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A cake to remember: Styrofoam Capitol's edible lawn to serve 15,000

By Laura Reston

 CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sara Lane has spent the last two months painstakingly designing and constructing a massive birthday cake for the impending Sesquicentennial celebrations, state officials said.

It took her 240 hours and over 900 pounds of fondant frosting to complete the giant dessert -- a replica of the Capitol surrounded by an expansive green lawn.

"We wanted to do something big for this major milestone in West Virginia's history," said Chelsea Ruby, executive director of the West Virginia Sesquicentennial Commission. "We wanted to create a cake that people would remember."

The cake, which stands 40 inches tall and measures 8 feet long, will feed 15,000 people at the Sesquicentennial celebrations on the Capitol grounds this weekend.

Over the last few weeks, Lane, a local baker, painstakingly constructed the lawn, airbrushed the building, and used fondant frosting to coat the Capitol substructure.

Lane couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday. Ruby said that Lane, wife of Delegate Patrick Lane, R-Kanawha, donated her time, and the cake ingredients were bought with Sesquicentennial Commission funds.

Construction began several months before, when Sesquicentennial organizers approached Darren Husband, a touring exhibit designer at the state Division of Culture and History, to ask whether he could help Lane construct a small Capitol dome for the cake.

But Husband said he decided to embark on a more ambitious project -- crafting the entire Capitol building from Styrofoam.

"We might as well go big and do the whole thing," Husband said Wednesday.

He enlisted his father, David Husband, to help craft the Styrofoam sculpture.

While Darren Husband poured over Capitol blueprints to reconstruct an accurate floor plan, his father used a computer program to build a detailed and lifelike model of the structure.

They subsequently spent a week carving the substructure before handing it over to Lane, who added details like columns, railing and windows made from icing.

Lane had researched those details for weeks, collecting pictures and details about Capitol decor, Darren Husband said.

He said Lane managed to incorporate details, including the detailed gold inlay on the done and a small plaque that one can see only from pictures.

"It's pretty incredible," Husband said.

In a news release from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's office, Lane said, "I studied the Capitol's architecture as a history major and have been in and around this marvelous building many times. But studying the details of every corner, every symbol, and every shape -- and their place in the building's overall design -- has changed the way I look at it. It is truly an awe-inspiring structure."

Although the Styrofoam Capitol structure is inedible, Lane used chocolate and vanilla cake to make the lawn.

The public can get a piece of cake anytime from 2 to 8 p.m. Thursday, from 2 to 9 p.m. Friday, and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday at the Culture Center, which will house the cake throughout the celebrations.

On Thursday alone, the Sesquicentennial Commission expects to hand out about 5,000 pieces of cake.

"It's something that people are going to be talking about for a long time," Ruby said.

Reach Laura Reston at laura.reston@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5112.


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