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Irene's Cakes by Design Are Almost Too Beautiful To Eat

By Pamela Sosnowski

There are cakes like the kind you make from a box found at any grocery store, and then there are Irene Maston's cakes. Since 2000 she has crafted concoctions that resemble a pint of Guinness, a shaker basket filled with apples, and even a semi-nude reclining woman. As the owner of Irene's Cakes by Design in Ludlow, there's nothing that she can't make. Her creations have won her multiple national culinary awards, and have been featured in Martha Stewart Weddings, Modern Bride, and People magazine.

"My cakes have been described as 'fabulously delicious; a feast for the palette as well as the eyes'," she said. "My attention to detail and skill level are what make my cakes please wedding couples, win competitions and get featured in national and local magazines."

Maston has always had affection for baking, and says she spent much of her childhood years learning all things cake from the woman she refers to as her other mother. After high school she attended The Culinary Institute of America at a time when it was one of only three culinary schools in the U.S. Remarkably, none of them offered a pastry program, so Maston decided to focus on classic cooking. After graduating with honors she continued to pursue her passion by gaining experience in various pastry shops.

She and her husband eventually opened up their own restaurant that included catering services. After making numerous wedding cakes and handmade chocolates for her clients she decided to launch her own cake business in downtown Ludlow.

"Over the past 17 years [it] has grown from making 25 cakes a season to making over 120 cakes per season," she said. "There has been an explosion in the interest people have with cake. The Food Network has elevated cake to 'star' status."

Besides the whimsical creations in her cake portfolio, Maston has made elegant wedding cakes draped in edible sugary vines and flowery blossoms, modern square shaped cakes, cakes with a Vermont theme (such as maple leaves), and more. Everything is made from scratch using fresh local ingredients. The bakery also makes designer cupcakes and dessert buffets. If a customer has a special request, chances are she can accommodate it.

"A few years ago I was asked to make a semi-nude female figure for a 50th birthday party," she said. "I named her Jezabelle! Then a month later I made another figure, the Norwegian reclining statue of Aphrodite, but the husband requested the face be his wife! I like when clients have imagination beyond something they have already seen on Pinterest."

When she's not manning the kitchen of her Ludlow bakery, she's entering, and usually winning, cake competitions. As just one example, her striking Art Deco themed cake was a grand prize winner of the 2013 National Capital Area Cake Show.

"There is so much to learn through competing," she said. "Now I teach and judge at the cake shows. I also still take classes; knowledge is a good thing to have."

She teaches cake decorating classes at her bakery that specialize in fondant, gum paste flowers, and covering a cake with a lace design.

"I offer beginner to advanced level classes," she said. "Most students want to learn new techniques and learn from someone who can show and give them advice on how to perfect their abilities."

They probably can't do better than someone whose creations truly take the cake.

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