On the enormous ground floor of the Pastelería Ideal bakery on Calle 16 de Septiembre in the centro histórico, there's an overwhelming selection of everything sweet that could possibly emerge from an oven: cakes, rolls, cookies, doughnuts, pastries and muffins. The smell of sugar is so overpowering that it alone could put a diabetic to the hospital. But if you follow your nose up a flight of stairs, you'll find a veritable museum of cake.
Six- and seven-tier wedding cakes, with green, blue or peach-colored icing. Cakes that weigh 240 pounds, can be divided into 1,100 portions and cost over a thousand dollars. Cakes that sport spurting, functioning fountains. Cakes that serve as immense platforms, atop which are staircases comprised of six progressively smaller cakes.
There's a section of white wedding cakes, in the midst of which you feel as if you were in front of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg after a snowstorm.
A few days after a notable earthquake in 1999 I visited the Ideal and asked if any of the cakes had fallen. "No," the woman at the cash register told me. "They just danced a little."