It was a dream come true to have my sister Helen come and make Duncan and Olivia’s wedding cake. She kindly agreed to write up a guest post about the whole process and has graciously included all four recipes needed to make it. I can tell you that there wasn’t one piece left…it was that good!
Creating The Ski Trail Cake
by Helen Gonzalez
When my sister Kate called me three months ago to let me know about Duncan and Olivia’s engagement, I couldn’t have been happier for all of them! A week or so later she told me that Olivia, clearly the master of organization and making things happen, had already started working out the details to have the wedding in three months’ time and that Kate would be creating all the food for the three-day event. I knew Kate would need an extra pair of hands to make it happen, so I happily offered to fly out and have Kate put me to work. I had worked in kitchens and catering my whole career, so this was right up my alley.
Another week or so later came a text from Kate: “Would I consider making a wedding cake for about 50 people for the wedding?”. Kate knew that I was an ex-pastry chef, and I have certainly made many wedding cakes in my lifetime, but I’d been out of the kitchen for almost 20 years. Her message made me freeze for a moment. I hadn’t made even one simple birthday cake in years! Did I still know how to put one together? What if something went wrong? Did I remember how to fix a broken buttercream or ganache? Did I still have the skills to slice even layers of cake, or spread a smooth, professional layer of icing? Could I find the right recipes in my jumbled, old recipe box that was full of disintegrating index cards with faded handwriting? My trepidation was great, but this was my sister and it would be her son’s wedding, so I swallowed hard, took a deep breath and said, “Of course I’ll make Duncan and Olivia’s wedding cake!”
After some messages back and forth with Olivia about flavors and themes for the cake, it was decided that the cake should be chocolate with a raspberry filling and white icing. The theme was loosely two snowboarders on top and the cake in the shape of a ski trail. Hmmm. Haven’t done that one before but let’s give it a go. I knew I’d better do some practicing to get my old cake-baking chops up to snuff so I unearthed all my old equipment, rifled through my old recipes, turned on the oven and began!
Not surprisingly, pastry making skills are much like bike riding skills. Once you know how, it all comes back quickly, even after a long absence, and I really enjoyed the process of getting back in the baking game. Chocolate cake baked, check! Raspberry filling made and cooled, check! White buttercream whipped and ready for icing, check! Time to build the cake.
For someone who doesn’t ski (me), a “ski trail” and anything to do with skiing for that matter, is an unknown entity. My first attempt at what I imagined for the cake was much more of a ski jump. You know, like the one from the old ABC’s Wide World of Sports where some poor guy is careening off the side of the ski jump with Jim McKay narrating “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat!” I sent a picture and Olivia politely let me know that she thought the cake was cute, but not really what they had in mind.
She kindly drew me a picture of what a ski trail might look like, and things became much clearer. There were two more attempts at the cake, with each getting closer to the approved version.
I then mailed all my favorite spatulas and decorating equipment out to Port Angeles and arrived several days ahead of the wedding at Kate’s house to start the process of making the final cake, which turned out pretty darn nice.
Thankfully, the cake and the entire wedding weekend came off without a hitch and was greatly enjoyed by all. I’m so honored to have been asked to create the cake for such a special occasion, and it was a joy to see so many people celebrating Duncan and Olivia’s love with one helluva house party!
Duncan and Olivia’s Wedding Cake Recipes
Chocolate Sour Cream Cake
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
The cake consisted of one 10” bottom layer, and a 6” top layer. I also made an extra 8” cake which was frozen for a next occasion of their choosing. An extra 6” cake was used to create the “ski trail” meandering down the side of the main cake.
After baking and cooling, each cake was sliced into three equal layers. Then the building of the layers begins: