This past weekend I attended the Retail Bakers of Amercia convention in Charlotte, NC. The highlight of the event was the construction of a life-sized race car crafted by none other than Buddy Valastro and his crew from Carlo’s Bakery. The Hoboken, NJ bakery is the backdrop for TLC’s new reality show ‘Cake Boss’. Buddy and his employees, along with dozens of culinary students from Johnson and Wales, worked around the clock for four days to create one of the largest cakes I have ever seen.

By the time the doors opened to the public on Sunday at 11am, the building process had been completed. The cakes were stacked,  iced and asstembled with an internal support structure and the entire car had been draped with fondant. In reality, all it needed at that point were the decorative details. I was pretty disappointed that the attendees were not able to see the car in the making. In my opinion, that would have been the best part. The car was complete with an engine made of edible components that was placed under the hood on the front of the car.

This was the first view of the car as RBA members and attendees entered into the convention hall floor.  As you can see the car was pretty much fully constructed at that point.  Many of us would have liked to have seen more of the initial construction phase.

Sometime during the day on Sunday, the front passenger side of the car felt apart.  Buddy was gone for most of the day and had left word to all of this assistants NOT to touch the car or do any further work on it until he returned.  That didn’t happen until an hour before the convention day was over.  In true Buddy fashion, he promptly repaired the the car when he arrived, and he saved the day.

Here you can see the chunks of the cake that had fallen over.  There was no support in place for the cakes on the sides of the car.  They were pretty much just stacked and held together with icing.  On the right of the photo you can see the motor, which was then placed into the large front cavity of the car. 

Here is a view of the rear of the car.

Here Buddy goes right to work to fix the side of the car that had taken a turn for the worse while he was away.  Of course, everywhere that Buddy goes there was a film crew in tow, so watch for this on an upcoming ‘Cake Boss’ episode.

Here’s what’s REALLY going on!  There are camera crews all around Buddy while he is trying to repair the damage on the side of the car.  Buddy and his crew are definitely immune to all the camera people constantly surrounding them.

This is the view from under the hood with the edible engine in place.

And Viola! It’s finished!

In true ‘Cake Boss’ fashion, Buddy and his team get the job done!

The team would not be complete without the famous Carlos Bakery Truck! It was parked right outside the entrance to our hotel. As we sipped cocktails after a long day, we watched Carlo’s two main guys ask for directions to the highway that headed north to New York. I couldn’t resist taking a photo, which permission, of course. I asked the guys if they minded all the intrusions from the clamoring public and they responded, ‘Nah, it don’t bother us’ (cue in heavy De Niro accent).  Love that!

OH MY!  While most people drooled over the life-sized car, I must admit that the highlight of the event FOR ME, was a demo presented by the trendsetting and forever talented,  Ron Ben-Israel.  Imagine my surprise when I learned that the Cake Magnate himself would be demonstrating his ‘Sexy Lace’ technique.  I had been admiring this particular design for some time (along with countless others, of course).  Much to my delight, I’d be seeing it made first hand.  Not only was the demo informative,  but Ron always provides as much entertainment as he does education.  That combination of talent and humor wins Ron Ben-Israel big points in my book.  Oh, and those fabulous frames he’s always sporting are as fashionable as his edible creations.  Assisting Ron was my friend Minette Rushing from Savannah Custom Cakes.

Executive Pastry Chef Richard Cusick from Barry Callebaut’s Chcolate Academy in Chicago demonstrated how easy it is to make beautiful and delicious chocolate masterpieces.  I really enjoyed this demo, especially tasting the samples!

While the lighting in this photo is rather unflattering, I couldn’t help but include a photo of my two favorite people, Julie Bashore and Norm Davis.  Both are quite talented and respected cake decorators who are great fun to chat and hang out with.  Norm is a hoot!  He definitely kept me laughing for two days straight.

On Monday evening, we were all invited to Ashley Vicos’ Ultimate Cake Off viewing party.  Here are a few of the attendees from left to right”  Eileen Calder from Ashley Bakery in Charleston, Lily and Melissa from Once in a Blue Moon Bakery in Carey, NC, Kathy and Terry Tuttle from Maryland, and my buddies Lucia and Rob Byers from Cakes in Style in Rockville. Kudos to Chuck Hamilton for doing such a great job with all the party planning.

All eyes were fixed on one of a dozen large flat screens, watching every single moment of the competition.  The competitors on this particular challenge were Ashley Vicos, Mary, Mary Moi-Hochstetler and Roland Winbeckler.   As you probably already know, Ashley Vicos and her amazing team took home the $10,000 grand prize!

Ashley Vicos and her team of assistants in the Ultimate Cake Off competition (from left to right):  Debbie Barronton from Cakes by Debbie, Ashley Vicos from Sweet Ashley’s, my friend Wayne Steinkopf from Swank Cake Design (not pictured,  Alexis Sturgeon from Rosebud Cakes).

I want to give a huge, warm-hearted THANK YOU to my friends Wayne and Chuck from Swank Cake Design for their gracious hospitality and friendship. I would also like to thank Ashley Vicos for a fun and entertaining evening (the girl definitely knows how to work a crowd!), and to all my cake peers (you know how you are) who make every gathering delightfully unforgettable.