Cake Boss is a cooking/reality show airing on TLC. It follows events at Carlo's Bakery in Hoboken, New Jersey.
Bartolo "Buddy" Valastro is the Cake Boss — owner and head baker of Carlo's Bake Shop (commonly called "Carlo's Bakery"). It was originally started by an Italian immigrant named Carlo Guastaferro back in 1910—the bakery is still running to this day, but it was purchased by Bartolo "Buddy" Valastro Sr. in 1964, and has been owned and operated by a the Valastro-family since then, with the current head of the bakery being Buddy Sr's son, Bartolo "Buddy" Valastro Jr., who took over after his dad died. The shop is a family affair, as his sisters work at the front counter and the bakers include brothers-in-law and cousins. In earlier episodes, his mother is still handling the bakery's bookkeeping. In the latest seasons, the show afforded Buddy a new and more contemporary place to move their bakery into.
The normal pattern for an episode is two or three major cake orders, plus something related to Buddy's family, which can involve more cake; Buddy's in charge of birthday cakes/bridal shower cakes/anniversary cakes for the clan, and once made 17 cakes when his oldest son's school had "Take Your Dad To School" day.
The show has spawned three spinoffs: Next Great Baker, a reality/contest show, with several bakers competing for prizes that include a multi-page spread in Brides Magazine; Kitchen Boss, a cooking show featuring Buddy and assorted members of his family; and Bakery Boss, a show in the vein of Kitchen Nightmares where Buddy helps struggling bakeries improve.
Comedian Paul F. Tompkins does an impression of the Cake Boss that has become quite popular, which he has performed on numerous podcasts and shows including Comedy Bang Bang and The Thrilling Adventure Hour.
As of February 24, 2014, there have been 151 episodes made over 6 seasons, in addition to 5 stand-alone specials.
This show contains examples of:
- Alliterative Name: Pretty much the title of every episode.
- Bridezilla: Where there are wedding cakes, there will be Bridezillas making life miserable for the bakery (Buddy tries to avoid taking orders from them in the first place).
- Invoked (or exploited) when a bridal store asked him to make a life-size cake replica of one of their dresses for a promotional event. A pack of brides tore it to pieces with their bare hands in search of the gold token (good for a free dress from the store) which Buddy had concealed in there.
- Butt-Monkey: Cousin Anthony was definitely this when he was at the bakery.
- Carrying a Cake: More often it's the fondant taking a dive, but there was one incident when the top three tiers of a four-tiered cake went over the railing (there were able to remake the cake though).
- Catch-Phrase: Buddy's "Hoboken (or "Jersey") style BABY!".
- Also: "Who wants to eat some CAKE?"
- Cloud Cuckoolander: Ralph, one of the cake decorators hired by Buddy in Season 3, is rather...quirky.
- Crossover: With Say Yes to the Dress, when Buddy and Lisa decided to renew their wedding vows for their 10th anniversary.
- Daddy's Girl: Sofia. She successfully twists Buddy's arm, and — despite his own objections — he makes her a Disney Princess cake for her sixth birthday.
- A Day in the Limelight: Mauro, the husband of Buddy's second-oldest sister, Maddalena, is Buddy's second-in-command and is the one who's normally put in charge when Buddy's not around—for example, in an hour-long episode where Buddy left to make a life-sized NASCAR-cake, Mauro got a chance to run the bakery, and one of the cakes he made was for a fashion show. During Mauro's segments, it was exactly what the show would be like if he was the "Cake Boss" rather than Buddy.
- Delicious Distraction: Buddy made a giant cookie cake as an homage to Cookie Monster. He did it out of love. The fact that it kept Cookie away from Buddy's main project (a Sesame Street cake) was an added bonus.
- Don't Try This at Home: Invoked by Buddy when he did a test run on the fire-breathing tiki cake. There was also an episode where Carlo's did a cake for the Ringling Bros. Circus and they had asked Buddy and his crew to add a "ring of fire" to the cake—Ralph, who, before coming to Carlo's, used to work as a circus performer (doing things such as firebreathing), showed them how they could do it without harming the cake.
- Epic Fail:
- The carousel cake for Atlantic City; played for drama.
- Another one is a chandelier cake, which fell down during its presentation.
- Food Porn: Prevalent. A literal one is a mock dinner table with a plethora of food made out of cake for a group of professional eaters.
- For Want of a Nail: A flood which crippled the bakery would've done much more damage if it wasn't on a very small hill. Turns out the transformer in the basement barely managed to avoid getting wet because of this.
- From Bad to Worse: A hot-air balloon cake with moving parts was about to be delivered, only for the client to then decide to deliver it in s real hot-air balloon. The problem was that the cake was fragile due to the moving parts and the fact that it was very windy. They barely managed to deliver it without major damage.
