The friendly rivalry between these west and east coast bakers takes on a new sweetness in this season of Buddy vs. Duff Holiday: both Buddy Valastro (Carlo’s Bakery) and Duff Goldman (Charm City Cakes) are playing for a $25,000 donation to their favourite charity (Buddy chooses Toys for Tots and Duff picks Off Their Plate).
Judges Elizabeth Faulkner and Gesine Prado are in New York, and pastry chef Stephanie Boswell and chocolatier Valerie Gordon are in Los Angeles to help judge the festive creations. Although Duff’s team ends up winning 145 to 139, Buddy still gets $10,000 to donate to his charity, in the full spirit of the holidays.
Both teams pull out all the stops in this four-episode battle, trying new chemistry experiments with isomalt and poured epoxy resin, crafting goofy and realistic animals and generally having a lot of fun along the way. In the true spirit of the holidays, let’s take a look at the five best moments that embodied festive-fun (tinged with a little bit of stress).
Skating into the finale, Duff’s team leads by only one point, so the stakes are high. When Buddy proposes a winter wonderland theme, both teams immediately think of an Arctic scene with penguins and polar bears, meaning that they are both making essentially the same cake – a fact that they discover mid-way through the 20-hour bake. “We’ve already started, and it’s too late to change our design, so we’ve got to go with it,” says Buddy ruefully. Happily, the cakes couldn’t look more different: Duff’s team plays to their strengths in sculpting with hyper-realistic looking animals and birds, while Buddy takes a more whimsical and cartoonish approach to their critters. “I don’t want to give the feeling like he’s going to start chowing down on penguins,” says Buddy’s cake artist Anna Puchalski when creating her goofy looking polar bear. “It’s the holidays, it’s not winter wonder murder.”
Already hard at work making Charm City Cake’s massive five-foot polar bear, cake artists Sonny Robinson and Natalie Sideserf are challenged even further when Duff decides that the 64 square foot cake base needs more animals. The team ends up adding three seals and another bear (the more the merrier, after all).
The Carlo’s Bakery team gets ambitious with a moving bear coming out of the water with a fish in its mouth: a piece of machinery head sculptor Ralph Attanasia has great fun testing. “It’s definitely scientific and not because it’s fun,” he jokes, as he hops onto the platform and poses in his best bear imitation. “I’ve got a fishy in my mouth!” he roars.
A big part of Team Duff’s cake is the water element. Deciding that the massive cake base is too large to use isomalt, lead cake decorator Geof Manthorne plays mad scientist with poured epoxy resin. The first attempt causes a chemical reaction with the silver dust and turns into a foam monstrosity spewing a toxic cloud that requires everyone – including the film crew, to evacuate the premises. Geof’s further adventures in resin actually melt the foam board, requiring the base to be constructed again. Eventually, Duff suggests that they paint the board blue and tint 20 gallons of corn syrup a similar hue before carefully pouring it on the day of construction, which results in a spectacular effect.
View this post on Instagram
Team Buddy runs into similar challenges using isomalt for the first time on such a massive scale. Buddy, along with pastry chef Chad Durkin, and pastry chef and cake artist Mauro Castano, spend a gruelling day cooking and applying 300 pounds of isomalt to the cake base (a dangerous task, as the sugar reaches 300°F and literally melts the spatula Chad is using to stir it). As more isomalt gets applied in layers, the heavier it gets and starts falling off and shattering as it cools. Eventually, through patience and a lot of repair, the base is lit from behind with flickering lights, evoking the shimmer of the northern lights.
View this post on Instagram
Both teams get to bust out some secret moves this season. There’s the startling reveal that Ralph was in a production of the Nutcracker when he was 16, playing the rat king. Geof, when presented with his secret Santa present of pre-lit spheres, gives a quick demonstration of his juggling prowess. Duff also gets to play with chainsaws, showing off his ice sculpting skills he honed at the Vail Cascade Hotel. “I used to carve ice in a previous life – I haven’t done this since 1999, so we’ll see,” he says.
The Gifts That Keep Giving
Although the bake days are challenging and work-filled, both teams also take a little bit of a break to share in some holiday spirit. Natalie’s secret Santa present is a full “grandpa ensemble,” complete with cane, fake eyebrows and pipe, playing on her nickname and reputation as a cranky octogenarian.
The teams also send presents across the country to cheer each other up: Duff sends a basket of crab cakes, chowder and dips that Buddy pronounces “off the charts,” while Buddy sends a care package of his wife’s Eggplant Parmesan and a bunch of pastries and cake.
“The pastries were gone in about 15 minutes, then we heated the eggplant parmesan, which was gone in about 12 minutes. And then everybody wanted to nap, because were all full of cheese,” laughs Duff. “Well played, Buddy. Well played.”
For more fun moments, watch Buddy vs. Duff Holiday. Stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.