Icing tips from the Cake Boss himself, Buddy Valastro

Earnest Mangulabnan-Zabala
Icing tips from the Cake Boss himself, Buddy Valastro

Alecs Ongcal

Buddy, who usually makes race car-sized cakes, teaches us how to make our cupcakes look their best

If there’s one thing that fascinates while watching TLC’s Cake Boss, it’s how the show’s chief protagonist and ringleader, Chef Buddy Valastro, does not shirk from any cake challenge thrown his way. Whether it’s coming up with a cake that looks like a life-sized NASCAR race car, a helicopter with a spinning propeller, or a fire-breathing dragon, you are sure he will gamely take it on. 

It makes for good TV, you bet. But I believe that beneath all that swagger and bravado, he is genuinely thrilled to take on his clients’ wildest cake dreams and make them real and edible. He’s like a little boy let loose at the candy store. No project is ever considered too out-of-this-world. Spectacular and staggering are just some of the adjectives that come to mind upon seeing his cake projects.

“I think Cake Boss has been successful because it’s real. It’s just really me being me, and I think that’s what people like and I think it inspires people to wanna bake, it inspires people to follow their dreams,” said Valastro during a brief master class on cupcake frosting.

The master at work, making a rose

At this master class, he was in his element, bringing with him that distinct personality TV audiences worldwide have come to know and love. “I’m just gonna do a couple of flowers here. Because again, I show up here and I enjoy showing off, so why not?” he said.

He briefly showed us how to make flower decors for our cupcakes. While working, a cupcake fell from his hand surprising the audience. Not missing a beat, he whipped up another flower remarking, “Now you know it’s not camera trick, okay?” to the amusement of everyone gathered. 

For Valastro, piping the perfect design on a cake or cupcake ultimately rests on 3 things: “pressure, pinch hole, and the angle of the piping bag.” And then, of course there’s the buttercream be considered.

It's all about the angle of your piping bag.


Participants also received further guidance from pastry chefs who are graduates from the Center for Asian Culinary Studies.

When he visited our table, my fellow home bakers and I asked him about the kind of buttercream that can withstand our humid weather.

“I think that over here you have to do a mix of butter and shortening to keep up the stability and to stand the heat,” he answered. After a few back and forths, he suggested that a tweaked version of Italian buttercream may be the best for our own designing efforts.

Hands-on practice. It'€™s our turn to employ what we just learned.

While you might pause at the idea of using shortening for your frosting, Valastro is quick to add that even in the US they turn to shortening to help achieve constancy during the hot summer months. “It doesn’t really alter the taste because of the fact that there’s so much butter. It’s still 85% butter so it’s just for stability,” he explained.

Pinoy fans were thrilled to have him back in the country, however momentarily. It was his 2nd visit in as many years and like the first time, he was here as part of the day-long merriments of the TLC Festival 2017 held in BGC.

After his brief demonstration, Valastro went around the tables to check on his students and their work.

The feeling was mutual. 

“My favorite part about being here in Manila is that the people made me feel at home, welcome, loved, special,” said Valastro. “I really believe that the show is doing well in the Philippines because the Filipino people are about family. And yes, that’s what Cake Boss is; it’s about family. I feel like I can be one of your crazy cousins, you know. I think that’s why it works.”

A participant's awesome creations.

Another great thing about his long-running reality show (season 9 is about to start on November 15) is that he’s unafraid to show the less-glamorous side of his craft. In the show, failures can be as spectacular as the successes. Such was the case of the ambitious carousel cake that collapsed inside the truck as it was being delivered. It takes a big person to accept that sometimes that’s how the cookie crumbles and admit defeat. Then again, he generally doesn’t take failures as an option and will seek a way to save what others may see as a doomed project. No wonder he is sometimes referred to as a miracle cake man.

The cake boss, however, had it tough this year with the passing away of his mom due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, it is a neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerves in the brain and the spinal cord. 

“When I lost my mom, it was such a hard thing for me,” he said somberly. “Although I was devastated and I didn’t wanna worry about filming, I felt like I had an obligation to the fans who loved her. We did a beautiful episode when my mom passed and it’s gonna show you guys the way I want her remembered: as a beautiful vibrant woman.”

The master class was short and sweet. Nevertheless, in that brief span of time, it was wonderful to see the Cake Boss at work; to experience his enthusiasm and creativity first-hand. It was a great way to be reminded that any occasion becomes more meaningful when celebrated with a cake. Especially, when it comes in the form of something fantastic. – Rappler.com

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