Things You Probably Don't Know About Duff Goldman

Bakery owner and TV chef Duff Goldman is known for his creatively-constructed cakes — from boxes of crayons, to Betty White, to a spinning R2-D2 for George Lucas — but the intrigue of the Ace of Cakes reaches far beyond his sensibility for sweets. The celebrity baker has been making his way around the kitchen since he was a child; his mother even caught him wielding a meat cleaver while watching Chef Tell at the age of 4. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, he climbed the culinary ladder and eventually became stagiere at esteemed eatery French Laundry in Napa. He returned home and opened his iconic Charm City Cakes bakery in Baltimore shortly after.

The confectionery connoisseur showed off his pastry prowess and artistic eye in his shop — crafting dazzling designs cloaking creative flavors — and soon scored a spot on the Food Network. His hit show, Ace of Cakes, made Goldman a household name and aired for ten seasons, earning two James Beard Award nominations along the way. Now the culinary creative is a fixture in baking programs such as the Kids Baking Championship programs and also competed against notorious Cake Boss Buddy Valastro on the 2019 series Buddy vs. Duff. Plus, he's opened a California Charm City Cakes location and a string of DIY cake decorating studios called Duff's Cakemix across the state. But there's still so much to learn about the Ace of Cakes. Here's everything you probably don't know about Duff Goldman.

Duff Goldman is going to be a father

Duff Goldman announced that he is expecting his first child with his wife, Joanna Colbry, with an Instagram post in August 2019. The photo nods to the Food Network star's affinity for sweets (and the even sweeter nickname he calls his wife), with he and Colbry each holding up a muffin while cheekily placing a mini muffin in front of Joanna's stomach — smiling from ear to ear. His caption didn't give too much away, simply reading: "MUFFINS!," but luckily Colbry broke the big news on her account, posting the same photo with the caption "Our biggest adventure yet! Mini Muffin expected January 2021!"

The pair dated for three years before tying the knot in January 2019. "When I proposed to her, it was just so obvious. I was just like, 'Of course we're getting married.' I never wanted kids and now I'm just like, 'Of course we're going to have kids!'," the chef tells People magazine. "Everything changed. My whole worldview changed. A weight was lifted." Between his chosen profession and the tender love he shares with his wife, there's sure to be much more sweetness ahead as the Goldmans welcome their new addition into the family.

Duff Goldman is as charitable as he is talented

Raised in a Jewish household, Duff Goldman learned the importance of giving back to the community at an early age. The master of cakes is passionate about many causes such as giving aid to police officers, firefighters, teachers, the military, Habitat for Humanity, and the Lower East Side Girls' Club. He is also heavily involved with No Kid Hungry, the Save a Child's Heart Foundation, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation—baking with young children suffering from life-threatening medical conditions.

"I'm a cook who won the lottery," the chef told JNS.org. "Seeing the effects this has had on everybody makes us want to give back. Every time we give it makes us want to give more." Although his charity work is a significant part of his life, Goldman remains modest when discussing his contributions, citing his participation in the Jewish practice of "tzedakah," which involves giving anonymously.

Duff Goldman proposed to his wife with a piece of kitchen twine

Although his intricate cake creations take meticulous planning, Duff Goldman's decision to pop the question to his now-wife was made at the spur of the moment. The baking extraordinaire didn't select a ring beforehand, so he improvised with a fitting substitute given his culinary background: kitchen twine. "I didn't plan this out, it just happened and it was so glaringly obvious that I couldn't have stopped it if I wanted to," the Ace of Cakes gushed in the caption of an Instagram photo showing off his fiancee's ring finger. "I asked her to marry me. She said yes. I cannot imagine a state of happiness that is more intense than whatever I'm feeling right now." The renowned pastry chef popped the question hours after an Easter dinner with his future wife's family — asking her parent's permission before he got down on one knee.

Based on the location given on the announcement Instagram post, the sweet proposal happened near Santa Monica, California, which is a stone's throw away from the west coast location of his iconic Charm City Cakes. The pair has been together since 2016 after meeting on Tinder, bonding over their shared love of art and, of course, dessert (via LA Times). With such a spontaneous and romantic proposal, there's no doubt the couple's life together is a treat.

Duff Goldman had five different cakes at his wedding

With an extensive track record of tasty confections under his apron, there's no doubt that Duff Goldman would treat the guests at his 2019 wedding to a cake of epic proportions. The dessert guru did not disappoint — showcasing five unique cake creations all crafted by Charm City Cakes at his reception in the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History's Hall of North American Mammals. The 250 lucky attendees that got the chance to indulge in the creative creations included fellow Food Network heavy hitters, such as Alex Guarnaschelli, Jet Tila and Valerie Bertinelli.

