Sweet launch system: Celebrity chef Duff Goldman makes NASA SLS rocket-shaped cake

Celebrity chef Duff Goldman cuts into his Space Launch System (SLS)-shaped cake at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex's "Taste of Space" event.
Celebrity chef Duff Goldman cuts into his Space Launch System (SLS)-shaped cake at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex's "Taste of Space" event. (Image credit: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex)

NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) was not the only mega-moon rocket to recently roll out at the agency's Florida spaceport — albeit the other was considerably smaller and much more tasty.

Just one day after the full-size SLS, together with its Orion spacecraft, arrived back on the launchpad for its next attempt at beginning the Artemis I mission, did a scaled down (and sugared-up) version of the same rocket debut at the nearby Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

Superstar baker Duff Goldman, best known from his show "Ace of Cakes" and Food Network's baking championships, debuted an SLS-shaped cake as part of Kennedy's "Taste of Space: Celebrity Chef Edition" culinary event held on Friday (Nov. 4). The towering creation topped off an evening of cooking demonstrations by Goldman and his fellow famous chefs, Rocco DiSpirito ("Restaurant Divided," "Tournament of Champions") and Marc Murphy ("Chopped," "Chopped Junior").

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Former NASA astronauts Scott Altman, Sandy Magnus and Bruce Melnick joined the chefs for the demos, which were staged inside "Gateway: The Deep Space Complex," a new attraction focusing on the future of space exploration, including the Artemis program. The Artemis I test flight, scheduled to launch on Nov. 14, is intended to pave the way for the return of humans to the moon, including landing the first woman and the first person of color on the lunar surface.

Standing about 3 feet tall (91 cm), Goldman's cake depicted the SLS just after liftoff, with a plume of clouds beginning to form around the exhaust from the rocket's four main engines and twin solid rocket boosters. Using fondant and food color, Goldman and his team at Charm City Cakes were able to reproduce the burnt-orange look of the SLS's core stage and capture small details, such as the NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) logos on the spacecraft fairing.

Celebrity chefs Duff Goldman, Marc Murphy and Rocco DiSpirito with astronauts Sandy Magnus, Bruce Melnick and Scott Altman at the "Taste of Space." (Image credit: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex)

"When we make a cake ... we get all of the data that we can on whatever it is we are going to make. And then we just go through it, trying to match certain colors and things like that. It's a whole process," Goldman said during the event.

The cake also included the tower that supports the SLS atop its mobile launcher. The grey gantry was finished with the Artemis program's "Horizon" gradient colorway, transitioning from orange at its base to shades of blue towards the top.

Duff Goldman's Space Launch System (SLS)-shaped cake stands before its inspiration on launchpad 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Image credit: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex)

Before the "Taste of Space" attendees could partake in the cake, Goldman had the opportunity to size up his work during a private visit to Launch Complex 39B.

"[They] got us permission to bring that cake out in front of the rocket and get a picture of it," Goldman said. "That was a once-in-a-lifetime thing. It was incredible."

"Just getting to see it in real life and then see the cake, it feels good," he said.

Click through to collectSPACE for more photos and video of chef Duff Goldman's Space Launch System-shaped cake.

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Robert Z. Pearlman
collectSPACE.com Editor, Space.com Contributor

Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of collectSPACE.com, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for Space.com and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.