Towards a Theory of a 10-Tonne Ice Cream Cake
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Towards a Theory of a 10-Tonne Ice Cream Cake

The fleet of human persons tasked with assembling the enormous cake.

So, some preliminary facts about the record-breakingly giant ice cream cake that Dairy Queen unveiled at Yonge-Dundas Square yesterday: DQ estimated that the cake would weigh in around 21,000 lbs.; this includes about 20,000 lbs. of ice cream and a few hundred lbs. each of pound cake, icing, and chopped up Oreo cookies; it’s actually made up of a whole bunch of smaller ice cream cakes—like around 3,300 of them; these constituent cakes have been clotted together into huge chunks weighing around 898 lbs. that were lifted in place by a team of forklifts; each of these 20-or-so palettes was comprised of +/- 165 ice cream cakes.
This cake made of smaller cakes which are themselves comprised of smaller cakes naturally raises the question: what is a cake, exactly? Is it really just a cake that broke the Guinness Book’s world record? Or 3,300 smaller cakes? And who would dispense a commendation for the weight of just 3,300 smaller cakes? But then, why should we confer merit (and indeed, just raw merit, literally an award just for being) to any sort of cake?

Because it’s the cake that breaks the record. Not Dairy Queen, or their staff of lab-coated cake decorators scrambling to glaze the thing and plastering it in cookie crumbles. And not the UofT food engineers who invested actual effort into the plotting, manufacturing, and general R&D details of a 10-tonne cake. And if anyone should be getting an award or recognition or a listing in some sort of Guinness Book, shouldn’t it be them? Or even the Public Relations firm looking every bit the team players in DQ-issue T-shirts and headsets hooked into walkie-talkies, like perky deck-hands on an aircraft carrier? Shouldn’t it be any or all of them who earn their place in Guinness’s book? And even then.

The cake as viewed from the elevated patio at Milestone’s. It’s pretty big…I guess.

Yesterday—Wednesday May 10, 2011—at 11:06 a.m., the first of twenty colossal slabs of cubed ice goop was unceremoniously ferried onto an oversized scale at Yonge-Dundas Square. Cheryl Bernard, the skip who led Canada’s Olympic curling team to a silver medal in 2010, was there, presiding over the whole thing. The goal was to one-up a world record previously set in Beijing in 2006. The Chinese team put together a cake clocking in at 17,000 lbs. “We’re not just going to break that record,” boasted Bernard (evincing some kind of complex with regard to being runner-up). “We’re going to shatter it.”
The other reason for all this colossal cake fuss was the 30th anniversary of Dairy Queen’s ice cream cake. After the weigh-in, Dairy Queen staffers and volunteers actually dismembered this colossus and served it to the public for free (though donations, it should be stated, were being accepted to help the Children’s Miracle Network). Also in 1981: France abolished capital punishment, Ordinary People won the Oscar for Best Picture, Ronald Reagan got shot in the chest by John Hinckley, Jr., and the Raiders won the Super Bowl.
Cheryl Bernard seems like a bit of an odd duck. Though admittedly, it’s a tough gig, opening for the world’s heaviest ice cream cake. In between shout-outs to DQ—she “enjoys the odd Blizzard” and makes a point of keeping a box of Dilly Bars (no joke) “in the deep freeze”—she torments the steadily amassing crowds of passers-by, kids, folks out to lunch, and people with nothing to do. “Who wants ice cream?” she hollers, rhetorically, every 15-or-so minutes, whipping the crowd into a frenzy only to tell them that they have to wait “just a little longer.” But the queue of people twisting east down Dundas and around, even, to Victoria to get a free piece of ice cream cake—which had been exposed to the disgusting elements for well over an hour before they even started serving it—and the time they had to wait to get a piece of sun-melted cream cube is pretty incidental. What was really going was something bigger, something whose sheer grandness could dwarf even 10 10-tonne cakes of the densest imaginable ice cream. Because even being there at all, simply in the broad shadow of that cake, “We all,” as Bernard put it, “get to be part of history.”

The cake is adorned with Oreo cookie crumbles, padded on 40 whole lbs. at a time.

In What Is History?, E.H. Carr draws a distinction between what he calls “facts of the past” and “historical facts.” So Cheryl Bernard keeping a case of Dilly Bars in her “deep freeze” is a fact of the past, i.e. something that happened (if we’re to take Cheryl Bernard’s word for it, anyways) but is of little consequence to anyone, while the assembly and weighing and awarding of a 10-tonne Dairy Queen–brand ice cream cake would be closer to a “historical fact,” something which someday, somewhere, for some conceivable reason, a historian may one day deem relevant.
The presence of Guinness and their officiators and their huge scale skews this, though, effectively imbuing the present-tense cake with a sense of historical significance. Guinness—who dispenses their chintzy world records for everything under the sun, from Most Time Spent Playing Grand Theft Auto IV to Longest Dreadlock (though the category has since been retired)—confuses mass, weight, volume, and the presence of on-looking TV cameras (you better believe Sun News was there) with achievement. And then further confuses this phony achievement with something like history, flattening the whole march of human progress into a string of disconnected PR stunts.

It’s a big cake. What are we supposed to say?

At 11:43 a.m. the record is broken, and this ice cream cake becomes the largest ice cream cake. And Carlton Bear and a DQ Dip Cone Mascot are there posing for pictures and it’s all framed by billboards for banks and the movie Priest in Real 3-D and something called Trident Layers and a CityTV electronic banner bleating the words “FAMILY GUY.” An adjacent Yahoo News scroll on the northwest corner of Yonge and Dundas runs down headlines about the Jays, Canucks, the dangers of online pesticides, and air strikes in Tripoli. But it all seems immaterial when you’re looking at an ice cream cake which is, like, the biggest ice cream cake. That there ever was ever. So far.
Will anyone remember this cake, though? Like how someone remembers V-E Day or the dawn of the locomotive engine? Will the Canadian equivalent of Alan Jackson ever ask “Where Were You?” about it? No. But then we can only hope to achieve what this cake has—to sink like some dense limestone confectionery into the earthy wallows of history. To be commemorated and celebrated and consumed as a meaningful part of the disinterested progression of all human endeavour. To be remembered as rich and creamy and covered in cracked Oreo cookies. Most of us, after all, will only amble and suffer and try to live well, but eventually just die and drift, icy and lifeless and into the ether like so much frozen dairy skim.
Just after the final weigh-in (22,333 lbs., or 10.13 tonnes according to the post-game press release, FYI), the cake begins to lose its structural integrity, as if on cue. Chunks of frosted pound cake begin to flake off, and the cake’s architects rush to wad up the fissures. But it doesn’t matter. Its place has been sealed, entombed in the sugary annals of civilization. Such as it is.
Photos by Corbin Smith/Torontoist.