Rose Cake. Easy & Impressive.



It’s hard to tell from the picture but this cake was a failure.

Fail.  Ure.

It all started on a Monday at 5:06 p.m.

Reader Christie mentioned in one of my Easter posts that her family ate Carrot Cake for dessert at Easter.  It was a revelation for me.  How had I not thought of this before?  I must have been thinking of other things my whole life.  Things I wrongly thought were more important. Like how to make a living, how to be a good person, how to inspire my fellow humans.  Sure these things were vaguely important but I  mean … CARROT CAKE FOR EASTER.    How could I not make room in my brain for Easter carrot cake?  There’s always room for carrot cake.

Wow.  I was such an idiot back in the olden days, 2 weeks ago.

Now that I had been enlightened I went straight to work figuring out how the hell I was going to convince my family that the standard Easter dinner we’d had for the past 25 years was gonna be changed.

Yes we’d still have Lemon Meringue pie, but the Cherry Cheese Pie was going to have to go to make room for the Carrot Cake.  My mother had inexplicably added creamed cabbage to this year’s menu. So now you know my mother is 80, because making creamed cabbage is the equivalent of showing your birth certificate or wearing those massive glaucoma sunglasses.

So I broke the news of the cake the way any coward would.  Text messaging.



She was never to be heard from again that girl who called dibs.  Weird.

I’m sure she’ll pop up somewhere, someday.  I’m not too worried about it.

So I got to make the cake which is a lucky thing for me because I really wanted to make the cake.  Which I did the very moment after I scrubbed and detailed my wood chipper.  That’s just something I like to do every once in a while after someone angers me.




Although Miss. Dibs was right about one thing.  The America’s Test Kitchen carrot cake recipe is good so I went with that one as opposed to my normal carrot cake recipe which belonged to the fella’s mother.  I would give you the America’s Test Kitchen recipe but as it turns out it isn’t online.   But to be honest with you a carrot cake recipe is a carrot cake recipe.

If you like carrot cake they’re all good.

And if you don’t like carrot cake you have my sympathies.  You probably like brussels sprouts.  You’re a weirdo.




The real reason for this post isn’t about the recipe anyway. It’s about the frosting technique.

I’m the one who broke with tradition and introduced the carrot cake to Easter dinner so the cake had to both taste and look impressive.  Plus it couldn’t contain brussels sprouts.  That was kind of important.

You’ve probably seen these loose roses piped on cakes everywhere from Pinterest to Wilton packaging.  I too had seen this technique and even though I’m not much of a cake decorator knew I had to try them.  I just had to.





And every single thing about this cake is impressive.

First off, it’s 3 layers.  A 3 layer cake is going to look impressive once you cut into it no matter what.  Just look at any food blog and they’re shoving a 3 layer cake into your face.  Not literally.  That kind of shenanigans only takes place on the creepy clown blogs.

What the food bloggers don’t tell you is that unless someone’s getting married, buried or blessed nobody needs a 3 layer cake.  A 3 layer cake is huge.  The slices, no matter how thin you cut them, are still big enough to spill out the back of a pickup truck.  Actually, as I was putting this cake onto the flatbed to transport it to my sister’s house for dinner, I wondered how much of it we would eat.

We had 13 people for Easter dinner.  Everyone had a slice of cake for dessert along with a slice of lemon meringue pie.  There was one piece of pie left.   And 75% of the cake.

So why was it a fail.ure.?  Well it wasn’t really but it was one of those things that if you’re the one who was making it you know what kind of a disaster it was.

You see to do this rose technique you have to have pipeable icing.  Icing you can pipe through a piping bag and will hold it’s shape.  Cream cheese frosting (the holy grail, there is no other, spit and hiss at anything else) is not pipeable.  A carrot cake HAS to have cream cheese frosting.

So the hunt began for a pipeable cream cheese frosting recipe.  I went to new friend, chef Signe Langford to ask her advice.  She said SWISS MERINGUE.  You need to start with a Swiss Meringue.

So I started with a Swiss Meringue even though I’ve never made one before.  A Swiss Meringue is a frosting that’s made by whisking egg whites and sugar in a double boiler.  It’s a cooked meringue as opposed to the regular meringue you’re probably used to which is just whisked eggs with a bit of sugar and vanilla.  That’s called a French Meringue by the way.

