Let’s Talk Waste

Much attention has been focused of late on the scourge of plastics in our oceans and environment, with dire consequences for future generations unless we take action. Living beside the sea, we see at first hand the waste that is routinely washed up on our little stretch of coast. Since last year my family has worked to take one small step at a time to reduce plastic use, and waste in general, in our home, each thing we eliminate is one less piece of plastic or waste in our environment.

It was inspiring to learn of the recent launch of a Green initiative in my local villages of Glasthule and Sandycove (the latter after which my own business is named!) aimed at tackling waste.  ‘Glasthule Sandycove Going Green’ sees businesses aiming to reduce waste, focusing on plastics first. Businesses signed up to the initiative are pledging to replace at least three of their single use plastic items with biodegradable alternatives in 2018. To coincide with this I have taken a look at my own business to see if I can further reduce waste.

Cove Cake Design is a small home based business who supplies clients directly. The direct delivery of the majority of my products, wedding cakes, to a venue means there is thankfully little to no packaging involved in these orders…I take back my transport box to use again. Cakes that are collected are packaged in cardboard boxes which can be recycled. In terms of my supplies, I try to shop for ingredients locally and seasonally (and in small quantities to avoid potential food waste), choosing products not in plastic where possible. Any food waste is composted (and I keep this to a minimum, carefully quantifying recipes so that there isn’t an excess) and anything that can be recycled is.

There is always room for improvement though and I have been taking further steps to reduce waste (even though some only small I think even saving one item from waste is an achievement!)

  • I am in the process of sourcing biodegradable cellophane for my cake samples in my sample boxes. This is one area of my business where I do us packaging and I hence need to minimise waste from this.
  • I have started using a washing up liquid that comes in a container which is made from 100% recycled plastic and can be recycled again itself.
  • I switched from antibacterial soap in a plastic pump bottle in my kitchen to an antibacterial soap bar that comes packaged in a box.
  • I have switched from purchasing plastic milk containers to tetra pak cartons which have a better water and carbon footprint than plastic.
  • I have discovered a farmer in my local market who takes my old egg box cartons to re-use to sell his eggs…even though I always recycled them before to have them re-used is a much better circular system!
  • I have reduced the amount of paperwork that I print, backing up certain files electronically that I used to print a hard copy of too.
  • I am determined to work with suppliers and make complaints where excess packaging is used in my orders, shopping elsewhere if necessary! (Anyone who follows me on Instagram knows how much this upsets me!)

I have been inspired by others and I hope this little post can inspire too. I also want my clients to have confidence in knowing that when they buy a cake from Cove Cake Design I am conscious of doing my best to minimise any waste produced in the process!

Suzanne x

 

Christmas Book List – A Few of My Favourites!

I have to admit that I have a little cookbook obsession, which in recent years has obviously been focused more on those related to baking and cake decorating. Despite the wealth of recipes and cake decorating information available online, I adore nothing more than browsing the cooking section of a good bookshop and selecting a beautifully photographed tome of recipes and tips to add to my bookshelf (Anyone else with me?!). Last week I indulged in purchasing Ottolenghi’s Sweet (I was meant to be shopping for children’s books but couldn’t resist!). I had been contemplating purchasing it since it was published and having enjoyed some of his savoury editions I was keen to try this one (it didn’t disappoint!).

It can be hard to decide whether a book will be worth it, sometimes it can languish on my shelf unused. With this in mind and given that it is now December, I thought I would share a few of my current favourite books (in no particular order!), for anyone wishing to create a little book list for Santa (!).

 

Sweet, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh

This book is a baker’s delight no matter what your skill level.  With over 100 recipes in categories such as cookies, cakes, desserts or confectionery there is something for everyone. The preface explains how the book came to fruition, outlining Ottolenghi’s ethos around sweet treats: as one of life’s little pleasures, to be enjoyed for all their sweetness on ocassion and as part of a healthy diet (a breath of fresh air in the current climate of so called ‘healthy’ treats filled with other sweeteners).

