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Ace of Cakes - cakes just for show?

I watched some reruns of the Ace of Cakes show last night, and one thing that stood out to me is the lack of actual "cake" that a lot of the cakes seen on the show contain. Most of them are very complicated and require an abundance of fondant, wooden dowels, metal sheets, etc. for shaping and stabilizing the cakes. The actual "cake" portion seemed to take up about no more than 25% of the cake, or that's how it seemed to me, at least. Also, there was one part that struck me in particular- one project was a Alice in Wonderland tea party scene, which turned out looking awesome, but the chairs required lots of hot glue, which looked like it was going all over the sides of actual cake! The amount of work that goes into these cakes is amazing for sure, but I don't know if I'd actually want to eat any of the cakes that they make, after seeing what they do with them!

Since I've never actually personally seen/eaten any of the Charm City cakes, I was wondering if any CHers had any opinions on them. Are the cakes that people buy mainly for display purposes, or do people actually order cakes to be eaten? Am I just being too overly critical/snarky about what seems to be a lack of "cake" in these cakes?

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  1. I agree with you, but have no actual experience eating one of their cakes. I would classify them as art - way better than anything I could produce. However, I did run a pastry department and I would never have served most of the cakes i see on the show - decorating tecnique is amazing but I think it should all be edible except a couple of dowels here and there - hot glue ....really. I've been wondering about the giant sculpted rice krispy treats. Maybe they serve a sheet cake for consumption

    1. I have actually tried them 2 times. The first one was before the place became famous when I went to a birthday party of a friend of a friend of a friend of the owner (he wasn't there, but he made the cake). It was a great looking cake, but I definitely didn't think it tasted very good. This was in 2005.

      These same friends had their wedding cake made by Charm City this summer, so I tried it for the second time. It was really quite dry and, frankly, didn't taste as great as it looked.

      1. On some occassions you see them bringing some extra normal sheet cakes, but those are more of the big events where they're making a centerpiece that's not being eaten. I'll agree that a lot of the cakes don't seem to have much edible cake, although a lot of their cakes are taller then your typical sheet cake so it could be the camera playing tricks where the amount of cake is there, just on a smaller footprint.

        I'd expect dry cake if a cake's been sitting on a shelf for 3 days while being decorated, but I don't know what kind of moisture retaining property fondant has.

        And fondant might be edible, but pretty nasty stuff to actually eat. It's like using finger paste as glue and saying it's edible.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Bunson

          I agree with you on the fondant.

          Whenever I attend a wedding reception, the first thing I do is scope out the cake. If there is fondant on the cake, I become very disappointed as I know that the bride and groom have very different priorities than I do (regarding cake). IMO, these people care more about how the cake looks than how it tastes. After all, they have chosen to wrap their cake in something practically inedible. Nineteen times out of twenty, if the cake has fondant on it then I know I will be disappointed in the taste of the cake.

        2. Can't say I've had one, but a friend of mine had her wedding cake made there "before they were stars" and raves about how good the cakes taste on top of how cool they are.

          1. I feel like anyone that orders their cakes does it more for centerpiece/party excitement value rather than an actually great tasting cake. They're obviously made more to be works of art and things to admire than culinarily tasty desserts.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Chew on That

              a philosophy of the kitchen that I follow is that my garnish must be edible and have something to do with my dish. A centerpiece is just that and not meant to be eaten. Acake should be cake not chicken wire and rice krispy treats. I think they put out a beautiful product. - I'm just more old school and believe in the old techniques that leave you with an edible product. Sometimes the sculpt something or glue it and I see another way out of edble product. I like the show because lets face it the end result is stunning and the techniques are interesting to me - my chef husband can't stand it and doesn't consider it food.
              I certainly would have been placed on the rack by one of my clients for serving a cake that wasn't awesome inside and out.

            2. I like the show but I agree that many of those cakes are not going to be good eating. The spirit is much like those huge sugar and chocolate sculptures they show in those international pastry competitions, it's really all about looks not taste.

              I would respect their cakes more if they used only edible ingredients, like candy canes instead of all the wooden dowels, for example. Of course electric motors and lights could be the only exceptions.

              Here is an amateur baker who did some pretty awesome stuff using all edible ingredients...and they look like they taste good:
              The Thorax Cake is an all-time classic.

              1. You might check the DC/Baltimore board for Charm City Cakes there is along debate on their cakes and taste. I haven't had one and agree it is probably more for presentation, but I haven't eaten one. I wish I had that kind of money to throw at a decorative cake, though.

                1. i know this is old.. but I just wanted to put out there that not all fondant is disgusting. Although, most is because the majority of bakers buy premade fondant. But, there is another recipe for fondant which really isnt all that bad. It is marshmallow fondant. I have made it by using just marshmallow cream and powdered sugar. You just mix a jar of marshmallow cream with powdered sugar until you get the consistency you are looking for, as thick as playdoe and you can just kneed in whatever color you would like it to be. you can also add vanilla extract if it is desireable or lemon or whatever flavor, it works great and tastes pretty good! :)

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: cassi8605

                    I am so sorry Cassie, but fondant has no excuses. I appreciate where you are coming from, I really do, but I worked with this stuff for years, and maybe I was good at it, probably bad at it, but it is not marshmallow fluff with 10X sugar. And fondant is inedible regardless of better recipes. When you fortify it with food coloring, no matter how natural, it is still a leathery, sugar, syrupy, colored and inedible decoration.

                    I have several friends who are cake decorators, and they use fondant for making hugely lifelike and profitable cakes. They nor no one expects anyone to actually eat them. They are for centerpieces.

                    1. re: pitterpatter

                      I appreciate the professonal insight, but speaking as somebody with not much of a sweet tooth and an eye for eye candy, I must say that fondant is one of the prettiest-looking things around. That's all I wanted to say.

                      1. re: EWSflash

                        they really need to ban the use of fondant, especially in cake competitions. it's such a cop out every time I watch Challenge. Cakes packed with fondant is not something I'm particularly impressed by.

                        I'd like to see someone actually do something with buttercream.