WESTFIELD, Mass. (AP) — When the city celebrated its 350th birthday, students from Westfield Technical Academy brought the cake.
Lots of cake. For the past two months students studying culinary arts have been baking 1,000 cupcakes in between learning new skills, running the school restaurant and catering special events. On Sunday they frosted and handed out the birthday cakes to visitors after the grand parade finished.
While students joked about never wanting to see a cupcake again, many said they were also honored to have a chance to contribute to the community's huge celebration.
"It only happens once or twice in a lifetime and it is cool to be part of the anniversary," said Sara Staples, a junior in the culinary arts department. "You can look back and tell people you did this."
For Staples it also gave her a chance to practice new skills and she learned she is pretty good when it comes to icing work.
During their cupcake mission, the owner of GLITE Bakery visited the school and talked to the students about her work to create the official birthday cake. Staples was one of several volunteers who went to her bakery after school to help.
"I learned about different piping techniques and I may be able to get an internship," she said.
The theme of the parade was "Honoring our Heros"
The cupcake idea came when Harry Rock, president of the Westfield 350th realized a birthday needed cake and ice cream. Hood Ice Cream in Suffield donated 1,000 Hoodsie cups and he then went to Westfield Technical High School to see if students could bake the cake.
"At first he wanted to do a replica of the 350th cake (at the Westfield Green) but you would need plates and napkins and forks and there was the issue of serve safe," said Eric Rogers, a culinary instructor.
The instructors then suggested cupcakes would be easier to cook as well as serve to a large crowd, he said.
There are about 60 students from grades nine through 12 in the department and they spent two months making vanilla and chocolate cupcakes, said Philip Mucciarone, head of the culinary arts department.
The parade committee gave the school the money to buy the ingredients they needed for the cupcakes, he said.
Many parade-goers stood and clapped as police, firefighters and veterans marched by them.
"Learning mass production was good for them to see," he said. "We do catering for hundreds of people but not 1,000," he said.
Students attend traditional academic classes one week and the alternating week take technical courses. During those times they are in shop from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. so they treated the cupcake making as a side project with small groups of students working on it at different times, Mucciarone said.
Students made some of the buttercream frosting and ordered more. Then on parade day about 25 students who volunteered to work at the parade, gathered inside the pavilion at the green, lined up boxes of cupcakes, filled pastry bags with frosting and iced the cupcakes to hand out to people at the end of the parade.
The last-minute production line was necessary because transporting 1,000 frosted cupcakes is a recipe for disaster, Mucciarone said.
"I loved it. It was great getting the experience to help others and getting the experience to help the community," said Savannah Costigan, a junior.
In addition, Costigan said she has gotten so much better at using a pastry bag since they started the project.
The effort wasn't as hard as it sounds because the culinary arts department has plenty of industrial sized ovens and equipment that made it easier. Groups also took turns baking the cupcakes, said Samuel MacMunn, a sophomore.
The effort also helped students build their skills and resumes since colleges always want to see students doing community service, he said.
"We are all used to cooking in bulk but not on such a large scale as 1,000 cupcakes," he said.
Information from: The Springfield (Mass.) Republican, http://www.masslive.com/news/