How We Built the World’s Tallest Gluten-Free Cake … and Why.

Fresh off the baking and building extravaganza that was 1in133.org, I thought it would be wise to take a few minutes to reflect upon at least some of what went into this event and what has already come out of it. Many of you already know about our 1in133 mission to build the world’s tallest gluten-free cake, but do you know how we did it, and even more importantly, why? Well, kick back with a gluten-free drink and have a read. I promise it’s a good story!

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Once upon a time, two celiac Twitter friends, John Forberger and Jules Shepard, were exchanging gluten-free notes about trying to live a normal life with celiac disease.
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John wondered how many pies Jules could get out of the obese 100+ pound pumpkin she’d procured, and Jules schooled John on why that particular pumpkin would simply never be right for a pie. John noticed Jules made a similarly humongous GF birthday cookie for her friend Mary, and he challenged her in the spirit of all things ridiculously large, to bake the world’s biggest gluten-free cookie. Jules once again dashed that idea, noting that the world’s largest cookie could only be as large as the oven available. On and on, the conversation went. John challenging Jules to bake crazy amounts of gluten-free goodies.
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As the two discussed this challenge, it occurred to them that this lofty goal ought to bring about more than just awe and awareness of what can be done deliciously, gluten free. This architectural and baking record ought to be undertaken with a very serious mission in mind: to draw attention to the fact that the FDA is 3 years overdue in establishing gluten-free labeling regulations. Perhaps if there had been a federal food labeling standard for “gluten free,” John would not have been sickened. Perhaps by rallying the gluten-free community around a collective demand for a federal food labeling standard, we could force the FDA to stop ignoring our need.
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Lee Tobin studies the scaled model of Jules’ cake recipe … now his screensaver!

When John had recovered, the friends set about gathering support, assistance, ingredient donations, site confirmation and the like. Jules approached her friend Chef Aaron Flores, renowned gluten-free chef now at the Embassy Suites Convention Center in DC, and secured the venue and his help. She also called upon her friend Lee Tobin, Whole Foods Team Leader of the Gluten-Free Bakehouse.
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Together, they devised a plan whereby Lee would take Jules’ favorite white cake recipe, scale it massively so that at least 40 cakes at a time could be mixed and baked, and he would begin the work of experimenting.
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Jules and John also approached the American Celiac Disease Alliance (ACDA) and offered to host this event to raise money to fund the Alliance’s mission of advocating in Washington for all those eating gluten free. They built their 1in133.org website, and they were off!
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Weeks of work go by, logistical planning, solicitation of donations, media management, and more details undertaken than could ever be described here …

Jeff – sawing away with detailed plans in the background….

The group of worker bees grew, as Chef Michelle Tampakis of New York’s ICE fame signed on to help, and Lee’s expert cake decorating wife, Aggie Stachura, eagerly agreed to lend her creativity to the cake design. Chef Aaron’s business partner Aleatra Jones volunteered to come with offset spatula in hand, and Jeff Rasmussen — copy architect of the 1in133 website — somehow became structural engineer of the massive cake as well.

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Jules joined Lee in NC to bake off the first round of cakes and recalculate final cake measurements based upon batch results. Each person chipped in their time and talents wherever they could help most.

Cake – one of Jules’ favorite bands & the perfect music for the event!

Finally came May 3. The team assembled at the Embassy Suites that night to begin the process of cutting, assembling, frosting and stacking each layer upon the 16 wooden tiers Jeff had already cut to size.
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To the tunes of the band Cake, an assembly line that would have made Henry Ford proud cranked out the final crumb-coated tiers by 4:30 am on May 4.

A few short hours later, the team met to finish frosting and begin erecting what would shortly become the World’s Tallest GF Cake.
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A battery of helpers from the Chesapeake Celiac Support Group arrived to stuff “swag” bags full of gluten-free goodies and magazines donated by sponsors, and to manage crowd control. Bloggers from other sites you might recognize, including the Real Sustenance, Gluten-Free Homemaker, Silvana’s Kitchen, The Healthy Apple, Custom Choice Cereal, Celiebo, Glow Gluten Free and more, all began to file in, ready to help! Magazines like Living WithoutGluten-Free Living and Delight all appeared with pen and paper to document the event, and loads more press, including TV news (like ABC), Huffington Post, Forbes and Time Magazine appeared as well.
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When 5:00 came all too quickly, the cake was miraculously complete and the assembly was ready to shift gears to greet the FDA Deputy Commissioner, Congresswomen Lowey and McCollum, esteemed celiac researcher Dr. Alessio Fasano, and many others. The crowd got to be the first to hear that the FDA had been impressed by our mission and our event, and was moving gluten-free food labeling laws to the top of their agenda.
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We had done it! Our event raised awareness for celiac disease, gluten sensitivity and other medically necessitated reasons to eat gluten free; increased pressure on the FDA to finalize gluten-free food labeling laws; unified our community to speak loudly with one voice; and actually built the World’s Tallest Gluten-Free Cake. Each of these achievements monumental in its own right — together quite amazing.
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We can look forward to one day soon having a federal standard for “gluten free” established (the FDA has said the final regulations will be released in the 3rd or 4th quarter of this year!) — one that will help manufacturers and consumers, alike. We can all be proud to have pushed for this result and to have done so in a positive way, garnering support and pulling together as a community to further our collective goal.

