Duff Goldman's New Cookbook Super Good Cookies For Kids Is Wholesomely On-Brand - Exclusive Interview

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After making his television debut in Food Network's "Ace of Cakes," pastry chef Duff Goldman has taken the food world by storm. Through a combination of cakery and carpentry, Goldman, who is the head baker and owner of Charm City Cakes, has made seemingly physics-defying treats that wow young and old alike. 

The secret to Goldman's success is a combination of skill and whimsy. Goldman is unafraid to embrace his inner child and reach for the stars. It is no wonder, then, that Goldman has been drawn to children's media. In addition to his other pursuits, including acting and judging cooking competitions, Goldman has written two cookbooks geared toward children. The first, "Super Good Baking for Kids," was released in 2020. Now, just in time for the holidays, Goldman is back with the follow-up, "Super Good Cookies for Kids."

Goldman's cookbooks provide a combination of recipes as well as instruction, teaching the reader in a fun and engaging way. Where other cookbooks simplify for young readers, Goldman puts confidence in the reader and helps them achieve cookie greatness. We caught up with Goldman in an exclusive interview to talk to him about his newest book and some baking tips.

Writing the book

Why did you choose to write a cookie cookbook?

I do a lot of baking show judging and things, and over the past 10 years, people have seen, "This guy does a lot more than cakes." I'm a pastry chef; I'm a baker; I'm a cook; I'm a chef. I do all those things.

Cake is great. I still love making cakes — I just made one, two last weekend — but I do a lot of other stuff. One of the things that I like to do is teach, and cookbooks are a great way to do that, to be able to get some information in front of kids and get them excited about doing something crazy like making a moon pie or something.

Aside from recipes, what are some of those skills that people are going to be able to find in this cookbook?

There's a lot of information. There's some good chemistry. There's some physics involved. There's also ... In all the books that I write, I try to help people understand how I think in the kitchen.

A lot of times, you'll hear a song and you're like, "Yeah, whatever." Then a friend of yours will be like, "Have you heard this song? Check this part out right here." They play it and [say], "Listen for the way he does this little thing with the drums. It's so good." Then you hear it, and all of a sudden, you hear it in a different way. Or when you see a song used in a movie, it might be a song you've heard 100 times — have you been watching "Shantaram" on Apple TV?


It's great. It's based on this book about this Australian guy who escaped from prison — it's in the '80s and he finds himself in India, and it's amazing. It's a beautiful story ... Anyway, in the show, they used a T-Rex song called "Cosmic Dancer" that I've heard a billion times. I was dancing [to it] when I was 12. [In] the context that they used it in the show, I was like, "Man, that is a great song." I started listening to all this other T-Rex, and it's a band that's been around since the '70s and '60s, and I'd never really given them the time of day. All of a sudden, I'm a huge T-Rex fan.

When you're reading the book, hopefully what it does is it helps people to understand how I think. "Oh, I understand how to think about a recipe now," or "When I take a bite of something, I understand how to taste it better."

Challenges and rewards

What was the hardest part about making the book?

[It was] all the recipe testing and making all these different cookies that I'd never made before, and then trying all these different things and being like, "Oh, I didn't like that." Then [I'd have to] figure out how to change things so it is something that was yummy.

What was the best part?

Getting to hang out with my friends and bake cookies for a week and make several thousand cookies with my daughter running around and listening to music and taking pictures. The photographer is this guy, Ben, who was a cake decorator. He used to work for me a way long time ago in Baltimore. Now he's here in LA, and he's a photographer. He did all the photography.

Then [there's] my assistant Lauren, who went to CIA [Culinary Institute of America], and also Ali Tila. Ali and Lauren and I did all the baking — we were just the three of us. She's an amazing pastry chef. It was great. It was three of us figuring out cookies, and my family hanging out. My manager's also [a] good friend; she was hanging out. We were having lunch and baking cookies and listening to music and it was great. It was fun.

Was there anything that surprised you that you learned while making this book?

One of them was we were making moon cakes — Chinese moon cakes — and I didn't realize how involved they are. It's a very complicated dough. This is where I get some criticism from people, where they say, "These recipes are well beyond kids. These aren't kids' recipes."

I love when I get that criticism because I've read kids' cookbooks — because I write kids' cookbooks. When I read most of them, I'm like, "This is boring. There's nothing to it. It's simplified ..." Kids want more than this, so I give a range. 

Some things are easy to make. Haystacks are easy. Buckeyes are easy. I made these Ramadan date cookies that are really involved. But some kids like a really involved project, and it's good to challenge them. Kids like to be challenged.

That was one of the things, when I was reading the book, that I appreciated. I have a young son, and it didn't feel like it was talking down.

