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.
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.)
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!