It’s in the café of Louis Mulcahy’s pottery on West Kerry’s Dingle Peninsula that whipping sea turns into whipped cream. The architect of this culinary corner is chef and writer, Emer Fallon, and we’ve cornered her for one of her most popular recipes – Carrot Cake.
Winter in West can sometimes be long. When a summer passes by without many sunny glances it can seem even longer. Despite that, one of the real pleasures of living and working on the tip of a remote peninsula is the thought of settling in for a cosy winter.
Which brings us, in a roundabout way, to cake. The thing is, there are summer cakes and there are winter cakes. A lighter-than-air sponge cake or a crispy meringue roulade oozing whipped cream and freshly picked fruit summons up memories of long evenings and busy days. Winter, on the other hand, means rich dark slabs of chocolate and walnut brownies or deep wedges of golden, spice-laden carrot cake, topped with creamy lemon frosting, all crumbling gently together at the touch of a fork.
I was introduced to the carrot cake recipe below by a New Zealand chef I worked with over 15 years ago. I forgot all about it until I was looking for a reliable, easy to bake cake I could serve here in the café at Louis Mulcahy’s Pottery. I’d forgotten just how simple a recipe this was until I tried it again this summer.
The great thing about carrots in Ireland is that they’re nearly always available. They’re also cheap, and in a vegetable garden, as long as they don’t fall prey to carrot fly, they rarely let you down. After a cold snap where beans, courgettes, and squash all struggle with the cold, you start to appreciate all over again Ireland’s humbler, more traditional vegetables. Carrots, potatoes, parsnips, and turnips all sit happily under the soil, unbothered by things like ferocious winds and nipping cold and they just grow. Which means that when you go out to your vegetable garden in September and find it looking a little desolate, you can still pull a few gleaming carrots from the soggy ground.
When baking this cake, there are a few things to look out for: Firstly, it takes a good hour to bake. Secondly, it generally dips a little in the middle. That’s just the nature of it. In the café we turn it over and ice the underpart. And finally (I think), most of the cakes we bake in the café are measured in pounds and ounces, so this recipe is unusual for us in that it’s measured in cups. We use a Louis Mulcahy cup (of course we do!) and it’s probably a little on the large side, so it makes a 12 inch cake. If you’re using a smaller cup you could consider going for a 10 inch tin.
Emer Fallon’s West Kerry Carrot Cake
- 2 cups of flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 and a half tsp bread soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups grated carrot
- 4 eggs
- 1 and a half cups of sunflower oil
- 1 small can of crushed pineapple
- 1 cup of roughly chopped walnuts
- 1 tsp of vanilla essence
Sift all the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Whisk the sugar, eggs and carrot together in a separate bowl and add to the dry ingredients. Finally, add the oil, pineapple, walnuts and vanilla essence and beat everything together, pour your mixture into a lined cake tin with a removable base and bake for about an hour at 170.
If the cake looks like it’s getting a little too brown on top, cover it with tinfoil, and after about half an hour turn the heat down to 150.
When the hour is up, test it with a wooden skewer. If it comes out clean the cake is done. You can also gently pat the top – if it’s firm your carrot cake is ready to come out of the oven.
Leave it to cool before removing from the tin and icing.
For the icing:
- Juice of half a lemon
- 1 cup of cream cheese
- 1 cup of Icing sugar
Mix ingredients together, spread the icing generously over the top of your cake, and decorate with some whole walnuts. Voila – or sin é, as we say in West Kerry.
For more delicious food from Ireland, our blog has tons of recipes to choose from.
Cake isn’t even the best thing about Dingle! Every winter the town is host to the most incredible array of international musicians. Read about Dingle’s Other Voices.