Finding Nevada:

How they’re constructing a birthday cake befitting a state the size of Nevada


Matt Hufman

Chef Eric Englund of Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center points to sheet cakes that will be part of the state’s 150th anniversary celebration. The cakes, shown in the hospital’s freezer, will be assembled into the state of Nevada shape on Friday, March 21, 2014.

Finding Nevada: 150th Anniversary Cake

Misti Gower, left, and Heidi Englund check the cakes that will be used to make the state's 150th anniversary cake. It will measure 21 feet long by 13 feet wide and be in the shape of the state. Launch slideshow »

At a glance: The state’s birthday cake

Size: 21-by-13 feet, in the shape of Nevada.

Cake mix: 495 pounds of dried cake mix, with 510 cups (4,080 ounces) of water.

Icing: 144 pounds of premixed icing and 215 pounds of dried icing mix with about 215 cups (1,720 ounces) of water.

Servings: About 9,000 2-inch-by-2-inch pieces.

Total weight: about 1,300 pounds.

Type: Angel food-type cake with white frosting, blue piping and a “Battle Born” logo in the center.

How? The cake is made of 170 separate sheet cakes, each 18 inches long by 10 inches wide.

Volunteers: 29.

Baking time: About 15 hours total; a hospital oven baked 12 sheet cakes at a time.

Heidi Englund’s boss at the Nevada Historical Society came up to her about a year and a half ago and handed her a copy of a report on the state’s centennial celebration in 1964. It was flipped open to a section about a “gigantic” cake made in the shape of Nevada.

“You ought to make that cake,” he said, words that are now etched in Englund’s mind.

She wondered whether he was joking. She had just made a gluten-free chocolate cake for a colleague that was the hit of the office, but a cake for the state’s 150th birthday, which is being celebrated this year? Was he joking?


So Englund thought about it and then consulted with her husband, Eric, who’s the chef at Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center, and her friend Misti Gower, a state worker who’s known for making wonderful cakes.

Could they replicate the 1964 cake, which measured 21 feet long and 13 feet wide and weighed 1,300 pounds?

They figured they could, so they took on the enormous challenge that will end Friday when they unveil their creation at Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center in Carson City.

“The funny thing is, it’s been easy,” Englund said, “like it’s been wanting to be done, like it has a life of its own.”

Sponsors and donors have pitched in, and they have found more than enough volunteers to help.

“We’ve had nothing but good wishes from people,” Gower said. “People love cake.”

The cake is being re-created along the lines of the original in 1964 — the same shape, size and weight, and it will look similar. It’s a single-layer angel food cake with white frosting and blue piping, and it will have the state’s “Battle Born” logo in the middle. There will be one major difference: the centennial cake was made and donated by a Reno bakery; this is an all-volunteer effort.

The cake will be a labor of love for Englund and Gower.

Like many people, Englund and Gower were born elsewhere but came here as young children with their families. For all practical matters, they are Nevada natives.

On Thursday, the Englunds and Gower will assemble a team of 29 volunteers at the medical center, which has provided the use of its kitchen and facilities. They’ll build a platform in the hospital cafe and put plastic-wrapped plywood boards on it, which will be put together in the shape of Nevada.

The cake will then be assembled out of the 170 sheet cakes that have already been baked — 12 at a time in the hospital’s oven — and frozen in the hospital kitchen’s walk-in freezer.

On Friday, Gov. Brian Sandoval’s wife, Kathleen, will cut the first piece of cake with a sword once owned by Nevada’s fifth governor, Charles Stevenson. Cake will be served for free to the public starting at 1 p.m., and pieces will be delivered to area care facilities and food programs.

Englund chose Friday to serve the cake because that’s the date that President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation that allowed Nevada to create a constitution and move forward toward statehood.

For Englund and Gower, it’s more than just cake and giving back to the state they love.

Said Gower: “We’re making history.”

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