Cake Boss Buddy Valastro On 100 Years Of Klondike, A&E, And The Family Business - Exclusive Interview

Buddy Valastro is a busy guy. He took over his family's bakery, Carlo's, as a young man, and turned it into a chain with locations across the country (and international locations, too). On top of that, he spent years as the star of TLC's "Cake Boss," sharing his fantastical cake creations with TV viewers everywhere. That's where many of us were first introduced to Buddy, but it was only the beginning of his TV career. His IMDb page boasts a prodigious collection of credits, including numerous appearances on "Rachael Ray" and "Good Morning America," a variety of baking shows, and even an acting role in the movie "Billie Bob Joe." Additionally, Valastro is a family man who makes a lot of time to spend with his kids, his wife, Lisa, and his extended family, as a perusal of his Instagram shows.

Somehow, this baker extraordinaire was able to fit another thing into his busy schedule: he baked and decorated a massive cake for Klondike's 100th birthday. In an exclusive Mashed interview, we spoke to Buddy about working with Klondike, some of his favorite memories from his long TV career, and his love of baking.

The significance of the Klondike cake

Do you have any fun childhood memories about Klondike Bars?

Absolutely. Honestly, they were one of my dad's favorite ice cream bars. We always had Klondikes in the freezer and it was always the classic, and I love it. It's nostalgic to me.

How did you end up being the guy who baked the cake for Klondike's 100th birthday?

To celebrate 100 years in a company is a huge feat. [Carlo's Bakery] is a 100-year-old brand, too. They wanted to celebrate and they make ice cream, so cake made sense, and who better to come to than the Cake Boss to make you a grand cake? When they came to me, my idea for the cake was what the cake actually end up being. The original idea morphed into exactly what they wanted. I closed my eyes and I thought of the iconic silver foil wrapper, I thought of the bear, I thought of this scene in the North Pole and the bear next to this big cake, and I could actually see it.

When I told them my idea, they loved it. We did 10 tiers of cake, a tier for every decade. We did the bear very chill, like he was hanging out with a party hat on, and we also wanted to tell the story of where Klondike started to where they are today. Klondike makes a lot of different ice cream bars. It's not just the iconic one that I remember as a kid — they make cones, they make tacos, they make all kinds of stuff. We put that all over the cake and represented 100 years of where they were and where they are today. The cake really told that story, in a fun way, to celebrate 100 years of Klondike as a company.

I'm paying homage to the fact that — 100 years ago, think of what it was like to make ice cream in America. How did you get your ice cream shipped to places? These guys were the pioneers of ice cream, and the fact that the brand is still so iconic and still together — they do have one of the slogans that stood the test of time. "What Would You Do For A Klondike Bar?" Everybody knows that. It's one of those things where everybody's heard it and seen the commercial.

How Klondike fans can get a taste of birthday cake (or Klondike for life)

It's iconic. What's your favorite part about making a big elaborate cake like this?

It's storytelling. Cake making, to me today, has become storytelling, whether you're making a heart cake for your wife to tell her you love her, or whether you're making this giant 10-foot tall, 800-pound Klondike cake. We want to tell a story to help you tell what you're trying to say here, and we're trying to say that Klondike is a hundred-year-old brand that's been doing it for all these years and showcase all the different stuff that they make. We convey that story in this cake.

The cake looks awesome. Are people going to be able to try it out?

Yeah,  we're going to have a couple of pop-ups that people can go to in Brooklyn and in California where they can actually go and taste the cake, or they can enter to win the sweepstakes where we'll mail a cake to your house. If you get the Klondike card, if you win that, then you get Klondike for life, which was a pretty cool card. I held the card and I don't want to lie, I tried to steal it, but they didn't let me get away with that.

Buddy discusses his favorite cake flavor and Carlo's Brazil

As the Cake Boss, what's your favorite flavor of cake?

My favorite cake is vanilla cake with a Chantilly French cream with fresh raspberries and chocolate ganache.

Ooh, that sounds awesome.

