We concern ourselves so often with the intricacies of preparing food—three-part recipes, secret ingredients, the ideal equipment —but what if the act of serving a meal were even more complex than its creation? What if you spent three months developing an intense and intricate system for delivering a dish to your table? Then you’d be Joseph Herscher, the inventor and video maker who built one of the most elegantly designed Rube Goldberg machines I’ve ever seen. All to deliver him a slice of cake.
The machine, in all its multipronged glory, can be enjoyed in this video, which Herscher uploaded over the weekend:
What begins with Herscher enjoying a simple dinner of peas, corn, potatoes, and chicken devolves into a two-minute madcap mechanized romp around his dining table. There are spilled drinks and melting butter and bungee-jumping iPhones involved. All so that Herscher can, upon finishing his vegetables, enjoy a freshly cut slice of cake, with a cherry plopped on top.
Joseph Herscher runs a YouTube account where he broadcasts his marvelous machines to an audience of over 100,000 subscribers. In other videos, he devises a method for brushing teeth using a grandfather clock and an equally zany solution for replacing a broken light bulb. I reached out to Herscher, who lives in Brooklyn, to ask about his newest invention.
Valerio: Why do you consider this video your best work yet?
Herscher: This machine was the most challenging thing I’ve ever made, mostly because it’s so hard to use food in a machine (butter, peas, cake, whipped cream, and so on). Also they say never work with babies for a reason!
What part of the machine was the most complex to create?
The most complex part was the beginning, where a cup spills and rolls off the table, landing perfectly on a platform and allowing all the spilled juice to pour back in! This took me two weeks to perfect.
What kind of cake did you serve, and what’s your favorite type of cake?
It serves a pineapple upside-down cake at the end, which is one of my favorites. I’m also really good at making them now because I had to make 15 for the video.
To learn more about the making of this machine (plus how he got a baby to cooperate), check out Herscher’s follow-up explainer video here. It’s full of surprises.
What kind of Rube Goldberg machine would you like to have in your kitchen? Let us know in the comments.