Duff Goldman Dishes On His New Show Duff's Happy Fun Bake Time - Exclusive Interview

Duff Goldman is known for going over the top, especially when he's in the kitchen. The "Ace of Cakes" secured his claim to fame over the last 15 years making some of the most intricate, creative, and larger-than-life cakes you'll ever lay your eyes on. Goldman's work is all about expanding our imagination while titillating our taste buds. And his newest project promises to be no different, while also being nothing like the cooking shows you're used to. "Duff's Happy Fun Bake Time," now available to stream on discovery+, takes viewers inside a "dream fantasy kitchen" alongside Goldman and a team of fantastical puppets from The Jim Henson Company to learn the fascinating science behind some of our favorite foods, from ice cream and birthday cakes, to fresh bread and pasta. Get ready for lots of learning and a lot of laughs for the whole family.

And family is at the top of Goldman's mind right now. On top of getting creative in the kitchen and in front of the camera, Goldman is getting used to what he calls "dad life" after welcoming a new daughter into the world in January. He describes the whole experience as pure bliss. "Even at three in the morning, she's crying and covered in her own poop, my wife and I are just beaming at each other ... It's amazing how much it changes your life... the way that you just see the world, and yourself, and your place in the universe. It's the best."

Goldman shared all this and more in an exclusive interview with Mashed, while revealing some of the cool things we can expect to learn from "Duff's Happy Fun Bake Time." He also looked back on his "Ace of Cakes" days, revealed the most difficult cake he ever took on, and dished out some of his best baking advice for all of us at home.

Duff Goldman shares details about his "dream fantasy kitchen" on Duff's Happy Fun Bake Time

"Duff's Happy Fun Bake Time" seems wildly different from a typical cooking show. It's been described as a "dream fantasy kitchen". What does that mean? What can we expect?

Well, a dream fantasy kitchen has several things. One of them is a magical proof box. So the proof box that I have, not only can you proof your bread in there, but if you program it right, it will take you to any time in history or it will take you anywhere in the world. So if we need to go see the dinosaurs, I can get in the proof box, it will take me to dinosaurs. If I need to go to China, it'll take me to China. So wherever I need to go, I have a proof box that will take me there.

There's that, and then the oven is a dragon and he bakes everything in his mouth. And the mixer is actually a robot elephant and she mixes everything with her trunk. Her name is Dizzy. There's a sloth that lives in the ceiling. His name is S'Later, and he's kind of like, just a super chill, super cool dude who hangs out and asks questions. [There's also] a Chesapeake Bay blue crab that lives in the bakery. His name is Edgar after Edgar Allan Poe. He's kind of a little nod to Baltimore. There's a lot of stuff that happens in the dream fantasy kitchen.

That sounds like a lot of fun. What was the best part of making a show like this?

Oh man, that's a good question. I think one of the most incredible things is watching how the puppeteers work and how they do their craft, because it's insane. They're laying on the ground on these little carts that car mechanics have to get underneath. And then they're contorted on the set. They're all kind of crouched down. I mean, physically [it is] very demanding. And they all have monitors, so a bunch of TV screens where they can see what the camera sees. So when they're behind the counter and they're operating the puppets and then the puppets are above the counter, they can see what the puppet looks like, and they can work them correctly. And just getting to watch the way that they move, the way that they improv, the way that they interact with all the different departments, it was just amazing to me. It was really, really cool.

And I can't imagine, on top of, you're not just filming with them, but you're also trying to cook and bake and work in a kitchen at the same time.

I mean, I've cooked and baked in some pretty terrible circumstances throughout my career. So being on this [set], that was a piece of cake.

Duff Goldman says viewers will learn a lot from Duff's Happy Fun Bake Time

What are some of the most interesting things that you've learned — and are going to get to teach us — about food science while making the show?

I think one of the most fascinating things for me when I was doing all the research for these episodes was how the shape of different pasta noodles depends on what kind of sauce you're going to be having with your pasta. Right? So fusilli is really good for basil [pesto], because it's kind of oily and runny. And so all of the fusilli will trap it. But when you have something really kind of gloppy and sticky, like I don't know, Alfredo sauce, you can have a nice long noodle that the sauce can stick to. For me, just finding out that the different pasta shapes really do have a purpose, I don't know. It's just such a nerdy thing ... I just love it.

Duff Goldman on the power of curiosity and his passion for working with kids

"Happy Fun Bake Time" is geared towards children and families. You're also the co-host and a judge on "Kids Baking Championship." You've written a baking book for kids. What do you love most about interacting with kids in the kitchen?

