Ace of homemade cakes

Having trouble getting your cakes to look like a box of Crayolas, hamburger or race car?

Duff Goldman, the extreme cake maker who's put visions of confectionery glory into many a home baker's head, has a fondant for that. In nine colors.

He also has fondant cutters. Texture tiles. "Cake graffiti" color spray. Cake "tattoos." Cake pans. Cake mixes, spatulas and other tools.

The Food Network's "Ace of Cakes" star and owner of Baltimore's Charm City Cakes has a new line of baking products. Available at Michaels stores across the United States and Canada, they should appeal to home bakers who've seen Goldman's elaborate cakes on TV, said Geof Manthorne, executive sous chef at Charm City Cakes.

"I think people are getting much more ambitious," he said, recalling with a laugh how some have called the bakery, seeking advice. "We get a lot of people, and they want tips because they're trying to make a replica of their car. What am I gonna tell you?"

Now he can tell them to buy The Duff Goldman Collection, which includes the rollable, Play-Doh-like fondant icing used to give the cake a smooth appearance.

The products were created by Gartner Studios, a Stillwater, Minn., company that cold-called Goldman's agent about a year ago with a pitch to build a baking products line around the Food Network personality.

The agent was skeptical because Gartner had primarily been in the stationery business, said Jan Dornseif, Gartner's vice president of product development. But Gartner's product line had more in common with fanciful cake decorating than might be imagined. It included do-it-yourself wedding invitations and scrapbooking supplies, which may appeal to the same can-do creative types who aspire to cake-baking greatness.

"We look at the [baking] line kind of like card crafting, but cake crafting," Dornseif said. "There's a lot of very similar things – the embellishments and add-ons and the themes."

Goldman is said to have been involved in developing all 86 products in the collection, insisting that the cake pans have straight sides, that the fondant be extra pliable, and that the sprayer on the "cake graffiti" food-coloring spray was just right.

"He touched and approved every single item that we have in the line," Dornseif said.

The products range from $2.99 to $24.99. On the low end are $3.99 texture tiles that give fondant the look of bricks and cobblestones. The cake mixes, good for one 8- or 9-inch round double-layer cake, fetch $8.99. Most expensive are the anodized aluminum pans and fondant. A 2-pound tub of the frosting costs $24.99.

In addition to Michaels stores, the products are available online at http://www.duff.com, which also has how-to videos. Walmart is selling one part of the line, the cake tattoos, which can be used to add animal prints, flowers and other designs to the fondant.

Some of the pans and the $4.99 fondant smoother are sold out for the time being online, though they still can be had on store shelves. Some are taking the run on fondant smoothers as a sign that elaborate cake decorating is taking off as a hobby.

"We look at this as the new family game night," Dornseif said.

laura.vozzella@baltsun.com

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