Irish tea time with a twist
Natalie, Limerick School of Art and Design ambassador, gives us a taste of her incredible Irish chocolate cake… with a secret ingredient.
I love to cook and eat, to talk about food, and read about food. Anything that has to do with food and I’m listening. After cooking a few meals at my home in Ireland, and finding the savory smells would draw in one or two of my housemates, food as a tool for conversation really began to unfold in my mind.
My friend and classmate Lorna gave me a small cookbook of traditional Irish baked goods, intended for the visitor from abroad. Looking through the recipes, I came across a chocolate cake that I thought embodied the Irish culinary spirit. Chocolate Layer Cake with Whipped Cream Filling. I might have passed this one over simply because I’m not in the habit of making cakes all that often, if not for the unlikely incorporation of mashed potatoes. Ireland and the potato are synonymous in so many minds. In America it is common knowledge that potatoes are eaten in abundance in Ireland, and have been for a few generations. Ask an Irish person and they will perhaps share with you the complicated history the Irish have with the starchy bulb. Having had several informal conversations with Irish people about the history and emotion surrounding the potato, I’ve found that it’s indeed a touchy subject. The ingenuity of the Irish culture has already left its mark on me, and making this cake was my homage to the country which knows how to do much with little.
My friend Lotte offered up her kitchen, and after class one evening we set out to make the dense chocolate cake. Struggling with converting US measurements to metric ones, I know I messed up the proportions. Lotte hand-whipped the cream to perfect peaks and I attempted to photograph the process as it unfurled. Whilst eating cheese crafted by Lotte’s parents on their farm, I nearly forgot to take the cake out of the oven! I must have said, “I think I overcooked it” three or four times, but the result was astonishing. Such a beautiful, moist cake with a rich and deep chocolate flavor. The mashed potatoes transformed the batter into a thick gloss, and the result was delicious. A noteworthy silence fell around the table as we each took our first bites. “It’s gorgeous,” our friend Jeff said, in between forkfuls. A liveliness inhabited the kitchen after that. A new recipe and a new insight into Irish baking traditions felt invigorating to me. This hands-on experience deepened my understanding of Irish culture, and granted me an extra-special reason to feed my friends chocolate cake.