Duff Goldman's Tips for Making an Unforgettable Birthday Cake
"Once you get good at fondant, man, the world really opens up for what you can do with a cake.“
Earlier this week, Duff Goldman, cake-master at Charm City Cakes and star of the Food Network’s Ace of Cakes (which ended in 2011), helped Krispy Kreme celebrate its 81st birthday by doing what he does best: creating an epic, three-tiered glazed-doughnut-covered birthday cake. In honor of the occasion, Krispy Kreme introduced a brand-new flavor—glazed confetti—which you can find in stores starting today (though they’ll only be available August 2). In honor of the occasion, Goldman chatted with Food & Wine about his essential tips for creating a legendary birthday cake, from fondant basics, must-have tools, and the importance of practice.
Pay close attention to texture.
Goldman says that an egg white-only cake batter will keep the final cake looking white, which helps decorations like sprinkles and confetti stand out. Use the egg white batter if your chosen design (for instance, a cake decorated with golf balls) looks better with white, rather than yellow, cake. Keep in the mind the differences between butter and vegetable oil when it comes to texture as well.
“Butter isn’t the only fat you want inside a cake. Butter doesn’t always work if you want a moist cake. Vegetable oil makes it moister,” he says. “If you have a chocolate cake recipe for instance, and it only has butter in it, chances are it’s going to be on the dry side. Vegetable oil will make it much more moist."
Remember: The freezer is your friend.
Serrated knives are better for carving your cake into different shapes (like a rounded shape for a burger, for example), says Goldman. Keep in mind that if you want your cake to be tall—more than three tiers—you need to have a freezer or fridge that can it can fit inside.
“Once you carve the cake, it’s really fragile and sensitive, so you need to get that cake really chilled so all that fat inside will seize up. That will give your cake more firmness, and then you can ice the cake,” he says.
He also recommends using a rolling pin without handles. “You need a rolling pin that you can really control. I recommend that people use just a straight flat rolling pin, like a dowel. That way you can really control what’s happening. When you’re rolling out a pie dough and there’s a divet, it’s not that big of a deal, but when you’re rolling out fondant it has to be absolutely perfect. Any little nick, any little bump is going to show up and you’re going to see it.”
Practice, practice, practice.
Sorry, there’s no magic trick to working with fondant. The first couple of times you try to use it, it won’t turn out well. And that’s okay.
“You know how you get to Carnegie Hall?” Goldman jokes. “Practice. The first time you work with it, you’re not going to be successful. I think what’s important for people to understand is that it take a while to get good at it. Don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t work. But once you get good at fondant, man, the world really opens up for what you can do with a cake.“
Goldman says that one of the most common problems home cooks face when using fondant is that they don’t get it on the cake fast enough.
“If you take too long to roll out the fondant you get that cracked elephant skin,” he explains. You have to get it out of the package, and keep it moving. Knead it, get it on the table, and get it on the cake. Don’t let it sit around and start to get used to whatever shape it is.”