The result is nothing short of spectacular. There’s carefully molded fondant to create the buckles and hardware on the luggage. There are tiny, luxurious details, such as a carefully crafted Louis Vuitton print on one of the steamers, and an intricately printed handkerchief. Some of the fondant layer is made to look like genuine aged leather, painted through a mixture of vodka and gel colours. It’s the type of project for which only years of experience in decorating can prepare you.
Jen Gray has been honing her skill at cake decorating since she was a kid. She got her start decorating cakes for fun when she was just 12 years old and, even when working as a medical transcriptionist and snowboard instructor, she crafted creative cakes on a regular basis. Eventually, she realized she needed to level up, and in 2012, with a business partner who has since left the business, opened a 2,200-square-foot space in St. Albert called Over The Top Cakes. It has since rebranded to Whisk Dessert Co., which offers a wide variety of treats and custom creations.
Given her extensive experience, she was prepared when the largest commission she had ever received came into her bakeshop for a private client. She was to craft a cake that resembled a pile of luggage on a luggage cart — true to size. “It was the most difficult cake I’ve ever made, 100 per cent,” says Gray. “It took the longest, it had the most planning, because… it was hard to figure out sizing, especially without the cart here.” Gray ended up working with a friend in Wainwright who owns a welding company, Davco, to create a cart that could provide structure and support for the cake. Due to the size and intricacy of the cake, designed by Robert Burg from Scottsdale, Arizona, it had to be assembled on site.
So, Gray and her team prepared the different components and transported them across the city to the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald for the event. “We rented a moving truck, it took us about two hours just to load it in, then about two and a half hours to set the cake up,” says Gray. “I was cutting dowel on site.”
When I ask Gray if she’d be willing to take on another project of that scale again, the answer is immediate — absolutely. “It was really fun. It was super stressful, but just because I wanted so badly to make it right and to have it exactly how they were envisioning it, and really wanted people to walk by and think it was just luggage, which happened,” says Grey. “It had to look authentic, so it’s all those little details that were really interesting to work at.”
This article appears in the July 2019 issue of Avenue Edmonton.