The hotel that my sister had chosen for the wedding block was the W in Hoboken. Upon hearing about this, my sisters-in-law thought of one thing – Cake Boss. So, a trip on their behalf became necessary. For the couple of days around my sister’s wedding, I had seen long lines to get into the bakery. But I figured that those long lines had to be some sort of fluke. It turns out, I was wrong. In all, I spent just short of four hours waiting for Cake Boss. In contrast, I have spent a total of about 30 minutes watching the show.
It was amazing that the line was this long, given that it is winter. Over the three hours in the outdoor line, people would start bonding. One family with young kids from Long Island befriended another family with young kids from North Carolina. Each family had a thick but distinct accent that made it hard to understand either one. But they seemed to communicate fine, particularly when discussing fondant, which I thought was weird for the dads to be discussing.
Once inside, the place was a madhouse. Carlo’s Bake Shop is no different than any other bakery that I have been to. But it is filled to the brim with people who definitely have never been to a bakery before. Perhaps that is the greatest contribution that Cake Boss has made – it has exposed countless suburbanites and reality show viewers to the wonder of pastries that are not bought at a grocery store.
When our number was called, my mother-in-law and my wife went up to the counter. The main difficulty with the place is that, unlike a Chinese buffet, there are no labels on the foods. So, every time a number is called, the girls working the counters have to explain what kind of cake, frosting, and other toppings are on each type of cupcake. They have to describe the kinds of cookies they have. They have to try and discern what some dad is trying describe the kind of cookie that his daughter desperately wants. It’s another one of those situations that would really benefit with signage. But, even without it, the girls at Carlo’s Bake Shop help all of the customers with remarkable poise.
For my wife and I, we ordered four large cannolis and six cupcakes. Two were red velvet with something something frosting. Two were chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting. Two were vanilla cupcakes with something something else for frosting and maybe also sprinkles.
The canolis were pretty good. The shells were a little too crispy – they tended to flake and fall apart as you ate it. And, while it was quite tasty, there was a little too much filling. But overall, it was one of the best cannolis I have ever eaten. If for no other reason than the fact that I had to wait so long for it.
My mother-in-law had ordered herself some cookies and a cheesecake. We had the cheesecake for her birthday a couple of days later. In contrast to the largesse of the cannoli, the cheesecake was delicate. Despite the tendency for cheesecakes in New Jersey to want to be over-the-top in the New York Cheesecake style, this one exhibited some remarkable restraint. It was light and airy. I wish I had more.
The cookies that we had were very good. Not unlike the kinds of cookies I have had at other bakeries, these were delightfully buttery. It is when I eat cookies like these that the idea that salt enhances sweetness makes sense.
I don’t think I would ever go to Cake Boss again. But, the thing is, now that it has become a tourist attraction, I don’t really think that it is intended to be a place that you go to multiple times, unless you’re the guilt-ridden mother of an impetuous young teenage daughter. Going to Carlo’s Bake Shop has become some sort of bizarre suburbanite status symbol. The weird thing is that there is another bakery on the same street as Cake Boss. It’s just a couple of blocks away. And just one of hundreds, if not thousands, of skilled bakeries in New Jersey.