Before Brandi Romines could deliver the NCAA championship trophy replica cake she baked to Kentucky coach John Calipari on Monday morning, the Lexington resident had to endure one final nerve-shredding experience.
She had to get her creation to campus unscathed.
After laying the 22-inch high, 16-inch wide cake on a white sheet in the back of her SUV, Romines climbed in with it to hold it still for the entirety of the 20-minute drive. Her husband Shawn got behind the wheel, turned the air conditioning on full blast to prevent the cake from melting and drove so slowly and cautiously to campus other drivers were honking at him to urge him to go faster.
"My husband and I were both sweating bullets," Romines said. "It was nerve-wracking and exhilarating the whole way there."
The anxiety-ridden journey proved worthwhile later Monday morning when Romines got to surprise Calipari with her cake in person. The Kentucky coach walked into a conference room for a meeting and asked why staffers were holding video cameras because he didn't initially realize that the replica cake on the table wasn't the actual trophy.
"Everybody laughed because he didn't notice at first," Romines said. "I said, 'Coach Cal, while everyone else was busy burning couches, I was dreaming of making a cake. I wanted to do this for you to tell you thanks because we're so thankful.' He said he couldn't believe it was a cake. He kept touching it. It was awesome."
It's no surprise Romines was so wary about damaging her cake considering how much time she spent making it.
Romines, founder of Lexington-based Happy as a Lark Cake Creations, hatched the idea to make a cake in the shape of the trophy soon after Kentucky won its eighth national title earlier this month. Once she received permission from school officials to begin the project last Wednesday, she began gathering materials, printing pictures of the trophy and calling athletic department staffers to see if they could provide her with the exact dimensions.
Getting the cake to look as perfect as possible was so important to Romines that she spent 40 hours making it, working all through Sunday night to finish 5 a.m. Monday morning.
The oval base is made of cake. The structure is Rice Krispies Treats covered in modeling chocolate and fondant. The 11-by-5-inch glass section in the middle of the trophy is pure sugar melted with a blow torch. And all the lettering is hand-cut with a utility knife.
"It was a labor of love,"Romines said with a chuckle.
As a Kentucky alum and lifelong Wildcats basketball fan, Romines was honored to have the chance to meet Calipari in person. She initially assumed she'd merely hand the cake to an athletic department staffer to give to Calipari, so getting to talk with him and see his reaction to it was a great surprise.
"Just the thought that Coach Cal was going to see something I made and know that it came from me was so humbling," Romines said. "My hands were shaking as I was waiting for him. It probably took him 10 minutes to get to the conference room, and the longer it took him, the more nervous I got."
Yes, it was another nervous moment for Romines in a morning full of them. But for the chance to deliver a one-of-a-kind cake to her favorite coach, the stress was well worth it.
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