A birthday cake, two days, and a special surprise

by April Lisante
Posted 9/22/21

So this is one of those food column stories that comes along once in a blue moon and I jumped at the chance to cover it. It’s a story involving someone on my all-time top five list of people I must meet before I die, and it’s a story that could only happen here in Philly.

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A birthday cake, two days, and a special surprise

Posted

So this is one of those food column stories that comes along once in a blue moon and I jumped at the chance to cover it. It’s a story involving someone on my all-time top five list of people I must meet before I die, and it’s a story that could only happen here in Philly.

On a recent Tuesday, a call came into the Hill’s Night Kitchen Bakery from California and the caller said she was a personal assistant who needed to order a big specialty carrot cake for a birthday celebration. Oh, and it needed to be ready in about 48 hours for a Thursday morning delivery up at La Salle University at Broad and Olney.

Typically, relates Night Kitchen owner Amy Edelman, such a feat would require about a week’s notice for pastry chefs Jackie Sheeder and Angela Jarmon. Maybe even ten days. The bakery is known for its fondant creations, but the work takes time.

Then the bakery crew learned the cake wasn’t just any birthday cake. It was for none other than comedian Adam Sandler to celebrate his 55th birthday here in Philly. A frenzy ensued and the baking immediately began.

“She said can you do something with a carrot theme,” said Edelman, recalling the phoner with the Sandler family’s assistant. “My husband [John Millard] started baking the cake right away.”

By Wednesday morning, Sheeder walked into a bakery that was reaching fever pitch, only to learn what had happened on Tuesday, her day off.

“I walked into work to a note that said the cake was for Adam Sandler,” Sheeder said. “It was so exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. I’m such a fan. I’ve seen all his movies and we [Angela and I] are in our 30s, so we kind of grew up with him.”

For the past couple of weeks, Sandler, whose actual birthday is Sept. 9, has been in Philly filming the Netflix sports drama “Hustle,” which is co-produced by both he and LeBron James. The mega-funny man has been spotted hanging around town shooting scenes at La Salle and on the streets around City Hall for the basketball movie, where he plays scout who is bringing a player from Spain to the U.S. He even got serenaded with “Happy Birthday” from a crowd over at La Salle the day he came into town.

Apparently, his wife Jackie Sandler wanted him to be able to celebrate his b-day with a slice of his favorite type of cake, so her assistant found Edelman’s bakery.

Now back to the bakery drama. By Wednesday morning, Sheeder and Jarmon stood beside the carrot cakes that Millard had baked and started brainstorming.

“I was like ‘This is for Adam Sandler, it has to be big’,” Sheeder said.

No stranger to difficult fondant cakes, Sheeder once made a pirate ship that suspended in mid-air, a football for Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, and countless other cakes in her seven years at the bakery. The bakery itself, during Edelman’s two decades of ownership, has been entrusted to many wedding and birthday cakes, including Patti La Belle’s. But this was different.

“We’ve done a lot of big things, but this is definitely the most famous,” Edelman said.

The pastry chefs came up with an idea: make a tall, standing carrot with layers of cake and cream cheese frosting, then coat the exterior in vanilla buttercream and finally encase the whole sky-high sweet in orange fondant. The cake ended up standing at fourteen inches and needed three wooden dowels pounded through the center of the six to eight-inch diameter cake rounds and into three cake boards to stand up without tipping.

“All I could think of is how is my husband going to deliver this and when my husband saw the cake, he was getting scared at the thought of driving with it,” Edelman said. “She (Jackie) had to tip the cake to show him how it was stable.”

Once the carrot itself was finished and some green fondant fronds were placed on top and air brushing was added to give it some carrot skin nuance, everyone started to get the Sandler silly bug, with Edelman even throwing in a suggestion toward the end of production.

“I said ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if there was a bunny butt next to the carrot like it was diving in the dirt?’” Edelman recalled.

The team added the rabbit derriere and cotton tail, as well as crushed Oreos and graham crackers to look like dirt.

When Millard finally delivered the cake Thursday morning to the Tom Gola Arena at La Salle, Sandler was surrounded by production crew, well-wishers and cameras to blow out his candles. He used a giant sheet cake for the photo-op since there were so many well-wishers on hand, but had the carrot cake perched next to him for everyone to see.

He liked the cake a lot, if you were wondering about that as much as I was. Edelman and her crew got a call the next day from Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions cooing over the confection.

“The producer called from Happy Madison to say they loved it,” Edelman said, adding that if she did speak directly to Sandler, she would let him know how much I love him.

Which reminds me. Adam, if you happen to be reading this, I volunteer to personally deliver your cake if there is ever a next time.

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