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Eric Hollinger's Archaeology Cakes

Smithsonian archaeologist Eric Hollinger made a cake for his office Christmas party in 2004. Hollinger is an archaeologist at the Smithsonian Institution. He went a little over the top and made a cake for the anthropology department's holiday party that illustrated an existing archaeological dig, complete with a blue Jell-o pond. Hollinger didn't know he had started what would become a tradition. The next year, everyone expected another work of art, so Hollinger make a Haida Native American longhouse out of chocolate. Since then, he's provided cake replicas of a Viking ship, Chinese terra cotta soldiers, King Tut's tomb, and the recreation of Al Khazneh at Petra, Jordan, that you see above. That year he brought music to accompany the cake- the theme from the Indiana Jones movies.

While sharing the cakes is what the whole enterprise is about, Hollinger keeps the subject of each year’s cake a big secret until the party. Experts from around the world and his family and colleagues who help with the creation get to be in on the secret, but the rest of his colleagues are left guessing and eagerly awaiting the big reveal. Hollinger is already working on this year's cake and, as always, it is promising to be unique, educational and eye-catching.

If you want to see what sweet treat he has produced, make sure to keep an eye on the museum's Facebook and Twitter feeds come December 18. Even without the sugar high, it is sure to wow you and might inspire you to do a little research or baking of your own.

“Eric is so meticulous and careful with the cakes — similar to his research,” Burgess says. “It's a huge gift to the department and it's the highlight of our holiday party.”

I will try to remember to post the 2019 cake here when images become available. See some of Hollinger's past archaeology cakes at Smithsonian.

(Image credit: James Di Loreto, Smithsonian Institution)


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