Celebrities are among the fans of Duff’s CakeMix in Los Angeles, a new do-it-yourself cake decorating franchise launched by acclaimed Ace of Cakes baker Duff Goldman. Among them are Weird Al Yankovic, Victoria Beckham, Justin Bieber and Chrissy Teigen, Goldman says.
But his favorite guests are the children who come to Duff’s CakeMix for birthday parties. Customers buy a pre-baked cake and then choose one of 150 cards showing how to make a unicorn or dragon or other designs, or they can choose their own ingredients and create whatever they want.
Goldman is also the host of the Food Network show Kids Baking Championship. “It’s great to see kids who are really into baking,” Duffman says of the show. “When a 10-year-old child puts cookies in the oven and 12 minutes later takes it out and has perfect cookies, his sense of pride can be seen on his face. I am here with them.”
At Goldman Charm City Cakes, a bakery based in Baltimore, “we make 10 to 12 cakes a week,” and its success is one of the reasons Goldman decided to franchise Duff’s CakeMix. “It just makes me so proud to know that I started a business and 20 years later it’s still here and it’s expanded and gotten bigger and better. I love it, and I think with franchising you really help people become entrepreneurs,” he said.
“The nice thing about CakeMix is that it’s not like a regular bakery or restaurant where there’s all this crazy stuff that can screw up your business through no fault of your own,” he said. “You don’t have to have a culinary degree, you just have to have a degree in entertainment.”
Pamela Fazio is the brand’s first CEO and former president of Kahala Brands. “I was responsible for the due diligence, the pre-acquisition process. We were buying a company every nine months,” she said. “I would run that brand for about a year, franchise it and move on to the next one.”
At Duff’s CakeMix, she was busy installing systems. “We reworked all the operating instructions. We have created a new instruction for opening stores. We have all the marketing systems in place for grand openings,” she said, making other points.
“I reframed our supply chain and national partnership with Sysco Foods, which we also did for Canada. I partnered with the head of the CIA, the Culinary Institute of America, for the cake recipe. The cakes are made by a third-party company and then quickly frozen and distributed to Sysco stores.
She likes the partnership with Goldman. “He was amazing,” she said. “When you watch the Food Network, you think, can they really be like this all the time? But one thing I’ve loved about him since day one is really his personality. The look on their faces was why he did it. He really made it for a fun environment. It’s easy to confirm, right?”
Goldman returns the compliment. “She knows it. She was a great find,” he said of Fazio. The cost of investment in Duff’s CakeMix ranges from $257,000 to $747,000.
Goldman’s obsession with baking dates back to his first fine dining job in college, baking cornbread and cookies. “It was every day for two years straight, that’s all I did. I was very good at making cookies, I was very good at cornbread. And after a while, when you’re doing the same thing over and over and over again, you start to notice things like that,’ like putting the eggs in first inhibits the development of the protein in the flour, so you end up with a softer cornbread.
“Such strange things. It was exciting for me. I wonder why that is? So I started reading about it. I asked the chef. She said you’ve got the head for it, you should go to pastry school.’ He did, and later starred in “Tough of Cakes” for 10 seasons and 115 episodes.
There, he sculpted cakes with drills and blowtorches, and made cakes that took up to 29 hours to complete. Favorites include a seven-tier Dr. Seuss-sloped wedding cake, a near-perfect replica of Wrigley Field, and more.
Read about the banks of Fabio Viviani, another celebrity chef behind the new franchise.