[It has] whipped cream on the outside — old-fashioned, pure heavy cream and sugar whipped cream.

So decadent! You mentioned that Carlo's Bakery is another 100-year-old company. From your Instagram, it looks like you took a trip to Brazil to see a Carlo's location down there. How does it feel to turn your family's business into this big global enterprise?

It's been a dream come true. It's been a real "pinch me" moment. Doing "Cake Boss" allowed me to travel to almost every continent on the planet, other than Antarctica, but I've seen the world and I've seen the fans, and everybody always wants a taste of what we do. Brazil was the first place outside the US that we were able to do that. Going there and seeing how proud I was of the product they're putting out there and getting that reaction from the fans is really special, and it means a lot.

How Buddy earned the name Cake Boss

You've been working at Carlo's since you were around 17. When do you feel like you earned the name Cake Boss?

I like that question. I started when I was 11, actually, I took over Carlo's when I was 17, and my dad taught me as a kid, "You never have to tell anybody you're the boss." He would say to me, "It's in what you do. It's in the way you work." To this day, I'll go in the back and I'll scrub the floors with people, because I show my people that when it is time to go to war, I'm the general that's on the battlefield with them, like at Christmas time when I slept in my office for five nights out of seven and worked 18-hour days with everybody in the grind of it. My whole family was here doing it. You show them that you are the boss because of what you can do and the way you treat everybody, and you treat everybody with respect. I never really had to say I was the boss — it just happened.

Respect is something that you have to earn. You can't buy it. You can't force it. People will respect you when you've earned it. There's no better kind of respect that you could ever get.

Updates on Buddy's hand injury and Buddy vs. Duff

A couple of years ago you shared your inspiring recovery from that hand injury. How's the hand doing now?

I'm about 95% back with strength and dexterity. We did wind up doing another season of "Buddy vs. Duff" after that. I was able to do some of the most crazy cakes that we've ever done in our career. Thank God for medicine and Dr. Carlson at HSS [Hospital for Special Surgery] and Dina, my occupational therapist, who really helped me come back to where I am. I got one more surgery to correct my middle finger a little bit, but I'm going to do that in January.

It's great to hear it's going so well.

It was scary. It really was nuts.

You mentioned "Buddy vs. Duff." What was it like competing against Duff? Did it feel sweet when you won challenges?

I've got nothing but admiration and respect for Duff and all the decorators. He's got an amazing team that worked with him. TV always wants to see a big rivalry where it's like, "You guys don't like each other," but we get along. When I had my accident, Duff was one of the first people to reach out to me and check up on me. When he had his baby, I was one of the first ones to call and congratulate him. We've become friends over the years and we have mutual respect and admiration for each other and each other's work.

In the beginning, if you go back to Season 1, we didn't really know each other that well. I knew of him, and he knew of me, but we didn't really spend time together and we didn't know what we were all about, but after making four different seasons of "Buddy vs. Duff" with the Christmas specials and stuff, we have a lot of respect for one another. It's a lot of fun. We are more like a friend on the basketball court, poking fun at each other like, "Hey, I'm gonna get you today." With that kind of relationship, there's no animosity or jealousy or any of that.

You just announced that you have a big partnership with A&E coming up. Can you share anything about what you're cooking up related to that?

I'm so excited about it. We're going to be doing 60 hours of television over the next couple of years. We really can't say the details of what the shows are yet, it's very preliminary, but I couldn't be happier to be working with such a great network like A&E, and I can't wait to bring me, my family, and our concepts to the network.

You and your family might be starring in a Lifetime movie as part of the deal, right?

Yeah. That's a secret wish that I've always had. I always told my wife, "I want to be in a Lifetime movie." It's happening.

Who will be the next Cake Boss?

Family is obviously very important to you. Is there anybody in your family who you think might be the next Cake Boss?

Wow. You're going to get me in trouble here!

Every single one of my kids shows a lot of interest in the business. Actually, my three older ones are out of school now, and they're working four to five days a week at the factory with me. The little guy's still a little young — I don't want to get in trouble with child labor laws, he's only 11, so don't rat me out, whatever you do.

