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Packy's birthday party packs a big cake

by: COURTESY OF THE OREGON ZOO: MICHAEL DURHAM - Packy the elephant marks each year with a cake prepared by the zoo's chef, like this colorful confection from the elephant's 50th birthday last year. Paul Bosch, the Oregon Zoo’s new executive chef, may have worked for Elephants Delicatessen before, but he’s never cooked for an actual elephant — until now.

“I’m really looking forward to making Packy’s 51st birthday cake,” Bosch said. “It’s always a little intimidating to cook for a celebrity, but we’re trying some new things this year, and I think he’s going to like it.”

Elephantastic, featuring Packy’s 51st birthday party, is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, April 14, and is free with zoo admission. Birthday cake for human party guests will be served at noon, courtesy of Lamb’s Wilsonville Market. Packy will get his cake at 2 p.m., and visitors can join in singing a birthday song to the prestigious pachyderm as he chows down. For more information, visit http://www.oregonzoo.org/events.

Elephantastic features games, crafts and elephant ears. Children can enter a drawing for a chance to help keepers deliver Packy’s giant birthday cake.

Humans can enjoy cake at Packy’s party, too, courtesy of Lamb’s Wilsonville Market.

Just before 2 p.m., a children’s choir from the Harmony Road Music Center will perform an original song for Packy in the Elephant Plaza picnic area, next to the sculpture garden.

At 2 p.m., Packy will receive his birthday cake.

“The Oregon Zoo is world-renowned for its Asian elephant program,” said Kim Smith, zoo director, “and Packy’s birth was the cornerstone on which this program was built. Packy has been inspiring people to care about elephants for more than half a century. It’s only fitting to celebrate the elephant who started it all.”

In 1962, Packy became the first elephant to be born in the Western Hemisphere in 44 years, and he’s held a special spot in his fans’ hearts ever since. Packy’s birth also helped scientists better understand elephants and opened the door to a new era in elephant welfare.

A big recipe

Bosch says he won’t take offense if Packy doesn’t take time to savor his offering. The cake — a 60-pound hay-based concoction, filled with veggies and topped with cream-cheese frosting and shaved coconut — usually gets gobbled up pretty quickly.

The chef has been working with zoo nutritionist Matt Brooks to create a cake that will be nutritionally healthy, flavorful and fun for Packy, as well as aesthetically pleasing. A lot goes into the cake:

8 pounds of low-fat cream cheese

2 pounds of softened unsalted butter

2 pounds of shaved coconut

5 whole coconuts

4 pounds of raisins

2 pounds of parsnips

1 pound of sweet potatoes

3 pounds of carrots

4 pounds of bananas

9 pounds of bamboo

25 pounds orchard grass hay.

The cake’s “candles” will be bamboo with carrot-stick “flames.”