June 14, 2008

Gigantic cake is a sweet addition to today's Franklin County Bicentennial Celebration


â Paul Smith's whips up 350-pounder for Franklin County celebration

PAUL SMITHS -- Five Paul Smith's College baking students and their culinary-arts instructor are making today's bicentennial celebration in Franklin County a lot sweeter.

Chef Bob Brown and his students baked and donated 47 five-pound sheet cakes from 200 pounds of batter, mixed 160 pounds of buttercream frosting and decorated a three-tiered, 350-pound white cake with dozens of chocolate stars and the logo commemorating the county's 200th birthday.


The bottom tier, placed on a sheet of reinforced plywood, is made of 17 cakes and measures 4 feet by 8 feet.

It has a thin coating of lemon filling over the top to add a punch of flavor.

The middle tier is 3 feet by 6 feet and made of 12 cakes, and the top tier is 29 inches by 56 inches and made of six cakes.

It took thick slices of PVC pipe, yardstick measurements and six burly guys from the cooking class next door to stack the hefty layers on top of each other Friday morning, so students could apply the final decorations and frosting.

A refrigerated truck transported the assembled cake to Malone for today's birthday party at the Franklin County Fairgrounds, and two students will cut the cake, which can serve 1,500 people.

It is the second-largest cake Paul Smith's culinary students have ever made. The biggest was when Paul Smith's College expanded to offer both two- and four-year programs several years ago.


This year's group had experience with preparing and serving large mixed-food buffets, but this was the first huge baking task any of them had worked on.

"It's our summer practicum," said Danielle Fuller of Gouverneur. "Chef has the class make a cake every year. We've been baking cakes all week.

"I may never want to eat cake again," she said, laughing.

The jobs of cracking eggs, measuring ingredients, filling cake pans, making the icing and painting the detailed logo and bicentennial dates were split up among all of the students.

"We all rotated around so everybody could work on everything," said Marla Joseph of Trumansburg.


Dustyn Ford of Olive Bridge said "it's pretty cool" to have worked on such a large cake. He thought the worst part was the delicate, slow work of making the bicentennial logo, the dates and the lettering for the top.

"I can't believe I spent so many hours doing that yesterday," he said, laughing.

"It is very tedious," agreed Joseph.

The baking lab with Chef Brown is held four days a week for four hours, and it was only last week that the young bakers learned how to pipe the icing through pastry bags for the cake's fancy scalloped edges.

"We took a whole day just learning the right angle to hold the bag and do it right," said Joseph. "It takes a lot of practice."

She and Laura Brockett of Clinton used the pastry bags, while Fuller and Ford applied the frosting all over the cake tops and Jem Secrest of Unadilla smoothed the sides and mixed more frosting.

All of their work was overseen by Brown, who observed their teamwork, skills and budding professionalism with pride.

"Educationally, afterward, the students graduate and go out and say, I made a cake for Franklin County for its bicentennial.' It's an opportunity that doesn't come along that often."

He said these students will have an advantage during job interviews because "not too many schools are able to offer this," which gives them practical skills for large-volume baking.

"They were so excited about wanting to do this," Brown said, adding that for him as the teacher, "this is what you're here for. They take it with them when they leave here."


He said the $530 in ingredients it took to make the cake were donated by two Vermont firms, Hillcrest Foods and Quandt's Foods. It would have cost the Bicentennial Committee about $5,000 if they had to buy one.

"It's going to take about eight of us -- three on each side and one on each end -- to lift it into the truck -- carefully," the chef said, laughing, "especially because it's Friday the 13th."