Dean of the College Nancy Weiss Malkiel reviews the three cakes designed and baked in her honor for "Dean’s Bake" April 29. (Habin Chung ’12)
In the fall, Nancy Weiss Malkiel, Princeton’s Dean of the College for the last 24 years, announced her plans to retire at the end of the academic year, and as that departure nears, people around the University have started to bid farewell. April 29 included perhaps the most unusual stop on the goodbye tour: Dean’s Bake, a cake contest in which students and confectioners from Princeton’s dining services aimed to give Malkiel a sweet and memorable send-off.
The event had the look of a Food Network show, with three cameras providing streaming Web video from the Frist Campus Center. Stu Orefice, the director of dining services, emceed the contest with a stream of foodie puns (including a promise that there would be no “bake inflation”), while chef Rob Harbison added commentary (“Real men do wear aprons”). The panel of four judges included Malkiel and her husband, economics professor Burton Malkiel *64.
Seventeen groups of students applied to compete, and organizers selected three promising teams to pair with experienced pros from the University bake shop. By the time the teams arrived at Frist, their cakes had been baked, cooled, and coated with one layer of icing. The challenge was to finish intricate decorations, carry the cake to a display table, and serve tasting samples to the judges in 45 minutes or less.
One team based its cake on Malkiel as dean, teaming up to create a four-tiered ivy-covered tower inspired by West College, which houses Malkiel’s office. An edible Malkiel, dressed in academic robes, surveyed the campus from a second-floor balcony.
A second team drew on Malkiel’s biography, making a suitcase-shaped cake for the dean, who plans to travel during retirement. Fondant decals showed the logos of Princeton’s six residential colleges, created under Malkiel’s guidance. Resting on top of the luggage were three books: a blue one for Smith College, Malkiel’s undergraduate alma mater; a red one for Harvard, where she earned her Ph.D. in history; and an open book with plenty of blank sheets, for the next chapter in her life.
The design for the first-place cake was simple by comparison (a Princeton shield garnished with a string of fondant ivy), but sophisticated in flavor, with a recipe that included chocolate cake, orange mascarpone mousse filling, and a layer of toasted almonds, frosted with chocolate ganache and butter-cream icing. Gena Brelsford of dining services worked with Alexandra Azzolino ’12, Sandra Knuth ’14, and Sekai Zengeza ’12 to make the winning entry.
After the awards were presented, Malkiel thanked the competitors for their tasty tributes. “This is the most remarkable experience I can recall,” she said.