At 9:30 a.m., a giant king cake baby slowly rose to the plaza level of the Superdome, getting higher and higher as the truck from the local float-making factory drove up the ramp from street level.
“Where do you want Blaine Kern’s king cake baby to go?” someone asked Dave Haydel Jr., who had already been up all night.
“That’s something you would only hear in New Orleans, ” said Mary Beth Romig, director of public relations and special projects for New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
Romig was one of many people on site as Haydel’s Bakery prepared to break the world record for largest king cake. And there it was: Two rings of wide, braided king cake covered in white icing and black and gold sprinkles circling the Superdome, supported by 500, 6-foot skirted tables. The giant baby was situated between the stage and the VIP tent.
Dave Haydel Jr. was busy weighing pieces of unused and leftover king cake on a scale that had been certified and notarized for the occasion. At his side, Amanda Mochan, a representative from Guinness World Records, made careful notes of each measurement.
As for the leftover cake, “We thought about making the world’s largest bread pudding, but one record a day is enough, ” Haydel said.
Then he started weighing buckets of the remaining icing.
One record a day is plenty, actually. It took five months of planning to encircle the Superdome with king cake and smash the record for the world’s largest king cake.
Many New Orleanians on hand for the event seemed shocked — and some actually booed — upon learning that a king cake world record had already been set in 2001 by a 3,007-pound cake from Fiesta Mart in Houston, Mochan said.
By noon, the plaza level was thronged. The crowd wore black and gold; nurse and doctor coats from the hospitals nearby; nice work clothes from businesses along Poydras. School bus loads of kids walked around with their chaperones. Lots of people pushed baby carriages.
It was a party atmosphere, but with a serious purpose. As people lined up to buy slices of king cake, members of the Saintsations handed out pink stickers for the beneficiary, Susan G. Komen for the Cure New Orleans.
A member of the Haydel family died of breast cancer recently. And in the VIP tent, Lois Culver had a color poster with a photo of her twin sister, Linda Hingle, who was head cashier at Haydel’s. Culver died of breast cancer on April 27, 2009.
The idea for a giant king cake around the Superdome has been in the bakers’ minds at least a couple of decades. It originated “a long time ago. I don’t know what to think. I’m exhausted, ” said David Haydel Sr., who ringed a school gymnasium with king cake when his sons were small. “We’ve been up since 5 (Tuesday) morning.”
Ryan Haydel, son of David Sr. and brother of Dave, never forgot the remark his dad made after the school cake: “The next one is going to be at the Superdome.”
Last Carnival season, after the Saints won the Super Bowl, brothers Dave and Ryan were scaling dough for the thousands of king cakes the Harahan bakery sells every year. At the time he mentioned the idea to his brother, “I was delirious, ” Ryan said.
They signed a sponsorship deal making them the Official Bakery of the New Orleans Saints and started making calls. Their suppliers donated 4,000 pounds of Danish flour, 286 pounds of yeast, about 428 dozen eggs, 299 pounds of cinnamon sugar and 331 pounds of black and gold sprinkles. All the boxes and printing were donated. Their flour supplier flew in four bakery technicians for the occasion. Dave Haydel Jr. said the biggest financial outlay was rental of 500 tables.
Haydel’s started baking and freezing two-foot-long sections of king cake three days before the event . United Parcel Service trucked the cakes from the bakery to the Dome, and were so organized they had everything there early, by 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, Ryan Haydel said.
“Our forklift driver didn’t come on until midnight, so we put (the cakes) in the golf carts, ” he said as he drove a reporter around the perimeter of the Superdome to view the cake in its entirety. “We got a two-hour jump on it, thank goodness.”
Volunteers from UPS worked through the night with 15 members of the bakery crew to assemble the cake. Ice House Catering, which does a lot of crawfish boils, heated cake frosting in their boiling pots.
Guinness’ Mochan walked a measuring wheel — twice — around the Dome to get the exact size of the cake.
“It’s two separate records, because they’re two separate cakes, ” she said. “The smaller one inside will be one record, and the second one will break that record.”
Mochan said most of the world records she has verified have been mass-participation events, such as the largest gathering of Santa’s elves and the largest number of people doing the hokey pokey.
“We did the largest number of people doing the twist with Chubby Checker, in July in California, ” Mochan said. More than 1,600 people danced.
She hasn’t verified food events before, but gets to do two in two days in New Orleans. Thursday, the record World’s Largest Macaroni and Cheese will be attempted by Cabot Cheese and chef John Folse at Fulton Square. The Magnolia School made handmade bowls, and for $5, attendees can buy a bowl of the mac and cheese.
Slices of king cake were $7, or $12 with a baby, which was not a real baby but a paper chance on one of 100 prizes donated for the occasion, including a “Big Daddy” Saints recliner. The grand prize, a new Chevy Silverado truck, was parked on the plaza.
By noon, people were taking photos with the giant king cake baby. Cartons of chocolate Brown’s Dairy milk (Official Milk of the New Orleans Saints), Kentwood Springs water and PJ’s Coffee were given away.
John Rhodes, 3, and Larry Rodriguez, 2, were wearing matching white Reggie Bush jerseys.
“I do Miss Dottie Haydel’s hair, ” Larissa Rodrigue said. “She told me they were going to do this. I wasn’t sure how it was going to come out. It’s wonderful. It looks great.”
“And it smells good!” said Bermel Doyle, who was with Rodrigue and the boys.
In a group of five women from a law office across the street, Laci Jones, who was wearing a maternity dress, said she came out “to eat a sliver of history, and to tell my kid she ate some, too. And to win a truck.”
Mother and daughter Frances Webb and Carrie Webb were carrying a shopping bag as well as several boxes of king cake.
They were in attendance “because of Haydel’s king cake and to get Saints stuff, ” Frances said.
“And because of breast cancer, Mom, ” said Carrie, whose mother said yes, of course.
“I bought four tickets online and printed them out, then couldn’t find them” at her home in Algiers, Frances said. “I bought four more here. And we went to the Saints store and went shopping, so I’m $100 poorer, but it’s Christmas presents. … This whole thing is a blessing.”
Soon after noon, Dave Haydel Jr. got on stage. With him were Supriya Jindal, Cheryl Landrieu and Saints owner Rita Benson LeBlanc. Jindal told the crowd that Louisiana ranks highest in mortality in breast cancer. She ended her remarks by saying, “My children told me to pass on two words: Two Dat.”
After the king cake was blessed by the Rev. Msgr. Frank J. Giroir of St. Anselm Catholic Church in Madisonville, Mochan announced the winning dimensions of the cakes: 4,068 pounds and 8.99 ounces, and 4,073 pounds and 7.12 ounces.
“Congratulations, and welcome to the Guinness World Record family, ” she said.
People often ask Mochan what’s the craziest or most fun world record event she’s attended.
“I would say I really like this event, ” she said. “Everything ties together, and it’s so fun with the city. King cake is traditional in New Orleans. It ties in with the Saints and the Superdome. And it benefits a good cause.
The World’s Largest King Cake by the Numbers
Danish Flour: 4,000 pounds
Icing: 2,087 pounds
Sprinkles: 331 pounds
Cinnamon Sugar: 299 pounds
Yeast: 286 pounds
Vegetable Oil: 70 pounds
Flavoring: 9 gallons
Official record weight: 4,068 lbs, 8.99 ounces for the inner cake ring; and 4,073 pounds, 7.12 ounces for the outer cake.