By JOSEPH FITZGERALD
WOONSOCKET – Pauline Dubois raised eight kids and that means a lot of birthday cakes have been baked in her oven on Cass Avenue over the years.
“I grew up with Pauline’s son, Mike, and she would also make cakes for all the neighborhood kids on their birthdays,” says Albert Beauparlant, co-chairman of the city’s upcoming 125th anniversary Main Street block party celebration.
When Beauparlant and co-Chairwoman Linda Plays were debating who would have the honor of baking the special 125th anniversary cake for tonight’s special cake-cutting ceremony and fundraiser at Ciro’s Tavern - the prelude event to the block party on Aug. 29 – it didn’t take long to come up with a candidate.
“Pauline was the perfect choice,” says Beauparlant. “Not only is she an extraordinary baker, she’s well-known in the city and her family goes back to the city’s incorporation in 1888.”
This is no ordinary sheet cake Dubois has made.
Made with more than 30 pounds of dry ingredients, dozens of eggs and enough fondant to fill a small swimming pool, the 4-foot by 3-foot yellow theme cake is an edible replica of the city map of Woonsocket. Bordered with a sweet butter cream frosting, the cake shows in remarkable detail the city’s five color-coded neighborhoods of Fairmount, Globe, Bernon and East Woonsocket, including all of the streets in those neighborhoods. Two separate smaller round cakes on either side of the bottom of the main cake show the city seal and the 125th anniversary logo.
Dubois, 81, designed the cake based on an actual color-coded map that was printed and made available to her by Scott Sanford in the Public Works Department’s engineering division.
The cake is big enough to feed a whopping 300 people and is expected to turn some heads at tonight’s ceremony and fundraiser, which begins at 6:30 p.m. and marks the actual date of the city’s incorporation 125 years ago. Mayor Leo T. Fontaine and City Council President John F. Ward have been invited to cut the cake and the plan is to serve up slices based on which neighborhood people live.
So, for example, if you live in Fairmount, you’ll get a slice of cake from the Fairmount section of the cake.
With help from her son, Michael, Dubois set out to work on the cake just after noon on Wednesday at American Legion Post #85 on River Street, which had a commercial oven big enough to bake the giant cake.
“I’ve made a lot of cakes in my time, but I have to admit I’m a little nervous about this one, and I’ll be very happy when this is all over,” Dubois said just before preparing to mix her cake batter Wednesday afternoon.
It took Dubois and her son upwards of 15 hours to make the cake, including six hours of baking time. And they did it all by hand with no electric mixers or any other modern cooking utensil.
Rather than go the easy route of a boxed sheet cake made by a bakery, Beauparlant and Plays agreed early on that they wanted the 125th anniversary cake made from scratch – and with love - by a baker with Woonsocket roots.
“What we’ve come up with is a beautiful cake made in the beautiful city of Woonsocket by a beautiful member an old-line family in Woonsocket with roots dating back to the city’s incorporation,” said Beauparlant, adding it was actually the family of Dubois’ late husband, Edward Dubois, whose city roots date back to 1875.
Dubois may have been nervous while constructing the giant cake, but it wasn’t the first time she’s done so. Back in 1968, when her children were members of a Naval cadet youth program, she was asked to make a cake replica of the U.S.S. Wasp, an aircraft carrier that was a cadet sponsor.
That cake, which was unveiled at the Cadets Ball at the armory on South Main Street, was more than five feet long.
“Each one of us owns a piece of Woonsocket in our hearts,” said her son, Mike, who now lives in Cumberland. “We’re hopeful that this 125th anniversary celebration will give people who live in Woonsocket, but are not originally from the city, a new sense of pride about what we’re all about. The city is going through some tough times right now and this is something we can all share.”
Beauparlant, a volunteer in the city’s 100th Anniversary, says more than 100 volunteers from city organizations, businesses, and committed residents are working on the Main Street block party to be held Aug. 29. The event, he says, will be different from the Main Street Block Party that highlighted the city’s 100th anniversary 25 years ago in that it will run the whole length of Main Street from Market Square to Monument Square, with eight stages of events along the route, and a main stage near the Stadium Theatre.
“It’s going to be a great time and chance for the city to come together and show just how special Woonsocket really is,” he said.
Follow Joseph Fitzgerald on Twitter @jofitz7