Unlike some of Ottolenghi’s savoury recipes with lengthy and unusual ingredients, the recipes and ingredients in Sweet are accessible and generally easy in method. Additionally, each recipe has an introduction as well as detailed information on preparation and storage of your finished baked goods. Bakers tips and a glossary of ingredients add to the wealth of information and a modern touch lies in the ability to access all of the recipes online using a unique access code.

There are the usual Middle Eastern influences in recipes such as Tahini and Halva Brownies and Lemon and Semolina Syrup Cakes. For me the Cranberry, Oat and White Chocolate cookies were given the thumbs up from the kids while the Pecan and Prosecco Truffles and Almond and Aniseed Nougat are on my list to make for Christmas gifts! It must be the Christmas gift that keeps on giving (!).

 

Maggie Austin Cake, Artistry and Technique, by Maggie Austin

Maggie Austin needs little introduction to many. Renowned around the cake decorating world for her pioneering techniques and style, her cakes are nothing short of works of art. Her sugar flowers alone are spectacular, exemplified by the awe-inspiring Christmas sugar flower arrangements she created for none other than the White House in 2014. Her first book, Maggie Austin, Artistry and Technique is a must for anyone who is a fan of her style. The introduction outlines her background (a ballet dancer turned professional pastry chef) and sources of inspiration (from art to architecture and nature), and includes key recipes as well as tools and tips required to use the techniques in the book.

Chapters  are designated based on her signature techniques, such as frills, textile, painting or wafer paper, with each chapter giving an introduction to the technique as well as project variations which often incorporate skills from other chapters too. Perhaps most exciting is the chapter on her signature sugar flowers, with detailed techniques and accompanying images for flowers such as rose and ranunculus, along with tips and tricks for arranging them.

For me, I simply love the photography and inspiration to experiment that lies in this book. The techniques are not necessarily meant as a formula to follow but rather as inspiration to dare to get creative. It is a beautiful tome, worthy of coffee-table status, for anyone to browse and admire no matter what your cake decorating tendencies!

 

Modern Sugar Flowers, by Jacqueline Butler of Petalsweet Cakes

Jacqueline Butler of Petalsweet cakes is world-renowned for her delicate and fresh sugar flowers in signature pretty shades of pastels and greens. Having taught through classes and online tutorials, Modern Sugar Flowers is her first book, and true to her style is a really beautiful collection of techniques for over 15 of her signature sugar flowers.

The introduction provides detailed information on sugar flower basics, such as tools and materials, before the collection of sugar flower techniques commences. Techniques for flowers from ranunculus, dahlia and roses to smaller flowers such as lilac and sweet peas, are all detailed, clear and precise, and are accompanied by step-by-step pictures. It can be difficult to follow sugar flower instructions from a book, sometimes oversight from a teacher is required, but Jacqueline’s techniques lack any ambiguity, meaning that you too can create something beautiful.

Jacqueline finishes her book with a series of cake projects, giving you the tools to arrange your flowers in various forms on single and tiered cakes.

Modern Sugar Flowers is technically comprehensive but with it’s fresh and pretty photography is also a delight to browse through. A beautiful addition to my bookshelf!

 

Secrets of Macarons, by Jose Marechal

For anyone trying to master macarons, this is the book for you! It was my bible while I tried to perfect them a few years ago and is still a book I revert to for recipes and tips. Much of the book is devoted to the ingredients, equipment and techniques, focussing on what exactly is required, the chemistry of the process and what can make things go wrong (which can very easily happen with these tricky little things!).

Recipes are divided into classic macarons, made using the Italian meringue method, and speciality macarons which includes one recipe using the French meringue method. Each recipe has detailed instructions as well as a selection of filling options for each flavour of macaron shell. I think I am going to try the Hazelnut version, perhaps with a chocolate orange ganache for Christmas treats!

