Wilton and Michaels Take Manhattan!

November 11th, 2009 by Mary Gavenda

Recently, Steve Rocco, Wilton’s Senior Director of Cake and Visual Design, was asked to design a very special cake for the Grand Opening of Michaels new store in Manhattan, New York. In addition to their grand opening, Steve needed to bring interest to the various cake decorating classes that are offered at the store. He took his inspiration from the New York Skyline and added a mixture of reality and fiction.
Wilton and Michaels Take Manhattan Cake
Steve started by sketching the Empire State Building with King Kong on top, showing off his decorated cake to the world. He couldn’t forget about the grand lady, the Statue of Liberty; she would show off her decorated cake too! Front and center of the 11 buildings was the Michaels Store, ready to open their doors for Manhattan. Wilton Method Cake Decorating Students (little fondant people on the cake base) proud of their cakes too, encircled the buildings.

After Steve’s concept and design was approved by Michaels, he turned it over to our Decorating Room to bring it to life, with me heading the project. A team of decorators (Sue Matusiak, Diane Knowlton, Mark Malak and myself) worked together to bake the pound cakes for the various sized buildings and 20” x 4” high base cake, as well as covering them with fondant. Once covered, the details of the windows and doors were added.

Mark took on the responsibility of researching the details and sculpting the Statue of Liberty. Her shape base was a mixture of crispy cereal and melted Candy Melts. She was robed in a mixture of rolled fondant and gum paste. After several attempts and many hours of giving her a great face lift, the grand lady was ready to raise her hand high to show off her cake!

I worked on King Kong. I molded him in gum paste, shaped him to stand on top of the Empire State Building, then dressed him in royal icing using a tip #1. Diane cut the plaques for the Wilton logo and message plaque, and added the details on the Michaels Building. Diane and Mark, along with Michelle Boyd, dressed the people and their cakes in royal icing.

Now, our biggest challenge of all…getting the cake from Wilton in Woodridge, IL to Manhattan! Cheryl Brown, Supervisor of the Decorating Room, did a very careful job of packing all the cakes. Guess what…our cakes made the trip to NYC, very carefully as checked baggage! YES, checked baggage! With our special request (pleas and smiles) to be gentle with our extra special boxes, we hoped for a safe arrival. (We also posted pictures of the cake and a lot of “FRAGILE-Real Cake” signs on the boxes.)

Airport Baggage Claim To our surprise not a dent in any of the boxes on the arrival in LGA, just minor repairs needed inside. Thank you United Airlines! The Statue of Liberty and King Kong, along with all those “proud students” were packed for hand carry baggage. Take a look at the picture of Kathy Krupa (another one of our decorators) and I upon arrival at LaGuardia Airport—what a site! Other travelers were noticing all the boxes and bags we were lugging. They were probably wondering where we were going with all the boxes!

Kathy and I were so relieved to deliver all the boxes to Michaels right from the airport, and very thankful to find a van cab so everything could fit in one vehicle. The van was overstuffed with boxes all around us—and on us.

Once the cakes were checked for any damage, it was time to sit back for a bit and relax. We let King Kong and the Statue of Liberty sleep for the night in their secure boxes; we’ll wake them up the next morning for their debut.

The next morning, we began setting up the display. It took us 6 hours to get all the buildings standing straight and special characters in their right places, and add more finishing touches. It was a good feeling to stand back and admire the finished display; the cake stood high and bright for all to see as they entered Michaels. The cake was 2 feet square and almost 4 feet tall. It took 7 individuals and over 220 hours to complete. It was a great team effort!

Michaels was very pleased and excited with the awesome display. They said the Wilton cake looked amazing!!! They enjoyed watching their customers’ reactions to the cake as they entered the new store. The customers and kids loved it. Some asked if it was real. Some took pictures from every angle to capture all the details! We think this very special display was a great hit, and it helped Wilton and Michaels take Manhattan!

