Yeskey, who will be returning to the bakery within the next two months, says the place "will definitely be different" after Goldman leaves for California.

"But I don't honestly think there's going to be that much difference in terms of the day-to-day," she says, explaining that in recent years Goldman has been away for months at a time making in-store appearances and doing speaking engagements out of Baltimore.

"Maybe more in terms of the psychological culture of the bakery, him coming back now will definitely feel a little bit more like 'Dad's coming home' than it used to," she says. "Like it used to be, he'd be gone for a couple of weeks doing appearances, and we'd all just be like, 'OK, good, you're back now.' But now, I think it will be more like proving ourselves, saying, 'Look, we kept the shop running and everything's going OK. Look what we did. See, we're OK.' "

While acknowledging moments of "sick to my stomach" worry, Yeskey believes the cake-making crew and the business will be fine.

"If I take a step back and I look at what he's done the last five years, I don't get nervous anymore," Yeskey says.

"I think, it's going to work out, because it always has. He's got an unintentional but very good business sense. His instincts tend to be spot on."

Goldman insists that he is not abandoning the Baltimore operation, which will now be run by Geof Manthorne, the sous-chef and decorator.

"Baltimore will remain the main branch," Manthorne says emphatically. "Some people in Baltimore have the feeling or the opinion that we're packing up our shop here and moving to L.A., leaving Baltimore behind," Manthorne says. "But the way we look at it, we're taking a piece of Baltimore somewhere else — we're not leaving Baltimore."

But Goldman is. And as revved up as he gets when talking about Los Angeles, he seems a little in denial when talking about the actual move and things he will be leaving behind.

When asked about the future of his band, he says, "We'll just play national dates. We all know the songs, we can just fly in and play the jobs. So the band will continue, sure."

But when asked whether that means Baltimore fans will never hear soihadto again in a local club, he pauses as if the reality of "never again" had never occurred to him. He seems lost for a second thinking about it.

"Well, I'll be coming back once a month, so like we could play locally. Why not?"

Goldman acknowledges that he doesn't have it all worked out.

"I kind of know what works, and I kind of know what doesn't work," he says. "I have a good idea for how to make money and how to hold onto it — how to hopefully not make too many mistakes. But I know I'm going to make mistakes. My confidence comes from the fact that I'm very comfortable with being nervous. I'm very comfortable with my fear, because my fear comes from a very real place. It comes from a place that will make me perform above and beyond what I think I'm capable of doing."

He knows one of the greatest dangers is that he could lose his Baltimore attitude or edge out there in all that sunshine.

"When you say, 'How does Charm City Cakes capture the essence of Baltimore,' I think it's mainly that there are no rules as to what we do when it comes to cakes. We make cakes, and a lot of times people say, 'Oh, there's a two-by-four, or there's Styrofoam, or there's Krispie treats. That's not a cake,' " he says.

"But in Baltimore, we're not really bothered by pigeonholing or labels or some strict definition of what is a cake. If I build a life-size working motorcycle, and the gas tank and the seat are all cake, but nothing else is, can I call it cake? I don't know, but I think I can. … I think we have that same kind of fearlessness that all Baltimore culture has."

And he brings the conversation back to that cake with the exploding fireworks and the night of his crazy triumph standing alongside the governor and thousands of Baltimore residents celebrating one of the city's most cherished events.

"But here's what I'm saying about rules, and it ties up with the cake we made for the Washington Monument," he says. "Before George Washington died, he said, 'Do not under any circumstance build any monuments to me.' And the second he's dead, Baltimore builds one. We're trying to take that spirit to L.A. We don't care what the conventions or the rules are. Some of the biggest parties in the world happen in Los Angeles, and they have crappy cakes. Well, we're here to help."


Duff's favorite cakes

Harry Potter castle and surrounding lake: OK, maybe this list of Goldman favorites will feel a little Potter-centric, but at least Duff wasn't shooting fireworks out of the towers. This one was for the Hollywood premiere of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix."

Harry Potter Hogwarts Express: The magical train from London to Hogsmeade is rerouted through Baltimore and comes out looking good enough to eat. This cake was for the U.S premiere of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince."

Ducati motorcycle: When GoDaddy.com founder and CEO Bob Parsons got married, he hired Goldman and Charm City to make a groom's cake that was as big as his Super Bowl commercials. Modeled after motorcyle-lover Parsons' Ducati Streetfighter, this was the life-size result -- complete with an engine that revs, smoking exhaust and working lights.

R2D2: Goldman and the crew ended Season 9 of "Ace of Cakes" at Skywalker Ranch, where they presented this replica of cinema's most famous astromech droid to George Lucas. Beep-beep.

Taj Mahal: This one's for Geof: Sous-chef Geof Manthorne's Taj Mahal might not have the gear-head appeal of an edible Ducati. But check out the detail, and you don't have to worry about swallowing the engine if you take too big a bite -- or inhaling exhaust.

david.zurawik@baltsun.com


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