ICE Makes 5-Foot Cake for "The Phantom of The Opera’s" 35th Broadway Anniversary
Chef Jürgen David and student volunteers worked for over a week on the show-stopping cake
The Institute of Culinary Education's Director of Pastry Research and Development Jürgen David loves “The Phantom of the Opera.”
Chef Jürgen is a super “phan” in every aspect of the word. He estimates he’s seen the show at least 200 times and has listened to the soundtrack more times that he could ever count.
“The show means a lot to me,” Chef Jürgen says. “My entire family had to listen to the cast highlights album forever and ever and ever on repeat at the loudest possible volume.”
That’s why, when he and ICE got the chance to make a show-stopping cake for the Broadway production’s 35th anniversary, which will be its last one on Broadway, he jumped on it.
“I’m extremely honored that I was able to do this and I was able to help and celebrate,” Chef Jürgen says. “I have the highest respect for the people that put this stuff together on a daily basis to have audiences come and enjoy the show. So much work goes into this and we can’t take that for granted. It’s beautiful.”
After also making cakes for the show’s 25th and 30th anniversaries, Chef Jürgen knew he had to make a cake that was dramatic while still being easy enough to transport.
“From having had the cake on stage last time, I learned a lot about what the needs are for when the cake needed to be on stage this time,” Chef Jürgen says. “I was trying to get something as big as possible without a large footprint, because there is zero space backstage where they can keep things. It was really a struggle to make sure that thing was going to be upright like that. But we figured it out and it came together.”
Armed with his love for the show, a majestic plan and the help of lots of ICE student volunteers, Chef Jürgen created a 5-foot devil’s food cake with dark chocolate ganache.
The project was a team effort. It also brought multiple students from different ICE programs together. Students from programs such as Pastry & Baking Arts, Plant-Based Culinary Arts and Restaurant & Culinary Management worked right alongside Chef Jürgen to bake, pipe frosting and sculpt the cake masterpiece.
“The help of the students was tremendous,” Chef Jürgen says “Without them I couldn’t have done that.”
In total, the cake took over a week to make. During that time, any student volunteers who weren’t familiar with “The Phantom of the Opera” became very well acquainted with the iconic musical.
“We had a good time,” Chef Jürgen says. “We watched the 25th anniversary performance like about twelve times while we were working. Nobody minded. We were like ‘Should we watch it again?’ YES.”
The final product was colored a deep black and adorned with the phantom’s iconic mask and gold letters reading “35 Years on Broadway.” The cake stood completely upright when it was wheeled out onstage during the show’s curtain call on Jan. 26.
Still clad in costume, Ben Crawford, the actor who plays the titular phantom, read a special message to celebrate the anniversary.
“Thirty-five is a big birthday. And a big birthday requires a big cake,” Crawford said. “And tonight, we are lucky to have just that. This special phantom showpiece was created by Chef Jürgen David.”
As the cake was rolled out, Chef Jürgen’s name was met with thunderous applause and cheers from the audience.
“Yes! Chef Jürgen David!” Crawford cheered.
Chef Jürgen, who was in the audience watching the whole thing, was touched.
“To have Ben Crawford say that, I’m a superfan, to say my name right and all the things, it’s just glorious,” Chef Jürgen says. “I love this show so much, everything about it is just magical and wonderful and I just can’t get enough of it.”
“I love this show so much, everything about it is just magical and wonderful and I just can’t get enough of it.”
The Broadway show is set to play its final performance on April 16. It is the longest-running show in Broadway history and has spawned many regional translations that will continue to play in countries around the world, even when the Broadway show closes its doors.
Though the moment is very bittersweet for Chef Jürgen, he’s hopeful for the future.
“I’m so sad it’s closing,” he says. “But, hopefully there will be more reiterations of the show and we get to celebrate more. I certainly want to celebrate the final performance in April.”
In the end, Chef Jürgen’s masterpiece of cake was his way of creating and sharing the same magic “The Phantom of the Opera” has given him over the years. It just so happens that instead of melodic, Chef Jürgen’s magic is delicious.
More from Chef Jürgen: Buchteln Recipe (From His Mother's Cookbook)
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