HOUSTON — A big mouth? He had that. But big enough to eat a heavyweight champ-sized prize?
The date: January 17, 1967. The occasion? Muhammad Ali's birthday. He’s in Houston training for a title fight. To celebrate the champ turning 25, officials from the Astrodome present him with a colossal cake.
“I haven’t seen one that big in all my life,” Ali tells reporters at the scene.
Four feet wide and two feet high, it weighs 578 ½ pounds! It's made with 1,500 eggs and 150 pounds each of flour, sugar and butter. It’s also topped with 120 pounds of buttercream icing.
Wait, haven’t we done a cake story like this before?
Yes, for Willie Mays’ birthday, which was a year later, in 1968. It weighed a little less than Ali’s: 569 pounds, one pound for each home run Willie has hit in the majors.
Two enormous cakes.
One creative baker: Roland Lanz, now 88, the founder of Roland’s Swiss Pastry & Bakery in Houston, famous for its Hansel and Gretel houses.
Roland recalls Ali’s cake took “two days” to make and the bill was $400 (which is around $3,400 today). “Muhammad, he was really nice with me,” recalled Roland in an interview earlier this year with KHOU 11 News.
Featured in nearly every newspaper in the country, the cake ignites “ham” in Ali, who jokingly wonders if his opponent, Ernie Terrell, is hiding inside.
Ali also offers a large piece to Roland’s daughter, Sylvia, who was just 5 at the time.
“I'm pretty sure that I was a little shy and just kind of backed up and refused the cake, which my dad probably was horrified (by),” she said.
Ali’s trainer is mortified by all the cake’s frosting. He insists that Ali not eat that part - for training reasons, of course.
A heavyweight champ-sized cake for Muhammad Ali. A strange but true Houston sports story.