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Charlotte's Big Birthday Means An Uptown Party And A Whole Lot Of Cake

Monday is Charlotte’s birthday. To mark the Town of Charlotte’s founding 250 years ago, local government and several groups are throwing a big party uptown — at the intersection of Trade and Try­on — and everyone’s invited.

It’s part of a year-long look at Charlotte’s past, present and future. Like any good birthday celebration, there will be cake and lots of it.

In a kitchen at Johnson & Wales University last week, Chef Schellie Andrews was dressed in chef’s whites and up to her elbows in icing.

Credit Jessa O'Connor / WFAE
Chef Schellie Andrews is making 30 sheet cakes to feed 3,000 celebration-goers.

“We mix this until it’s a nice, spreadable consistency,” Andrews said, while adding ingredients to a large standing mixer. “This is basically egg whites, sugar and butter.”

She’s a baking and pastry instructor at Johnson & Wales. Andrews and a few student helpers were making enough cake, well, cakes — plural — to feed 3,000 people.

They were making 30 sheet cakes, cutting each into 100 individual pieces for celebration-goers to enjoy.

“It’s a chocolate vanilla layered cake,” said Andrews. “It’s mainly chocolate and, then, I marbled in a vanilla cake just to give it a bit more interesting flavor. So it’s combining the two together.”

Andrews said they’re frosting each piece with the butter cream icing she’s been mixing up, chocolate sprinkles, rosettes and, if she has time, dogwood flowers, the state flower of North Carolina.

Credit Jessa O'Connor / WFAE 90.7
WFAE 90.7
Sarah Tankersley drew inspiration from Charlotte's art district NoDa for her cake.

Andrews also gave her sophomore baking and pastry students an assignment for the 250th anniversary celebration: to make display cakes to practice their decorating skills. The theme? Interpreting an aspect of the Queen City.

Sarah Tankersley, 20, drew inspiration for her cake from the Charlotte arts, specifically NoDa.

“When I think of Charlotte, I think of how beautiful and creative we are,” Tankersley said, while explaining her colorful cake. “On my bottom tier, I have envisioned the beautiful murals in NoDa and then on my top tier I have the Firebird, which is a statue in front of the art museum uptown.”

19-year-old Camryn McMeekin’s cake takes you through a timeline of Charlotte’s history.

Credit Jessa O'Connor / WFAE 90.7
WFAE 90.7
Camryn McMeekin depicted Charlotte's history on her display cake.

“It’s a lot to unpack,” McMeekin said with a laugh. “So it starts here with the Catawba Indian Chief and then it heads to the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. To the second tier — I introduce the trains and then moved into where our banking started. The U.S. mint that was here....then, I even replicated the currency from 1897. And then the top tier is present day Charlotte with the Bank of America stadium and NASCAR.”

Those two cakes and thirteen more will be displayed in public libraries around the city. Just a reminder: they’re not edible. They’re made out of cardboard and Styrofoam.

If you want a piece of real cake, head to the celebration at Trade and Tryon between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Monday.

Jessa O’Connor was an assistant digital news editor and Sunday reporter for WFAE.