That part went well.  Noooo problem on the Swiss Meringue.

Now I had to turn the Swiss Meringue into a Swiss Meringue Buttercream.  Which means you add butter to it. Not sure how much butter you’ll need?  Just buy a cow and start milking.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream?  Check.

Now I just had to add the cream cheese for the classic tangy taste. I was fully expecting another Check!  I did not get one.

This is where things start to fall apart.

The first few blobs of cream cheese were fine.  But the more I added the more things started to look like … wrong.  They started to look really wrong.  Bottom of the garbage can wrong. Curdly.  Icky.  Like scrambled eggs.  My meringue had split.  If you’re a cook and you know what that means I’ll give you a moment to say a prayer for me.

So I heated up a bit of the mixture and reincorporated it into the meringue.  It fixed it.  Kind of.  But it was a bit warm so I stuck the frosting in the fridge to firm up then rewhipped it.  At which point it got even more curdled.  Off to Google.  Found 3 completely contradictory answers on how to fix it.  I tried all of them.  Plus a few more just to be safe.

It worked.  I no longer had a curdled mess.  I had a curdled, WATERY mess.  Any more mistakes and this frosting was going to be good enough to win first prize at a local fall fair.

What ended up helping was adding some warmed up meringue mixture to the mix.  I just scooped out a small bowl, heated it in the microwave for 15 seconds or so and added it back into the mixture slowly.  It helped.  Then I just let it keep mixing until it had returned to somewhat of a normal looking frosting.  I refrigerated it for 10 minutes or so and then started piping.

The actual rose piping couldn’t have been easier.  COULD. NOT. HAVE. BEEN. EASIER.  So what with the point of this entire post being how you can do this frosting I should now let you know that things turned into such a shit show that I didn’t take a single photograph of me doing the piping.

But that’s O.K.  Because I’d rather steer you towards the woman who invented the rose frosting technique anyway.  A blogger by the name of Amanda Rettke. She runs the website I.Am.Baker.

It was her little cake tutorial in 2011 that sparked a frenzy. Wilton is now teaching the technique in their courses and the rose cake is being sold in bakeries all around the world.

She’s humbled by it. I on the other hand would probably be incensed. Hopefully she’s getting some sort of compensation or credit for it.

The moral of this really, really, probably unnecessarily long story?

Almost anything in life can be fixed with little hard work, some ingenuity and occasionally …. a wood chipper.


  1. Julie says:

    Guess what? I hate cake. Hate it to the point that I did not want to have it at my wedding. And I think that frosting is what I hate the most about cake. I feel like you might as well just spoon sugar into your mouth. It’s gross.

    Well, my mom told me I had no choice in the matter, there HAD to be cake at the wedding. I ate the obligatory first bite. But that was it.

    The point to this comment? I love carrot cake. What? Yes. It is more dense and moist. I think that’s it. And I also like cream cheese frosting. But then again, I also like Brussels Sprouts. Weirdo.

  2. A**hole says:

    Cake looks great. But wherever did you get the pedestal ???

  3. Heather says:

    cake looks great and what an ordeal but that PEDESTAL! THAT CAKE STAND! WHERE DID THE CAKE STAND COME FROM?

    You make my day!

  4. Dominic says:

    ^^^^^^ Totally stole my idea.

  5. That icing is definitely lovely, but WOW what a beautiful cake stand. Where did you get it?

  6. Bonnie says:

    Ever notice how Brussels Sprouts eaters always want to get you to eat them? “If you just fix them this way, or that way, you will love them.” I have tried them several ways, and they still taste like Brussels Sprouts. Yech!

  7. Sarah says:

    Oh God Karen, I am laughing so hard. Love this post and can totally relate! YUP! Been there! But DO want to hear more about the wood chipper!?

  8. Bonnie says:


    I love your humor and your blogs. I love your creativity and your ingenuity. Mostly, I love how much you hate Brussels Sprouts. I do, too.
    I am curious about all of the steps for your icing. Do you have a recipe you can share, or do you think it would be too complicated to repeat?
    I found a recipe on a blog that would be perfect for St. Patrick’s Day, or any day for people who love dark chocolate and cream cheese: The Dark Chocolate Guinness Cake with Baileys Cream Cheese Icing.

