Monument lighting takes the cake Pastry replica traveled from Pittsburgh

December 06, 1996|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

The Washington Monument looked good enough to eat.

But pastry chef Andrea Carros Schrenk didn't recommend it.

She made the 1 1/2 -foot-tall replica of the Mount Vernon landmark out of marzipan, which had turned hard and dry. "I don't think it's edible," she said.

Her creation sat on a five-layer, 4-foot-tall cake marking the 25th annual holiday lighting of the Washington Monument. Several thousand Baltimoreans braved the December chill last night to attend the event billed as "A Monumental Occasion," which featured a fireworks display.

"This is the beginning of the holiday season," said Susan Shugars of Hampden, who makes the trek to Mount Vernon each year for the lighting ceremony. "It's getting cold, it's going to snow, and they light it up."

The monument has 28 strings of white lights with 980 bulbs, giving it the look of a luminous Christmas tree. The first bulb on the strings is blue, in honor of Baltimore police officers who have been killed in the line of duty. The blue lights encircle the bottom of the monument.

Richard Belzer, one of the cast members of the Baltimore-based television series "Homicide: Life on the Street," looked out at the crowd and saw a cross-section of the city gathered for a peaceful celebration.

"It's really great to see everyone together, black and white," he said. "Put me out of work. Put the show off the air. No violence."

Schrenk undertook the arduous task of creating her edible artwork at the request of the Downtown Partnership, which organized the event.

Schrenk, who was born in Baltimore, is a pastry chef and instructor at the Pennsylvania Institute of Culinary Arts in Pittsburgh, the third largest culinary school in the country. The school, whose officials often visit Baltimore high schools to recruit students, is a member of the Downtown Partnership.

It took Schrenk 70 hours over three weeks to make the sponge cake and monument. She used 100 pounds of flour, 300 pounds of sugar, more than 500 eggs, two cases of butter, 50 pounds of shortening, 11 pounds of chocolate, 25 pounds of cocoa powder, 50 pounds of almond paste and 50 pounds of rolled fondant for the icing.

One challenge facing her was designing a cake that would stand up to the five-hour trip from Pittsburg. Each layer was covered with a wet tablecloth and laid on mover's blankets with nonskid mats under them.

The cake arrived in Baltimore early yesterday afternoon. "It had a little wear and tear," Schrenk said. "It settled a little, but not bad."

She used marzipan with food coloring to make the decorations representing Christmas, Kwanzaa and Hanukkah. Some of the work was quite detailed. The corncobs on the Kwanzaa layer took five hours to make. "Every little kernel was rolled by hand," she said.

The miniature George Washington on top of the pastry monument also was an intricate piece of work. "It took me two hours to put hair on him," Schrenk said. "It was just not working. I was actually thinking at one point of leaving him bald."

She thinks she achieved a pretty accurate likeness, or at least close enough, considering it's hard to get a good look at the George Washington on the real monument.

Pub Date: 12/06/96

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