- Gone Horribly Right: A cake ordered for a spa requested a side-by-side comparison of a nice foot next to an ugly foot. Ralph was put on the latter, since he's one of their best decorators. What follows is a hilariously nightmarish malformed ugly foot with bleeding cracks and torn toenails.
- Gratuitous Italian: Debatable — in the opening credits of the first two seasons, Buddy refers to the crew at Carlo's as "mia famiglia". But he's first-generation Italian-American—both of his parents had immigrated to America from Italy.
- Holiday Tropes:
- Halloween Episode: One of the orders was from a girl who claimed that she was going to be turned into a vampire. Buddy, despite obviously not believing the girl, went through the order. The funny thing about the order was that it was a coffin cake with a sculpture of a corpse inside of it (like what you would find at an open-casket funeral), and the girl requested that the body inside of the cake to look like Buddy's employee, Danny (aka, "The Mule").
- Christmas Episode: Two, as well as a Christmas in July special with the Rockettes.
- Valentine's Day Episodes: A few of them—Buddy's youngest son, Carlo, was actually born on Valentine's Day.
- Thanksgiving Episode: Two of them.
- I Ate WHAT?!: When Buddy made a cake for an animal shelter's fundraiser, he also made a special animal-diet-safe cake for the dogs. One of the bakery's delivery drivers was pranked by giving him a sample of the "dog cake" (which included actual dog food).
- Idiosyncratic Wipes: The show uses a white frosting graphic when dramatis personae are needed.
- Idiot Ball: The usual cause of bakery disasters. Suppose you could have measured the delivery truck to make sure that cake would fit inside before making it?
- Mundane Made Awesome: The show basically runs on this.
- No Indoor Voice: None of the Valastros seem to have an indoor voice—they are (mostly) Italian after all.
- One Steve Limit: Averted, as the Valastro family and their extended family and friends don't seem to believe in this. For example:
- The name of both Buddy's wife and the name of his youngest (but still older) sister is "Lisa" (actually, "Lisa" is technically the nickname of Buddy's wife's, as her real name is actually "Elisabetta").
- Buddy himself, since he is actually Buddy II after his father—and Buddy II's oldest son is Buddy III. Oh, and Mauro's son is also called "Buddy."
- Outnumbered Sibling:
- Buddy and his nephew (also named "Buddy") are the youngest and only sons in their families—older-Buddy has four older sisters while young-Buddy has two older sisters.
- Buddy and Lisa's daughter, Sophia, is the oldest and only daughter of four kids.
- Pixellation: Used for the anatomically-accurate modeling chocolate figures on a cake for a bachelorette—at least until Buddy's mom saw them and made the sculptors add shorts.
- Product Displacement: In earlier episodes, Buddy had to refer to "cereal treats". Averted later on, when they got permission to say "Rice Krispy Treats".
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Buddy's bakery was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, and the season 6 premiere showcased the bakery's struggle to recover.
- Secret Ingredient: Buddy has ordered the cameraman to stop filming a couple times, so Buddy can add a secret ingredient without the show's viewers learning what it is.
- Serious Business: In an episode of season 2, Buddy makes a cake with fondant, two tiers, etc...with an easy bake oven.
- Shout-Out: In season 2 episode 1, one of the episode' specialty cakes features a large Venus flytrap. First Buddy mentions that he's adding petal dust to make it look like lips, then as they put teeth on the plant he says "Feed me!" in a deep, gruff voice.
- Shown Their Work: In-Universe. Buddy obviously goes to great lengths to make his cakes look as wonderful as they taste. The prehistoric mammal cake for a museum comes to mind.
- Or the Transformers cake for the car company. They had to work overnight in the special effects warehouse, because they didn't own freezers big enough to hold the cake. They made a seven-foot-long, eight-foot-tall cake overnight. With moving wings, light up bits, and a spinning blaster. The "Holy Shit!" Quotient was broken.
- Title Drop: Has happened quite a few times over the course of the series—one example is from a Parental Lecture that Buddy received from his mom:[Buddy] may be the Cake Boss, but I'm the Boss Boss!
- Unsettling Gender Reveal: An attempt to invoke this trope by having "cousin Anthony" go on a date with Carmen Carrera (a real life former Drag Queen and transwoman) caused controversy when it was revealed that Carmen wasn't aware she was being used as part of a prank, the punchline being that she was "really" a man, and thought her appearance was to help the LGBT community, when instead this same situation has resulted in real life murders. Made worse by the fact that on his Twitter Anthony referred to Carmen as "It". Buddy later apologized for the incident and the episode was removed from rotation.
- Up to Eleven: Some customers seem to be trying to raise the bar on what Buddy can do. (The tiki-cake guy was a regular customer, and admitted that he was doing this.)
- Vacation Episode: Three of them, covering a Valastro trip to Italy.