighborhood with a lot of great stuff happening.

I can only imagine the over-the-top cake requests you receive in L.A. Care to share some standouts?

Oh, there's been a bunch. We've made a 5-foot-long Jabba the Hutt. If you've seen "Lord of The Rings," do you remember there was the war elephant? We had to make one of those. That was about 4 feet high.

How did you deliver it?

We have a really tall van.

Surely you've ventured out to see what tempts a sweet-tooth around Los Angeles . What are some of your favorite sweet spots?

I really like my cake the best. But there's a great ice cream shop called the Sweet Rose Creamery. They have a sweet corn ice cream; while it's no Maryland Silver Queen, it's really good. You can take any one of their flavors and turn it into a malt. So, I get Sweet Corn Malt. And there are doughnuts everywhere in LA. There's a store called Fonuts — they're doughnuts but they're baked [instead of deep-fried]. I get an old-school glazed with a strawberry on top — oh, man.

L.A. is food truck central. Where would you send visitors to find the best ones?

The best place is outside of the headquarters of the E! Network on Wilshire. Everyday, there's probably 15 to 20 food trucks out there serving lunch. I've been doing a lot of work with E lately, and there's just so many parked outside — and you might see a Kardashian! [Laughs.].

Do you have a favorite?

I really like the original L.A. taco trucks. They're really authentic. There's all these cool, fancy food trucks, but I mean, I'm in L.A., and you just can't get tacos like this in Baltimore.

Along with movie stars, you're in a town full of celebrity chefs. Have you gotten to know any of the others?

Michael Voltaggio is right down the street. He's from Frederick. He's got those two great restaurants, ink., and his lunch place, ink.sack. In the next month or two, he and I are planning to close off a huge section of Melrose and do a humongous crab feast. Crabs, corn and Maryland beer. We want to call it "Maryland on Melrose." We're just waiting for permission from the city.

That sounds like a fabulous event. Do you miss Maryland seafood?

We have this cool place in Koreatown called The Boiling Crab. It has, like, a two-hour wait. You get a giant plastic bag of steamed and boiled seafood — crawfish, mussels, clams and Dungeness crab. They have blue crab but, you know, I'm not going to get that. You get real messy; it's really, really good.

What do you miss most about Baltimore, food-wise?

The pit beef — Chaps.

What are some of your other favorite restaurants around town?

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