Have all these damned baking shows been bothering you? Just a little bit? Somewhere in the back of your subconscious? “Geez,” you think, “the pacing and wacky characters make me think that I’ll really enjoy watching this show about cupcakes/large cakes/other baked goods, but instead I basically want to shoot the television after 15 minutes.”
The Daily Beast presents what is now the gold standard, authoritative treatise on what’s wrong with shows ranging from Cake Boss to Top Chef: Just Desserts to Ace of Cakes: Baking just isn’t all that much fun. Describing pastry as “inherently limited in dramatic possibility,” writer Michaelangelo Matos lays it down with coldhearted logic:
“The mark of a pastry chef is not to improvise. They go to work at 4 a.m.; they measure everything precisely; they time the ovens carefully. No improvisation, very little inherent sex appeal—where’s the TV in that?”
Matos nails Ace of Cakes pretty well in his description (“Most everyone at Charm City mumbles, from the boss, a totally chill brah named Duff Goldman, on down; many of the bakers’ sentences don’t end so much as trail off”), but he may miss the point—there’s a narcotic aspect to the show, which conjures up a make-believe fantasy workplace where everyone is young and hip without being douchebags, everybody gets along, and the workday revolves around creating actual things that make other human beings legitimately happy. It’s not about drama, it’s about sweet, soothing escape.
Still, Matos makes a lot of fine points, particularly as he takes apart The Cupcake Girls, pointing out that the two leads of the program “come across as the SNL ‘Delicious Dish’ women from hell, clueless and indulgent.” For those of us braced for the upcoming Cupcake Shop Great Depression, both those adjectives have a bittersweet ring of truth to them.