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The New York Times Reviews "Ace of Cakes" -- And Kinda Misses the Point
Thursday, March 01, 2007 | posted by Mike

A review by Ginia Bellafante in The New York Times the other day hit most of the main points you would expect from someone looking at the second season of Ace of Cakes. There are the references to the power tools, the outrageously shaped cakes and the eccentric staff. It wasn't necessarily a pan, but it also wasn't a rave for the show.

“Ace of Cakes,” now in its second season, is burdened by its own sense of self-importance. The idea is to present Mr. Goldman as an artist with all an artist’s eccentricities; no simple service provider is he. We are to think of him as the Mario Batali of sugar.

Now, I'm not sure if the "now in its second season" is just a throw-away line or a reference to a perceived decline in the novelty of the whole rock-and-roll bakery idea. Bellafante mentions how far cakes have come in just the past ten years or so, changing from cookie-cutter shapes to over-the-top replicas of buildings, animals and anything else you can dream up. Full disclosure -- TVFF's cake for his December wedding was "reminiscent" of a stack of Christmas gifts with a red bow on top.

The reviewer brings up two of the cakes from this season in particular, the rat and the "punk" cakes, as evidence of some lackluster designs. A fair criticism, I think, but one that could easily be outweighed by the fantastic Wrigley Field cake.

But then we get to the point which has been made a couple of times online and which I know I should get more worked up over but never really can:

But Mr. Batali cares a great deal about what his food actually tastes like, while you rarely see anyone eating one of Mr. Goldman’s cakes or remarking that they are too sweet or perfectly moist or perhaps a bit on the dense side; all of which seems completely irrelevant to his ambitions.

Look, I've complained on numerous occasions about the move away from actual cooking and food on the Food Network. But Ace of Cakes is different, and as much as it might be fun or interesting to taste one of Duff's creations, it's largely irrelevant. Why?

Because, on the show, the cakes are a MacGuffin. No, not a McMuffin. A MacGuffin

I think that I've made an Ace of Cakes/The Office comparison before and I'll do it here again. How important is the quality of the Dunder Mifflin paper products to your enjoyment of The Office?

These plot devices are only there as a means of getting the characters together. And it's the same thing with Ace of Cakes, where the real reason to watch is not the taste of the cakes (your best local bakery is probably as good if not better) or even the wacky shapes they'll come up with (rest assured, they'll be plenty wacky). We tune in because we like watching the Charmers at work.

Maybe you dig the "mid-’90s Internet start-up" atmosphere and maybe you don't. That's fine. But there is no denying that the atmosphere (and the people who create it) is the draw of the show.

Discussing the taste of the pastries in a review here is a little like an early-80s TV writer wondering about Sam Malone's wine list.



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