Saturday, 21 February 2009

The Wills Memorial Building Disaster

The Wills Memorial Building is one of the tallest buildings in Bristol. Its sheer size and so-gothic-it's-camp attitude make it look like a typical Physics student made stone and square. The building is part of the University of Bristol which is celebrating its centenary this year. We could hardly let this event pass us, so we decided to celebrate 100 years of Bristol University in a way that only Cheffervescence can - with a 1:100 scale Wills Memorial Cake.


For the flapjack
  • 1.5 kg self-raising flour
  • 3 kg brown sugar
  • 3 kg porridge oats
  • 3 kg butter
  • 1 tin of golden syrup
  • 6 tsp bicarbonate of soda
For the rice-crispie cake
  • 500 g dark chocolate
  • 1 kg rice crispies
For "gluing" and decorating
  • 1 kg white chocolate
  • 2 kg icing sugar
  • yellow food colouring
  • many icing colours

Do some maths to ensure everything will be proportioned correctly.

Now bake 12 trays of flapjacks. This may take some time . . .

Slice out pieces of flapjack to the correct shape and build the base of the tower hollow and in 3 stages. Use white chocolate the "glue" the pieces together (it works surprisingly effectively as a binding agent!).

Fill the hollow centre with rice-crispie cake. Rice-crispie cake has an excellent weight to strength ratio because of its honeycomb structure.

Look on our works, ye mighty, and despair!

"Glue" the remaining flapjack layers together with white chocolate and cut into the octagonal shape of the top of the tower.

Ice all over with slightly yellow icing to mimic the sandstone facia of the building.

At this point we collapsed from cooking exhaustion, so the decorating had to wait until the next day . . .

By this point, the cake had developed a dangerous lean . . .

Unperturbed, we continued to decorate it to the best of our ability.

Until the final, terrible, awful, monstrous creation was complete.

Everyone's wanted to attack the Wills Memorial Building like some giant King Kong monkey-man. Now I had my chance . . .

The Final Analysis

  • Appearance - [2/5]: Well, looks kind of like the Wills Memorial Building. One person who we talked to got it straight off, whilst others grudgingly admitted to seeing a resemblance when prompted.
  • Smell - [2/5]: Lovely cakey smells were overwhelmed by the sickly scent of the sweet sugar icing.
  • Texture - [4/5]: Excellent crumbly flapjack. The rice-crispie cake was a little deprived of chocolate, though, and was consequently a bit too brittle.
  • Taste - [4/5]: Yum! Cake!
  • Adventure! - [5/5]: This required 3 days of baking and preparation. I doubt I'll ever cook anything as big again in my life!
  • Overall - [3/5]: A fun, but exhausting cook. The fact that the cake only vaguely resembled the Wills Memorial Building was a little disappointing, but despite this fact, the people in the Merchant Venturers Building finished eating this 13 kg mammoth cake in less than 2 days! Maybe that says more about engineers than my cooking skill . . .
Thanks to my housemates and the amazing photographic mad-skillz of Niall Oswald and Thomas Hinton. Thanks this time also to Thomas Cassey for driving the cake about and to Jamie McPherson for cake portering. A true team effort!


  1. Well this was an odd way to start my Monday. I take it you guys are Bristol (PhD?) students too then? Very odd to spot the Wills building in the top photo and then scroll down to find Tom.

  2. Not only that but Atheist people too!
    I foresee AASS bake-offs. Although doubtless thine skills will win out easily.

  3. That must have taken some eating. Good rice crispie cake facts though, I'll have to try and work that one into an outreach event. I think you've really got to make the clifton suspension bridge next with pink wafers and strawberry laces. I challenge thee.

  4. Yeah, we're Bristol PhD students. Seeing the percentage of Physics students who have commented, maybe I should remove the comment about physicists at the beginning.

    We're not sure what the next project will be, Emilie, but that's a good idea. Of course, it'd have to be a giant sweetie suspension bridge . . .

  5. I should add that no structural engineers were involved in the design or construction of this cake.

    Let this be a lesson - do not allow computer scientists or mathematicians masquerading as RF engineers build improbably large cakes. Wonkyness will result.

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