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Sometimes a pie-in-the-sky idea becomes reality. In this case, it’s more like a cake in the sky! It all started back in the early 1980s. 

Publix had opened a dairy processing plant, a frozen food warehouse and expanded the bakery plant. To support the additional operations within this industrial complex, the company needed a new water system.  

At the time, Joe Blanton was president of Publix. Like founder George Jenkins, he was a visionary. In fact, it was Joe’s idea to build the dairy processing plant to produce ice cream, milk and other cultured products. This time, Joe had an idea for the design of the water system’s tank. It would be a three-tier birthday cake, complete with candles. Maybe he got the idea because the Publix bakery plant was across the street, or maybe it was because he liked Publix cake. Regardless of how he came up with the idea, it was one that made headlines. 

Construction began early in 1982, and Hydrostorage Inc. was the engineering firm that worked on the project. Two tons of welding rods were used to secure the tower that contains 2.25 million pounds of steel resting on 170 cubic yards of concrete. It stands 146 feet 6 inches high. The tank could deliver 250,000 gallons of water per minute. 

The candles on the cake tower generate a lot of interest. Each is 8 feet tall and weighs 250 pounds. There are 10 candles, each representing five years of Publix’s history. The 11th candle in the middle represents the years to come. Lights on the candles turn on at night, and the center candle serves as an aerial blinker. 

When construction was completed in December 1982, a dedication ceremony was held. Nearly 200 people gathered for the celebration including local and state officials, customers, Publix executives and associates. The vice president of Hydrostorage Inc. gave the tank its nickname, the hydrocake! 

During the ceremony, George Jenkins said, “The Publix Industrial Center represents another giant step in the progress of Publix. This is the result of hard work, dedication and foresight of Publix people working together as we move into the future. A special thanks to Joe Blanton for his tireless efforts, foresight and planning to keep Publix second to none.” 

At the time of its dedication, it was believed to be the world’s only water tower in the shape of a birthday cake. In 1983, the Steel Plate Fabricators Association selected Publix’s “hydrocake” for special recognition because of its unique design. The association presented a commemorative plaque to Joe Blanton and George Jenkins during a celebration dinner. Not only was a miniature model of the tower made for display, but a cake was also decorated to look like the tower.

So the next time you’re driving through Lakeland and think you’re seeing a flying cake, it’s just the Publix water tower.