The Food Column: Let them build cake, then eat it, at CAKEitecture

Realizing that the Heinz Architectural Center was coming up on its 20th anniversary, the team at Carnegie Museum of Art sat down to brainstorm ideas for marking the milestone.

"Hey, it's a 20th birthday party -- I want to have cake," Tracy Myers, curator of architecture, announced.

She'll get her cake, all right.

Director of Development Matthew Hackler proposed pairing architectural firms with bakeries to produce architectural-themed cakes.

Thus was born "CAKEitecture."

It's all going down at 7 p.m. Saturday, when five teams will present their edible architectural wonders for judging and tasting. Blogger PittGirl (aka Virginia Montanez) will be an official judge, but all attendees will get Monopoly houses to drop in ballot boxes to contribute to the judging.

Perhaps the best part is that it's both open to the public and free -- and that means "free free," Jonathan Gaugler, media relations manager, noted. It's after hours, so there's no museum admission fee, and the only cash exchanged will be at the bar. Everybody gets cake, ice cream and the chance to watch the evening's program, which will include a video presentation and a display of 20 objects from the collection selected by curatorial staff because of their personal resonance.

Meanwhile, the teams are hard at work, dreaming and planning and making mock-ups of the final cakes.

They're also using fightin' words on each other. "The Dirty Dozen" (aka Lawrenceville's Dozen Bake Shop, paired with AIA Pittsburgh's Young Architects Forum) issued this challenge to its competitors: "If you're a cake artist, then your medium should be cake and edible product. That's where the art comes in on this, to make CAKE look like it's NOT CAKE!" In other words, no frosting-covered foamboard.

Yeah, well, you think you're hot stuff, Dirty Dozen? Springboard Design, paired with Sugar 'N Spires of Millvale, is fully prepared to take you on. They're planning a 100-percent edible cake, architect Paul Rosenblatt said.

Their cake, titled "Rietveld ReWind: From Concept to Reality," features a famous modernist house in Holland and will include drawings and models as well as the actual building -- and even the drawings will be made with fondant and icing. The team wanted to celebrate "the architectural process itself," Mr. Rosenblatt said, because that's what the Heinz Architectural Center does, too, with its collections of drawings and models and process-related artifacts.

Two additional facts make this an especially sweet event for Mr. Rosenblatt. The bakery he's working with is owned by Josh and Laura Yelon, former clients who actually hired him to design their bakery. And Mr. Rosenblatt's 14-year-old daughter Ella, who has apprenticed herself to the bakery as part of her community service hours for Carlow University's campus school, has joined the team.

Mr. Rosenblatt decided to handle the cake as he would any other architectural project, so the team sat down together for an official "Springboard Workshop," the meeting that kicks off any new job. The team collaboratively decided on the theme and did some sketches that day.

Other teams have chosen more mainstream themes. "The Dirty Dozen" will make a Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood/Pittsburgh juxtaposition that will include the trolley, tree and castle from the Neighborhood of Make Believe along with some row houses and other Pittsburgh icons yet to be determined.

On this team, the architects will help to assemble the actual cake, cutting fondant and doing whatever the bakers tell them to do.

"It should be interesting because one of our teammates has never even baked a cake before," said Katie Walsh, one of the Young Architects Forum members.

Other cakes will depict the East End AAA building and Fallingwater, and it's even reputed that the Sydney Opera House will be re-created in cake.

This is a whole new world for the architects, who are accustomed to using materials that last for generations.

"I have designed buildings for birds at the National Aviary and other unusual buildings, but I have never used edible materials before," Mr. Rosenblatt said.

But he didn't even have to think twice about doing a project that would require so much work.

"We love the Heinz Architectural Center. It's a real jewel in Pittsburgh. In the world, there aren't many collections like this."


Party in the Tropics: Phipps transforms its Tropical Forest Conservatory into a Friday evening hotspot for ages 21 and up, with food, mix-your-own cocktails and dancing. 7 to 11 p.m. Friday, Feb. 8, at Phipps Conservatory, Oakland. Free with regular admission, which is $15 for adults or $14 for seniors and students; food and drinks are extra. (One Friday party is scheduled each month in 2013; dates vary.)

Fat Tuesday Beer Tasting: New Orleans-style meal includes shrimp and sausage etouffee, roasted duck jambalaya, bacon-wrapped catfish and crawfish roulade, and bourbon pecan torte with beer pairings. 7 p.m. Tuesday at Hartwood Restaurant, Glenshaw. $45 per person. Reservations required: 412-767-3500 or email

Valentine's Dinner: Wine tastings, appetizers, five-course dinner (including duck soup, five-cheese ravioli, ahi tuna and beef tenderloin) and a slice of Sand Hill Berries dessert. 7 p.m. Feb. 15 or 16 at Greendance Winery, Mt. Pleasant. $70 per person. Reservations required: 724-547-6500.

Chinese New Year celebration: Celebrate the Year of the Snake with an evening of dining, dancing and entertainment. 5:30 p.m. Feb. 16 at the Butler Country Club; proceeds benefit Butler's Maridon Museum, which focuses on Chinese and Japanese art and culture. Reservations: 724-282-0123.


Soup: Learn to make several soups: Irish creamy potato, Raye's matzoh ball, strawberry, Nantucket chowder and roasted veggie. 7 p.m. Tuesday at McGinnis Sisters, Monroeville. $30. Reservations: E-mail

Chef takes seventh

Uniontown native Richard Rosendale, executive chef at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., took seventh place last week in the Bocuse d'Or, the famed international cooking competition. He had hoped for first place but came up short, although he did improve on the previous U.S. team's 10th-place finish. For more information, including what he cooked, see here:

Rebecca Sodergren:


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