Big Food
John McLemore raises his hands in triumph after the tank-shaped cake shoots confetti onto the crowd, while his brother Don is perched at the top of the strawberry shortcake. The McLemore built the cake in three days with the help of hundreds of workers and volunteers. The challenge was the basis of the TV show Big Food's pilot episode.

FORT BENNING, Ga. (May 16, 2012) -- Columbus brothers and co-owners of Masterbuilt Manufacturing, John and Don McLemore unveiled a cake the shape and size of an M1A2 Abrams tank Thursday at the basic training graduation of two Armor units on Harmony Church. Part of the pilot episode of a TV show called Big Food, the McLemores constructed the strawberry shortcake in three days. They said it's a tribute to Soldiers.

"This was difficult," Don McLemore said. "It was more than just baking a simple cake. We made one that's 32 feet long, 12 feet wide and 9 feet tall. So putting all that together took us three days and a ton of manpower. We probably had 500 plus people working on this project. But you know what kept us going? Knowing that we had to get it here to graduation to celebrate them. It was very much worth it."

After the ceremony on Brave Rifles Field, where 170 graduates from the 194th Armored Brigade were officially recognized as tankers and scouts, Soldiers, Families and friends were invited to enjoy some cake and watch as the giant pastry rotated and then fired a round -- of confetti.

Brig. Gen. Thomas James, commandant of the Armor School, called it a "mission accomplished."

John McLemore said he asked James May 7 for permission to build the cake on post. With his request granted, he started construction.

"Like building a house," he said. "Brick by brick, we baked cake. We had cake brought in. We put on the jam. It acted like mortar and held it all together. We put on the icing for displaying it and tried to airbrush it. And we got us a full-scale Abrams tank in three days."

The finished piece was placed between two real Abrams tanks for comparison.

"It made it a lot more unique compared to every other graduation," said Pfc. Dennis Breazeal, who experienced the unveiling along with his parents and girlfriend, from Utah, and his grandparents, from California.

"It was a blast, definitely more than I expected," he said. "I'll remember all of it -- something I will tell my grandkids."

The commanding general of Fort Benning, Maj. Gen. Robert Brown, thanked the crew for their involvement in the project.

"This is fantastic," he said. "It's terrific for the support of the Soldiers. We're just very proud."

The McLemore brothers, in turn, thanked the graduates.

"I loved the troops before I came. I love them even more," John McLemore said. "So I've got a whole new appreciation. I tell you one of the proudest moments of my life was when I stood up there today and presented this -- acknowledging exactly what our troops do for our country."

Don said seeing the smiles on the graduates' faces was "incredible."

"My wife's father is retired Army," he said, "so he's told me the stories. My dad is Navy. I personally have not been in the military, but I have a deep respect for the men and women of the armed services and what they do to keep us in a free country. There are so many people around the world who don't have that privilege. You don't take that for granted."

The pilot is slated to air in late July or early August on Country Music Television.

Page last updated Wed May 16th, 2012 at 11:37