35 years ago, Traverse City set a Guinness World Record for baking the largest cherry pie in history. Three years later, Traverse City lost that record to a small town in British Columbia, Canada. This summer, two brothers are leading an ambitious effort to reclaim the record.
Meet Dakota and Garret Porter, the ringleaders of the Big Pie project. Their mission? Bake a cherry pie measuring 25 feet in diameter and weighing approximately 50,000 pounds. If all goes well, the Porters and their many collaborators will host an event at the Open Space on August 6, where locals can stop by, see the record-breaking cake, and try a slice for themselves.
It’s going to take a lot of hard work to make this August event a reality — and not just because the Porters are going to need some serious gear to get around and bake their pie. For reference, 50,000 pounds is about the weight of a full-size fire truck, adult humpback whale, or F-15 fighter jet. It is also significantly larger than the cake Traverse City baked in 1987 to set a previous world record (this specimen weighed 28,350 pounds and was 17½ feet in diameter) and the one that a rotating group in Oliver, British Columbia, whipped to break the record in 1990 (which weighed 39,683 pounds).
Even beyond the size and weight of the cake, the Porters know they face a tough climb trying to bring a Guinness World Record back to northern Michigan. According to their calculations, the project would cost between $350,000 and $400,000 if they had to pay standard retail or service prices for each component, including $50,000 in cherries and an additional $35,000 for the stainless steel materials needed. in the pie pan. Even bringing a Guinness World Records representative to the Aug. 6 event — a necessary step to certify the record — costs $13,500, plus airfare and accommodation.
The good news, the Porters say, is that they’ve found plenty of partners to help them in their quest. This list of allies includes local businesses that have pledged to donate materials, ingredients or labor to help the cause, as well as corporate sponsors that have given guarantees of financial contributions. Jacklin Steel Supply Co. in Traverse City, for example, will design and manufacture the pie pan, while King Orchards in Central Lake will supply most of the cherries. Other key partners include Traverse City Tourism, Grand Traverse County Health Department, Ace Welding, Trison Engineering, Team Elmer’s, Cherryland Electric, Lamar Advertising and KRX Design.
One partner that has been particularly active in the project is Water’s Edge Sweet Tooth, the Traverse City bakery that is currently working to expand its standard cherry pie recipe into a jumbo version. One of the (many) Guinness requirements for a cherry pie record attempt is that the pie must have the correct proportions of all of its ingredients. “So you can’t just throw 49,000 pounds of cherries and 1,000 pounds of sugar in the pie crust and call it good,” Garret Porter laughs. “Everything has to be scaled appropriately. Water’s Edge Sweet Tooth strives to get these ratios correct.
The partnerships are so important that they have already wiped out the vast majority of the costs of the Big Pie project. “There are so many companies that want to help and be part of [this project]“says Garrett. “Just looking at the things we can’t get donations, like the raw material of stainless steel, we’re probably around the $75,000 mark for the funds we actually need to raise.”
In addition to material contributions, Dakota estimates that the Big Pie project likely has an additional $20,000 in guaranteed financial contributions from local businesses. To fill the remaining gap, the project team has launched a GoFundMe page and is continuing to reach out to other potential sponsors. But porters are also aware of the fact that they are short on time, especially since some of the biggest logistical pieces of the puzzle – from making the pie pan to booking the Guinness World Records representative – require at least one month. lead time.
“For example, we have to hand over the money we owe Jacklin Steel a month before August 6, and they need $35,000,” Garrett explains. “So we know we’re approaching some deadlines here, and we know it’s going to be close. We’ve been trying hard over the past few weeks to try to get the funding we need, and that’s certainly the most big hurdle. But the cake will happen regardless. Whether it’s this year or whether it’s postponed to next year, it’s going to happen.”
The Porters say they’re adamant about the record attempt this year for two reasons.
First, their intention is that the August 6 event serve in part as a charitable benefit. Based on attendance from the last time Traverse City broke the cherry pie record, the Porters estimate that 45,000 people would stop by the Open Space for a slice of pie. Based on a $5 admission price, the event could bring in up to $225,000 through ticket sales. Some of that money would likely be needed to pay off remaining debts to project partners or vendors, but Garret estimates the Big Pie project will still be able to put about $150,000 back into the community. These proceeds will be split between six local organizations – including For Love Of Water (FLOW), Cherryland Humane Society, TCNewTech, 22 2 None, Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center and Traverse City Tourism – as well as NMC Scholarship Funds for both. entrepreneurial and culinary students.
“Coming out of COVID, it seemed like a really good time to get those funds to these organizations because everyone has been hit so hard during the pandemic,” says Garret. “That’s part of the reason we’re pushing so hard for August 6.”
The other motivation to regain the world record as soon as possible? Good old fashioned local pride.
“We are the cherry capital of the world,” says Garret. “Anywhere you go in Traverse City you see cherry orchards or other signs of cherries. We kept asking, ‘Why is this record something we don’t have?’ It should be here in Traverse City, and someone should do something about it.
If the Big Pie project is successful and Traverse City reclaims its world record, expect to eventually see the 25-foot pie pan displayed as part of Rotary Square, the new park bound for downtown. The old record pie tin (pictured) is currently on display outside the Sara Lee Bakery facility on Cass Road.