Saturday, October 26, 2013

Black Apple Cake

I'm not very gung-ho on this whole Halloween thing. There are few but very specific things that give me the heebie jeebies. I'm talking creepy dolls (including but not exclusive to ventriloquist dolls, harlequin dolls, marionettes), insects, clay-mation, clowns (this extends to all manner of circus folk) and creepy children. Any of these things in isolation is bad enough. Start combining them, and I'm cowering and hiding for safety behind a baby (This happened with a mime on stilts at a farmers' market one sunny Sunday. I'm not proud of it, but I was left with no other choice). I wouldn't call it fun and I certainly wouldn't call it a "holiday."
Then there's the costume element. In Canada we call it "dressing up". In Ireland we call it "fancy dress". In Canada "fancy dress" means dressing fancy. Confusing, right? Long story short, I'm slightly traumatised from rolling up to a "fancy dress" market in a Dublin city centre pub to sell cakes, dressed as Raphael, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle (tin foil sais and all) only to be the sole costumed vendor among a group of strangers wearing fancy hats. No change of clothes. Nowhere to hide. Making matters worse, I used that very same costume for Halloween and was beaten for best costume by a girl dressed up as a sexy iPhone. 

(I'm also really not into the strange costumes that people dress babies in to pose for pictures, with the exception of this one)

I object. You won't find me baking bloody cakes covered in cobwebs and gravestones with zombies clawing their way out of it. No eye balls. No witch fingers. Not even pumpkins (by virtue of negative association). I'll use the theme loosely and make something that's actually appetizing. This year I dedicated my Halloween bake to a great local coffee shop. Here is my Black Apple Cake, an homage to one of my favorite Dublin coffee shops - the Black Apple Cafe.

The Black Apple Cafe is one of the coffee shops that I am very proud to do business with. It's a family-run spot in Harold's Cross and has become increasingly popular since opening in May 2012. The neighborhood was in need of a friendly, comfortable food stop serving excellent coffee, the best cakes (ahem...) and delicious meals. Black Apple took a brave chance in an area that was previously unlucky for many before them, and I sure think it was worth it. The sausage rolls are unreal. Truth be told, it's the only shop I supply that I actually frequent as a customer. It has a lovely genuine, laid back, warm atmosphere and is the kind of place you can sit down and soften in to. Everyone should have one of these cafes in their life. 

Black Apple Cafe

208 Harolds Cross Road, Dublin 6

Black Apple Cake


340g Cream Flour
15g / 1 Tbsp Baking Powder
2.5g / 1/2 tsp salt

150g Irish Butter

600g eating apples, like Braburn
180g sugar

100mL milk
3 Irish Free Range eggs
5g / 1tsp Pure Vanilla extract

50g Demerera Sugar
2.5g/ 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1. Line a 10" round cake tin and preheat the oven to 190 degrees C.
2. Peel and slice 600g eating apples. Toss in 180g sugar. Set aside
3. Sieve the flour, baking order and salt. Rub in the 150g butter.
4. Stir in the prepared apples.
4. Whisk the milk, eggs and vanilla to combine. Add to the dry ingredients and apple, and stir well to form a soft dough. Pour into your cake tin.
5. Mix the Demerera sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle on top of the cake and bake for about 40 minutes, until the colour is golden and the cake springs back to the touch. Cool completely.

For the Blackberry glaze, combine 250g sifted icing sugar and 15g / 1Tbsp fresh lemon juice. mix until very smooth. Add 100g fresh blackberries and squish them into the mix, using a fork. Allow chunks of blackberry to remain. Drizzle over the cooled apple cake and top with fresh blackberries. 


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Beer + Cake = Love

A looming VAT return deadline that I’m procrastinating on and a sudden revisit from the summer weather nudged me to finally get back into posting words on this blog. I have just the bind-blow to share with you. Check your judgments at the door. Wait for it… Cake and beer. I’ll let that pairing linger in your brain for a moment. Allow your reaction to gradually shift from, “Huh? That’ll never work,” to “Huh! Who knew that could work?!”

I’m here to tell you that it works. With special attention paid to the prominent and subtle flavours and textures of cakes, and the prominent, subtle, and lingering flavours and fizziness of quality craft beer, you can experience a rarely visited taste combination. And a tasty combination it is.

Photo courtesy of Sharon Gunter of

Caryna’s Cakes hosted a Cake + Beer tasting event way back in the summer. The lovely gentlemen of Beoir; John of The Beer Nut and Reuben of A Tale of Ale were kind enough to consult on pairings in advance of the night, and guide the tasting at the event. Their expertise on the brewing process, of Irish craft breweries and tasting delicious beers really elevated the event from, “This tastes good,” to “that is very interesting. This tastes good. I’m learning and drinking beer and eating 5 pieces cake at the same time. Being an adult isn’t that much of a bummer after all.”
Photo courtesy of Sharon Gunter of

Lime Coconut Macaroon cake was paired with Dungarvan Helvic Gold & Thyme Infused "Clara con Limón" (which is a spritzer)
I knew what variety or cakes I wanted to bake, although left the final recipes fairly loose until I knew exactly which beers we would be serving. I knew for sure that I wanted to serve nothing less than Irish craft beer. I am in deep love with Irish craft beer. Fittingly, I am also in deep love with cake. It turns out no career would suit me better.

Baked vanilla bean cheesecake was paired with White Gyspy Dubbel 

There were slim pickings on the Google to guide me on how exactly to pair beer and cake. But I knew it could be done. Cuilan and Sally from White Gypsy Brewery in Tipperary showed me that it could be done. It was a taste of his Belgian Dubbel paired with a chocolate raspberry cheesecake that set me off in the first place. It seemed that Caryna’s Cakes and Beoir would be hosting Ireland’s very first ever in the country on the planet Irish Craft Beer and Cake Tasting event. Ever.

Peanut caramel brownie was paired with Dungarvan Copper Ale

The general rule for tasting pairings is to go with either flavor matching (from example, the caramely notes in the Dungarvan Copper Ale complimented the caramel coating on the Peanut caramel brownies) and/or opposites. Here’s what we served:

Thyme-infused "Clara con Limón" with Dungarvan Helvic Gold & Lime coconut macaroon cake

O'Hara's Leann Follaín & Chili chocolate tart

Dungarvan Copper Ale & Peanut caramel brownie

Mac's apple cider & French crepes served with rhubarb apple compote

White Gyspy Dubbel & Baked vanilla bean cheesecake

As my grandfather Gica would say, "It was DELICIOUS." (Food love is in my blood)

Give (a) piece (of cake with beer) a chance.
I'm not one bit ashamed of that.