For the past few years, I’ve spent St. Patrick’s Day in an Irish pub, Guinness in hand, various formats of tacky memorabilia adorned. It was always a pretty big deal in Dubai. Then again – everything is.Any excuse to “celebrate”. You name it.
So this year, whilst standing in the kitchen at school, apron on, music pumping, green cake in the oven, and green buttercream ready to go, I was surprised at the number of people who asked me why the cake was green. Is it not obvious?! Apparently no one is even aware that the day is just around the corner, let alone has anything planned to mark the occasion. It’s tomorrow, March 17th, in case you wondered.
Well this got me thinking. Questioning my motives, in fact. Why is it that so many of us choose to head to the pub on St. Paddy’s day. Who is this chap? And why are we celebrating him? I’m somewhat ashamed to say that have never really felt the need to delve any further into the subject. No further than the drinks menu, that is. Wikipedia, my friend. You got me through my degree. Give me an answer immediately, please and thank you.
Education corner ALERT. Saint Patrick is the, and I quote, “foremost patron Saint of Ireland”. Born in the Roman times, St. Paddy was kidnapped by Irish raiders when he was sixteen and taken to Gaelic Ireland, where he spent six years working as a shepherd. According to the Declaration, it was during this time that he “found God”, who eventually saved him, guiding him home to become a Priest. It is said that he spent many years converting the pagan Irish to Christianity. There. Feeling more knowledgable now? Save it for a pub quiz.
Apparently until the late 20th century, St. Paddy’s was a bigger deal among those of Irish origin outside the home country than those within. It’s become hugely commercialised across the globe – particularly in places like the USA, and I’m guessing among locations with large western expat populations (the UAE!).
So there we are. I rather enjoy patriotic celebrations. An excellent excuse to get into the kitchen. I umm-d and ahh-d about Guinness cake, Bailey’s fudge, and various other alcoholic creations. But then crashed back down to reality, and remembered that I work in a prep school. So a better use of time would be to whip up something that the kiddy-winkles can enjoy. I fear this blog may become far more boozy when I leave this role.
I’ve made cake pops before. And I’ve also failed failed at making cake pops approximately the same number of times! But I think I’ve finally got there. They’re not perfect. But they stayed on their sticks and look pretty. And they taste delightful. So I’d call that a win. My number one piece of advice,though, is to make sure you chill the cake balls in between stages. It’s essential. Because they’ll fall apart in the warm chocolate if they’re not firm enough! Merry St. Paddy’s day, food friends!
for the cake…
180g unsalted butter, room temp
180g caster sugar
3 medium eggs
1tsp vanilla extract
1tsp baking powder
180g plain flour
green food colouring
for the frosting…
180g unsalted butter
360g icing sugar, sifted
1tsp vanilla extract
green food colouring
for the decor…
600g white chocolate
teeny tiny gold coins
cake pop sticks
cake pop stand
1/ Preheat oven to 180C.
2/ To make the cake, cream butter and sugar, then beat in eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla extract.
3/ Mix in the flour, salt, and baking powder, followed by the green food colouring. I used the Dr. Oetker green gel colouring – the entire tube. I recommend either that, or Wilton Gel paste. Liquid food colouring often requires a substantial amount to achieve the colour, and can sometimes make the batter taste funny.
4/ Pour into a lined tin (about 20cm x 20cm or something similar), and bake for about 20 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Remove and leave to cool completely.
5/ To make the frosting, mix the vanilla into the butter, then gradually whisk in the sugar a little at a time using a hand mixer. Add green colouring until you reach your desired shade.
6/ Take the cooled cake, and crumb it into a bowl using your fingers. Stir in the buttercream until fully combined. At this point, you should essentially have a bowl of green sludgy cake!
7/ Roll the mixture into little balls – a little smaller than a ping pong ball, and place on a piece of greaseproof paper on a tray. Don’t worry if they’re a little messy at this stage. Pop them in the freezer for ten minutes, then remove and roll them in your hands again to smoothen the surface. Gloves are handy for this!
8/ Return the pops to the freezer for another ten mins. Meanwhile, melt about 100g of white chocolate in the microwave, 10 seconds at a time, and stirring in between.
9/ Remove the pops from the freezer, and one at a time, dip the end of a cake pop stick into the melted chocolate, and push into each cake pop, about halfway. Place back on the tray to set. Once they all have sticks, pop in the fridge to set for about 10 mins.
10/ Melt the rest of the chocolate in a glass or jug. Remove the pops from the fridge, have your stand and sprinkles ready, and dip each pop into the chocolate, evenly coating the surface. Let any excess drip off, add your toppings while it’s still sticky, and then place in your stand to harden. Tra-laaa!