Of all the Food Network baking competitions “Ace of Cakes” Duff Goldman has hosted and judged over the years, “Kids Baking Championship” is his favorite. “It’s so magical to watch kids learn as they do it and see their understanding when I explain things to them,” Goldman told the Journal.
His desire for junior bakers to feel the same sense of accomplishment that he does in turning sugar, butter and flour into extraordinary creations is behind his third cookbook, “Super Good Baking for Kids,” which is available now.
“I wanted to write something specifically for kids,” he said. “But it’s interesting enough and challenging enough for everybody. The recipes start off relatively simple, but instead of making them more and more difficult, I give them ideas on how to take them in different directions.”
Alongside the expected cakes, pies, cookies and pastries, Goldman includes easy-to-follow recipes for brownies and blondies, bear claws, monkey bread, crepes, tarts, and dessert pizza and tacos, all illustrated with mouth-watering photos.
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Goldman includes baking basics, kitchen safety tips, and essential equipment and ingredients while sharing pro tips, personal stories and fun facts. He also shares lists about everything from the history and science of baking to his favorite New York City delicacies and doughnuts from around the world — Israel’s sufganiyot among them. Readers will learn how to transform store-bought cookies into amazing treats and turn stale cake doughnuts into delicious bread pudding.
“My favorite children’s books are very rich and detailed, with a lot of things going on around the main story. I wanted the book to be like that,” Goldman said. “And I wanted it to be fun and challenging. A lot of times when people write for kids, they’re afraid to challenge them. They can handle it.” His own greatest challenge was “getting everything right: the science, the weights and measures. You really have to understand your subject before you try to explain it to kids. I think it’s easier to pull the wool over adults’ eyes.”
Although his first baking job was making biscuits and cornbread while in college at the University of Maryland, Goldman’s memories of delectable baked goods go back to his early childhood in Detroit. “My Ukrainian great-grandmother used to make us strudel. It was an event. She’d clear the dining room table to make the dough,” he recalled. “I didn’t even attempt that strudel till two years ago. I have her original recipe, written in English but phonetically. She also made the best babka I ever tasted.” (That recipe can be found at FoodNetwork.com.)
Goldman married Johnna Colbry last year and they’re expecting a baby girl in January. “She’s going to have the best tea parties,” he said. His wife is not Jewish, but they plan to raise their daughter Jewish. “I want to her to know where she comes from, who her people are. We’re not going to be super-Jewy, but I think she’ll go to a Jewish preschool and have a bat mitzvah. It’s important to me,” he said.
“A lot of times when people write for kids, they’re afraid to challenge them. They can handle it.” — Duff Goldman
“The thing that I really identify with in Judaism is that the universe was created with compassion,” he continued. “Being there for other people is an extension of that — giving freely and with an open heart. I wouldn’t feel like a complete person if I wasn’t trying to make the world around me better and helping other people. I’ve been insanely blessed in my life and I think it’s really important to take that energy and put it out in the world in any way I can, with a smile, or a meal, or financial help, whatever I can do. There are a lot of people putting out negative energy into the world and we’ve got to counteract that.”
In November, Goldman will return to judge Food Network’s “Holiday Baking Championship,” followed by “Kids Baking Championship” in January and “Spring Baking Championship” in March. He’s not sure there will be another edition of the “insanely difficult” “Buddy vs. Duff,” but he and fellow baker Buddy Valastro are good friends, given to gifting each other with Italian pastries and deli foods. Goldman sent Valastro a box of bagels, lox and matzo ball soup when he suffered a recent hand injury.
Goldman attributes his television success to just being himself. “People tell me when they meet me that I’m the same person in real life that I am on TV. That makes me feel good,” he said. “They ask how I prepare to be on TV. I literally do nothing. I don’t try to be anything I’m not. Bring your authentic joy and enthusiasm to everything you do and it will translate.”
Once he’s “done with TV mishegoss,” Goldman would love to become a culinary instructor, perhaps at a high school. “It makes me feel so good seeing people not understand something and then figure it out, and guiding them through the process,” he said.
During the pandemic, Goldman, a longtime bass player who has performed in bands over the years, bought a drum set. “I needed something to bang on,” he said. “I’ve been practicing and getting better.” Although the coronavirus has impacted his bakery businesses, including Charm City Cakes West and Duff’s Cakemix in the Los Angeles area, “We’ve had it easier than 99% of the restaurants out there. Restaurants operate on very thin margins and a lot of my friends are in real trouble,” he said. “I wanted to keep all my employees employed, so we pivoted and do lots of stuff online. We do curbside pickup, Grubhub delivery, digital classes, a lot of merch.”
Goldman, who has hundreds of well-worn cookbooks at home, envisions copies of “Super Good Baking for Kids” covered with batter and buttercream from its owners’ baking endeavors. “I hope they write in it and it gets stained. I hope they lose the dust jacket. It was designed to be used,” he said. “Stained cookbooks make me happy.”