Gina Christie is one of Rangá’s most imaginative and artistic chefs. We caught up with Gina, who is also affectionately known as Cookie, and found out how she came to be a cake-maker extraordinaire.
How did you end up in Iceland?
I’m a freelance chef and I have traveled all around the world, cooking in some amazing places. While working for a private catering business in the UK, I was approached by a company that sends chefs to far out places like Russia and Iceland to work in salmon fishing lodges.
I originally came to Iceland during the summers of 1999 and 2000 and worked in the northernmost part of the island. I then returned in 2001 to open up a brand-new fishing lodge on the banks of the East Rangá river and Iceland has been my home ever since.
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What about your surroundings inspires you?
I’m an eight-generation African and love the open spaces of Africa. Iceland fulfills that hankering for Africa. It’s a country of big skies and absolutely stunning – I love its stark beauty. The seasons are very clearly marked here and it is amazing to see the changes from one to the next.
Many couples choose Iceland for their wedding, why do you think this is?
Obviously, having done a few “northern lights” cakes, it’s clear that they are a big inspiration for couples. Iceland is definitely a hot venue right now and I think that as people strive to find more and more unconventional places to get married in, Iceland automatically comes to mind.
When did you first start making wedding cakes?
In September 2015 I was approached by the wedding planner at Hotel Rangá, who had heard that I made cakes. I had actually never done wedding cakes before but she needed help with repairing some damage to a wedding cake. I had 2 hours to mend and make new sugar flowers to a three-tier cake and I managed it with the bride walking in as I placed the last flower. I got a phone call the next day, asking if I was interested in becoming the wedding cake baker for Hotel Rangá. The rest, as they say, is history.
How do you translate your design ideas into cake form?
A lot of my designs are based on what the bridal couple wants. I love interacting with the couples personally – we send loads of emails back and forth with ideas for flavorings, color schemes, decorations, and so on. I try very hard to create the cake of their dreams and to obviously make it taste divine too.
What was the trickiest design you have had to make?
One of the most entertaining cakes I ever made was for a delightful Scottish couple who wanted a traditional Icelandic kransakaka (marzipan cake in concentric rings) but decorated with personal details from their lives. So, we had two penguins based on a John Lewis Christmas advert from a few years ago – obviously dressed in bridal finery – one puffin as a nod to getting married in Iceland and their three-legged rescue cat named Cheeky sitting on a tartan rug to show their Scottish background. It was certainly tricky to incorporate it all, along with loads of sugar flowers but it worked.
What are the most popular requests?
No single cake has been more popular than the others but the Kransakaka is one of the most popular ones and I’m often asked to decorate it with a waterfall of sugar flowers. Each cake is so different from the next and I love being able to do so many different decorations and designs.
What do you love most about your work?
I just love being able to bring dreams to life. Many times, I’ve been approached with very simple ideas but once they understand what I can do the design evolves into something much more interesting. My funniest one was a simple request for a very basic one tier cake with two roses on top. It ended up as three tiers with a huge waterfall of flowers cascading down the side, two puffins on top and hand-piped royal icing piping on each tier.
And finally, what is the most romantic spot in Southern Iceland?
It’s very difficult to choose the most romantic spot as everybody has their own idea of romance. If I had to choose, it would probably be the waterfall at Þorsteinslundur, either during high winter with snow and ice crystals everywhere or high summer with verdant green grass and sunshine. It is a spectacularly beautiful waterfall.
For further information about weddings in Iceland
Imagine South Iceland as a backdrop to your wedding photoshoot