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Duff's Cakemix: The Best of Both Worlds

Kelli Shiroma |
February 20, 2013 | 10:23 p.m. PST

Associate Food Editor

Duff's Cakemix gives customers the chance to create their ultimate dream cakes and cupcakes (Kelli Shiroma / Neon Tommy).
Duff's Cakemix gives customers the chance to create their ultimate dream cakes and cupcakes (Kelli Shiroma / Neon Tommy).
At Duff’s Cakemix, you can decorate your cake and eat it, too.

The West Hollywood bakery-studio, which just opened last June on the corner of Melrose and Sweetzer Avenues, encourages both the young and young at heart to embrace their inner bakers by customizing their own cakes and cupcakes. 

Customers wanting to decorate their own confections can either make reservations or simply walk in, according to Katelyn Rader, chief operating officer.

“We take reservations for parties of six cake kits or more, but everyone else is first-come, first-serve or walk in,” she says. “We get all types of ages and people, [ranging from] eight-year-olds’ birthday parties, bachelorette parties, bridal showers and date nights.”

Duff’s Cakemix epitomizes the best of both worlds, according to Rader.

“[The right side] is the Decorating Studio, where all the decorating takes place and where the parties happen,” she says, “and the [left] side is the Bakery, where you can get a custom finished cake and get a taste of Duff’s recipes. That’s what makes this place great — it’s two in one, under one roof.”

Rader explains that she got involved with Duff’s Cakemix through her father, a venture capitalist. 

“He [my dad] had this presented to him from Richard Drapkin, his best friend from junior high, who’s a restaurateur in Los Angeles,” she says. “Richard and our other partner, Diane Duarte, wanted to have a place where you could decorate cakes and cupcakes, and they brought it to my father to raise the equity. I was working in interior design at the time, but I fell in love with the project. After dedicating hours to this project for fun, my dad and Richard said, ‘Why don’t you come run it?’ I was lucky enough to switch gears, try it out and do something fun.”

Rader says that the bakery-studio concept itself was a novelty, but the group added an extra layer of sweetness by adding “Ace of CakesFood Network chef Duff Goldman to the mix. Duff’s Cakemix is located right next door to Goldman’s Charm City Cakes West Bakery

“This was a great idea on its own, but Richard, being in the restaurant industry, knew Duff Goldman from ‘Ace of Cakes,’” Rader recalls. “He knew he [Goldman] wanted to move out to L.A., so we brought the project to him and it worked out.”

As soon as individuals enter the Duff’s Cakemix Decorating Studio, they select their cake or cupcake kit for decorating, then choose from a vast assortment of flavors, fillings, toppings and other unique specialties. Decorators and workers then help customers create their ultimate cake or cupcake fantasies. 

“We have a ‘Goodie Bar’ [where you pick your toppings], and we have piping bags in different colors,” Rader explains. “We [also] have all sorts of cookie cutters, fondant tools and fun things to pick from to help you make your dream cake.”

Among the “extras” available in the cake and cupcake decorating kits include decorative ribbons, extra fondant, extra glitter, a tiered cake platform and an airbrush option. The latter is especially popular, as Duff’s Cakemix features a special Airbrush Booth.

“The airbrush booth [is] unique in that you can spray your cake with glitter or airbrush,” Rader says. “No one’s ever seen that so we get a lot of requests for the airbrush booth.” 

When it comes to the most popular decorating option, Rader says the six-inch cake is the business’ best seller. Six-inch cakes and cupcake kits (eight cupcakes) cost $32, while nine-inch cakes cost $48. Each decorator also must pay a fee of $10, Rader says. 

“We think it’s pretty reasonable — you’re getting an activity that lasts for an hour or an hour and a half, plus a whole finished cake,” she says. 

While weekdays have a steady influx of customers with some slower periods, weekends are another story when it comes to creating cakes at Duff’s Cakemix.

“Holidays, Saturdays and Sundays are our busiest days,” Rader says. “For the last few months, we’ve had a wait up until an hour [with] a line around the block for people to get in on Saturdays.” 

Yet, the long lines are worth it for customers who have the chance to meet Goldman himself when he’s at the studio.

“When he’s in L.A., he is here,” Rader says. “It’s a little extra treat for the people who are here on that certain day; they get to meet Duff and he helps them create their cakes.”

In terms of the Duff’s Cakemix Bakery, Rader remembers how surprised she was upon discovering that customers frequently opted for individual cake slices instead of cupcakes or ordering entire cakes.

“We sell a lot of slices of cake,” she says. “When we first started this business, I didn’t think we would be selling slices of cake; I figured people would go for the cupcake or a whole cake.”

The Bakery contains a variety of sure-to-please cake flavors, ranging from the traditional Chocolate and Vanilla to more unique selections like Carrot, Marble, Pumpkin Chocolate Chip and other seasonal flavors. 

“Our number-one seller would be our Red Velvet,” Rader says. “We also have a Confetti [flavored] cake which is vanilla with some sprinkles inside; we have this Lemon Poppy Seed cake that is unreal. We have fun flavors for people to try something new every time.”

Duff’s Cakemix also features structured decorating classes during the evenings. 

“Ricky, our manager, teaches those on Wednesday nights every month,” she confirms. “It’s a three-part series from 7 to 9 p.m. People can come in and learn how to buttercream a cake and do basic decorating skills.”

As far as plans for the new year, Rader says that Duff’s Cakemix is already on the lookout for a second location.

“We’ve only been open for about nine months, but we’re looking to expand and have a second location, and hopefully a mobile truck aspect [too],” she confirms. “It’s [Duff’s Cakemix] not just going to be at this flagship [Melrose location]; we’re going to be expanding very soon.”

2013 could also bring further changes in the Duff’s Cakemix Bakery and Decorating Studio.

“We are looking to have a little more structure — maybe some theme days or theme nights; we’re looking for fun and exciting flavors to sell in our bakery,” Rader says. 

Regardless of the company’s expansion and changes, Rader says the same factor always brings her joy — seeing customers happy making their cakes. 

“Every day, I see people making cakes, doing things they never thought they could do with cakes,” she says. “I just love seeing people being happy. It’s also something that’s never been done before, so people come in here, not really knowing what they’re getting into and then all of a sudden, they’re coming out with this creation they did all on their own.”


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