  9. Kari says:

    I know! I can’t believe how simple it is! And I literally put it in the oven and came here. It was fate, haha.

  10. Kari says:

    I tried this on my cake (perfect timing to have a cake in the oven, lol) and I had to come back and say this is the most gorgeous, yet not super hard to do, cake ever… soooo luscious! Thanks for sharing!

    • Karen says:

      Isn’t it the least amount of work that gives the most amount of impact?! Can’t believe you had a cake in the oven, lol. ~ karen!

  11. Kari says:

    I love the roses! I’ve got a cake in the oven right now and I’m going to use the rose design for the (pink) white mountain icing. Yay

  12. Grammy says:

    I always check back to read the newer comments because the people who come here are cool. This time I have to mention something, Karen — have you noticed how many of your close personal blog-fan friends love Brussels sprouts? Yes, so many!

    I’m also one who loves Brussels sprouts, but it would never have occurred to me to mention them in a post about carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. But now, thanks to you, every time I eat either I’m probably going to think of the other, too, and that will lead me to think of you and what it is you do that attracts so many weird folks. You might want to see somebody about that. Or maybe I’m the one who needs help…

    • Karen says:

      According to the test results I did the other week I have an inordinately high number of people with the same personality type. INTJ. As in, it is so unusual that Penelope Trunk who runs courses on the personality types has asked to interview me, lol. More on that later this week. Point is … apparently we’ve found each other and we’re stickin’ together. ~ karen!

  13. Kathy says:

    Karen-next time offer to plate up dessert and “accidently drop” that crappy lemon meringue pie

    • Karen says:

      LOL. Forget that! Lemon Meringue Pie is my favourite! The only reason I had so much cake left was because it was so stinkin’ big. Tasted and look great. It was just enough to serve a medium sized men’s prison. ~ karen! (although I like your sentiment very much)

  14. Robert says:

    Why in heavens name would you do a Swiss meringue when you just could have whipped the cream cheese with the sugar until you got the right consistence? As a proud DIY-er who can honestly not rest if i find something i want to do and do at least something that is inspired by or very similar I have to tell you that you can’t always follow the recipe, and I’m actually surprised by the fact that you had to ask for help instead of just doing whipping the cream cheese to a pipe-able consistency which is not to hard to do and which I just did last week for red velvet cupcakes, although I have to confess I am very, very guilty of more often than not doing the most-difficult-I-want-to-kill-myself-how-and-why-did-I-put-myself-through-this way of doing things so feel free to ignore what I just wrote.
    ps: please adopt me

  15. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    YUM!!..looks so good!

  16. dian says:

    Hahahahaha Idk why I am lmao except that this sounds exactly like something I would do! I love your blog! Thank you!

  17. Jody says:

    So what happened to the 75% of the remaining cake ??!! Did the chickens eat it?

  18. ev wilcox says:

    I really, really, like Brussels sprouts, and I really, really, do not like carrot cake! And I have been accused of being weird….

  19. Kristin Ferguson says:

    I did this for my daughter’s wedding cake last April. It was a hug, three-tiered devil’s food cake with pistachio buttercream. It turned out beautiful! I didn’t have a tutorial, just a picture she texted me to copy. It was very easy.

    I have never lost a buttercream. I’ve had curdled buttercream, but I always manage to rescue it. I’m glad you did, too, Karen. I always use a Swiss buttercream, too. If it curdles, it’s often just that the butter (or the cream cheese, in your case?) is still too cool. You can place the whole mixing bowl in a larger bowl of warm water very briefly. Or, just wait a few minutes before continuing to whip–unless your kitchen is too cold. (My best trick it a funny one: I use my butane torch to heat up the outside of the Kitchen Aid bowl briefly. But not everyone has a butane torch at hand. They should, though. Great for all kinds of things, including creme brûlée.)

  20. Dana says:

    I, too, had a broken swiss meringue buttercream at Easter. Found a lavender blueberry smb on pinterest (of course) as well. It broke after I added half of the butter. Trying the rescue techniques didn’t seem to help and I was incredibly discouraged. Hopefully the site you linked to will help next time. Thanks!

