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The Cake Decorating Boom: How it All Started

By Edited Jan 11, 2016 0 0

Cake is a food that people have enjoyed for centuries. Even Ramses, an Egyptian pharaoh in 1175 BC, had cakes served to him at parties.  In ancient Greece, the Olympic athletes were given a cake similar to cheesecake around 776 BC.  In medieval times there was a tradition that a coin and a thimble should be baked into birthday cakes.  If a person found the coin in his or her slice, then that person would be rich in their future.  If a thimble was found instead, that person would never marry (or at least that’s what they thought).  The boom in cake decorating was mainly caused by popular cake decorating television shows. Cake decorating was always thought of as something only the professionals could do. But with the trend of homemaking and cooking on television creating the environment for today’s cake decorating shows, including Ace of Cakes, Cake Challenge, Cake Boss, and many others, it has become something that anyone can do. With cake decorating tools and supplies now widely available to home bakers, decorating cakes has become mainstream.  But even with the availability of all of these cake decorating products, it is the television shows that sparked the cake decorating boom.    

            Recent trends have made it possible for cake television shows to be popular.  In 1961, Julia Child launched the first successful television food show with The French Chef.   Emeril Legasse hosted a popular cooking show called The Essence of Emeril on the Food Network starting in 1995.  Martha Stewart, with her books, magazines, television shows and products, helped to generate a rebirth in the art of homemaking. Even though many of these shows included segments on cakes, there was never a show that focused solely on cakes and decorating them. The success of these media personalities helped set the stage for the popularity of cake decorating shows.

The show that started the cake decorating boom was The Ace of Cakes, beginning in 2006 on the Food Network. The show was filmed in the Charm City Cakes bakery in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ace of Cakes showed the whole process that it would take to create a decorated cake, from talking with the client to develop the concept, to delivering and cutting the cake.   Not only were the cakes amazing and extremely detailed, but the personalities of workers in the bakery stood out, too.  They were young, hip, close friends who loved being together and were, quite frankly, a little goofy. The owner of the bakery and the star of the show is Duff Goldman.  His style of cake artistry was unlike anything shown on television before.  It wasn’t the typical white wedding cakes with pink roses that everyone was used to.  His cakes had skulls, bright colors, pyrotechnics, and moving parts.  Their specialty was exact cake replicas. Whether it was a tur-duck-en, a sports car, a leg cast, or Wrigley Field, they could do it, and do it well.  Not only did this create more business for them, but it made people who watched the show want to have a special cake for any event that they would host. Also, with Duff Goldman having his own line of fondants, frostings, cake pans, and tools, it made it possible for even the home baker who had never decorated cakes before to try it for the first time.

Soon after the Ace of Cakes television show aired, Food Network started to air Cake Challenge, in which four bakers from all across the United States compete against one another in extreme cake challenges.  The cakes would have to be several feet tall, move, and be sculpted to fit the theme, which could be anything from Disney Princesses to a Caribbean Cruise to a Halloween haunted house.  The winning baker won $10,000 and a boost in their business reputation. Ever since these two shows aired, the interest in cake decorating highly increased, which made companies like Wilton come out with even more cake decorating products. All of this meant that it was now possible for a home baker to decorate cakes, and to be inspired by the television shows they watched.

One of the most popular cake shows airing today is Cake Boss on TLC Network.  First airing in 2009, the show took advantage of the rising interest in cake decorating. Unlike the Ace of Cakes, Cake Boss was not only about decorating cakes, but it was also about the bakery itself and the family that ran it.  Cake Boss is about a family-owned and operated business in Hoboken, New Jersey called Carlo’s Bakery. Headed up by Buddy Valastro, the bakery does not just create cakes, but all sorts of Italian pastries, cookies and pies.  They also make extreme cakes for important events, such as the anniversary of Hoboken or the opening of a Broadway show.  Almost all of the main personalities on the show are related to each other and get along like one would expect a New Jersey Italian family.  They yell at each other, throw things, play pranks, but in the end, they still love each other. Cake Boss’s popularity is clear.  They have high television ratings, have spun off other shows such as The Next Great Baker and Kitchen Boss, and have customers willing to wait in line for hours each day to buy Carlo’s famous treats and hopefully catch a glimpse of the show’s stars.

Other cake decorating shows, though not as popular as Ace of Cakes or Cake Boss, have followed in these shows’ footsteps.  They include Fabulous Cakes, Cake Divas, DC Cupcakes, Ultimate Cake-Off, and Cupcake Wars. These shows cover everything from $10,000 high-end Vegas cakes to competing over simply-decorated cupcakes. With all of these cake decorating television shows out there, home bakers have become inspired to bring their baking to the next level, even if that level is the beginning.

The popularity of cake decorating is not just seen in the ratings of these television shows. A walk into a local craft store, such as Michael’s, will reveal aisles of cake decorating tools, supplies and books. Duff Goldman of Ace of Cakes has his own line of frostings, fondants, pans and tools.  One of the oldest consumer marketers of cake decorating items, the Wilton Company, has a huge line of products available, along with cake decorating classes.  The internet is filled with instructional guides, forums, online stores, YouTube videos and facebook fan pages for the cake decorating celebrities.  Not only are Americans taking part in the cake decorating boom, but other nationalities are as well, as evidenced by the internet.

The cake decorating boom was caused by the rise in popularity of cake decorating television shows. The availability and popularity of these shows has not only inspired many home bakers to try their hand at cake decorating, but also has created a rise in the production and selling of new cake decorating products. Starting with Julia Child, Emeril Legasse and Martha Stewart, the stage was set for today’s cake personalities like Duff Goldman and Buddy Valastro. Because of Ace of Cakes, Cake Challenge and Cake Boss, cake decorating has become extremely trendy across America and around the globe. Cake decorating is not just a television fad, but an entire industry of tools, books, supplies and courses. Today’s cake decorating television shows encourage home bakers to create masterpieces of their own.



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