An action station that lets guests explore their artistry
Impressing the country's tech and software leaders can be as easy as filling a few bags full of frosting! For 2,000 tech company employees at the Palm Springs Convention Center in Palm Springs, CA, Savoury's Catering developed an interactive cake decorating station that allowed teams to pipe, ice and sprinkle their way to the adoration of their coworkers.
Three weeks before the event, the client decided not to go with a liquid nitrogen station, which Savoury's had created for them the previous year. Chef/owner Brad Toles dug into his creative reserves and came up with something inspired by both Bob Ross and the Cake Boss. He designed cake pans to look like picture frames, then custom built them with the help of a carpenter. The Savoury's culinary crew spent two days filling piping bags with a rainbow array of 12 buttercream frostings and mousses, along with 20 textured toppings that brought different aspects of crunch and color to each cake. At a 30-foot-by-20-foot station on the convention center floor, eight teams of three to five could simultaneously decorate sheet cakes.
An attendant was staffed on each decorating station, manning a cake or cupcake with their own full set of toppings. Guests could design whatever they wanted--but the chef wasn't sure how his experiment, a value-add for a repeat client, would work out. "I was creating a chef's kitchen for the average guy to walk in, put an apron on and go design something," Toles said. When the event first began, attendees were hesitant to participate, but once the cake decorating got started, the fire spread quickly. "One person jumped in, and then the next thing there were four and five people, and then people were standing in line, waiting to get cakes."
After decorating the cakes and cupcakes, attendees could share their tasty and artistic creations with their coworkers. "Friends would get together and four people would decorate one cake, and it became quite competitive," Toles reflects. The only challenge was cutting off participation once there was enough cake. Savoury's prepared 400 cupcakes and 30 sheet cakes, but the station could have accommodated enough teams to prepare 60 cakes--with the complication of then having too much cake to serve attendees. If Savoury's were to recreate this station, Toles advised, 30 cakes would certainly be included for an event with 2,000 attendees; more cakes and frostings would require donation to a local charity at the end of the night and an upcharge to the client.
The station captured the immediate attention of the convention center staff, who planned to sell the Savory's cake decorating as a teambuilding add-on. And Toles knows that he was in the good graces of these valued clients, who went home with their artistic palettes and culinary palates fully satisfied.
Originally published in Catersource magazine