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Eli's Cheesecake Co. staff cheer as the third layer of the Obama inaugural cake is touched up.

Big piece of Chicago goes to Obama Inaugural

by J.H. Freeman
Jan 20, 2009


J.H. Freeman/MEDILL

Say cheese! The president of Eli's, Marc Schulman, at RFK Stadium the day before the inauguration.



Model of the completed cake, which won't be unveiled until this evening's inaugural ball.

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Eli's Cheesecake

Among the politicians, celebrities and well-connected at tonight’s 10 official inaugural balls there will be a big piece of Chicago, literally. It’s a 500-pound cheesecake from the city’s iconic Eli’s Cheesecake Co.

And while Eli’s is not uncomfortable in its role as the bane of post-inaugural dentist visits, having delivered similar mountainous sweets at both Clinton presidential inaugurals, the company admits the Obama cake has been something of a challenge.

“It’s been a logistical nightmare, but at the same time very interesting and exciting working through it, especially when you are fortunate to have a president from Chicago,” said Eli Cheesecake President Marc S. Schulman, speaking at RFK Stadium’s national service event the day before the inauguration.

Schulman said the company was contacted the day after Obama’s election concerning the cake. Given the sheer number of inaugural balls, security concerns and the limitations on outside food—especially outside food driven into Washington, D.C. from Chicago and weighing as much as an infant elephant—it took a while to hammer out the details.

The giant sugary concoction left Chicago Sunday in a freezer truck and arrived this morning at the National Building Museum, where the finishing touches were put on the cake by Eli’s Master Pastry Chef Laurel Boger. It will then join the official catering motorcade and make its way to the Commander in Chief’s Ball at the museum.

Because the Commander in Chief’s Ball honors the five branches of the armed forces, the cheesecake is patriotically decorated with red, white and blue stars and stripes, a chocolate version of the official inaugural seal, and seals representing the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and the Coast Guard.

Appropriately, the list of ingredients required for the cheesecake reads like a requisition slip from the cafeteria of an army base, including 100 pounds of cream cheese, 30 pounds of sugar, 25 pounds of sour cream, 50 pounds of powdered sugar, 126 eggs, 15 pounds of flour, 50 pounds of apples, 30 pounds of butter, four cups of vanilla, 15 pounds of brown sugar and 12 tablespoons of cinnamon.

Besides inaugurals, Eli’s has whipped, battered, and frosted for galas at home as well, including the City of Chicago’s 150th birthday celebration, The Chicago Bull’s championship party, and the White Sox’s World Series victory bash.

But nothing comes close to Obama’s historic inaugural celebration and Schulman says despite the recession, he expects the inaugural will boost business.

“It will have a ‘Super Bowl’ effect on us,” he predicted.

Eli’s is attempting to capitalize on the Obama frenzy, offering an inaugural-themed, nine-inch cheesecake that serves 16 and sports a white chocolate disk shaped like the state of Illinois. The price: $35.00.

And the price tag for Obama’s 500-pound cheesecake? “It’s priceless,” Schulman demurs.