A Baking Bunch on Reality TV

"Cake Boss" Buddy Valastro talks (bake) shop.

Courtesy of TLC.
Buddy Valastro, center, with his crew outside the Hoboken bakery, where the TLC show Cake Boss is shot.
Courtesy of TLC.

Buddy Valastro stands in front of a rotating platter, spatula in hand, applying vanilla icing to a six-tiered birthday cake. It’s a typical scene at Carlo’s Bake Shop in Hoboken. Add three cameramen, a producer, and mikes, and the recipe yields TLC’s new reality show, Cake Boss.

“I come to work and laugh; sometimes I scream,” says Valastro. “I always thought it would be funny if I had cameras in here to show America what we do.”

The series, which premiered on May 25, follows Valastro and his crew through a busy season of elaborate wedding cakes, delivery mishaps, and special requests from the bakery’s steady stream of customers.

“It’s not staged; I just do what I normally do,” says Valastro, 32 and a resident of East Hanover. For the season premiere, the team created a 34-inch-wide, 3-foot-tall cake for a retired firefighter. It featured a burning building, fire engine, and firefighters—all edible. Valastro ran electric wires into the cake through straws  to power the smoke effects and flashing lights. For another customer, he devised a wedding cake with a hidden cage for a pair of live doves, which emerged on cue to the delight of guests.

For thirteen episodes, viewers will watch personalities clash and tension levels soar in the bake shop. To a large degree, that’s because almost everyone who works at Carlo’s is family. “TLC loves the fact that there is a family dynamic,” says Valastro, who works alongside his mother, sisters, brothers-in-law, and cousins. “It’s family television.”

Carlo’s has been in the Valastro family since Buddy Sr.  purchased the bakery from Carlo Guastaffero in 1964. When Buddy Sr. passed away in 1994, the reins were handed to Buddy, his son.

“My father made me understand the value of a dollar,” says Valastro, who started at the bakery by cleaning the bathroom. “I am not the kind of guy to cut corners. If we do it, we do it right.”

That work ethic has paid off. Carlo’s typically makes 20 to 40 wedding cakes per weekend and as many as 300  to 600 birthday cakes every week. Then there are the regular demands of the bakery, with customers flocking in for crumb cake, cannoli, and a variety of cookies and pastries. “With the show airing, we are probably going to get crazier, and I am a little scared about supply and demand,” says Valastro, who already works twelve- to eighteen-hours, six days a week. He spends his little free time with his wife, Lisa, and young children, Marco, Buddy, and Sofia.

“I definitely want to pass [the bakery] on to my children,” says Valastro. “By the same token, it’s a very hard life, so I will give them the option.”

Catch Cake Boss on TLC every Monday at 10 pm.

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