Buddy Valastro in "Cake Boss"
The Valentine's Day sugar rush may be fading for most people, but there's something sweet in the air at TLC. The network with a reputation for putting the 'real' back in reality TV has delivered one of its biggest hits in ages, and fans are eating it up.
Viewers can feast their eyes on the antics of a master cake maker and his crew in "Cake Boss," and a "Best of Cake Boss" special airing Monday, Feb. 22, on TLC, offers a great chance to catch up. Now in its second season, the series has cameras follow Buddy Valastro while he runs a famous family bakery in Hoboken, N.J.
Business has been booming at Carlo's Bakery, and Valastro invites TV audiences behind the scenes to find out why. He is a fourth-generation baker, and his 10,000-square-foot bakery is state-of-the-art. His passionate staff includes his mother, four sisters, three brothers-in-law and more extended family. Together, they turn out thousands of cakes and pastries on a weekly basis, but each is a labor of love.
"I was born into this business and practically have icing in my blood," Valastro once explained. "Though my big family can sometimes drive me crazy, we are all working hard to make my father's dream come true."
With a sterling reputation, peer admiration and no shortage of customers, dreams have already come true. The baker's mouth-watering creations have been commissioned for several high-profile events, and he's even made cakes for stars such as Britney Spears and TV shows such as "The Sopranos."
His delectable desserts have been featured on the "Today Show," "Good Morning America" and "The View." Various baking and bridal magazines have also showcased his work.
Still, Valastro presses on, striving for perfection with each and every cake. While filming the second season, he was challenged to make a gigantic ring for a memorable marriage proposal, and felt the pressure as he attempted to create a life-sized race car cake for the Retail Bakers of America annual event.
He and his team also faced the daunting task of making a buffet-style cake for Major League Eating. While creating an eye-catching cake for the Coney Island Circus Sideshow, one of Valastro's team members, Frankie, came face to face with one of his biggest fears.
Regardless of the task at hand, Valastro's larger-than-life crew sticks together.
Buddy Valastro and Daniella Storzillo paint an edible tea kettle in "Cake Boss"
The work at Carlo's is definitely a family affair, and although Buddy is billed as the boss, cameras reveal that the rest of the staff doesn't always see it that way. As with many hit reality shows, the appeal isn't just in what the subjects are doing, but how they relate while they're doing it.
"Buddy and his family have captured the hearts of America, and their skills in the bakery are more impressive each week. Buddy is a true artist," said TLC exec Nancy Daniels.
His passion for cake decorating was sparked early, thanks to his father, Buddy Sr. With a tale that reads like a Hollywood movie script, his is perhaps the sweetest story of all.
At the tender age of 13, Buddy Sr. and his family immigrated from Lipari, Italy. His father placed him in Carlo's Bakery, where he met and fell in love with then 12-year-old Mary Tubito. After five years of waiting, the couple wed in 1965. He eventually bought Carlo's Bakery, which was then passed down following Buddy Sr.'s death in 1994.
His legacy lives on in his children and grandchildren, many of who are working to make Carlo's Bakery a household name as he once dreamed. "Cake Boss" is also making that dream a reality.
With an average of more than two million viewers per episode in its debut season, "Cake Boss" has shown serious promise, and TLC is promoting it in several layers in its sophomore year. Of course, the show speaks for itself and seems to have no trouble luring viewers with images of Buddy's tasty and stunning creations.
Fans craving more "Cake Boss" can look online for even more content. The show's official site, found on TLC.com, is one of the network's five most-visited fan sites. There, web surfers can learn more about Buddy's team and big Italian family, and go deeper into the bakery.
The extremely popular section featuring slideshows of Valastro's cakes has been expanded. Also, fans can dish about their personal experiences and visits to the real Carlo's Bakery. Anyone who wonders how Valastro's ideas are born can check out the section featuring his cake sketches and final designs.
And for those who might have missed the previous night's show, full episodes are available after broadcast. The fan site even boasts a "Cake Boss" video game in which players must help Valastro deliver his cakes on time.
Those who just can't get enough can check out short "webisodes" in which Valastro proves he's more than just a great baker -- he's also a cook. He prepares old-world Italian recipes handed down from his beloved father.
"Cake Boss's" reach extends even further into cyberspace with official Twitter and Facebook sites.