The bakery specialist at the Giant in Yardley competed against colleagues for this rare opportunity
By Samantha Bambino
It’s been one heck of a season so far for the Philadelphia Phillies. For the first time in forever, they’re practically unstoppable. But in the midst of hectic schedules and Bryce Harper fandemonium, the team is ensuring one beloved member isn’t forgotten.
On Sunday, April 28, thousands of baseball fans and a horde of local mascots convened at Citizens Bank Park to celebrate the birthday of the one-and-only Phillie Phanatic. Of course, festivities wouldn’t have been complete without a cake fit for the craziest green creature to grace the City of Brotherly Love.
To the Phanatic’s delight, a mountain of sweetness was rolled out onto the field for him to devour. The almost life-sized version of himself was depicted with a white chef’s hat, putting the finishing touches on his own Citizens Bank Park-inspired masterpiece.
The talented mastermind behind the creation was Levittown’s Andrea Gana, a bakery specialist at the Giant Food Store at 700 Stony Hill Road, Yardley, who earned this rare opportunity through a recent competition hosted by Giant, the official grocer of the Phillies.
Now in its second year, the decorating contest pitted 18 Giant bakery specialists from 15 stores against each other, each tasked with building a cake in honor of Philadelphia’s most beloved mascot.
“Each and every day, our bakery specialists create works of art for their customers to help them celebrate special moments,” said Dave Lessard, vice president of category management at Giant Food Stores. “This contest is the perfect way to showcase our talented team members while celebrating our passion for Philadelphia and, of course, our favorite mascot.”
The bakers submitted photos of their finished products on Tuesday, April 23, and a committee comprised of associates at the corporate office in Carlisle, Pennsylvania selected the top three cakes. Each was judged based on the following criteria: having the Citizens Bank Park logo, overall appearance, and relevance to this year’s party theme of “Magic.”
On Thursday, April 25, the finalists were posted on Giant’s Facebook page for the public to vote, marking the first time the contest winner was chosen by the chain’s social media following.
That Friday, only 30 minutes after the online voting period closed, Gana received the unprecedented call while decorating a cake for her in-laws’ 59th wedding anniversary. Though she was surprised at the news, especially given the tough competition from Allentown, Bethlehem, Souderton and other Giant locations, Gana was thrilled that her hard work and intricate concept paid off.
“The original idea came from, Giant has a lot of commercials with the Phillie Phanatic working in the store. He was working in the deli department, he was bagging and things like that. So I said, ‘I’m going to have him decorating his own cake and working at a Giant,’” Gana explained. “So that’s where the original idea came from.”
When Gana was informed that she was required to incorporate the theme of “Magic” into the cake, she crafted a container of “magical” frosting for her sugary Phanatic to use. Gana utilized Rice Krispies Treats to shape the mascot, and placed two cakes on either side of him.
Though the work resembles something off of TLC’s Cake Boss, unlike Buddy Valastro, Gana didn’t have a team of bakers and decorators at her disposal. She single-handedly drew from her decades of experience.
“I did everything myself,” she said. “Except for moving it. My husband helped me take it down there.”
A Giant employee of 32 years, Gana got her foot in the bakery door as the nighttime cleanup person. Over the span of the next three decades, she advanced to the roles of store manager and bakery manager, lending her talents to 10 different stores while obtaining her pastry chef degree. In October, when the Yardley location’s decorator left, Gana added yet another line to her resume — bakery specialist.
“I was the only one who knew how to decorate, so I’ve just been in the bakery again since then,” she said.
Gana participated in 2018’s Phanatic cake decorating contest as well, earning second place. Her cake was donated to Nemours Children’s Hospital. This year, her top spot finish was an honor not only for herself, but for her entire family.
“My kids were so excited,” she said, adding how they are ages 15, 13 and 7. “It was their first game and they got to sit in the Phillies box. They had a really good time.” ••
Samantha Bambino can be reached at email@example.com