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The Making of the Cake

10.14.11

Workers assembled the cake under a tent to protect it from the rainy weather. A Harvard Dining Services truck brought over the individual sheet cakes, which form the 15-by-18-foot H-shaped cake. Sixty individual sheet cakes were baked, two per day, by Flour bakery and deep frozen at Harvard awaiting the day of the celebration.

Workers assembled the cake under a tent to protect it from the rainy weather. A Harvard Dining Services truck brought over the individual sheet cakes, which form the 15-by-18-foot H-shaped cake. Sixty individual sheet cakes were baked, two per day, by Flour bakery and deep frozen at Harvard awaiting the day of the celebration.

Photograph by Harvard Magazine/JC

The truck also contained dozens of containers of icing.

The truck also contained dozens of containers of icing.

Photograph by Harvard Magazine/JC

A Flour bakery employee unloads one of the layered sheet cakes.

A Flour bakery employee unloads one of the layered sheet cakes.

Photograph by Harvard Magazine/JC

Employees unwrap and arrange the sheets as Flour owner Joanne Chang ’91 looks on.

Employees unwrap and arrange the sheets as Flour owner Joanne Chang ’91 looks on.

Photograph by Harvard Magazine/JC

What flavor of cake to represent the Crimson? Red velvet, obviously.

What flavor of cake to represent the Crimson? Red velvet, obviously.

Photograph by Harvard Magazine/JC

Chang works to align the sheets.

Chang works to align the sheets.

Photograph by Jim Harrison

Chang uses a ruler to ensure exact placement.

Chang uses a ruler to ensure exact placement.

Photograph by Jim Harrison

Chang and employees keep working to align the cakes precisely.

Chang and employees keep working to align the cakes precisely.

Photograph by Jim Harrison

Workers start to apply the vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream frosting.

Workers start to apply the vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream frosting.

Photograph by Jim Harrison

Chang helps frost.

Chang helps frost.

Photograph by Jim Harrison

Finishing up frosting

Finishing up frosting

Photograph by Harvard Magazine/JC

The fully frosted cake

The fully frosted cake

Photograph by Harvard Magazine/JC

Under the tent: tight quarters for working

Under the tent: tight quarters for working

Photograph by Harvard Magazine/JC

The cake rests on foam blocks which were also covered over with frosting.

The cake rests on foam blocks which were also covered over with frosting.

Photograph by Harvard Magazine/JC


Photograph by Harvard Magazine/JC

LED rope lighting at the base of the cake changes color.

LED rope lighting at the base of the cake changes color.

Photograph by Harvard Magazine/JC

Chang and employees pose with the finished product.

Chang and employees pose with the finished product.

Photograph by Harvard Magazine/JC

Perhaps the most talked-about feature of Harvard's 375th anniversary celebration is the cake. Baked by Joanne Chang ’91 and her staff at Boston's Flour bakery, the 15-by-18-foot H-shaped cake comprises 60 individual red velvet sheet cakes, frosted with vanilla-flavored Swiss meringue buttercream. As predictions of inclement weather—thunderstorms in the early evening, followed by more rain—sparked rumors that Harvard might postpone the evening's festivities, the University appeared poised to forge ahead. Chang's staff arrived around noon to begin assembling and frosting the cake, which was protected by a tent with side flaps.

See the photo gallery above to learn more about the cake; see also the list of ingredients required to make a cake of this scale, and a video that tells more about it. Read more about the gala being planned for this evening, including the steps Harvard is taking to make the event environmentally friendly, and rehearsals of a "flash mob" of dancers.