 

Happy reading! And please share your favourites (I’m always on the lookout for something new!).

Mother’s Day Recipe-Orange Blossom Pistachio Shortbread with Pomegranate Glaze

I always love to have some cookie recipes up my sleeve, something that can be made quickly for an edible gift, or when expecting guests for an afternoon cuppa. For this recipe I adapted a simple shortbread base to incorporate the delicate flavour of orange blossom combined with pistachio, pomegranate and a sprinkling of rose petals..a favourite flavour combination! Delicate and pretty these would be perfect for Mother’s Day!

Orange Blossom Pistachio Shortbread with Pomegranate Glaze

Ingredients for the Orange Blossom Shortbread:

  • 150g icing sugar
  • 300g plain flour
  • 150g cornflour
  • 300g soft unsalted butter
  • 1tsp orange blossom water (or use finely grated zest 1 orange if you don\’t have this)
  • 100g shelled pistachios
  • 1 egg, beaten

Ingredients for the Pomegranate Glaze:

  • Juice from one pomegranate
  • Approx 300g icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp orange blossom water (optional)
  • Rose petals to decorate (optional)

Step 1: To make the shortbread, Place the pistachios on a baking tray and place in the oven for approx 10-15 mins until lightly toasted, shaking every few minutes to turn. Take care  not to burn. Place in a processor and pulse until coarsely ground. Scatter the ground pistachios over a baking tray or sheet of greaseproof paper. Set aside.

Step 2: Sieve the icing sugar, flour and cornflour together and transfer into a food processor. Add the butter and orange blossom water and process until the mixture forms a ball of dough.

Step 3: Remove the dough from the processor and divide into 3. Roll each piece into a log shape approx 4cm in diameter.

Step 4: Brush each of the shortbread dough logs with beaten egg and roll in the ground pistachio to coat.  Wrap tightly in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 mins to chill. (Note: the dough can be stored in the fridge at this stage for up to 24 hours before proceeding with the next step if you wish to prepare in advance)

Step 5: Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 160°C/325F.

Step 6: Remove the shortbread from the fridge and unwrap the cling film. Using a sharp knife cut the dough into rounds. Place on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment or a silicone baking mat. Bake for approx 15 mins until lightly golden. Remove the tray from the oven and leave to cool for approx 5 mins before gently removing with a palette knife to a wire rack to cool completely.

Step 7: To make the pomegranate glaze, sieve the icing sugar into a medium size bowl. Remove the seeds from the pomegranate and pour any juice into a separate bowl. If the pomegranate is not particularly juicy simple pulse the pomegranate seeds in a small food processor and pass the pulp through a sieve, collecting the juice and discarding the seeds.

Step 8: Slowly add enough pomegranate juice to the sieved icing sugar to make a smooth icing that is spreadable but not too runny. Add the orange blossom water and mix.

Step 9: To finish the cookies, spread the pomegranate glaze over each of the cookies using a palette knife. Sprinkle with rose petals and any leftover ground pistachio. Store the cookies in an airtight container. Best consumed within 2 days.

Storage: The cookies keep well in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

 

Five of our Favourites from 2016!

It is hard to believe that another year has passed! We have had a wonderful year of baking and creating cakes and are incredibly grateful for having the opportunity to work with our amazing clients. A big thank you to all who have supported us in 2016 and wishing you all a lovely festive period!

For our last post of the year we decided to have a look back at five of our favourite cakes from 2016.

1. Opulence

What started as a delicious towering blank canvas became a rich and sumptuous cake with the help of some beautiful deep blooms from Appassionata Flowers, gilded fruits and a splash of gold leaf. Set up in one of Virginia Park Lodge‘s cosy rooms, this cake formed the centrepiece for a delicious evening wedding buffet.

2. Blush Buttercream Roses

Sometimes simplicity speaks for itself. Classic smooth blush buttercream adorned with the most gorgeous of avalanche roses by Unique Flowers became one of our summer wedding favourites!

