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Series / Cake Boss

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Cake Boss is a cooking/reality show aired 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. Later on, 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.

The show aired 256 episodes over the course of 9 seasons from April 19, 2009 – April 11, 2020.

This show contains examples of:

  • Alliterative Name: Pretty much the title of every episode.
  • Bridezilla: Only an early Season 1 episode "Bi-Plane, Bridezilla & Busting Buddy" has a proper example. Not only calling Buddy's work ugly in his own bakery but a day before delivery takes multiple tubes of icing and spewing it all over his work as a way to "give him an art lesson". The only reason he still remade a new one was because her mother whom Buddy knew begged him to and he thought he could win her over when he delivered the final work. Even then she refuses to get up from her chair and look at it when her mother calls her over and cusses one bridesmaid out over having to, while her mother and bridesmaids gave Buddy the genuine praises he hoped for. (Buddy reportedly tries to avoid taking orders from them in the first place) Notably, no other wedding clients filmed for the show are shown giving him grief or demands again.
    • 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).
  • Catchphrase: 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.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Buddy and Lisa name their fourth child Carlo Salvatore. Carlo after the name of the bakery which is also the namesake of the original founder of Carlo's Bakery before he sold it to the Valastro family, and Salvatore after long-time Carlo's baker since the Valastros' ownership who died from cancer on January 30, 2011.
  • 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 wrecked on route; played for drama.
    • Another one is a chandelier cake, which fell down during its presentation.
    • Cousin Jay and delivery employee Joe driving a cake delivery to Florida fill the diesel-fueled truck with regular gasoline four times before they realize their error and the truck gets stuck in Savannah Georgia and it'll take at least a week to drain the gas out and figure out if the truck's engine is still viable or cost 15 grand to repair
  • 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 a 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: 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 Episodes:
    • Halloween Episode: Several. One particular episode features 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.
    • Christmas Episode: Several, 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.
  • 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?
  • Meaningful Name: Buddy and his wife Lisa's name their fourth child Carlo Salvatore Valastro, "Carlo" being the name of the guy who originally founded the bakery before it was bought by the Valastro family back in the 1960s, and Salvatore after long-time Carlo's baker since the Valastros' ownership who died from cancer on January 30, 2011.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The show basically runs on this, showcasing the big and often extravagant cake orders Carlo's gets.
  • 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, 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."
    • Buddy's mother and one of his sisters are both named Mary, but his mother is only referred to as Mama.
  • Pixellation: Used for the anatomically-accurate modeling chocolate figures on a cake for a bachelorette party—at least until Buddy's mom saw them and made the sculptors add shorts. They were however able to get away with one naked male figure by putting a cloth apron to cover its lower half then removed the apron once they delivered the cake to the party, so to still satisfy the client's wishes.
  • Product Displacement: In earlier episodes, Buddy had to refer to "cereal treats". Averted later on, when they got permission to say "Rice Krispy Treats".
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: A few times the crew partakes in challenges either amongst each other or with a client(s), occasionally the winner is not who you would expect. For example: A sixteen year old (Joey and Grace's son Rob) and a 36 year old (head baker Frankie), the latter of whom is very large, enter a wrestling ring. The winner of the match? The sixteen year old as he is an actual wrestler.
  • 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.
  • Running Gag: When he was working on the cake for Buddy Jr.'s First Communion, he remarked that he's never made a cake for the family without a family member having a chief complaint.
  • Secret Ingredient: On a couple of occasions, Buddy has ordered the cameraman to stop filming 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 JustForFun.Holy Shit Quotient was broken.
  • Tempting Fate: In "Tulips, Taxes & Take It Easy" after the pain from Buddy's hernia causes him to go home early Frankie discusses how lucky Buddy is he only has one because he knew a guy that had a double which he didn't think was possible. The next episode Buddy has his hernia operation—and the surgeon reveals Buddy turned out to have two hernias that they went and fixed up.
  • Title Drop: Has happened quite a few times over the course of the series—one example is from a parental lecture 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.
  • Vacation Episode: Three of them, covering a Valastro trip to Italy.