I am so proud to have been a part of this incredible group of dedicated people and to continue to be involved in the ongoing dialogue and process to establish a “gluten-free” standard in the US.
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For more details on the event, its mission, other essential sponsors, media mentions, videos and photos, please see my article on how and why we pulled this off! To hear the 1 year Anniversary Radio Show on The Gluten-Free Voice, access the podcast!
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For more random details that might never come up on Trivial Pursuit or otherwise, but you might find interesting, nonetheless …

Some Final 1in133 Cake Numbers (give or take…):

 

gfJules™ Flour: 547 lbs

Evaporated Cane Sugar: 459 lbs

Earth Balance Buttery Sticks: 45 lbs

Earth Balance Soy Milk: 91lbs

DariFree Powder: 22 lbs

Eggs: 270 lbs

Frosting: 700 lbs

Plywood: 135 lbs

PVC piping: 40 feet

1/2 ” threaded rod: 30 feet

Want to try the recipe for The World’s Tallest Gluten-Free Cake at home? Here’s the scaled back home cookin’ recipe!

Gluten-free food I ate for 2 days to get me through not sleeping and being on my feet (or on a ladder) for nearly 48 hours:

Kind Bars (they had them at the Embassy Suites hotel – yay!)

Lara Bars (I had to break into my emergency purse stash of Lara Bars and eat the last two sample size bars I had- Peanut Butter Cookie & Peanut Butter & Jelly – my faves!)

CalNaturale Svelte Sustained Energy Protein Drink (Cappuccino flavor with 16g of protein!)

2 bananas

Whole Foods sushi

Glutino Pretzels with Earth Balance Natural Crunchy Peanut Butter with flaxseed

Food Should Taste Good Sweet Potato Chips (they go with anything!)

GladCorn (addicting)

& of course, at the end of the 2d day, Estrella Damm Daura GF Beer!


14 thoughts on “How We Built the World’s Tallest Gluten-Free Cake … and Why.

  1. Jules and team!

    Thank you so much! My daughter and I have been following this story. She is almost 6 and was diagnosed celiac at just over 4 years old. For her to watch people all over the country coming together for celiacs and gluten-free causes gets that little one all jumpy! Then, when she finally saw a pic of the cake, she went bonkers! She immediately proclaimed that she wanted a piece from the very bottom layer. (She amended it to be the entire layer, not just a piece after she learned it was the same cake mommy makes at home for her.)

    Thanks for showing a little girl that though she is different, she is important.

    • Hannah, that is the best story! You summed it up so well! I try to teach my kids to celebrate differences, and celiac is one. Teaching her early that she is important and that her needs matter (even in tasty ways!) is crucial. Tell her Miss Jules said the bottom layer of that cake weighed 230 pounds though, so she should stick with mommy’s version at home!! :)

  2. What a great project for a great cause!
    Thank you for all your hard work and determination!

    So what happened to the cake after the event was over?

    • Thanks Jackie! We actually donated the cake to the Capital Area Food Bank at the end of the night! Spread the GF love! : )

      • Jules, I have to say that this event was inspired as well as inspiring. Many thanks for your effort to raise consciousness and regulation standards. And the donation to the food bank, well let’s just say that was the icing on the cake!! Many Kudos to everyone involved

        • Thanks so much, Leona! It’s nice to know that others are appreciative of our work, and yes, I thought the food bank donation was the “icing on the cake” as well! Thanks! ; )

  3. From the bottom of my heart – THANK YOU – for all of your hard work making this project a huge success. You and the others that worked to make this a reality will have a lifelong impact on so many people’s lives. It is amazing to me that something that is a serious medical issue could be ignored for so long. Thank you again, Jules!

  4. Thank you John, Jules and all the helpers and sponsors for all your hard work, ingenuity and PASSION. I’m proud to be a member of your community!

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