3. Dark and Decadent

Our client had a wonderful vision for this wedding cake, dark and rich to reflect the wild wintery surroundings of Connemara where the wedding took place. Three tiers of Guinness Chocolate cake coated in chocolate ganache, trimmed with gold leaf and adorned with dark winter fruits. This one begged to be eaten!

4. Rustic White and Green

This cake epitomises the effectiveness of a simple palette, a perfect setting and beautiful styling. A rustic white iced cake adorned with fresh greenery and accompanied by marshmallows and macarons, was surrounded by foliage and soft candlelight. Set against a rustic stone backdrop with those amazing floral hoops by the Wedding Festival, this cake table formed a classically beautiful centrepiece for the wedding reception.

5. Floral Monogram

I may be displaying a little bias in choosing this one, as this cake was made for my brother-in-law and his beautiful bride who were married in 2016. Designed around the monogram of their wedding invitations, I loved how the floral semi-wreath turned out. And I got to eat some of this one..!!!

Cascading Peonies and Ballyfin

 

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Every once in a while a cake deserves a little more attention than a photo and quick mention on Facebook and Instagram. I’m sure all cake decorators can recognise the delight when the loveliest of clients walks through your door with a fabulous vision for their wedding cake, a stunning venue and a dream team of suppliers lined up. Such was the case for a recent order for a peony cascade cake at Ballyfin.  

The design and stature of the wedding cake was in no doubt influenced by its final setting in the palatial surroundings of Ballyfin Demesne. Built in the 1820s, Ballyfin is probably Ireland’s finest regency mansion and I have to confess that I had been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to visit due to a little bit of personal interest…for much of the 20th century Ballyfin was run as a boarding school which was attended by my father in the 1960s. The eventual closure of the school led to a state of disrepair before an eight year restoration project resulted in it’s reopening as a luxury 5 star hotel in 2011. And it is not hard to see where the eight year’s went….the interior is breathtaking. From stunningly restored architectural detail to sumptuous furnishings and fine artwork, it is a luxurious step into another time and place. Quietly exclusive it caters to around only 10 weddings per year.

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(Images courtesy of Ballyfin.com)

The cake itself was from an original design by the fabulously talented Peggy Porschen, a design that my client had fallen in love with on a visit to the famous cake parlour in London. Four tall tiers were swathed in a sugar peony cascade matching the shades of pink in the bridal bouquet.

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Being displayed in the Rotunda room at the heart of Ballyfin, the cake was to be a centrepiece to be viewed while guests mingled over welcoming drinks (before of course being tucked into later!). A key to this design was therefore to ensure that the cake was of equal beauty when viewed from all angles, hence the continuation of the floral cascade around the back of the cake and neat little bows to hide the joins of the ribbon. The final flourish was to be a base of fresh roses and peonies by the amazing Joeanna McCaffrey flowers, sadly I had to leave before seeing this final detail in situ so I can’t wait to see the final photos!

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People have asked how many hours it takes to make sugar flowers and to be honest I lost track of these! Made over several weeks whenever I had time, over 700 peony petals were cut, veined and shaped, along with an array of peony buds, stephanotis, buds and leaves. Fixing the flowers on the cake took nearly four hours! It was my first time working with this many flowers and I was thrilled at the outcome of the challenge.

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My final glimpse of this cake  through the ornate doors of the Rotunda would be the first view seen by the bride and groom and their guests. I hope that this view, and the luscious layers of Guinness Chocolate and Lemon Coconut Raspberry cakes to be served later that evening, were well received!

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Choosing Wedding Cake Flavours

 

With many of our 2016 brides and grooms in the process of choosing their wedding cake flavours I thought I would write a little post to take a peek inside our cakes and offer some tips on flavour choices!

Our Cakes

Our ethos at Cove Cake Design is first and foremost to create delicious cakes for all to enjoy. Yes we love to decorate in our own unique style but the foundation of this is simply yummy cake!