  21. Mary from Barrie says:

    I thought I was the only one who hadn’t thought of having carrot cake at Easter! I had my own “AHA!” moment this year and served it. I made it from scratch – as in I scratched the price off the box from the bakery in Loblaws. It was delicious but tiny so no mountains of leftovers. (Also, ROFL at the wood chipper – best scene in Fargo).

  22. Jennie Lee says:

    Yes, a carrot cake MUST have cream cheese frosting. I am sorry your frosting gave you such fits, but I want to congratulate you, because it looks like you got the other requirement for carrot cake right, too: it must have English walnuts and raisins in it. Do I see them in there, or am I hallucinating them? I also want to recommend the carrot cake recipe in “The Joy of Cooking”. Yuuummm.

  23. Christie says:

    Wow!!! I had no idea what kind of avalanche I started with the carrot cake Easter thing!!! And here’s the funny thing… My son requested plain old chocolate cake for dessert!!!

    But back to the carrot cake – 3 layers is impressive; but I agree with you – too much cake – and I think the whole point of the carrot cake is as a cream cheese icing delivery system. So – if you make a 2-layer cake, you can cut a bigger piece, thereby getting more cream cheese icing!!!

    I use The Barefoot Contessa recipe, for both the cake and icing. It’s delicious!!! And I don’t bother piping… I kind of swirl around the icing on the sides and top – it looks good enough to eat!!! (haha)

    Buttercream icing can be temperamental – the first time I made it I let my son lick the beater… thereby finding out that he was deathly allergic to eggs!!! Fun times – fun times….

  24. Candice says:

    humph, i like carrot cake AND brussel sprouts … a league of my own i suppose

  25. guess I’m weird ’cause…I don’t like carrot cake, couldn’t care less about cream cheese frosting and absolutely love brussel sprouts. that rose decoration is pretty cool, though.

  26. Hope says:

    Our family LOVES a Cream Cheese Whipping Cream Icing (
    Original recipe makes 1 frosting for a 2 layer 9-inch cake
    1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
    1 cup white sugar
    1/8 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream – whip it seperately and fold into the above beaten ingredients.

    It’s a lighter tasting icing but it pipes well, colors and freezes well. I assemble the birthday cake etc. early in the week. Pop the whole thing in the freezer and take out 1-2 hours ahead of serving. Any left over icing when assembling the cake gets piped into rosettes onto a plastic wrap covered plate and frozen. They are popped into a ziploc and use to decorate another dessert (pudding).

    Gold star for your efforts but there may be an easier way!

  27. Wendy says:

    I love carrot cake. And I’m gluten free. So I haven’t had any in a long time. Boo Hoo.
    I also love brussels sprouts. I guess I’m a big weirdo.

    Here’s how to get anyone to eat brussels sprouts:
    Wash them.
    Cut the yukky stems off, and cut in half. Don’t fuss too much. Falling leaves don’t matter.
    Sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper.
    Put in a hot oven. 375 . . . 400 . . . doesn’t matter too much.
    Take them out when the edges are sort of burnt and the sprouts are sort of soft.
    HERE’S THE BEST PART: sprinkle with a little bit of maple syrup. Not fake syrup. Real maple syrup. Not too much. Toss about.


    Not as good as carrot cake with cream cheese frosting . . . but it is gluten free. Ha!


    • Linda Weber says:

      Wendy that sounds absolutely wonderful. Thanks for sharing!

    • gabrielle says:

      yes it does!! but tell me – will this method keep your husband from brusselsprout-induced farting? because that is why he refuses to eat them!

      • Wendy says:

        Sadly, no.

        Since I’m the stinkerbell in my house, I just cook’em, feed’em, eat’em and apologize later.
        As far as I can tell, everything makes me fart, so I may as well eat sprouts.

  28. Rebecca says:

    I had a swiss meringue frosting split on me once too…actually twice because like you I attempted to bring it back/fix it. It was by far the most frustrating kitchen experience I’ve ever had.

  29. Your cake looks awesome Karen. I tried this last year for my daughters birthday cake and I have to say I really suck at cake decorating. We ate it anyways cuz well it was the only cake available.

