Bakin’ with the Boss: Tips for making great cakes & happy kids

The first cake he ever made was for his mother’s birthday when he was 13 years-old. That was the start of his career mixing over-the-top cakes for life’s celebrations. Buddy Valastro, whose new season of TLC’s The Cake Boss started on May 28, is a proud father of four, ages 1 through 9. He gives his all to whatever he does including his current tour around the country sharing his baking secrets (he stops in Denver on July 13). We couldn’t resist the chance to indulge in a little sweet talk with the boss.

CP:       Not everyone can be a “Cake Boss” yet we all dream of making beautiful cakes.  What are some of your tips for turning out cakes we can be proud of?

BV:      First, practice makes perfect. Keep trying. Second, people make the mistake of trying to ice a cake that’s too fresh like warm or room temperature. Refrigerate it first for a little while to make it easier to frost. Third, have the right tools like a turn table. I do well because having the right tools and know-how helps you become, well, a Cake Boss like me.

CP:        There’s a trend toward fantastical desserts and parties, even for kids, and a real pressure to make every party perfect. What’s your best party advice?

BV:      Try to match everything thematically but keep it simple like making a candy centerpiece then decorating a cake with store-bought candy. Just put candies on the frosted cake and it works!

Keep in mind that birthday parties are very important to kids and are something they will always remember. It doesn’t have to be over-the-top though. It’s about time with your child. It’s not about material things. Just spend the day with them.  And be sure you have cake!

CP:       What was the first cake you decorated?

BV:      It was my mom’s birthday cake when I was 13. I frosted it with whipped cream and decorated it with strawberries and chocolate shavings. I wasn’t allowed to bake in the bakery yet but they did let me do cakes for the family.

CP:       What’s your favorite cake to make these days?

BV:      Vanilla cake with French cream, fresh strawberries and chocolate ganache.

CP:       Do you bake at home with your kids?

BV:      Yes! People wouldn’t expect me to bake at home but I do. Usually though, I let the kids bake at the bakery so we can make a mess there and not at home. Recently, when I was home, the kids wanted to make a batch of chocolate chip cookies, so we whipped up a batch.

CP:       It seems like your work is very high stress.  And parenting can be very high stress. How do you balance work with parenting?

      Family comes first no matter what! When I’m with my kids, I give 100%. When I’m at work, I give 100%. Wherever I am, I give 100%.

CP:       How old are your children?

BV:      Sofia is 9, Bartolo “Buddy” is 7, Marco is 5 and Carlo is 1.

CP:       How is parenting like baking?

BV:      You put in all the ingredients, ok, and basically the ingredients are your values. You put it into an oven and see what it becomes. It’s the same thing with children. You can only put the right ingredients in and the rest is up to what happens.

CP:       Do you think any of your children will go into the family business?

BV:      Maybe eventually. I’m going to have them work in the bakery to learn a strong work ethic. But after that, I’ll let them do what they want to in life that will make them happy.

CP:       What do you want to make sure our readers know about you?

BV:      I have a lot of achievements in my life. But the accomplishment I am most proud of is my family.  I’m a dad and I’m so happy to have that. I devote a lot of time and energy into that.

CP:       You’ve been to Colorado before (and we’re glad to have you back). What makes you keep returning?

BV:      Denver is a magnificent city. My production company is based in Denver so I go to Denver sometimes. The fans make me feel welcome. We did a show in Denver a couple of years ago that was sold out. The crowd was great.  Also, my production company is in Denver so I go there sometimes for that.

CP:       What can people expect when they come to your show, “Bakin’ With the Boss”?

BV:      It’s a fun-filled, family interactive show. I pull people up from the audience to decorate cakes. I make them compete against each other becomes funny, especially with dads.

You can bring 4 year-old and your grandma to my show. I’m pretty funny too, so you’ll laugh. I tell my story and take questions from the audience. I promise you, I thought of something I would want to see with my kids and designed the show around that. At the end, my favorite part is when people tell me ‘I didn’t know what to expect but that was great’. That’s music to my ears.
Tickets for “Bakin’ With the Boss” are available from, 303-53HORSE.  Learn more about the Cake Boss at

Breakfast with a twist By Edan Goode

As you have noted from previous posts, I believe it’s ok to be a little sneaky with food if it results in added nutrition in my family’s everyday favorites. While I’d prefer they say, “Please Mom, make some of your whole wheat bread and throw in some extra oat bran,” it won’t happen in my lifetime. So instead, I augment here, tweak there and they’re eating healthy without even realizing it.

Our weekend breakfasts are no exception. I have a great recipe for pancakes that is good on its own but beautifully adapts to some healthful changes. I happily share it with you, here. Feel free to sneak in your own healthy additions.

Edan Goode’s Secretly Healthy Pancakes
Makes 8-10 pancakes depending on the size

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup all purpose, unbleached white flour
1 egg
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 to 1 cup skim milk
3 TBS safflower or olive oil
2 TBS flax meal or oat bran
Fruit and nut mix-ins such as berries, banana slices, chopped pecans, walnuts or almonds.

