Perhaps Marie Antoinette simply lived too early.
The 18th-century French queen was despised in her time for supposedly saying "Let them eat cake." Judging by the lines that formed Downtown on Tuesday for a cake giveaway, she would have been exalted, not executed, in 21st-century Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh mayoral candidates, take note.
Buddy Valastro, take a bow.
Mr. Valastro, star of TLC's "The Cake Boss" and owner of a bakery in Hoboken, N.J., visited Market Square to hand out 10,000 free 7-inch cakes, part of a promotional event for his new dessert line.
His publicist, Mary Thompson, said they worried beforehand that they might not be able to give away 10,000 cakes. They stopped worrying when they saw the crowd in place when Mr. Valastro arrived at 10:30 a.m.
The line for free cake, which looped around and around Market Square like swirls of frosting, started forming at 7 a.m. and grew as morning stretched into afternoon toward evening, even despite temperatures that hovered near freezing.
As they shivered and clutched warm drinks, "Cake Boss" fans spoke of the Cake Boss reverently, holding signs with his picture and pictures of cakes they've designed themselves and notebooks for him to autograph.
"His cakes aren't just cakes," said Dawn Stepanovich, 44, of Carrick, who was in line with her two daughters. "They're works of art."
Just before he and his crew delivered the first cake, the cake artist surveyed the crowds, looking out at the people craning their necks to see him and snapping his picture as though he were a movie star or the president or Justin Bieber, instead of a baker with a reality TV show.
"Wow," he said. "I mean, if this is not great, I don't know. This is like wow. Wow. Holy cow. Holy cannoli."
Pittsburgh is the only city where Mr. Valastro is doing the free cake promotion for his new line with Dawn Foods. The cakes will be available at grocery stores, including Giant Eagle, selling for about $27.99.
On Tuesday, the cake may have been free, but getting one wasn't exactly a cakewalk.
According to a news release, Pittsburgh police had to stop several fights over line-cutting, and they arrested one man who police said removed a box containing four cakes and tried to flee Market Square. William Davenport, 52, of Pittsburgh had three outstanding warrants and was charged with theft by unlawful taking, disorderly conduct and bench warrant and taken to Allegheny County Jail.
Most people, however, waited their turn.
First in line was Amber Blanck, an 18-year-old from Leechburg who, along with her mother and two other female family members, stood in line starting at 7 a.m. so they could see Mr. Valastro when he arrived just before 10:30 a.m.
The cake giveaway was supposed to last just three hours, until 1:30 p.m. It wasn't until 4:15 p.m. that the "Cake Boss" crew stopped letting people get in line as the cake supply ran low, said Ms. Thompson, the publicist.
Ms. Blanck was the first to get a chocolate cake filled with fudge and topped with Belgian chocolate ganache and a red autographed T-shirt from Mr. Valastro, a man she has watched on his television show for years. She also took a picture with him.
"It was cold, but it was worth it," said her mother, Sherry Blanck, 39, as the foursome left Pittsburgh, armed with one cake each.
Brittney Metzger, 23, of Hays did not agree. She stood with two friends on the edge of Market Square at about 11:15 a.m., trying to find the end of the line for cakes. They'd heard about the giveaway. They had 90 minutes before they had to return to class at the Vet Tech Institute. They knew "The Cake Boss." And they liked cake. But they didn't like that line.
"It's not worth it," Ms. Metzger said. "It's crazy."
Kaitlynn Riely: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1707. First Published April 2, 2013 4:00 AM