  30. mel says:

    i am living in switzerland, in the canton of Aargau. it s the state which is famous for carrots, and motorways, and nuclear power plants, and people wearing white socks… but mostly – and not just because its the only positiv thing – for the carrots… and only natural carrot cakes. we claim to have the original receipt. anything else is just a stinky imitation…
    so if your interested i am going to send it to you… just let me know… forget it, i am going to send it anyway

    • Karen says:

      Well O.K. then, lol. ~ karen!

      • mel says:

        the best thing about that receip is the easy – but still very yummy – “frosting”
        its just lemon juice, icing powder and some egg white stirred together… and then you just pour it over the baked cake and let it run over the sides! so easy. so tasty. you have to try it!

  31. Tigersmom says:

    The rose technique really does look completely doable. And it does make the cake look very impressive.

    Being the perpetrator of many a Pinterest fail, I doubt I’ll attempt it with buttercream. I can only subject my family to so much.

    I wish you lived closer because there have been many occasions where I could have really used a wood chipper.

  32. Tim says:

    You know you have a huge cake nerd right around the corner from you? Noelle from Ellenoire is mad for this stuff, and good at it too! Her buttercream icing is damn fine. She’s even made the dreaded, infamous pie-caken (that’s a cherry pie baked into a chocolate cake; by request hers was a DOUBLE pie-Caken). Next time you have icing grief call her.

  33. Beckie says:

    I like carrot cake & Brussels sprouts…but not in the same cake, of course.

    I love the rose frosting. I must have been under a rock since 2011 since I’ve never seen this before!

  34. Lesley says:

    You CAN’T pipe cream cheese frosting? Really? Well someone should have told me that before I started doing it, lol. Maybe it’s the recipe you’re using? My daughter even did basket weave last year on our Easter carrot cake, she being the one who took the Wilton course. I didn’t bother decorating our carrot cake this year as I was really short on time, but I’m going try the rose method next time I make one. I’ll let you know if it works ;)

    • Karen says:

      You probably use a recipe that’s different from a classic cream cheese icing. Typically it can’t be piped and hold its shape. :(~ karen

      • Lesley says:

        I think the one I use was originally from an old Betty Crocker cookbook: 1 brick cream cheese, 1/2 c. butter, 1 tsp. vanilla, and 4 cups icing sugar. Tastes great to me and my family, but definitely sweeter that some I’ve had. My 15 yr. old daughter has made one with only a cup of icing sugar, and I know that one wouldn’t hold it’s shape. I don’t make my cake overly sweet (from the same cookbook), so the recipe I use compliments it perfectly.

        • Mary Werner says:

          This is my recipe for cream cheese frosting, also and I love it’s taste – just perfect for carrot cake which MUST HAVE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING! Now I’m hungry and going to get the carrot sticks and dip them in cream cheese – just to keep me going until I get a cake done.

        • Lisa says:

          I did a cream cheese icing once too, but I think I had some kind of stabilizer in it – maybe a a package of gelatin? It was also chocolate cream cheese, with cocoa powder so maybe that helped. I think this might be in one of my grandmother’s recipes…. I’ll have to look, if anyone is supremely interested…..

  35. Diana says:

    Has anyone of you ever tasted Zucchini-Cake??? With ground Hazelnuts!!! So luscious….

    I like carrotcake, too. But never tasted it with any frostings. We make it as a pot pie. In German-
    Have a nice day

    • IRS says:

      Diana, the zucchini cake with hazelnuts sounds wonderful. Do you have a recipe you could share with me? Please don’t make me go on Pinterest to try to find it. *whimpers*

      • Diana says:

        Of course i will share teh recipe. Only hope, that I am able to translate it the wright way!

        180ml Oil
        300gr Brown Sugar
        3 Eggs
        1pck Vanillasugar
        1 pinch of salt
        150gr groundet Hazelnuts
        300gr Zucchini
        1Teaspoon cinnamon
        330gr Wheat Flour
        2 Teaspoon Baking Powder

        Mix Oil, Sugar Vanillasugar and Salt till it`s foamy than add Hazelnuts, cinnamon and cored grated Zucchini.
        Mix it with Flour and Baking Powder.
        Bake it at 150 degrees about 50-60 min…
        If you want (I don`t like it..) cover the cake with chocolatecouverture..

        Enjoy it! Maybe you want to tell me, how you liked it!!!

