The last few weeks have been all business for Buddy Valastro, star of TLC's Cake Boss. But, when your business involves cannolis, doughnuts, cookies and -- you guessed it-- cakes, most days at "the office" are good ones.
"I've been to Dallas before, been to the State Fair and filmed here, but this trip has been all about the new shop," he says.
Valastro and his crew will open Texas' first Carlo's Bake Shop on March 19 at Preston Center in Dallas. That makes a baker's dozen of locations for the 106-year-old shop, and local madness is already in full swing. We told you to expect a long line on opening day.
Dallas has plenty of sweet shops -- why the hype?
Valastro and his large, loving extended family first opened their Hoboken, New Jersey shop to television audiences in 2009, and fans have followed the fun now for seven seasons, with an eighth to be released in 2016. Part of the show's biggest draw are the odd, ostentatious and utterly over-the-top cakes the bakery creates. Among the most challenging Valastro has said were a life-size race car cake, a Transformers cake that shot fire and a NASA shuttle cake that actually launched.
Crazy cakes aside, long-time viewers simply love the family dynamic and many recognizable family members are in town for the opening. You might see the Cake Boss, himself, as well as his sister Grace Faugno, COC of retail, and their brother-in-law, pastry chef Mauro Castano. Also in town: Valastro's daughter Sofia, 13, visiting during spring break.
She's young, but Sofia says this isn't her first rodeo, and that she's enjoyed helping to train the new location's employees. "The hardest part for me is making sure there's good communication between the front of the house and the bakery, making sure pans are refilled and customers are served," she says.
"Openings get crazy, and it's a lot of pressure."
Currently, about 20 staff and crew are in town from other locations to ensure the new store is opened without a hitch. It employs 25 in the front of the house and 10 bakers, and Faugno says that number is likely to grow -- if they're lucky and the shop flourishes.
That may already seem like a large number for a single location, but bakery shifts are long. Days start before sunrise to prepare fresh items from the morning rush and the shop will stay open until 9 or 10 p.m. most nights. Faugno says during their busiest seasons -- Christmastime, for example -- their bakers sometimes work around the clock.
But, seriously, the treats are to die for
In addition to cakes for all occasions, the shop sells cookies, doughnuts, tarts, mini-cakes, chocolate dipped strawberries, and cake slices. We sampled a bit of each, and most are tasty, but the real shining stars are the traditional Italian pastries, particularly the shop's signature cannolis and "Lobster Tails," which are flaky pastries filled with Bailey's Irish Creme, named so due to their shape.
If you find yourself overwhelmed with options, go for a classic.
That said, the Dallas shop features a few brand new twists on the favorites. Valastro has for the first time experimented with new fillings that will be unveiled during the shop's grand opening: Oreo, Nutella, and salted caramel.
"Dallas made history with the new Lobster Tail flavors," Faugno says.
Also special to the Dallas store: Sweet tea. Most of the shops feature similar menus, but a few items are chosen for specific locations.
"It's not something we really do in New Jersey, so we're having a guy come in tomorrow and help us learn how to use the machine," Faugno says. "But, it's like the very southern red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting and the new salted caramel Lobster Tails, a touch we picked for our Dallas audience."
What if you want a custom cake like those seen on TV? You can design one in the store on an iPad or let the pros handle your wedding, birthday, graduation or anniversary treat. Faugno says decadent fondant designs are still popular, but classic simple buttercream cakes with vibrant colors and elaborate textured icing designs are also en vogue.
Will there be really long lines?
It's very likely, especially if you go on opening weekend. During a media preview Friday, crowds were already gathered outside to peer into the open kitchen's windows while bakers worked with alacrity.
Earlier this week, the shop briefly opened doors for an unannounced soft opening. In a little over four hours they filled 305 orders and estimate about 500 people dropped by in total. They stayed later than expected, to ensure everyone was fed. But, that's nothing. When the Orlando location opened in December, it served 7,000 on the first day.
"They produce, produce, produce," Faugno says of the bakers during a shop opening. "Ovens go, mixers go all day. Finally, [in Florida] we had to just stop serving at midnight so our staff could have a break."
When it comes to Cake Boss fandom, marketing specialist Nicole Valdes has the perfect way of putting it:
I tell Buddy he's the Justin Timberlake of cakes.
When Carlo's Bake Shop finally pulls into a new town, lines sometimes accumulate for miles, she says, and fans often camp out overnight. Online, fans have already been buzzing about such plans.
"They've said, 'We'll be here at 2 a.m.!' and I think 'Cool. So will we. Baking.'"
Plan your life: Carlo's Bake Shop opens with a ribbon cutting at 8:30 a.m. on March 19. It's located at 8319 Preston Road in Dallas.