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The shared academic opening of ULB and VUB wasn’t lacking in memorable moments and stunts. There is no doubt, however, that the parade of birthday cakes that heralded the end of the official ceremony will come up in conversations between colleagues, friends and family in the next couple of weeks. One simply can’t deny that it was a sight to behold: 235 cakes, meticulously decorated with every single year that marked the history of the two universities. A fitting representation of the close bond between ULB and VUB and their shared journey.
Aan hoogtepunten geen gebrek tijdens de gedeelde academische opening van ULB en VUB. En toch zal de stoet aan verjaardagstaarten die aan het einde van de ceremonie zijn intrede maakte de komende weken meer dan eens deel uitmaken van gesprekken onder collega’s, vrienden of met het gezin. Want het was toch wel een zicht: 235 verjaardagstaarten, stuk voor stuk versierd met zwierig neergepende jaartallen. Een symbool voor de hechte band tussen de twee zusteruniversiteiten en hun 50- en 185-jarige bestaansgeschiedenis.
50 years + 185 years = 235 cakes
It came as a surprise. The moment where the VUB orchestra started to play happy birthday while a truly massive birthday cake made its way onto the main stage, moments after rector Caroline Pauwels and rector Yvon Englert had finished their plea for more cooperation and his majesty the king handed over the awards to a couple of deserving students. Both rectors expertly cut the cake, after which 12 medieval boards carrying more than ten birthday cakes each were placed next to the blue catwalk near the VIP seating. A sweet surprise of 235 birthday cakes, the sum of 185 years of ULB and 50 years of VUB.
Under no circumstances could we let our guest of honour leave the Parc du Cinquantenaire empty-handed, so we gave his majesty the king a supersized version of the birthday cakes to share with his family. The symbolism behind the parade is crystal clear: VUB and ULB are pulling out all the stops to celebrate their anniversary year.
“They taste even better than they look”
Of course the cakes were more than celebratory props. Befitting a grand birthday celebration, the guests were all invited to claim a slice of cake. Thousands of guests moved at lightning speed to the tables that were carefully stalled out to the side of the central square to get their hands on one of the 2340 slices. What is the crowd’s verdict you ask? If we are to believe the pictures that were taken during the symbolic moment, it was a finger-licking good surprise. To be completely sure, we asked Koji and Myriam, who came by to celebrate along with the rest of Brussels:
“They taste even better than they look. We both have a sweet tooth, so the moment the cakes arrived on the scene, we immediately started to count whether a second round would be possible or not”, says Myriam gleefully. “What she said”, confirms Koji, “those who couldn’t make it today will be sorry later on.” The symbolism behind the cakes was equally well-received: “The years written on the individual cakes make you stop and think about the remarkable history of both universities and how far we’ve already come. Honouring your roots and history is always a good thing.”
A look behind the scenes
During the course of the Academic Opening you could admire the result of weeks of planning and baking, but sadly, an attendee usually does not get to see what precedes these one-of-a-kind moments. Baked goods company Au Croquant is no stranger to demanding requests, but the eyebrows were raised ever so slightly when the details of the particular job were told. In the words of Martine Longeval, sales manager at Au Croquant: “It was no easy feat, but looking back on it, it was an amazing experience from start to finish. Mainly because of the constructive communication with the event team of VUB, excellent team work and precise planning. The result of the past couple of weeks’ hard work is something to be proud of: 235 featherlight bases (following our secret recipe), decorated with deliciously fresh strawberries and raspberries. Feel free to pay a visit to our shop in Jette if you could not attend the academic opening!”
You would like to see with your own eyes what went into the preparations? No worries, we’ve got you covered! Below you can find a slideshow of pictures that were taken during the finishing touches and wrapping of the 235 cakes.