How do you get picked to bake the inaugural cake? Is there a long application process that involves standardized tests, or is it more like the Publishers Clearing House, where someone surprises you at your door with a camera crew?
Duff Goldman says he's still not sure how it happened.
"They called us out of the blue," he says. "I got a text message from my office manager saying, 'Hey, we're making the official inaugural cake.' "
His company, Charm City Cakes, has baked a number of cakes for the U.S. military in the past. That may have helped — that and his Food Network show, Ace of Cakes, which follows his team of bakers through ever more challenging cake-making assignments.
Goldman's a pretty jovial guy for the most part, but he gets pretty serious talking about his latest gig. "This is the greatest country in the world," he says. "For real."
Goldman's six-tiered cake — that's three to five layers per tier — will be presented at the Commander-In-Chief's Inaugural Ball Monday night. It's one of only two official balls.
Goldman says some of the ideas his team submitted went beyond the traditional sheet cake, but the Presidential Inaugural Committee had the final word. "One looked like a big tank," he says. That one didn't make the cut — the winning design will be traditional. "It has a lot of stars and stripes," Goldman says.
Some of the cake's decorations are done already. Goldman found out they would be baking for the big day only two weeks ago. That's a relatively short turnaround, but he's not worried. "We're pretty good," he says, laughing.
And just what do stars and stripes taste like? "Freedom," Goldman responds. For Monday's celebration, freedom tastes like "red-velvet with cream cheese frosting," he says. "It also tastes like lemon poppy. It also tastes like pumpkin chocolate chip with a fudge frosting, and it tastes like a pineapple-coconut with a Swiss butter cream."
Like the design, the committee chose the flavors. Goldman's not sure whether President Obama or the first lady had much to do with it, though — he assumes they had other projects on their plate.
And as with all things, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The cake still has to be baked and delivered, which is easier said than done. In 1981, President Reagan's first inaugural cake made it to the party but never got in. At 7 feet tall and 3,000 pounds, it just wasn't slim enough to squeeze through the door.