Well, I have a lot of natural enthusiasm for everything. I'm a very enthusiastic person. I get really excited about stuff and I'm kind of a big kid. And I think that working with kids, I feel more comfortable to be myself than when I'm working with adults. Because with adults sometimes, I just make people feel weird because I'm kind of a strange person, and I act like a kid sometimes. I get really excited, and I'm always just jazzed about stuff. And I think sometimes adults are like, what's wrong with you, dude? And when I'm working with kids, I find that we're basically the same thing. We get really excited about stuff. When we put cookies in the oven we want to stare at them until they're done, things like that. I feel like with kids, it's a lot easier to be myself.

Yeah. I mean you're full of imagination.

Yeah. You know, you see it a lot in kids, I think. And the thing I really want kids to get out of this [show] is ... I want to foster a sense of curiosity and not just about cooking, but about everything. Because I find that when we're curious, and when we ask questions, it leads us on journeys. When you're like oh, why is a bagel chewy? Oh, a bagel is chewy because you use high-gluten flour. Where does high-gluten flour come from? High-gluten flour comes from hard red winter wheat. Why does hard red winter wheat have more protein than soft summer wheat, you know?

And so when you kind of start asking questions like that, it leads you on these sort of journeys of discovery. And I think that food is a great vehicle for it because one, it's the only thing I really know about, but two, it's so wide and varied. There's so much there. There's so many cool things that happen in kitchens. And there's so many different ways you can look at it. There's math, there's physics, there's chemistry. There's a lot of different angles that you can kind of use food to sort of, illuminate. You know what I mean?

Duff Goldman reveals the most difficult cake he's ever created

What's one of the most difficult, or elaborate cakes you ever made?

One time we made a life-size working motorcycle. So like the back tire spun, and smoke shot out of the exhaust, and the tail lights and the headlights worked. And we put a little speaker in it, so it had the sound of the engine. And it was so technical. Like one, motorcycles are really thin and it's like a bicycle, right? It won't stand up without a kickstand. And when you make a cake that's that tall and narrow, it's really technically challenging to make sure it's not going to fall apart.

That is incredible. How long did that take?

A week and a half.

Wow. How long did it take to eat?

Oh man, that thing was destroyed in minutes. But it's kind of nice. I like people to slice into the cakes and eat them. You know, when I first started, it was a little hard to see them get destroyed, but then they've kind of become like mandalas, like sand paintings. It's sort of like, you've spent all this time, like work and work and work and work, and then you make this amazing thing and then you give it to somebody and they eat it. It's kind of beautiful in a way. There's something really sort of satisfying about that.

Duff Goldman on the biggest baking mistakes we're making at home

You know every trick in the book when it comes to baking. What are some of the biggest mistakes people make when they're baking cakes at home?

Couple things. One — and I'm guilty of this too — sometimes when you're reading a recipe, you'll think oh, I don't need to do that stuff, or something like that. But the thing is, cooks and bakers, they don't really enjoy writing so much. So if somebody took the trouble to write it down, it's probably a good idea to follow directions.

Especially with cakes, one of the things that people don't do is they don't sift their flour and sugar and all the dry ingredients. They don't sift it together. [Don't] just stir it around with the whisk three times ... get a sifter, get a mesh strainer and sift your dry ingredients because it really makes a huge difference. It makes a big difference in how aerated your cake is going to be. It just makes it lighter and fluffier. You can always tell when somebody has sifted the flour. So, it's a good idea to sift.

And what about decorating? What are decorating mistakes that we need to avoid?

One thing I've seen is, when you cover a cake in rolled fondant, you want to work really fast when the fondant is really fresh. But when you're doing flat decorations and you want to cut things out of fondant using an exacto knife or something, when you roll the fondant out, you want to let it sit for about a half an hour and let it dry, right? Because then when you run your exacto through it, you get super-duper clean lines. And the exacto knife, even though it's super sharp, it still exerts pressure because the fondant is kind of sticky and it does want to stick to the blade. And so if the outside of the fondant isn't dry, the shape that you're cutting will warp because you're dragging it with the knife. But if you let it dry, the knife slides through really clean and it doesn't stick as much, and so the shape that you're trying to cut out will stay that shape.

Duff Goldman on the one thing every baker should invest in

Do you have other, sort of special hacks for baking that you can share with our readers?

You know, I think everybody should invest in a digital scale and weigh all their ingredients. It's something bakers talk about a lot, and I think it scares people because, oh my God, a scale. They're like $11, right? You can get a digital scale for super cheap.

The other thing about it is that it just makes it so much easier, right? If you know that you need 96 grams of flour, then you put a bowl on the scale and you weigh out 96 grams of flour. If you need a cup of flour, it's like, well, what's a cup? How much do I press it down? Do I pack it all the way in there, do I leave it very loose? And when you're weighing ingredients, you get the same result every time. Like if I got a cookie recipe and it calls for a hundred grams of butter, I'm going to get a hundred grams of butter every single time. If it calls for one and a third cups of butter, then what are you going to do? You're going to jam all the butter into the thing, and it's just a big mess. So, it's so much easier to weigh everything out.

