Zagat: I saw you recently made a life-size Nascar car cake - how long did that take you?
It was about three weeks just from planning to actually getting it done. It was the first time we actually did a Vector drawing for a cake because the thing with Nascar is...those cars are a science. It's a billion-dollar industry, and they make cars that are so specific, we had to get everything 100% totally right. For example, you know the spoilers on the car? Since Nascars only turn left, the spoiler is offset about four inches, so we had to make our cake version like that too, just in case there was that one guy who would call us out. There's always that one guy.
Zagat: Ha. Do you have a giant cake project you dream about doing one day that you haven't done?
Yes. I would do a life-size Tauntaun from The Empire Strikes Back, and then I want to have like a Han Solo costume with one of those Force FX Lightsabers, and I wanna get Mark Hamill to put on his snow suit. And then, in the middle of ComicCon, have him slice up this giant cake of a Tauntaun with a lightsaber and let the guts spill out, and then Mark Hamill lets me shove them inside of the cake.
Zagat: Ha. Wow, that is very specific! I'm sure you could make that happen.
Can you imagine? That would be so cool. That'd be a dream come true.
Zagat: Are you working on any new projects? Will there be another season of Sugar High?
No that's done. I mean, doing a travel show like that, you've gotta to be committed. I was gone for six weeks, like just either filming or sleeping, and it just got to the point where there no way I could run two bakeries plus Cakemix plus I'm opening a little retail pastry shop over on Beverly Boulevard in LA. There was no way I can do all that stuff plus film and travel all at the same time.
Zagat: Tell me more about the retail project.
The retail shop is going to be across from CBS Studios, and what I want to do there is the exact opposite of Charm City Cakes. I mean, there might be some cake there - we might do cupcakes. There will be all kinds of pastries, and bake a bunch of really, really good stuff. I want to have a place that I can bake a bunch of stuff that's not cake. I've been a pastry chef for pretty much my whole life, and at this point I'm "the cake guy." But actually, I make a really good scone and pies and petits fours, and I want to do like a really good...not necessarily French...but like a Frenchie/Austrian pastry shop with really, really kick-ass coffee.
Zagat: Cupcakes, eh? I remember reading a few years back that you hated cupcakes. How do you feel about them now?
We sell cupcakes at Cakemix, and a lot of people were like,"Well, I don't get it. Duff hates cupcakes, that's BS." So I wrote a cupcake manifesto - it should be on Cakemix's Facebook page - and basically what started out as a joke back in the day about me hating cupcakes because I make big, giant cakes turned into this whole big thing. So I wrote this manifesto explaining how it wasn't that I hated cupcakes but was just afraid of them because they weren't bigger and badder and awesome, but they were small and stupid and not awesome. Cupcakes were diametrically opposed to what I do for a living, which is make big, giant cakes, but after some self-reflection I realized that wasn't the case. They presented a challenge to me because they were small and simple and cute, and I had to figure a way to do that and feel good about it.
Zagat: What do you think about the Cupcake ATM?
Awesome. Genius. Candace is great, she's really super-smart. Coming up with a cupcake ATM was one of the best things ever. I think the only thing that's missing is a stationary, one-camera reality show about the cupcake ATM at 2 AM in the morning.
Zagat: Ha. That'd be amazing. The whole cupcake phenomenon just seems to get bigger every year - why are people still so obsessed with them?
I think it's probably Sarah Jessica Parker's fault.
Zagat: Probably. All stemming from a two-minute scene of her eating a cupcake in Sex in the City. It's nuts.
I mean, it was a great show, well produced, well written and smart. It spoke to a large part of the metropolitan population. And yeah, Magnolia did fantastic with making cupcakes big. You know, we're Americans. We're capitalists. We like to make money. You know if the market is there for cupcakes, go for it. I'm still going to pretty much choose to make big, giant cakes.
Zagat: So why the giant cakes? How did that start?
It was just like, why not? I've always been like that. As a musician, I've always been competitive. I've always been creative, and I started out as a graffiti artist and everything in graffiti was always how big, how striking, how daring, how 'out there' can you get and still be awesome? I was thinking along those lines at such a young age. And then the kitchen was also kind of like, 'let's see how big and crazy we can make this.' We started small, making the same cakes that everyone else was making, but making them cleaner, taste better, and making them flawless. Once I could make those cakes that you see on like Martha Stewart, I was kind of like, now what?
Zagat: So a bit off topic, but I have to ask, what do you think about the scathing NY Times review of Guy Fieri's Times Square restaurant. Is he a friend of yours?
Guy is a wonderful human being. I think he [Pete Wells] knew exactly what he wanted to write before he walked through the door. It was really easy to write that about Guy. Guy has brought the food of the people to the people. That's why his show is so successful and why he is so successful - he has taken this chunk of Americana and shown it to the world in an authentic way. All he does is go to little tiny places that no one would ever talk about and put them on TV. I think what Pete Wells was saying was not so much an indictment of the restaurant. I don't think he was critiquing the restaurant. I think what he was really commenting on was...he was harshly lamenting the existence of Guy Fieri.
Why would Pete need to go to any food establishment in Times Square? Times Square exists for one crowd only, and Guy's restaurant is the culmination of what the Times Square restaurant exists for. I mean, New Yorkers don't go to Times Square. It's made for tourists. I think that restaurant was inevitable, and I think for where it is and for what it is - I think it's perfect. He [Pete Wells] was trying to say a lot of things, and I don't think any of those things had to do with the quality of the food, but they had more to do with him. He's not opening up next to Per Se - I mean he's not trying to compete with Per Se. I just don't understand why he wrote that kind of review in the first place.