Each of our recipes is chosen to reach our essential and strict standards for wedding cakes: interesting flavours; visual appeal; moistness; ability to stay fresh; and finally, ability to be cut neatly into portions. And it doesn’t end there…we take time and care to level each layer to exact measurements before syruping and generously filling with buttercream, with the final cake containing four layers of cake, three of filling and measuring 5″ high. Cakes are then coated according to design in a buttercream finish, or in a layer of ganache prior to a thin 3mm of fondant icing. It is only after several hours of work to create a perfect cake that the decoration can begin!

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Our Flavours

So what is on our menu! We have recently edited and perfected our menu to incorporate eight delicious and crowd-pleasing favourites. We do believe every one is a winner!

Top L-R:

Dark Chocolate and Raspberry; Lime White Chocolate and Pistachio; Orange, Almond and Rosewater; Lemon, Coconut and Blueberry; Apple Caramel, Brown Butter Icing and Blackberrry

Bottom L-R:

White Mocha and Irish Whiskey Sea Salted Caramel; Guinness and Caramelised White Chocolate; Champagne and Strawberry

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Cake Flavour FAQs!

And finally some answers to those most frequently asked flavour questions:

Can I have a different flavour in each tier?

Yes of course. Do bear in mind though that as the tier sizes get smaller there will be fewer portions of these flavours. So for example for an 8″/6″/4″ cake the portions will be 40/20/10. In this instance a separate flavour in the 4″ tier only gives 10 portions so I would recommend a total of two flavour choices, one for the base tier and one for the two upper tiers giving a relatively even spread of portions for each flavour.

What flavours I should choose?

I always firstly recommend to choose your own personal preferences! Secondly, it is worth bearing in mind what season your wedding will take place in, so for example Lemon, Blueberry and Coconut is a lovely Spring/Summer flavour while Apple Caramel, Brown Butter and Blackberry is perfect for Autumn weddings. Lastly, most couples choose one chocolate flavour for all the chocoholics amongst their guests (!) as well as their favourite sponge flavours.

What are your most popular flavours?

Guinness and Caramelised White Chocolate is a clear favourite (and a great one for the male guests!), as is the celebratory Champagne and Strawberry!

Do you cater to special flavour requests?

Of course! We know our flavours work but we are happy to discuss your particular requirements or preferences. That is what bespoke cake making is about!

Anything else to consider?

If you are opting for a naked or semi-naked buttercream finish bear in mind how the exposed layers will look for each flavour. Also bear in mind any allergies amongst your guests.

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For further details on our menu see here!

 

 

Styling and Displaying your Wedding Cake

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The display and styling of your wedding cake is something that I ask all my clients to consider. After many months of work, it is worth making that last little effort to ensure your cake is a stunning centrepiece and a talking point for your guests. For those on a budget, it is also a way of keeping costs down by opting for a simple cake while using inexpensive decorative flourishes to display it beautifully.

I recently had the pleasure of working with Betty from Lulabelle Wedding Styling and Design to create cakes for  a wedding in the gorgeous surroundings of Tankardstown House. Her styling of our cake and sweet treats on this stunning table are a perfect example of how to successfully display your cake! The ornate table, symmetrical display, simple background…and just look at those eye-catching antlers! (Photograph by Charlotte La Chaussee)

Here are some tips on what to consider in order to achieve cake table perfection like this!

Location

Do ask your venue or planner where your cake table will be located.  If it is normally assigned to an inconspicuous corner of the room don’t be afraid to ask for alternatives! The floral cascade cake in the image below was in the centre of the reception room, taking pride of place for all to see. Another nice alternative is to see if there is a suitable place in the area where your arrival reception will be held. This is often the perfect time for your guests to view, talk about and photograph your beautiful wedding cake. Also consider practicalities of location such as keeping your cake out of direct sunlight or heat, especially in the summer.

