Cake Boss Star on the Rise- How Bitter- Sweet It Is…
TLC Monday Nights …10pm
By Sally Deering Photos by David Bayne
Since the premiere of “Cake Boss,” tourists have turned the busy little bake shop into a must-see on their vacation itinerary. Out-of-town customers mingle with locals as they crowd into the red-bricked storefront bistro, nestling into café tables and “oohing” and “ahhing” the cannoli, cream puffs, brownies, layer cakes and other sensational home-made pastries on display. Digital cameras in hand, they pose for pictures with Valastro’s vivacious mom and personality-plus sisters while trying to decide what will satisfy their sweet tooth. And once they choose, they snap pictures of each other giddily diving into their desserts — and, rightly so. I mean, have you ever tasted a Carlo’s “lobster claw?”
“Anybody else, come on down,” Valastro’s mom calls out to the crowd after posing for a snapshot with Valastro’s sibs and Cristin Wright, 15, of Rhode Island who came to taste the desserts she sees every week on the show.
Throughout the day, crowds pour through the door leaving little doubt that the Cake Boss’s star is on the rise.
As sweet as the cream in his tiramisu, Valastro, 32, is warm, funny and passionate about his family and the tradition of baking. And beneath the celebrity stardust and the boisterous persona that hoots and hollers, cajoles and kibitzes is a humble baker who wears his heart on his chef’s coat sleeve for the man who taught him everything he knows — his dad, Buddy Sr., who passed away long before the cameras came.
“When I was 5, my dad would take me to the bakery on weekends and sit me up on the bench and roll out Pasta Frola,” Valastro says in his tiny upstairs office during a break from taping. “He would give me a cookie cutter and I would cut out cookies and decorate them. It was a fun time with my dad. Then when I was 11, I started making a difference helping out in the store. The more I was there, the more I was intrigued. I looked up to my dad. I wanted to mimic him.”
Valastro comes from a long-line of bakers. His grandfather baked bread in Sicily and Valastro’s father Buddy, Sr., learned the trade. At 13, he went to work for Carlo’s on 4th and Adams Sts. in Hoboken, a popular bake shop that had been around since 1910. When he married Mary several years later, the couple bought the bakery and kept the name. Inside the current shop, if you stand near the pie case, you’ll see a photograph of Mary and Buddy, Sr., in their Adams Street store holding a smiling baby Buddy “Cake Boss” Jr.
Having a dad as a baker, meant that birthday cakes were something special at home and Valastro recalls the time his father made him a Batman Cave cake.
“My dad was a great cake decorator,” Valastro remembers.
Buddy Sr., passed away when Valastro was 17 and although he never attended culinary school, he dedicated himself to continuing the family business and “putting it on the map.” Back then, Valastro says, birthday and wedding cakes were very traditional, usually made with whipped cream icing and buttercream rosettes. So, Valastro began working with fondants and other new culinary techniques. When he opened Carlo’s Bake Shop in its present location, he was still in his 20s and the business and his career started taking off. He entered several Food Network bake-offs – winning a $10,000 wedding cake challenge — and pitched his own show. The TLC network liked the idea and even christened him “Cake Boss.” After the first season aired, the TLC aired a “Cake Boss” marathon and that’s when Valastro, his Hoboken bakery and family became reality show stars.
On a recent visit to the Bake Shop, TLC cameras were filming an episode with Valastro and his kitchen crew creating a cake for the Camden Aquarium. Valastro was experimenting with liquid sugar to make coral, pouring the hot mixture into pitchers of ice cubes. When the blue, orange and yellow sugars chilled, he gently shook them loose and they looked just like aquarium coral. The challenges of creating novelty cakes inspires Valastro and he just keeps topping himself like in the episode where he had to create a mechanical robot cake and then deliver his niece’s roller-skate-themed birthday cake – on roller-skates.
And now that the show is a huge hit, customer requests are getting more elaborate, Valastro says, “They don’t want a cake they want a cake that will spin, talk and move.”
And then there are all those lobster tails to make. The big demand for this scrumptious delight makes it the most popular pastry in the shop, Shaped like, well, lobster tails, they have a crunchy exterior, like a light, sweetened Shredded Wheat biscuit filled with a sweet cream that sends taste buds into orbit. Valastro says they’re difficult and time-consuming to make, but even he admits it’s his favorite pastry when a craving calls for something sweet.
Valastro’s craving for the sweet smell of success hasn’t gone to his head although it can be a bit daunting, he says, like when he visits New York City and sees himself on a huge billboard in Times Square. He’s both surprised at the show’s popularity and grateful for all that “Cake Boss” has brought to his family business. There’s just one special ingredient missing in his piece of the pie – the dad who inspired him with just one little cookie cutter.
CAKE BOSS can be seen on The Learning Channel (TLC) Monday nights at 10pm CAKE BOSS show schedule and times
Carlo’s Bake Shop
95 Washington Street,
Hoboken, NJ 0730
visit them on the web @ www.carlosbakery.com