Duff Goldman reveals his ultimate dream cake

Do you have a bucket list baking project that you've yet to tackle?

There's one thing I've always wanted to do that I never have. There's a scene in "The Empire Strikes Back" when Luke Skywalker has escaped from this snow beast and he's wandering around the snow. Han Solo finds him, and to keep Luke Skywalker warm, Han Solo slices open the belly of this creature called a tauntaun that he was riding to find Luke. He slices open the belly and he shoves Luke inside of him to keep him warm. When he cuts him open with the lightsaber, all the guts kind of spill out and it's really gross. And it's just one of those images that when you're a little kid, you see that and it kind of sticks with you. And so I've always wanted to make a cake of that scene and have somebody slice open the tauntaun, and all the guts ooze out like it did in the movie.

Duff Goldman reminisces about his Ace of Cakes days

What do you miss most from "Ace of Cakes"? Do you think that fans will ever see a return of that show?

You know, I've got to say ... I mean, you know, I don't want to say ... never say never. But the thing about "Ace of Cakes" was, I didn't know what I was doing, right? I'd never worked in a cake shop before. So everything we were doing on that show, we were just making it up. None of us, nobody was a cake decorator. Everybody came from art school and we had no idea what we were doing. So things were falling apart all the time, breaking all the time, because we were learning. And the thing that was so cool about "Ace of Cakes," was that people got to watch us figure out how to run a business, how to decorate a cake, how to deliver a cake, how to make a TV show. None of us knew what we were doing. It was a very special time and place.

And we're all still really close. We all still hang out. But it was just an incredible group of people doing really interesting things, and basically inventing a new industry, you know what I mean? It was a very special time and place that I'm just not sure we can ever really recreate. I mean, we could still have amazing shows about people making cakes. "Buddy vs. Duff," we make incredible stuff on that show and it's a lot of the same people. And I think that "Buddy vs. Duff" is probably the closest in energy you're going to get from "Ace of Cakes," because we're always under the gun, right? We're always racing against the clock and we're doing stuff that we don't know how to do. And because the cakes on "Buddy vs. Duff" are so big and crazy that we're trying things that may or may not work.

Was there ever anything that happened on "Ace of Cakes" while filming that viewers didn't get to see?

A lot. There's a lot they didn't get to see. "Ace of Cakes" moved really fast and ... I think people that don't decorate cakes don't really understand the amount of time and patience and labor and love that you have to put into these cakes to really make them great. And that's why cake decorating in competition shows is ... it's unfortunate because ... cake decorating doesn't do well when you put a clock on it, because you have to take your time. Cake decorators can make amazing things, but when you only have 20 hours and you have to make something big and crazy, it's going to be cool, but there's so many flaws. There's so many little things that just aren't exactly the way you wanted. Cake decorators are very myopic.

Duff Goldman gets real about his relationship with Cake Boss Buddy Valastro

You mentioned him before, so I have to ask. You've been kind of pinned up against Cake Boss for over a decade. You guys have battled it out twice now. Are you guys friends? Is he just your baking nemesis forever?

When my daughter was born, [Valastro] sent her this beautiful blanket, and really nice socks. And Buddy got her a Burberry jacket, it's amazing. We're totally friends. Actually earlier today, I was wearing a Team Buddy shirt.

Very friendly competition then.

Yeah. Listen. There is all the mutual respect in the world there. You know what I mean? There's like nothing but mutual respect. One of the things is, there's not many people in the world that do what we do, and we have to love each other because there's just not a lot of it. Two, Buddy and his team make incredible cakes, and as a fan of cakes, I love watching what they make. It's really, really neat. So, yeah. There's no animosity there. Everybody's homey.

Duff Goldman on baking at home and baking for his daughter

You bake cakes all the time for a living. What do you love to bake for yourself at home?

Chocolate babka.

Is that a family recipe?

Yes, my great-grandmother's.

That's awesome. And we talked about your daughter right off the bat. Congratulations again. I know we're all ready to see the elaborate and amazing, incredible birthday cakes that she's going to get. Are you already planning her first birthday cake?

I've already been planning out her tea party. I've been thinking about ... I'm going to start making petit fours again, those tiny little, cute little petit fours for tea time. And little cucumber sandwiches. Our tea parties are going to be pretty spectacular.

I can only imagine. Alice in Wonderland can step aside.

Yeah. Yeah, totally.

Thank you so much for the time to speak with us today and we're really looking forward to the show.

Thank you so much. You're going to get a giggle. You're going to dig it. It's funny.

"Duff's Happy Fun Bake Time" is available to stream on discovery+ beginning on April 29th.