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Table

Many venues, especially period properties may have beautiful tables or sideboards which are a feature in their own right. If the cake table is a standard table do ask your venue or planner to ensure that it is stable and covered in freshly ironed linen.  In the image below, The Wedding Consultant turned an ordinary glass topped table into a glamorous setting for this cake by elevating the glass and filling the gap with beautiful fresh hydrangeas. Buying a tablecloth that complements your cake and theme is also another way of giving your table a wow factor, eg. glitter, stripes etc.

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Background

Think about the background to the cake table. If it is in front of a wall or curtains, will the colours or textures compete with your cake? How will it look in a photograph? Also be aware of anything unsightly that might come into field in your photographs, such as wires, speakers etc. In this beautiful styling by Style Serendipity at Horetown House, a plain wall with the texture of old stone and greenery of a floral wreath is a perfect backdrop for these cakes.  (Photo courtesy of Paula McManus Photography)

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Cake Stand

Many venues include a cake stand in their package for use by their clients. In many cases this is a traditional silver stand. Do ask to see it and request a polish if needs be! Is it an appropriate size for your cake?  Also consider whether a traditional silver stand is most suitable for your cake style. For example, milk glass stands such as that in the image below are modern and elegant, while wooden ones add a rustic feel. Ask your cake designer if they have any for hire, most of them have a large collection (otherwise known as ‘cake stand addiction’!!).

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Display and props

Betty styled this cake table using the antlers as the main prop, a nod to a deer farm once owned by the bride’s family (love a little story behind the detail!). Coupled with the ornate table this creates a stunning display for the simple, elegant cake. The amount of props needed will depend on your cake and theme, for example vintage-style cakes look beautiful with lots of flowers and quirky vintage props.

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Happy styling!

 

 

 

 

Botanical Glamour Styled Shoot

I was thrilled to have been approached by Lovebird Designs to design a cake for a styled shoot at the beautiful Kilshane House in Tipperary.  Kirsten, the Creative Director of Lovebird Designs, has a passion and talent for relaxed and elegant floral styling so I was unsurprised by her fabulous choice of ‘Botanical Glamour’ for the theme of the shoot.  Her moodboard was one of romantically trailing foliage, ruby pinks and of course a touch of gold.

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I always want to push my boundaries a little when designing cakes and having up until this point largely used single statement flowers in my designs, I decided to fully embrace the floral theme of this shoot. My design featured a base tier of edible gold leaf topped by two tall and elegant white tiers which were a perfect canvas for sugar florals. A ruby red sugar peony, pink sugar roses and various leaves and foliage were wired into a circular wreath which reflected the trailing foliage and florals of the moodboard.

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Styled by Kristine the shoot was captured by Christina Brosnan of Brosnan Photographic and the results were breathtaking.

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Bridal gowns by Sharon Hoey, modelled by Saoirse Mc Cabe of Lockdown Models, hair by Hair Passion Art Salon and makeup by Linda Collins resulted in some gorgeous fashion shots.

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And what a setting in the orangery of Kilshane House!

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It was a delight to work with such amazing wedding industry professionals, thank you! For more images of this shoot see the gorgeous Hochzeitgeist wedding blog!

The Art of Cake

I have recently been organising and decorating my little home cake studio and had been in search of some art to adorn the walls. Fortuitously, I came across the beautiful work of watercolour artist Enya of Enya’s Art of Patisserie through Instagram and fell in love with her pretty paintings of cakes, cupcakes and french patisserie.  Turning cake art into actual art..how exciting!

After approaching Enya I commissioned paintings of two of my cakes which we agreed would translate well into this style: my naked chocolate cake with fresh berries and one of my favourites, chocolate drizzle and pink peony.

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Enya updated her instagram feed with exciting progress shots of her work…(!)

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I was thrilled to receive the final prints which will imminently be framed and proudly hung in my little studio!WATERCOLOUR_42 (2)WATERCOLOUR_43 (2)

Take a look at Enya’s page for more pretty paintings of yummy cakes!