Opening Weekend Feature

From the Columbia University Record

Columbia Celebrates with 13Foot Cake by "Cake Man Raven" 
By Kristin Sterling

At age 13 Harlem native Patrick De'Sean "Raven" Dennis III, sold his first creations-two coconut pies to his elementary school teacher for $5.00. Raven has come a long way in 20 years. Better known today as "Cake Man Raven" or "Harlem Cake Man," he is the designer and master baker of a 3.5-ton cake celebrating Columbia's 250th anniversary.

CU Birthday Cake

The "red velvet cake"-a type of cake named for its signature red color-was a replica of Low Library. An icing made of cream cheese provided just the right color. The massive construction stood 13-feet tall and will be considered for the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's largest red velvet cake.

"I am honored that Columbia University commissioned me to build this cake for Columbia's 250th Birthday Bash" said Cake Man Raven. "The library is an architectural wonder with many unique intricacies. It was truly a monumental job. I welcomed the challenge of combining my passion for baking with replicating the library out of cake."

So, how many eggs does it take to make a 3.5-ton cake? 190, according to the baker.

Before beginning the undertaking, Cake Man Raven took photos of Low Library, reviewed blueprints, and even went on the roof, all to come up with detailed drawings and a rough model of the cake.

Actual creation of the delicious endeavor started at Cake Man Raven Confectionery in Fort Greene, Brooklyn (708 Fulton St.). For construction of the cake's framework, Cake Man Raven moved to the ADC Project at 116 S. Portland Ave in Fort Greene, where the organization's owner, architect Tom MacGregor, donated use of his studio-showroom.

Proving that bakers do rise early, at 6:00 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 16, the cake began the longest leg of its journey-from Fort Greene to Cake Man Raven's old neighborhood in Harlem. Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and a crowd of well-wishers came out to assist in the cake's send-off. The cake was then transported on a flatbed truck under police escort from the ADP Project to Triple Candie Studio at 461 W. 126th St. in Harlem. There, Cake Man Raven was greeted by Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields as he put on the finishing touches.

At 2:00 a.m. Friday morning, Cake Man Raven's masterpiece was transported to campus under cover, where it remained under wraps until President Bollinger unveiled it to a crowd of nearly 3,500 Columbia students, alumni, staff and neighbors who donned "alma crowns" and sang "Happy Birthday," during the Birthday Bash on Friday afternoon.

Given the cake's long journey and exposure to the elements, the crowd was only able to view the masterpiece. Instead of cake, they devoured nearly 10,000 chocolate cupcakes.

This wasn't Cake Man Raven's first grand-scale project. Last spring, he made a 12-foot cake replica of the Brooklyn Bridge in honor of the bridge's 120th birthday.

Cake Man Raven Confectionery is a specialty bakery and is the "official home of the Southern Red Velvet Cake." A neighborhood legend after only three years, the Confectionery opens its doors on Friday evenings to the Children For Christ Choir rehearsals.

Prior to opening the Confectionery in Brooklyn, Cake Man Raven operated from two apartments in the same building in Harlem, borrowing a neighbor's kitchen to keep up with demand for his sweet treats. Over the years his creations have delighted not only Harlem and Brooklyn residents, but stars ranging from Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzy Gillespie to Oprah Winfrey, Sean Combs and now the Columbia community.