The Making of the Cake

A step by step gallery of Joanne Chang ’91 assembling the 15-by-18-foot H-shaped red velvet cake for Harvard's 375th birthday.

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.
The truck also contained dozens of containers of icing.
A Flour bakery employee unloads one of the layered sheet cakes.
Employees unwrap and arrange the sheets as Flour owner Joanne Chang ’91 looks on.
What flavor of cake to represent the Crimson? Red velvet, obviously.
Chang works to align the sheets.
Chang uses a ruler to ensure exact placement.
Chang and employees keep working to align the cakes precisely.
Workers start to apply the vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream frosting.
Chang helps frost.
Finishing up frosting
The fully frosted cake
Under the tent: tight quarters for working
The cake rests on foam blocks which were also covered over with frosting.
LED rope lighting at the base of the cake changes color.
Chang and employees pose with the finished product.

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.

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