I want them to feel the passion and love that I feel for it, and if they do, I want them to do something with the bakery. I built this bakery with my dad, my mom, my sisters, my wife, and I could have never dreamt of where we were and where we are today. I want to do something amazing like that with my children. Whether it's taking Carlo's to another level or having more across the world, or it's a new concept that we come up with together, we'll see. They're definitely very opinionated in what they want as far as flavors and textures and designs, so we'll see what the next chapter brings.

Does it make you happy that they're all interested in the business?

It totally does, but at the end of the day, whatever it is that would make them happy to do, [that] makes me happy. If you don't love what you do, you're never going to really thrive.

When I finished that Klondike cake, I snapped a picture of it and I sent it to my wife and kids and said, "Look at this cake. It's so cool." To think that after so many years and so many cakes, I still get that feeling of "wow," That's why I do it. That's the trick.

Buddy's favorite chef, ingredient, and fast-food order

If you could pick one person to cook you dinner, who would it be?

My dad for sure. My dad would be it. If I had to say a chef, it would be probably Julia Child. Who wouldn't want her? A lot of the current chefs are my friends, so I'm going to get in freaking trouble if I pick one.

What was your favorite thing that your dad cooked?

My dad made the best shrimp scampi over linguine and we do an iteration of that at my restaurant, Buddy V's in Vegas.

What's one ingredient you can't live without?

Sugar or flour would be it. Probably sugar. That's what makes it sweet — [we] need a lot of that at the bakery. We probably go through [about] 10 tons of sugar a week.

If you eat fast food, what's your favorite spot and what's your go-to order?

A spicy chicken sandwich from Wendy's. not that I don't like the Popeyes chicken sandwich or Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich or a Big Mac from McDonald's or a Whopper from Burger King — I'm a pretty easy guy. Being a dad of kids that are teenagers, there is always fast food in my house, so I'm always stealing a french fry or two.

Teenagers are like bottomless pits.


Why Rachael Ray and Guy Fieri are two of the nicest people in show business

Digging on your Instagram, it looks like you're buds with Guy Fieri and you've appeared on his shows a bit. Does he act the same way off camera as he does on camera?

Not only does he act the same off camera, but he is the nicest guy in the world. There are a lot of things that he does with the firefighters. In California, when there were so many fires — his house almost burned down, that's how bad it was — when all those fires were raging, he went out, he had this huge trailer and he cooked for people. I can't say enough good things about Guy. He's always been there for me as a friend, and he's [someone] that you want to have dinner with and chill out with. He's a really cool dude.

You've been on Rachael Ray's show so many times. Do you have a favorite memory from that?

First off, I can't say enough great things about Rachael. She's like my cousin. I've been on her show so much we are like family, and she's always so sweet. The secret fact that you probably don't know about Rachael Ray is every time you go on "Rachael Ray," when you're in the green room, they give you the best meal. It's gourmet. "Good Morning, America," I love you guys, [but] you've got to step your game up.


You go [to Rachael's green room] and it's like, "Oh, we have butternut squash soup, and it's perfectly made, grilled cheese with prosciutto on it, and a little dessert." A full [meal], every time you go there. Anytime you're going to be on "Rachael Ray," and you're going to be in the green room, go hungry.

That's a good pro tip.

Yeah. I have so many great memories. [We] have made so many cakes together. There's been so much that I've done with Rachael. When she had me drive my own Formula One car, that was pretty iconic. It almost feels like we've done hundreds of episodes together, but I love her and nobody works harder than Rachael Ray. Nobody's a better pro. When I'm on camera with her, I feel like I've got to up my game. That's how good she is.

Now through July 16, 2022, fans can enter to win their own Klondike 100th birthday cake by posting a photo or video on Instagram of themselves completing a decades-themed "What Would You Do for a Klondike" challenge with #4aKlondike100Sweepstakes and tagging @klondikebar in the caption. More information can be found here.

You can try out Buddy Valastro's baking at Carlo's Bakery, which also ships nationally.