Celebrity baker on Cake Boss favours the classic strawberry shortcake

Watch celebrity baker Buddy Valastro of the TV series Cake Boss decorate a pandan chiffon cake.
Buddy Valastro (above) learnt to bake from his late father when he was a teenager.
Buddy Valastro (above) learnt to bake from his late father when he was a teenager.PHOTO: GIN TAY FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Buddy Valastro, star of reality television show Cake Boss, said the four-tier cake - made by his wife and kids - was leaning over

Fans of American celebrity baker Buddy Valastro - star of reality TV show Cake Boss - will be sad to hear he is unlikely to set up a branch of his famous Carlo's Bakery in Singapore for now.

Valastro, 40, who was in town last week to promote Season 9 of Cake Boss, which premieres on TLC South-east Asia (StarHub TV Channel 427 and Singtel Channel 254) on Nov 15 at 9pm, had been in Singapore three years ago to look for potential locations.

Now, his main problems are managing logistics and the supply chain to open a bakery here. Carlo's Bakery opened in 1910 in Hoboken, New Jersey, and has 20 outlets across the United States, with the latest one opening in Santa Monica, California, this month.

Its first overseas outlet launched in Brazil last year and Valastro recalls the challenges faced then.

He says: "It's about getting the exact same ingredients such as having the right amount of protein in the flour or the right ricotta to make the cannoli cream. We're working through it."

Labour is not a concern for him as he believes that there are "plenty of talented bakers and cake artists" to tap globally.

Since Cake Boss debuted in 2009, Valastro and his bakery have gained a strong following across 220 countries for their over-the-top customised cakes as well as traditional pastries such as cannoli and lobster tails - a nod to his Italian heritage. Fans have also grown to love Valastro's endearing family and team who work for the bakery chain.

He says: "I believe we have done well because I am who I am. I don't pretend to be anyone else and that resonates with people."

Indeed, the charismatic baker has an infectious energy and hearty laugh and is always camera-ready - whether on-or off-screen.

His skills, honed over the years since he was a teenager learning from his late father, are certainly admirable as he pipes beautiful buttercream flowers in a matter of seconds, saying that he and the piping bag are "one".

In the new season, expect the same crazy cakes, from a steampunk cake to a giant rubber ducky. There is also a "bitter-sweet" tribute episode to his late mother Mary, who died in June this year after battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive neurodegenerative disease.

There is no cake that is impossible to do, says Valastro, who names a Transformers cake and a fire-breathing dragon as some of his favourites in past seasons.

But for all his fancy works of edible art, his cake flavour of choice is vanilla and he enjoys a simple strawberry shortcake. "It's all about the pure whipped cream, vanilla sponge and fresh strawberries," says the father of four children aged six to 14.

For his birthday, his wife Lisa and the kids created a four-tier cake made from box cake mix. Chuckling, he says: "Not only did my wife marry a baker, but she watches Cake Boss. Yet, when I come home, the cake is already leaning over because she stacks the cakes on top of one another. You need to put support in the tiers to hold it up.

"But the fact that the cake is made by them, that's all I want, a big piece of that cake."

Valastro, who spends his day juggling filming, press interviews and research and development for the brand, jokes that 12-hour days are considered a "half-day" of work and that a Sunday off with his family at home is considered a "staycation".

Now, catering to the younger generation is something he has to pay extra attention to.

He says: "Now, it's not so much about a flavour profile, but a visual that is good for Instagram. So you want a cannoli with five things sticking out of it to take a crazy picture. Also, it has to be inaccessible and people have to wait online to get it.

"The more of that you create, the more people want it. But you become part of a marketing machine, which is good and bad.

"It's good because when you nail it, it works for you. But you're always chasing after the next shiny thing. It's not about substance or longevity, just quick gratification. We always have our staples, but you need that pop to get people in."

And is he concerned about catering to health-conscious diners? "Just eat less since it's an indulgence. When something's not broke, you don't fix it," says Valastro, laughing heartily.

• Follow Eunice Quek on Twitter @STEuniceQ

• Cake Boss Season 9 premieres on TLC South-east Asia (StarHub TV Channel 427 and Singtel Channel 254) on Nov 15 at 9pm.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 06, 2017, with the headline 'Star baker's birthday cake made from pre-mix'. Print Edition | Subscribe