I have a guilty pleasure, and that's watching the TLC show "Cake Boss." It stars Buddy Valastro, the owner and boss of family-run Carlo's Bake Shop in Hoboken, NJ. Buddy's a tough on the outside, mushy on the inside, likable Italian baker. He's a bit rough around the edges and speaks with a wicked New Joisy accent; but he actually has quite an artist's eye and creates some of the most spectacular cakes you've ever seen for weddings and other special occasions. The show's kind of funny, too; Buddy and members of his familia spend a lot of time shouting and playing practical jokes on one another when they're not baking cakes. That's how they do it--"Hoboken Style, baby!" (as Buddy would say).
I always loved to decorate birthday cakes for my boys when they were growing up, with icing pictures of Sesame Street characters, animals, dinosaurs, sports heroes, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Super Mario Bros. icons--the list goes on. But boy, I wish this show had been on back then, because I realize now that I was a complete amateur! Of course, I don't have all the fancy, industrial-strength equipment Buddy has, or the team of assistants. But I've learned a few things from "Cake Boss," like "crumb coating" for instance (which comes in handy when you want to carve a cake into a shape). Watching this show has inspired me to try to create bigger and better cakes than I ever did before.
Inspired by Buddy et al., yesterday I made a two-layer cake decorated to look like one of my sons. (It wasn't his birthday; he just wanted me to bake something special that he could bring in to share with his fellow teaching interns, and he wanted it to be funny as well as tasty, so...) This cake was not up to "Cake Boss" speed, not by a long shot. But I'm going to keep watching my new favorite show and trying to incorporate some of what I learn into my own cake making.