Global superstar Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett headlined President Obama's Staff Inaugural Ball on Tuesday night at the Washington Convention Center, the final party of the 57th Presidential Inauguration. And the 500-pound cake created by Eli's Cheesecake Company of Chicago was the star of the menu: The magnificent creation had nothing else to compete with, save for pretzels and chips. The President and First Lady Michelle Obama arrived minutes before 9:00 PM, but Twitter was already abuzz with thrilled guests posting photos of the stunning cake, which was topped with a replica of the Capitol Dome that included the gold Statue of Freedom on top.
"My main job here tonight is really simple: It’s just to say thank you," President Obama told his guests, who numbered between 10-15,000. "All of you have come to represent for me and Michelle our deepest hopes for America."
The crowd at the Ball serenaded the President and First Lady with one of the campaign's anthems, Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours, and they also got a real taste of Sweet Home Chicago. The cake was so tall that Eli's executive pastry chef Laurel Bolger needed a stepladder to place the Statue of Freedom on top of the Dome.
"We're very proud, since the President is from Chicago, and so many staff are too," company president Marc Schulman, son of founder Eli Schulman, told Obama Foodorama.
"It is very meaningful. There are so many events, and we're honored to play a small role."
Baked at Eli's Chicago headquarters, the gargantuan cake was covered in 100 pounds of buttercream frosting, with the layers alternating between chocolate chip and "original plain" cheesecake, Eli's most popular flavors.
The behemoth used 155 pounds of cream cheese, 50 pounds of butter, 45 pounds of sugar, 40 pounds of sour cream, 20 pounds of flour, 15 pounds of chocolate chips, 5 pounds of powdered sugar, 20 dozen eggs, and two cups of Madagascar vanilla, in addition to the 100 pounds of buttercream frosting.
The cake also featured a blue and white Presidential Seal and gold stars, and today Bolger added the words "Obama" and "Biden" to the seal as she put the finishing touches on.
Other Eli's cheesecakes were also offered to the guests, who were White House and Administration staff, Obama for America staff, and Presidential Inaugural Committee staff. Proceeds from the $10 ticket sales go to a memorial fund in honor of Alex Okrent, a Campaign staffer who collapsed and died at the Chicago campaign headquarters last July.
Monday, Inauguration Day, would have been Eli Schulman's 103rd bithday, Schulman said, so he was especially proud.
A culinary icon in the Windy City, Eli's has been selling cheesecake since 1980 when the senior Schlman started offering the treat at his legendary Eli's The Place for Steak, and has provided cakes for three other inaugurations, including for President Obama's first, when they created an extravaganza for the Commander-in-Chief's Ball (that honor this year went to Duff Goldman's Charm City Cakes). Both of President Bill Clinton's inaugurations, in 1993 and 1997, featured Eli's cheesecakes. (Above, Bolger holds the Statue of Freedom)
After baking the cake in Eli's Chicago headquarters, Bolger departed on Monday afternoon and drove with the cake overnight the more than 700 miles to DC, arriving this morning to get to work at the Convention Center.
President Obama was already an Eli's fan: He proudly posed with a chocolate-covered Eli's cheesecake created for President Abraham Lincoln's Bicentennial Birthday Banquet in February of 2009, in Springfield, Ill.. The President gave the keynote, and dined on the cheesecake with the many guests. Mini versions of the centerpiece cake were topped with edible Lincoln pennies, and there was also a cheesecake in the shape of Lincoln's humble childhood home.
The other Inaugural Balls...
On Monday night, the President and Mrs. Obama attended the only two other official inaugural balls, The Inaugural Ball and The Commander-in Chief's Ball, where they had their first dance of the second term, as Mrs. Obama wore a custom-made, ruby-red Jason Wu gown, anointing the young designer for a second time. Those Balls were also star-studded, with Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder, John Legend, fun., Chris Cornell, Smokey Robinson and a host of other stars performing. (Above, a long shot of the Staff Ball crowd as the President and Mrs. Obama stood on stage)
After, the President and Mrs. Obama partied until well after 3:00 AM at the White House at their own private, closed-press after party, where guests included Cabinet Secretaries, Members of Congress and more stars: Beyoncé, Katy Perry, John Mayer, Kelly Clarkson, Alicia Keys and her husband Swizz Beatz, actress Ashley Judd, singer Eric Benet, John Legend and his fiancee, model Chrissy Teigen.
Eli's ships their cheesecakes and other desserts around the US; the website is here.
*Photos courtesy of Eli's Cheesecake Company