It's important because when you talk down to them, they immediately tune out. They're like, "All right." They totally know. Kids are so much smarter than us. If you treat them like kids, they act like kids. If you treat them like small, intelligent humans, they act like small, intelligent humans.

Making child-friendly content

You now have two children's cookbooks as well as your children-centered show. What made you want to start doing more child-oriented content?

It's funny. It actually started with "Ace of Cakes," where we had this show and we were getting bleeped and the humor was very adult on that show. We got away with some crazy stuff. But we kept finding that we had the youngest audience of anyone on Food Network. They were like, "Why are all these kids watching this show?" It's partly for the reason we were talking about — it's because we're cool adults. But also, we make exciting, fun, weird things.

Getting to work with kids and teaching them how to bake and giving them instruction and working with them ... I'm a natural teacher. I love it. I love teaching. When I'm done with television, that's probably what I'm going to do. [I'll] get a job at a local high school and teach culinary to kids, because it's good. It's good to know how to cook. You don't have to be a professional chef. It's good to know how to cook things.

What are you hoping that kids are going to get out of the book?

Some good cookies. I hope they get some yummy cookies. These are good. I like making these.

But a loftier [idea], [or] a little more abstract ... This is one of my guiding principles — I love to share with people a sense of accomplishment. I like putting people in positions where when they're done doing whatever it was that they were doing, they feel good about themselves and they're like, "Look at this amazing thing I made." I am the king of patting myself on the back. I do it all the time. When I make things, I will stare at them.

Acting debut

You're acting in "A Gingerbread Christmas." What made you take the leap into the acting world?

I've actually been in a couple things. I was a voice on "King of the Hill." It was fun. I was a voice in "The Clone Wars" in the animated "Star Wars." I was in a movie called "Below the Beltway" where I played a disgruntled birthday clown.

I was in that movie "You Again," but my scene got cut. It was too bad because I got to make out with Kristin Chenoweth, and it was awesome. Then they cut it. I was like, "Oh, man, that was street cred right there." I've done a few, but it was really fun. Food Network was like, "Hey, there's a role for a baking competition judge. Do you want to do it?" I was like, "I think I can handle that."

You went method with that one.

Very. I've been studying for the past 12 years for this role.

What's the biggest difference between acting for a movie and then the television work that you've done?

With all the cooking shows and everything, you go in there and have no idea what you're going to be confronted with. You eat it, and you say, "Okay, this is what I think of this." It's very unscripted. You say what you think.

Here, there's lines. You have to say them the way they're supposed to be said. You have to have a conversation with somebody and make it sound like you're having a natural conversation and not that you know exactly the thing that's going to come out of your mouth while there's talking and how to make that real. That was different.

These are a few of his favorite things

What is the cake that you are most proud of ever making?

There's a lot, but last weekend, we made a cake for the Artemis rocket that's going to the moon. We went down to the Kennedy Space Center and we made the cake. The rocket is on the launchpad — it goes up this weekend. We had to pull some strings and phone calls were made, and we got permission to get in a van with the people from NASA, got permission to get in the van and go to the rocket where it's sitting on the launchpad, put the cake on the road in front of it, and get a picture of the cake and the rocket together.

It's so cool ... What a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It's cool. It was nice being able to be down there and show all these people at NASA that you love what they do. It was super cool, man. It was so cool. It was a wild trip.

Do you have a favorite cookie from the book?

Maybe the cardamom pistachio ladoo — they're really good. When I was in college, I had a bunch of friends from India, and they took me to this crazy illegal Indian restaurant-slash-grocery-store in the city. It was definitely not [legal] — there was no licensing. It was delicious, and it was super clean. They were like, "We're not dealing with that nonsense." There were these cookies in there, and you could buy a box of them. I never tasted anything like them. I've been messing around with different recipes, and I found one that's really cool. 

I'll have to try that one. What is the one implement that every home baker needs?

There's a couple things — a good rolling pin, a nice rolling pin. Mine doesn't have handles. It's straight, but it doesn't taper. The tapering one, I don't know what those are for. Those are stupid. I like a nice straight one — it's just a thick dowel. [With] the handles, your knuckles will drag into your dough.

[You need] a digital scale. All the recipes in my new book, they're in cups and tablespoons, but they're also in grams ... I also put them in grams because baking is so much easier when you weigh it out. It's much faster; it's much more accurate. It's better to weigh things.

What is one ingredient you can't live without?

Besides sugar? Cumin. Not for baking — but I eat a lot of cumin. I love it. I love cumin.

"Super Good Cookies for Kids" is available for purchase now.

This interview was edited for clarity.