Flour makes all the difference… so let us eat cake!

a slice of heaven

a slice of heaven

Let them eat cake …said Marie Antoinette, and alas for me it’s true! A slice of good cake is a great celebration food for all of us, and living in the South, we know how to do cakes well with coconut, strawberry, carrot and caramel cakes being at the top of my ‘must-eat-cakes’ list…

However, my confession is that I have been missing the taste and texture of my family recipe for Victoria Sandwich cake.  My friend Deborah wanted to bake me my favorite Victoria Sandwich cake recipe on St. Patrick’s day, which was a classy touch, until I shared with her how different the flour is in America compared to Irish flour making cakes come out a little wrong…  We immediately began to discuss the difference in flour and how this may be the key ingredient that will transform your Doughy goodness into a winner!

The obvious difference in flour must be the quality of the wheat before milling that is naturally influenced by the soil and environment.  The percentage of protein in the flour means more production of gluten, the substance that occurs naturally when you combine wheat flour with liquid. Lots of gluten is ideal for breads but I discovered it’s not so great for cakes.

Those of you from Ireland or other parts of the world may identify and had the same baking questions due to the differences in flour.  However, this divine slice of Victoria Sandwich cake baked by my friend substituted traditional Irish self raising flour for cake flour and baking powder (the key is to every cup of American cake flour add 1.5 tsp of baking powder and a little salt).   So for those of you from the US who want my traditional family recipe shared on page 131 of the Shamrock and Peach cook book please use this substitution for perfect Victoria Sandwich butter fly cupcakes!  It’s my new best kept secret that I want to share with you all!

Happy Baking!


My Savannah Scare

River Street Savannah

River Street Savannah

My grandmother used to say “if you do not have good health you have nothing”.    I am blessed to say that I have never really been sick in my life or suffered any injuries – until now.

You may not have heard from lately, and here’s why – during what is typically my most busy working season I have been forced to completely stop due to a recent health scare…here’s what happened:

The story begins in Savannah, Georgia – as all good stories should.  My favorite Southern city hosts the annual Irish Festival where I participate as a vendor to promote my Irish tours, framed art work and sell cook books.  Following the weekend I get to double the enjoyment by teaching a St. Patrick’s cooking class at the Kitchenware Outfitters cooking school.  This year was my third year and it really feels like a tradition…so, after a busy and fun weekend at the festival I went to bed early to be fresh and ready to teach my sold out cooking class but was surprised to be woken in the middle of the night by throbbing pains in my abdomen.  Alas, being the stubborn Irish lass that I am, the cooking class went ahead as my presumption was food poisoning.  My dear friend and culinary instructor Damon Lee Fowler carried most of the work load that day as he knew how I was feeling.  As the pain became increasingly worse my plan was to depart the cooking class and go straight to the ER but as things got worse, my husband back in Atlanta called a close friend who was able to whisk me away to the hospital.

As it turned out though, the ER was only the beginning of 5 nights of hospitalization and emergency surgery.

After a CT scan the Dr’s discovered I had a really large abscess that needed to be treated.  The results of an infected abscess bursting would have been catastrophic and I was so thankful for immediate surgery, yes – on reflection, the surgeon saved my life that night!  After the surgery I fought a high temperature and rising white blood cell count but my body won and I started to turn a corner.   My husband made it from Atlanta to Savannah that night and slept beside me in a hard, fold up sofa bed and supported me all the way. – I had everything to live for, to fight for and to hope for, and I do not think I have ever felt so aware that I am loved and this emotion filled my heart as physically my body was struggling.

Needless to say my Shamrock and Peach cooking events have been cancelled for March and April but I do plan to be back in full power in May.  Returning to the cooking stage will begin with a dinner at the James Beard House in New York City and then two tours of Ireland in June and July.

Jumping in to life again with both feet but for now it’s time to move a little slower and embrace this bump in the road I did not choose or have any idea was coming!

Sending all my very best!

Judith the Irish foodie