In the United States St. Patrick’s Day is typically a big deal. I happen to be part Irish, but I am astonished by how elaborate this holiday has become in the states. Instagram goes green weeks before and recipes from green burgers to green cinnamon buns with green frosting flood my feed as I recoil, yet am unable to look away.
In the food world, restaurants and bars suddenly find their Irish roots and elaborate decorations cover the walls. Suburban areas favor lawn decor and giant blow-up leprechauns clinging pots of gold can commonly be seen in front yards. In Chicago, they color the river green. And amber colored beer is nearly impossible to find as mugs of the frothy green stuff is preferred. Sadly, this year will be very different. Because of COVID-19, most long-standing holiday celebrations world-wide have been canceled. Another sober reminder of our “new normal“.
My way of honoring St. Patrick’s day has always been through enjoying traditional Irish foods, like corned beef, Irish soda bread and a my new favorite, Irish apple cake. This is by far one of the best Irish desserts I have recently discovered and one that reminds me of an apple pie my family fell in love with in Amsterdam. Irish apple cake is considered a traditional dessert in Ireland and one I have fallen hard for.
Best described as a cross between a cake and a pie, with a soft, moist, cakey texture and a crispier outer layer. Packed with apples, this cake is considered on the less sweet side, which is something I love. The diced apples hold their shape nicely in this recipe and retain some crunch with just a hint of spices so as not to take away from the tart apple flavor.
The Irish are known for their simple yet incredibly delicious recipes with staying power. There are dozens of ways to make a traditional Irish apple cake and lots of variance in texture and sweetness. Recipes and technique for making this St. Patrick’s Day favorite are often passed down from generations but in Irish household, typically everyone has one. Originally, these apple cakes were baked in a bastibleb or steamed in pots beside an open fire. And largely made from crab apples, of which are in abundant supply in Ireland.
Apples, especially crab apples, play a large role in Irish and Celtic mythology. The legendary Avalon, where King Arthur was taken to recover from his wounds after fighting Mordred at the Battle of Camlann, is considered a sacred Isle of the apple trees. This lovely little cake makes for a fantastic dessert anytime of year, does not require too many ingredients and is an especially lovely way to honor the Irish, even from afar.
Irish Apple Cake
Traditional Irish apple cake for your Saint Patrick's Day celebration.
- For the Dough:
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 16 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons caster sugar, divided
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 2 ounces whole milk
- For The Apple Filling:
- 2-3 apples, I like honeycrisp, peeled, cored and sliced
- pinch of ground cloves
- pinch of cinnamon
- 1 egg, lightly beaten (for egg wash)
- Step 1 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan, place on a baking sheet and set aside.
- Step 2
- Step 3 For the Dough: In a small bowl add the flour and baking powder, mix well and set aside. In the bowl of a kitchen mixer, such as a KitchenAid fitted with a paddle attachment, add the butter and beat to blend, scrapping down the sides as needed. Add 3/4 cup of the sugar and mix well to blend.
- Step 4 With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. Next add the egg and milk, mix on low until a soft dough has formed.
- Step 5 Divide the dough in two. Place one half of the dough into the prepared baking pan. Using your hands, gently pat down to cover the bottom completely and a little up the sides, set aside.
- Step 6 Place your apples in a medium mixing bowl, add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, cloves and cinnamon and gently toss to combine. Place the apples in the baking pan over the dough.
- Step 7 On a a heavily floured work surface, roll or pat out with your hands, the remaining dough. Note, the dough will be extremely soft, just patch it up and smooth is out as needed. Lay the dough on top of the apple layer and use your hands to flatten and even out so you have a nice, even and smooth cake top. Use a paring knife to cut a small slit through the dough in the middle of the cake. Using a pastry brush, coat the dough with the egg wash. Place in the oven and bake for 40 minutes, or until cooked through and nicely browned.
- Step 8 Allow the apple cake to cool completely. Once cool, dust with the remaining caster sugar, slice and serve with our without homemade whipped cream.
Follow my blog with Bloglovin