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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 recently opened a dairy processing plant a frozen food warehouse and expanded the bakery plant. To support the additional operations within this industrial complex, a new water system was needed. At the time, Joe Blanton was president of Publix. Like George Jenkins, he was a visionary. In fact, it was Joe’s idea to build the dairy processing plant for the production of 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 working 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 has the ability to deliver 250,000 gallons of water per minute.

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What generates the most interest in the cake tower are the candles. Each candle is eight feet tall and weighs 250 pounds. There are ten candles, and each represents five years of Publix’s history. The eleventh 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.

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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!

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


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

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Have you ever seen the hydrocake in Lakeland?  If so, we’d love to hear what you think of it.


Jennifer B.

Written by

Jennifer B. has been with Publix since 1980, when she started working part time in high school. She has held positions of Assistant Director of public relations and Director of media relations, but her current role as the Company Historian is the highlight of her career. She loves sharing Publix trivia, telling stories about Mr. George and solving Publix’s history mysteries. In her life outside of Publix, Jennifer enjoys spending time with her husband and catering to the whims of their cat Jackson, who is master of all he surveys.

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