Duff Goldman is the owner of Charm City Cakes in Baltimore, Md., and the chef behind the popular series Ace of Cakes.
Duff has been cooking since the age of four, when his mom caught him in the kitchen swinging around a meat cleaver while watching Chef Tell on TV. In second grade, Duff came this close to cutting his pinkie off while carving a pumpkin. He started working professionally when he was 14 at a bagel shop in a mall. Ever since then, Duff's been putting his own crazy spin on food.
Duff's creativity with cakes might be partly due to the fact that he comes from a family of great cooks and artists. His Ukrainian great-grandmother, "Mamo," was a baker and renowned artist. Her daughter, Duff's grandmother "Nana," was a silversmith, enamellist, painter and photographer who prided herself on her skills in the kitchen. Duff's mom, Jackie, is also an artist who began in ceramics and is now an accomplished stained-glass designer on the West Coast.
Duff was ready to leave his own creative mark, and after graduating the University of Maryland, he enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, Calif., and took a stage at The French Laundry under acclaimed pastry chef Steven Durfee. Afterward, Duff moved to the mountains of Vail, Colo., to serve as executive pastry chef at the Vail Cascade Hotel and Resort, working with such notable chefs as Jessie Llapitan and chef Jason Rogers. Subsequently, Duff accepted an opportunity to bake bread for Todd English's Olives in Washington, D.C., where he worked under executive chef Steve Mannino.
Charm City Cakes was started in 2000 when Duff had tired of wandering the country and decided to settle in Baltimore. Duff began just making a few cakes for friends and family, but as word got out about his uncommon creations, business picked up fast. By 2002, Duff was so inundated with cake orders, he decided to make specialty cake baking his full-time gig. He quickly outgrew his home kitchen and two bakeries and, in 2005, bought a 6,000-square-foot cake compound in the Remington neighborhood of Baltimore.
Duff hired only friends to staff Charm City Cakes — his crew is a ragtag team with experience ranging in architecture, performance art, coffee slingin', graphic design, sculpture and massage therapy. Wielding unusual tools for the trade like drill saws and blowtorches, Duff’s team takes cake design to the next level, motivated by the need to constantly outdo themselves by baking cakes that are beautiful, challenging and as out-of-the-ordinary as possible. Charm City Cakes has grown to become one of the nation's most sought-after cake design shops, and is now accepting orders for two years out.
Cakes aside, Duff is a sculptor, artist, musician and former graffiti artist. He deejays and plays bass in the indie instrumental band "So I had to?".
Catch Duff and Ace of Cakes on Cooking Channel, and on his new Food Network show, Sugar High.