According to Martha Stewart Weddings, one of the cakes was suspended from the ceiling like an icing-clad installation, featuring oceanic adornments like bubbles and sea glass sculpted from sugar. Another was more understated, with 6 tiers and a traditional white color palette (and two sheet cakes to match), and the fifth was made entirely from meat. "The bottom tier is meatballs, the second tier is meatloaf, third tier is lamb shawarma, the top tier is scrapple," the chef told People. "Then it's iced in mashed potatoes, with bacon roses and then we have a chocolate fountain that we put gravy in." The meaty masterpiece was even topped with a bride and groom made from hot dogs.

Duff Goldman played bass guitar in a punk band before pursuing professional baking and continues to do so today

The rocker-turned-baker was once a member of several Baltimore-based bands, such as Big Mama Cotton Crotch, soihadto, Danger Ice, and Two-Day Romance — an emo punk group that once performed with Linkin Park and was nearly signed by Sony. Duff Goldman made such a splash on the scene that he was asked to audition for another band based out of Seattle. "I tried out, and it went well, but they decided to go with somebody else," he told Delish. "So I went back to Baltimore and opened a bakery instead."

Running his own kitchen allowed Goldman the chance to go on tour with his band while pursuing his passion for baking in between stints on the road. Many of Charm City's employees also have musical connections: "That's the way the bakery was built—it was a bunch of dudes in rock and jazz bands who wanted to pursue a rock career," he told Delish. "We weren't trying to be good on television; we were trying to be good in bands." Now, the pastry chef shreds as the bassist of the L.A. group Foie Grock — an alternative cover band composed of fellow chefs and culinary tastemakers playing tracks from the likes of Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters and Alice in Chains.

An appearance on a live-stage cooking show catapulted Duff Goldman to stardom

The cheekily named, untraditional live cooking show called called F*ck You, Let's Bake, mixed baking and badassery with antics such as having Duff Goldman fend off ninjas as he cooked and random bouts of singing incorporated into the performance. "It was not at all what a regular, stand-and-stir cooking show was like," Goldman says to Delish. "It was very much in the vein of Monty-Python-meets-Adam-Sandler." A friend of Goldman's, who owned a theater in Baltimore, first concocted the idea for the show and Goldman agreed to participate as a recent culinary school graduate. Another friend of the chef's recorded the show on film, which led Goldman to tape a demo reel under the guidance of his producer brother after learning he had a knack for captivating an audience.

After submitting the reel to multiple TV stations, it was scooped up by the Food Network and soon the hit Ace of Cakes series was born. Even considering his immense success on television and beyond, Goldman's participation in F*uck You, Let's Bake might just be the truest testament to how far the chef will go for his viewers. Each performance concluded with a bit called the "Circle of Death," which involved the baker suiting up in a gas mask and standing against a wall as the audience pelted him with raw eggs.

Duff Goldman crafted every cake for Katy Perry's "Birthday" lyric video

Food Network fans have long been familiar with the Ace of Cake's creative creations, but Duff Goldman got even more exposure when he was recruited to bake the cakes for the lyric video of Katy Perry's 2014 hit "Birthday." The video was shot in his Cakemix Bakery & DIY Decorating studio in L.A., and featured song lyrics scrawled in flour, plastered across rolling pins, and penned in icing on cakes shaped like everything from kittens to hamburgers. According to People, once he received word that his baking skills were needed for the project, Goldman and 12 of his staffers dreamed up a wide range of unique designs that would be right at home in Perry's whimsical world, with less than one week to craft all of the confections.

Perry's team offered some specific concepts for the cakes, but Goldman had "free rein" with the remainder of the desserts. "It was a real collaboration," Goldman tells People. "The Cakemix staff was working with the producer and director, who would say, 'We need this lyric written out in frosting,' or, 'Can we get this done with food coloring?' It was a really intense affair, putting it all together, but really cool — it made us feel like a part of what they were doing." At the end of the shoot, the production team was allowed to take the cakes home with them — a pretty sweet deal.

One of Duff Goldman's first culinary jobs was at McDonalds

His resume includes globally renowned eateries such as French Laundry, Cindy Wolf's Savannah, and Todd English's Olives, but the Ace of Cakes got his start at fast food restaurants. In addition to working the line at chains like Roy Rogers, Burger King, and Wendy's, Duff Goldman gleaned much gastronomic guidance from his humble beginnings as a McDonald's fry cook.

"McDonald's was actually a good experience," Goldman told Zagat. "I learned a whole skill set that I needed as a professional chef from there. I mainly learned about consistency. The reason McDonald's does so well is that if I get a cheeseburger in Portland and then get one in Kalamazoo it is going to taste exactly the same. Even the amount of ice in a cup is exactly the same. When I started working in restaurants and hotels, you realize that that kind of consistency is important, even in a fine dining restaurant." 

The chef also learned some of the most valuable restaurant basics at the burger chain, such as the importance of keeping your uniform presentable and the nuances of running a kitchen.