        • IRS says:

          Thanks Diana! I am currently traveling, but when I get home in a few weeks, I will try it, and let you know. It sounds yummy.

  36. Su says:

    yes I too want Carrot Cakenow ….
    Me, I would have done a regular cream cheese frosting and put Rabbit Peeps on top with Jelly Beans for decoration and thought ‘how stinking cute is that!’ and been done…. but you Karen as always are an inspiration to take it to the next level!
    BTW – I like Brussel Sprouts and Creamed Cabbage too!

  37. Mel says:

    Now it’s 3am and I want carrot cake. Pfft.

  38. Grammy says:

    I don’t know why so much of your cake was left over. All that work you did is supposed to have been succeeded by cheers and thanks and everyone letting belts out a notch just to make room for it. Besides, the cake really looks delicious. I would have eaten two huge pieces. And I’m only your size, so imagine how long it would have taken. But it would be worth it. You should come to my house next Easter and bring that cake.

  39. jessica says:

    My 1st cream cheese swiss meringue buttercream was a disaster too! I finally gave up & left it lumpy. I had gotten the recipe from San Francisco chef Jennifer Bratko. She was so sweet really. I had made a purple velvet cake (friend’s fave color) & topped it with the lumpy frosting. I piped it ribbony, which is kind of a lumpy look anyway. Never again.

  40. Agnes says:

    What really impressed me is her double bagging technique! That’s a neat way to swap out colours if you don’t have any couplers.

    The Wilton courses are quite fun, and kickstarted my love of sugar craft. The Swiss meringue is my favourite icing, which I enjoy even more by adding a fancy coffee flavour extract I picked up at Golda’s Kitchen in Mississauga. This is a very fun kitchen shop to visit if you haven’t had the chance. It’s not possible to leave that place without spending at least $100.

  41. IRS says:

    Poor Karen! All that bother. And didn’t you say that this all started with Pinterest? Yes, I too have seen that gorgeous, rose swaddled carrot cake on Pinterest. I have also seen the various articles on Buzzfeed (please, DO Google them) detailing how Pinterest was created by Satan himself, and how anything of a DIY nature on it is humanly impossible to achieve by mere mortals. There are numerous side by side photos of the “so easy” Pinterest version, and the actual Godawful mess that results when an actual human tries it. You will feel so much better about your lovely “failure” when you see the abominations that others have to answer for. It’s also why I always keep the phone numbers of several good bakeries handy.

    • whitequeen96 says:

      OMG, IRS, I SO needed to see this now! I just last week fell into the Pinterest hell-hole of addiction, so I know, YES! Yes, it was indeed invented by Satan! I think you saved me from trying some of the DIY stuff ! Thank you, thank, you, THANK YOU!

      • Karen says:

        O.K. everybody hold on here, lol. MY DIY stuff is all over Pinterest, lol! ~ karen

      • IRS says:

        Dearest Queen, you are most welcome. I live to serve. :D

      • Jan in Waterdown says:

        Maybe I’ve dodged a bullet here but I’ve “heard” of Pinterest and had a peek once or twice but have no clue about “pinning”. Am I missing out on something truly wonderful? Guess I really am stuck in the last century . . . :-/

  42. Amanda says:

    I love carrot cake for Easter. A few years ago I started bringing one to Easter brunch every year. It’s become a tradition, but I buy mine at Whole Foods. Me…I love to bake, but every year I BUY this cake. It is perfect and it is their cheapest cake. Divine and very easy to make (err, buy)! I love this post, Karen…., because I can relate to your absolute dedication to bring your vision forward, no matter how many hours it takes, and no matter that 75% of the cake will be leftover… Maybe that’s why I buy the cake every year?

  43. Mindy says:

    I always make carrot cake for Easter. You know why? Because I have the best recipe in the world. I stole it from a restaurant I used to work at. You say they’re all the same. I say mine is The Best Carrot Cake In All The Land. I posted the recipe on my blog, because sharing is caring. I won’t share the link here, though, because as you said, the cake wasn’t the point. The point was the rose frosting, which I’ve also done and posted on my blog. They were pink, and beautiful, and perfect. But again, I won’t share the link because there are thousands of rose frosting photos in the world. Although, mine might be The Best Frosting Roses In All The Land. Mine weren’t cream cheese frosting, though, so you win.

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