Mary Gavenda Mary is a Senior Cake Decorator at Wilton. She started her cake decorating career as one of the first Wilton Method teachers in the Chicago area, teaching at various Sears, Montgomery Wards and JCPenney stores and earned her place in the Wilton Hall of Fame. As a cake decorator in the Decorating Room, she creates the cakes for photography used on new labels and packaging and in all Wilton publications. Mary also teaches the Introduction to Gum Paste Class at The Wilton School. Mary is a member of The International Cake Exploration Societé (ICES), an organization promoting the art of food and cake decorating throughout the world. She has served as Illinois State Representative, Past ICES Vice President and Corresponding Secretary during her 3-year term on the ICES Board of Directors. She is still active in the organization.

14 Replies

  1. Andree says:

    Awesome cake, dedicated staff! I’ve been using Wilton products for over 30 years, started when my (adult) children were young and I’m now using some of the same pans for my grandchildren’s birthday cakes! They love the “vintage” Micky Mouse pan! Of course I’ve updated my collection over the years as the kids want all of the current themes. Keep up the good work Wilton!

  2. Linda says:

    The cakes looked amazing. I have just started with my cake decorating classes and hope I will be as good as your Wilton staff. Congratulations on beautiful work. I love Michaels. I am in the store all the time in Gastonia, North Carolina. Linda

  3. Buns says:

    ABSOULTELY AMAZING!!!!!! GLad to finally see the cake you were talking about. I have watched you over the years and you are AMAZING!!!! You have talent that inspires and brings delight to so many people you now and you will never meet!

  4. Elizabeth says:

    Amazing!! My daughter Lia is going to be seven on Saturday and wouldn’t she just DIE to have a NYC skyline cake!?! Your talent far exceeds anything I have ever seen 😀 Props to your crew!! It’s also quite astonishing that everything arrived in such good condition 🙂 Keep up the fantastic work! ~Elizabeth

  5. Lorene says:

    Hi Mary,
    I was in the Masters, Fondant, & Gumpaste Classes, last November 08, and sent my cakes home UPS, all survived except the Master’s Sampler Cake, everything else was fine….but shipping real cake, is really a work of art!! Congratulations to you all!

  6. sheila says:

    I want to say I am really proud of you Mary,you have a real talent!
    You out do yourself in so many ways.
    How lucky you are to have a job you thoroughly enjoy and are so good at.


  7. Angela says:

    I’m one of the instructors at Michael’s Manhattan and I have to say that the cake really looks just like that! It’s located right by the entrance, circled by some red velvet ropes. I always catch people checking out the cake on their way in and out the store. The kids especially love this cake! They are always pointing at it and I’ve even caught a few jaw drops.

    Great job!

    • Mary Gavenda says:

      Thanks for the update on the cake. Glad to hear it’s still standing tall for the customers to enjoy. Good luck with your classes at the store, I’m sure your students will be pleased with their newly aquired decorating skills! Even the day time security guard was excited about taking a class.

  8. Hola!!! soy de Costa Rica. me encanta sus prudustos y utencilios Wilton , me agrada ir de shoping y comprar varios de tus utencilios , la verdad me encanta todo lo que tenga que ver com reporteria y otros . Les agradosco por sacar al mercade productos de gran calidad.

  9. Amazing cake, love the detail in the buildings like the windows and your own unique character that you have given lady liberty, very cute!

    • Mary Gavenda says:

      Thanks Heather. Mark did a great job at sculpting Lady Liberty under Steve’s direction. She was a challenge but the end results were awesome!

  10. Luna says:

    Love the cake! How do you keep the cake fresh when you’ve put in 220 hours in to it? So many hours! It’s amazing!!!

    Thank you,


    • Mary Gavenda says:

      Hi Luna or G,
      Glad you liked the cake. This cake was a challenge and there were a lot of parts that had to be made,scuplted and dried, even before we started on the baking and constructing of the actual cake. You never think a cake is going to take as long as it does, but when you start being very detailed, time flies by. We were lucky to have a great team of decorators working on it, each doing their part to make it come together.
      The cake was not going to be served, just put on display. Not a good idea to serve after it sat for a lenght of time, more than a week or two or ? So the freshness wasn’t a main concern for this cake.

  11. Luna says:

    That’s great! Thank you for the information, I am happy to know that it wasn’t to be served. Your team are masters and to be admired, It is lovely work!!!!



Leave a Reply

To prevent spam please solve the math problem below :