At Pasadena’s Party, <i> Piece de Resistance</i> Will Be a Piece of Cake

After months of anticipation, weeks of preparation and a day of revelry, Pasadena centennial celebrants tonight will get the real icing on their cake.

There will be more than 125 pounds of it, pure sugar and butter, covering 700 pounds of cake, which in turn will cover 60 square feet on a table in front of City Hall.

Pasadena’s 100-year birthday cake, with five tiers and a dome that reaches a height of 4 feet, will be assembled at 6 p.m. in the plaza in front of City Hall.

The sheer bulk of 825 pounds of dessert, plus candles and paper palm trees, has not daunted its creators as they work out staggering logistical problems.


“You have to envision it in your mind, and then you have to manifest that vision,” said the cake’s designer, Kari Sperry, in the lingo of sculptors, which she is qualified to speak.

Kari and her husband, Dan, who own Takes the Cake Bakery in Pasadena, accepted the challenge of creating a centennial confection that would be memorable as well as edible and big enough to serve everyone at the biggest party in Pasadena’s 100-year history.

The $4,000 cost of the cake is being shared by the Pasadena Centennial Committee and Podley Caughey Associates. It “won’t give us a profit, just great experience,” Kari Sperry said.

“What a fun way to be part of the centennial,” said Bill Podley, owner of the sponsoring realty firm, which is also providing 20 employees first to guard and then to serve the cake.


Kari Sperry compared the centennial cake to the monumental sculpture she created for her master’s thesis in fine arts at UCLA. Both were concepts that had to be hastily assembled for public exhibition, and her thesis sculpture was “good experience” for this week’s work, she said.

“It’s pretty frightening when you’re doing something you’ve never done before,” she said.

The bakery curtailed most of it business this week as the Sperrys and three employees, Gloria and Al Yates and Cindy Franco, devoted 12-hour days to working on the cake. They mixed 200 pounds of flour, 500 eggs, 25 pounds of chocolate and 10 pounds of butter in 20-quart batches, making 25 four-layer cakes of varying sizes. The largest layers, which form the bases of the main cake and its many satellites, were baked in 20-inch round pans, with other layers graduating down to eight-inch rounds.

They were baked in a huge old oven originally designed for pizza and then placed in a walk-in storage area to keep the cakes fresh.


To avoid smashing the bottom layers with the weight of those piled atop them, wooden pillars will be inserted in the structure.

Alternate layers of chocolate cake and white cake with chocolate icing will be decorated and partially assembled at the bakery. The outer frosting will be in the centennial colors of teal, lavender and magenta, which Sperry said will be achieved by experimenting with a variety of food-coloring pastes.

The cakes will be transported from the bakery to City Hall by two trucks that Sperry said probably will have to make four trips each. The centennial masterpiece then will be assembled on six-foot risers in front of City Hall.

The end result will be a central dome resembling City Hall, adorned with palm trees (made of wood dowels and paper), confetti (edible) and ribbons (inedible) connecting the dome to its many satellite cakes.


The official centennial birthday party will begin at 7:15 p.m. After rousing renditions of Sousa marches, “Climb Every Mountain,” “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” “Home in Pasadena” and “Happy Birthday,” state Atty. Gen. John Van de Kamp, a Pasadena resident, will cut the first slice of the cake.

And then it will be demolished.