Thursday, April 24, 2008

University of Maryland bakes 50,000 cupcakes for annual event

Nearly 80,000 people expected for Maryland Day

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Susan Whitney⁄The Gazette
Jeff Russo, administrative chef for the Bakery and Ice Cream Plant at University of Maryland, College Park, is in charge of making 50,000 cupcakes for this weekend’s Maryland Day activities.
It took Jeff Russo more than two months to bake a batch of cupcakes.

That’s because the batch consisted of 50,000 cupcakes, to be consumed by the nearly 80,000 people expected to descend on the University of Maryland, College Park campus Saturday.

Russo and his staff at the university bakery and ice creamery made the yellow cupcakes in honor of the 10th annual Maryland Day, a six-hour, free festival open to the public.

‘‘We [have an extra] 2,000, give or take, in case something happened,” said David Ottalini, a senior media relations associate at the school. ‘‘Jeff and his staff did this in addition to their regular work.”

The cupcakes, which are currently being stored in freezers all over the campus, are topped with yellow, white, chocolate and red icing in honor of the state colors.

From Friday evening through early Saturday morning, nearly 200 volunteers and staff members will be involved in the handling, transportation and preparation of the desserts. The cupcakes will be arranged in the likeness of the university’s globe-like seal on a 60-foot table under a tent in front of Hornbake Plaza.

‘‘It’s first-come, first-served,” said Russo, who has been at the bakery for nearly 12 years. ‘‘We’ve no doubt they’ll be gone [at the end of the day].”

While the cupcakes are free, those watching their waistlines should beware: the total calorie count for the confectionary sculpture is approximately 12.6 million, Russo said.

The cost for the ingredients alone was about $14,000, which donations from corporate sponsors—including Pepsi and Microsoft—helped defray.

‘‘[The cost of] flour’s been going up now for six to seven months,” he said. ‘‘Sugar, [too]. Everything is astronomical.”

The cupcake sculpture was the idea of Patricia Mote, the wife of University President C.D. Mote, said Joseph Mullineaux, senior associate director of dining services at the school.

‘‘She asked me what I thought about the possibility of doing 50,000 cupcakes,” he said. ‘‘So I actually sat down and did a few calculations and said, ‘I’m pretty sure Jeff can do it.’ Jeff is brilliant at that sort of thing.”

If you go

The event is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, rain or shine, at the University of Maryland, College Park. For more information, call the school’s main number at 301-405-1000.