Preheat a skillet over medium heat. Use a nonstick skillet or add a little butter. Combine all of the ingredients until smooth. Pour the batter into a measuring cup for ease of pouring. Or, use a gravy ladle to spoon up perfect portions. Place fruit and/or nuts on each pancake at this point while the top side is still wet. Don’t add them to the batter in the bowl because they’ll just sink to the bottom and won’t be evenly distributed.

When the edges begin to dry and harden, flip the pancakes. Cook the second side until it is golden brown. Keep the pancakes warm until the entire batch is done.  Sprinkle more fruit and/or nuts over the top of the pancakes.

It’s good to be sneaky by Edan Goode

I believe being a little sneaky is a critical element of a parenting tool box…as long as it’s used for good, not evil.  I came across some recipes from one of my favorite food-oriented websites, Zis Boom Bah that hide healthy food in baked goods. Yes, I know it is quite “au courant” to do this these days but these recipes sound particularly doable.

So give them a try as you bake things up for the holidays, with or without the kids. If they are baking with you, no need to tell them that the orange puree they are adding is for their health. Just tell them it is to help make the goodie extra good.  There I go again, being sneaky.

Thank you to the good folks at Zis Boom Bah for providing me with the link for these recipes (go ahead, click here).

Bake up some fun with this contest

Because I have loved that plump, little dough boy since I was a child, I couldn’t resist posting this contest from Pillsbury. You only have until December 20 to enter:

Pillsbury People Essay Contest                                                                                                                                        

  • Enter at from October 20 through December 20, 2010
  • Submit a short essay on your favorite sweet treat and a reason why you love to bake it
  • One lucky person will win $10,000 towards a kitchen makeover
  • Additionally, three runners-up will receive a digital camera and a Pillsbury Gift Basket with Pillsbury Baking products and branded items.

I’ve made the following holiday treat since I was a kid. Use Pillsbury bread sticks and follow their directions for temperature and bake time.

Soft-Pretzel Wreath
1.    Take one can of soft bread sticks, separating each  bread stick.
2.   On a greased baking sheet, form each bread stick into a pretzel, placing each one almost touching in a circular shape with an open space in the middle (you’ll be placing a small bowl there later).
3.   Whisk 1 egg until blended, and brush it over the pretzels.
4.   Sprinkle coarse salt over the pretzels.
5.   Bake according to  bread stick directions.

For the dip/spread, mix softened (but not melted) butter with a little pesto sauce OR spicy mustard to your taste. Place the mixture in a bowl in the center of the wreath and serve. Let guests pull apart the wreath and dip or spread the butter mixture on the soft pretzel.

School party treats, part 1 By Edan Goode

What treat are you sending to class?

With a new school year comes the onslaught of classroom parties. Between Halloween and Valentine’s Day, there will be party after party where parents try to outdo each other to contribute the cutest, most popular treat. You know you do, admit it. We’ve all done it. We get that notice of an upcoming party and we start thinking “I’m going to make something that puts that Betsy Baker to shame, her and her homemade, hyper-decorated, personalized-with-every-kids’-initials-goodies!!!”  Oh, wait, am I projecting? Sorry.

Let’s be honest here though. There is some pressure to bring a treat your child will be proud to say their parent provided, something that doesn’t have nuts, won’t leave a horrendous mess but looks and tastes fabulous. When we go to pick up our child at the end of the day, we all check our platter to see if our treat was gobbled up and peruse the competition’s – I mean, the other parents’  – platters to see if anything is left. Did your beautiful cookie beat out their cheese and crackers?  Or maybe you are the type who is just at a total loss about what to bring. I feel your pain too.

Either way, let’s come together and help each other out, parents. Let’s share the burden of coming up with something terrific to provide to all those kiddos.  Send me your short recipes or at least ideas for great classroom party treats. As the famous command goes:  Give us your sweets, your veggies, your fruity drinks just waiting to be poured – or something to that effect.

Comment back to me, Edan Goode, right here in this blog .  Include Halloween treats so we can share them right away.  We might include your ideas here and in Colorado Parent magazine as the months go by.

I’ll get the ball rolling with a winter holiday treat my kids were always proud to bring:

Pretty Pretzel Rods
Long pretzel rods (the big stick kind)
Chocolate and white chocolate chips
Sprinkles (jimmy’s and sanding sugar work best)

In the microwave or double boiler, melt 1/2 a cup at a time of each kind of chip (keep them separate, of course).  Pour the melted chocolate into a deep cup and plunge about three quarters of the pretzel directly into the chocolate of choice. Let the excess drip back into the cup and then lay the pretzel down on the wrack and sprinkle it. Once the pretzels are dry, present them in glasses like a flower arrangement. By the way, once you have removed the pretzels from the wrack, peel all the delicious drips off the wax paper and eat them up! Yum.

That’s mine. Send me yours.