Gabi Jakelyte, owner of Gabi Bakes Cakes, has come a long way since she used to hang on to the apron strings of her grandmother in the family kitchen in her native Lithuania. Now she makes some of the most amazing confectionary creations in County Kerry… Here she tells us about her new life in the Reeks District

If you’ve been to a wedding in Kerry recently and the cake was both beautifully designed and delicious to eat, there’s every chance it was made by Killorglin’s cake-maker extraordinaire, Gabi Jakeltye.

Originally from Klaipeda, Lithuania, Gabi arrived in Killorglin in May 2018 with her partner Dave Ryan and two children Rosie and Logan, after a stint running her own cake-making business over the water in Kent… But it was those early days growing up in her homeland that her love of cooking first took hold and set her on the path to becoming a star baker.

“Ever since I could see over the countertop, I loved spending time in the kitchen with my grandmother, watching and learning from her as she cooked and baked my favourite childhood desserts,” she recalls with a smile. “I’ve been in love with food ever since. There is something so special about the experience of stopping, sitting down and being in the company of cherished family and friends and sharing food and conversation.”

While Gabi knew she wanted to work in food, it took her awhile to find her niche: “When I discovered the creative side of baking, everything changed. My kitchen became a mad scientist’s lab as I tried and failed and tried and failed again. Thankfully, I was able to learn from my mistakes and soon things began to come together.”

Gabi and her family moved to Kent after a few years in London. “As a family we wanted a slower pace of life and the English countryside seemed like a great place,” she recalls, but the family’s love of Ireland soon took over. “We’d always holidayed in Kerry though and fell in love with the place straight away. We tried to come back as often as we could and always dreamed of moving over. In 2018 everything finally fell into place and we took the jump. Change is always scary but it was the best thing we did.

“There are so many things I love about the Reeks District,” she says passionately. “The beauty of the area, the cleanliness of the towns and the pure air – it’s the kind of place I wanted my family to grow up. If I had to pick just one thing though, it would be the people. I don’t know if the area attracts such happy lovely people or if living here makes everyone so happy and lovely. Either way it’s something unique that I’ve never found anywhere else.”

When Gabi isn’t creating in the kitchen, she mostly loves to spend time by the rivers or ocean. “I love the ocean and the water, living here gives me so many opportunities to spend time near them. My house overlooks Castlemaine Harbour and the River Laune runs through Killorglin where I work, so I’m surrounded by water. When I get the chance, I love to visit the beach – swimming in the sea or just walking along the shore listening to the wind and the waves, it instantly relaxes me and invigorates me. We are so lucky to live near some of the cleanest waters in Europe, and I make sure my family and I get to jump in whenever we can.”

When the fun’s over, it’s back to the kitchen ready for her to design, bake and sculpt another masterpiece ready for the next wedding or huge family celebration. Gabi Bakes Cakes… the rest of us are simply lucky enough to eat them!

Gabi recommends

Kerry Canoe Club 
My other half is a member of the canoe club and he loves it. I’m also thinking of joining so I can get even closer to the water.

Chill-out time
It’s incredible how laid-back and relaxed everyone is here. No one worries about the little things and taking your time is expected. It took me a while to get into the swing of the local flow – there’s no rush in traffic or to hurry people along, things happen when they need to and there is no need to dwell on things you can’t control.

Jack’s Coastguard Restaurant, Cromane
If I was going to treat my partner, we’d head over to Cromane to this fabulous restaurant with fresh fish and amazing views.

Sol y Sombra
The best place for a night out and right in the centre of Killorglin. I go for the food… but I stay for the cocktails.

Read more stories from our Reflections on the Reeks series