Editor's note: Judy Bass is the publicist for Blue Hills Regional Technical School.
Sometimes, a cake isn’t a simple confection. It is a memorable learning experience, a thrilling labor of love, and an emblem of the close and valuable relationship between a town and a school, one forged over decades and that will last for decades to come.
This was the case with the massive cake made by culinary-arts students from Blue Hills Regional Technical School in Canton to commemorate the recent 350th anniversary of the town of Milton, one of Blue Hills’ nine district communities. (The others are Avon, Braintree, Canton, Dedham, Holbrook, Norwood, Randolph and Westwood.)
“When fully assembled,” said Richard Spada, a permanent building-wide substitute at Blue Hills who filled in for a culinary-arts teacher for the second half of the school year, “the cake weighed approximately 140 pounds. Its ingredients were approximately 10 ounces of salt, 1.5 pounds of baking powder, 2 pounds of powdered milk, 45 pounds of sugar, 20 pounds of flour, 30 pounds of shortening, 15 pounds of egg whites, and 1 pound of vanilla.”
Designed by Spada - a 2001 Blue Hills graduate who spent his own student days in the school’s culinary program - and lead culinary-arts teacher John Haelsen, the cake had two layers of four large sheet cakes, served 300 to 400 people, and took three weeks for the students to produce from start to finish.
Its crowning glory was the distinctive red Milton 350th-anniversary logo emblazoned across the white top of the cake, which was displayed and consumed at a town-wide picnic on June 10 in front of Milton Town Hall.
It was created at Blue Hills because a member of the Milton 350th Anniversary Committee, Kevin Donahue, was a long-term substitute teacher at the school in 1997-98. In fact, he taught history in a classroom located across the hall from the culinary-arts department, where enticing aromas from the delicacies prepared by the students emanated on a regular basis.
Years later, Donahue understandably felt that Blue Hills was the ideal place for the Milton 350th anniversary cake to be fashioned. “I thought it would be a good opportunity for the Blue Hills students to take part in this yearlong festival of activities,” said Donahue.
“The cake was the hit of the picnic,” he added.
As for Blue Hills’ culinary-arts program, it deservedly has an outstanding reputation. Its graduates get accepted to some of the most prestigious and competitive culinary schools in the nation, and go on to have flourishing careers in the industry.
Blue Hills not only has a bake shop that sells delicious goods to the public, but there is also the Chateau de Bleu student-run restaurant, which serves full-course lunches to guests Tuesday through Friday during the school year.
As Spada noted, the cake project was an intricate one that had several phases: design, scaling (measuring), panning, baking, cooling, storage, making fondant and frosting, assembly and decoration.
“The hardest part for the freshmen was the measuring because that is a skill that they have just begun to work on in the bake shop,” Spada explained. “Most of the upperclassmen have already mastered scaling or at least become proficient in that area, so the most challenging part for them was working with fondant, which is a new skill that we have introduced to the bake shop this year with great results. The students have been very excited to work with fondant because it allows their artistic side to come through, and we have many students who are artistically talented.
“The students have enjoyed working on the cake and have been excited to make something on such a grand scale that we have never attempted before,” Spada added. “We have tried to assure that all of our students who are from Milton have been able to contribute in some way to this project. They have been very excited to work on something for their hometown.
“I really enjoyed working with the kids as they created this cake. Their talent and enthusiasm is impressive and I think that shows in the work we have put out this year in the Chateau. We had a great year and we are looking forward to an even better one next year.”
The students who worked on the cake were juniors Dariesha Carpenter Bowers, of Milton, and Tatiana Camarao, Jesyca Datri, Dacarra Williams, Dashawn Ware and Kristopher Taylor, all of Randolph; sophomores Brandy King, of Canton, Brittany Clark, of Dedham, and Christine Nearen, Tara Nealon and Andria DePillo, all of Randolph; and freshman Margaret Kuehler, of Randolph. Construction-technology freshmen who made a wooden pedestal for the cake were Conor Flaherty and Joe Michel, both of Braintree, and Lucas Camilo, of Randolph.
Special thanks to Joanne Wayland and her students in Blue Hills’ design and visual-communications program for making signs for the table on which the cake was displayed.
(This story came from a press release.)