Last Friday, a ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrated the arrival of the new 3T Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital. This MRI is not only one of the best in the world, but it is also one of the fastest and strongest for animals.
For the celebration, Ashley Mitek, instructor at the Companion Animal Extension Veterinarian Office of Public Engagement, ordered a custom designed cake to be given an MRI.
To perform an MRI on the cake, it had to be made with embedded items that could only be seen when viewed through the machine. Mitek explained, “Giving the cake an MRI is a great way to demonstrate how the machine can identify the different water densities of materials, such as the cake, icing, and various fruits.” The same technology will be used on animals as a diagnostic test.
Although unusual, performing an MRI on a cake has been done before at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. The inventor of the MRI, Paul C. Lauterbur, was a part of the faculty for more than 20 years. On his 70th birthday, the staff celebrated with a birthday cake that also had hidden slices of fruit that could be seen through an MRI.
The unique cake for event was designed to look like a dachshund. They are one of the most common dog breeds that undergo MRI testing because of their predisposition to spinal disease. Constructing with layers of cake and buttercream, the pastry chefs inserted ‘surprises’ that were only visible with the MRI. Guests were excited to get a glimpse of a heart made from an almond macaroon, the brain represented by half of a key lime, the backbone made from baby carrots, and the dog’s eye in the form of a red grape. There was even a Milk Bone inserted to represent the dog's bones.
The specialty-designed cake ended up being roughly a foot and a half long – similar to the size of a real dog.
University Dining pastry chef Curtis Nesler and assistant pastry chef Sheila Albers were in charge of constructing and designing this unique confection. Albers said “This cake was exciting for us to make because it represented a challenge. It’s not something we typically do, so it was exciting to see it coming together.” Although it was definitely an unusual request, their biggest challenge was cutting the cake to the correct shape so it resembled a dog.
Because the dachshund cake was put through an MRI, a second sheet cake was brought out to safely feed the guests in attendance. The Veterinary Teaching Hospital is excited to move forward with their new MRI, and the ribbon-cutting ceremony with the custom cake was the best way to celebrate the continuation of their advancements in technology and leading research.