Duff Goldman grew up in a town called Sandwich

The pastry prince moved around the country a handful of times during his childhood and lived in locations such as Detroit and Virginia, but spent some of his most formative years in a quaint Cape Cod beach town. "When people ask me where I'm from, I say Sandwich," Duff Goldman says in a telephone interview with the Cape Cod Times. "It's my favorite place."

Goldman relocated to Sandwich in 1991 after his sophomore year of high school and immediately felt at home with the town's laid-back vibe. He helped rebuild cars and boat engines here before trading pliers for a piping bag — learning how to work with his hands (via the Cape Cod Times). The chef also had one of his most hilarious food experiences at the local slice spot Sandwich Pizza, making and delivering pies to hungry patrons. "They wouldn't let me deliver too much, though, because the phone number of the pizza place is on the back of the truck and I drove like a maniac," the chef relays to Zagat. "Cape Cod in the summertime is full of tourists, so everyone driving around on their vacation needs to stop and look at every freakin' leaf in New England — and I'm trying to deliver a pizza! So I was driving on the wrong side of the road, passing people on lawns." We're sure the culinary creative is much more careful when transporting his cake creations.

Duff Goldman baked and designed the cake for President Obama's 2013 inauguration

The celebrity pastry chef and his Charm City Cakes team crafted a patriotic pastry of epic proportions for President Obama's 2013 inauguration — a nine-tier stunner cloaked in silvery fondant and adorned with glittering stars, bunting, presidential seals as well as classic red, white and blue details. Duff Goldman's creation garnered many admirers — one of which happened to be President Trump, who commissioned a copycat cake to be baked for his own inauguration ceremonies four years later.

Accompanied by side-by-side photos of both confections, Goldman tweeted: "The cake on the left is the one I made for President Obama's inauguration 4 years ago. The one on the right is Trumps. I didn't make it." Not soon after, D.C.'s Buttercream Bakeshop admitted that they were asked to recreate Goldman's masterpiece for the Armed Services ball by the inaugural organizers, sparking controversy and the Twitter hashtag #cakegate.

Duff Goldman cultivated his art and design skills as a graffiti artist

With an artist mother who sculpts everything from ceramics to stained glass and a grandmother who dabbled in silversmithing, printmaking, and painting (via The Jerusalem Post), it's no wonder the pastry whiz inherited some serious art chops. Before he was crafting images out of icing and trimmings from fondant, he expressed his creativity in a more rebellious art form: graffiti (or, "mural art" as he referred to it around his mother). In his early high school days, the chef was enrolled part time in D.C.'s Corcoran college of Art + Design to keep him out of trouble, but that didn't stop Duff Goldman from pursuing his painting later on.

"When my mom found out I was a graffiti artist, she completely freaked out," Goldman tells Spoon University. "There's this really cool overpass. It's a twenty-foot wide bridge, and if you go underneath it, there's a three-foot concrete step in front of this wall. After I took her to this place she was completely torn. She wanted to be mad because graffiti is illegal, but she was also blown away and proud because she's an artist herself." Based on his intricate creations, applying his art skills to icing proved to be a piece of cake for Goldman.

Duff Goldman has authored three books

With his pastry prowess and fun energy, there's no doubt why Duff Goldman captured the hearts (and sweet tooths) of foodies around the world. The baker co-authored his first book, Ace of Cakes, with his brother in 2009, giving fans an inside look at the magic of Charm City Cakes through photos, illustrations, anecdotes, memorabilia and more. With his knowledge of sweets in high demand, Goldman released his second book and inaugural cookbook in 2015 — which is jam-packed with 130 delectable recipes for goodies that run the gamut from cereal bars to banana bourbon cream pie, and even a take on the classic Twinkie. Duff Bakes claims to be first-time-baker friendly, yet unique enough to please experienced dessert dilettantes, allowing both to build skills and learn the science behind sweets.

It's clear Goldman has a soft spot for working with children as a judge and host of Food Network's Kids Baking Championship, so it was only a matter of time until the pastry chef released a cookbook for little ones. Released this year, Super Good Baking for Kids includes 35 kid-friendly recipes such as unicorn cupcakes and creative dessert pizzas, and even includes helpful kitchen safety tips along with funny, fact-filled sidebars.

Duff Goldman bakes his cakes in reverse order

Though it may seem unconventional, Duff Goldman's signature reverse baking technique is likely the secret behind his fresh and fluffy cakes. Cake goes stale quicker than other desserts because of its light, spongy texture, so the pastry chef and his team at Charm City begin each commission by sketching a design and touching up every last fondant flower and frosting flourish before they even consider preheating the oven.

"Think back to how many weddings you attended where the wedding cake was beautiful, but tasted like crap," Goldman tells Food Network. "There are a few reasons for this, but the main problem is that whoever made the cake didn't make flavor and freshness a priority. Maybe that cake was sitting in a freezer for a month, or worse, sitting in the fridge for a week." With his meticulous method and high standards of confectionery craftsmanship, Goldman truly proves to be the Ace of Cakes