Soup Making Tips For Fall Or Autumn

Once Labor Day has passed, and fall is in the air, it’s time to start thinking about soup. There’s nothing like a bowl of chunky, satisfying soup on a nippy day, to warm the cockles of your heart.

Soups come in all colors, textures, and tastes. In fact, I think it’s safe to say there’s probably a soup to to suit every palate.

Bowl Of Carrot And Coriander Soup

In Ireland, we describe a chunky soup by saying:

 

“There’s eating and drinking in that.”

 

Remember, in this case, the word “eating” is usually pronounced in a manner similar to “eightin”, as in the number 8.

But whether you prefer drinking a clear, soothing broth, or eating a thick, substantial stew, I’m quite certain there is an Irish soup for you.

In the next few weeks and months I plan to share some of my favorite soup and stew recipes.

I know some people feel a recipe is unnecessary for concocting a perfect soup, sticking to the motto:

 

“You can’t go wrong with soup.”

 

Truthfully, you can and you can’t go wrong with soup. For some all-in-the-pot, mix-it-all-together kind of soups, they taste delicious no matter what. But on the other hand, you can go very, very wrong with more delicate, puréed soups, that require the perfectly flavored stock, the right amount of seasoning, or a dash of cream or milk to add depth, and an underlying richness.

An Old Famine Soup Pot

To prepare for the “soup making season” I thought a post on some basic tips for soup success is in order.

 

1. Fresh is Best:

 

Any soup is only as good as the ingredients used to make it, and with that in mind, my motto is “fresh is best”. Fresh vegetables and good quality stock are keys to tasty soup.

Now don’t think I’m not known for opening a bag of frozen peas for a quick soup. I do use frozen vegetables frequently, since they are flash frozen at peak freshness, but I tend to steer clear of canned ingredients in my soups. The canning process adds way too much sodium for my taste buds.

2. A good stock:

 

Stock dictates the underlying flavor and ultimate taste of each and every soup. Choosing between vegetable based stock, chicken, beef or fish stock is the most important decision for any soup.

I often use store bought stock, but truly they don’t come close to the flavor of a good home-made stock. Recently, I have been paying quite a bit of attention to food labels and try to steer clear of any ingredients I can’t pronounce. Some cheaper stocks are full of preservatives, and are laden with salt.  Organic stocks are twice the price, but worth it for flavor and goodness. However, the budget friendly decision is to make homemade stock.

In the coming days and weeks I’ll share my stock making tips with a few basic stock recipes. With a crockpot you can simmer a good stock even while you’re out and about.

 

3. Herbs and spices:

 

Herbs and spices can lift a soup from ordinary to extraordinary. They’re my soup pot heroes. They add flavor, working away busily spreading their magic in the pot. Fresh or dried herbs work well, but the general rule for dried herbs is to use one third of the quantity of fresh.

Saute leeks, potato and onion

4. Make sure the vegetables do the sweating, not you! 

 

Many soup recipes start out be telling you to ‘sweat’ the vegetables. The term does sound a little gross for those not used to culinary lingo, but to tell you the truth, it’s a very accurate description of what is going on in the soup pot.

When “sweating” vegetables, they are gently cooked in a tiny bit of fat, to get their juices to leak out, and to release their inner flavors.  You get their juices flowing, so to speak.

To promote this process, the pot is covered to trap steam, which helps soften the veggies. It’s important to keep the steam trapped in, so lifting the lid is not recommended. Instead, lift the whole pot and give the veggies a good, old shake to stop them sticking.

This “sweating” usually takes about 10 minutes. The ingredients shouldn’t be browned or caramelized, but slightly pale after their time in the pot sauna.

Iron Viking Soup pot over open flame

5. Simmer, don’t boil:

 

Simmering is vital for good soup. When vegetables are boiled they end up tumbling all over the pot, hitting off the sides, damaging their texture and spilling all their flavor into the stock. So simmer, to avoid somersaulting peas and carrots.

Similarly, when reheating a soup it’s important to simmer without boiling. This is especially true for soups with added cream. When the cream boils it separates and creates a fatty film on top of the soup. So, my rule of thumb is, gentle heat for luscious soup.

Using Immersion Blender To Puree Soup

6. In praise of hand held blenders:

 

In my granny’s day smooth soups were achieved by mushing and sieving the cooked vegetables. No such work for today’s cook. Liquidisers or blenders do a fine job of puréeing soup, but ladeling the liquid in batches is slow, not to mind the risk of splattering hot liquid all over the place if the jug is overfilled.

My best soup-making friend is my hand-held blender. I take great satisfaction in blitzing a soup with a quick dunk of its all-powerful blades. There’s nothing like a quick whizz with a hand held blender for a perfectly textured soup. I highly recommend one of these gadgets.

Potato and Leek Soup

And so there you have it! A few good soup-making tips, to whet your appetites for some delicious soups over the coming months. As I type this blog post, a tasty chicken stock is simmering away in my crock pot. I’ll share my recipe in the next few days.

Stay tuned for plenty of stock and soup recipes in my upcoming recipe posts.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

Irish American Mom

Cheesy Mushroom Potato Bites

Irish cheddar and mushroom potato bites are tasty little appetizers, that can even double up as a side dish. These versatile little morsels are perfect for parties, especially Irish themed celebrations.

Preparation can be completed ahead of time. The only step required at party time is to pop them in the oven until the cheese melts with ooey gooey goodness.

Three Potato Bites

This recipe is similar to ones for loaded baked potatoes, but rather than using a big, old Idaho potato, these scrumptious little mouthfuls call for baby red potatoes.

Boil the spuds first, scoop out the flesh, mix in some extra deliciousness, reload the skins, sprinkle with cheese, bake and here ya go!

They really are simpler than they sound.

Ingredients for cheese and mushroom potato bite appetizers

Ingredients for Cheesy Mushroom Potato Bites:

 

  • 15 small read potatoes
  • 8 ounces of shredded white cheddar cheese
  • 4 ounces of butter (halved)
  • 2 tablespoons of milk
  • 8 ounces of chopped button mushrooms
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 2 teaspoons of chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of pepper
  • parsley to garnish

Steaming red potatoes

First step involves boiling up those potatoes. I like to steam mine. When they’re cooked I just turn off the ring and let them cool in the pot. If you boil them, once the spuds are fork tender, strain them, then leave them to cool so that you won’t burn your fingers when you scoop out the flesh.

Chopped mushroom and garlic for potato bites

Next chop up the mushrooms into fairly fine pieces. Then mince the garlic.  While the potatoes are cooling cook up the mushrooms.

Turn the oven on to 425 degrees F. to pre-heat at this point.

 

Sauteed chopped mushrooms with garlic and thyme

Melt half the butter in a skillet over medium heat.

Add the chopped mushrooms and garlic and cook in the butter for about 3 minutes.

Add the chopped fresh thyme leaves.

Potato shells with flesh scooped out for appetizer filling

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle cut each one in half. Now you want to be able to lay the potatoes on a flat surface so don’t cut them directly in the center where the potato is shortest.  Hold the spud so the pointier end is up and slice down through it. That way you’ll have a flatter surface on which to balance the potato shell.

Next scoop out the center of each potato half using a melon baller.  Put the scooped flesh into a mixing bowl. Now don’t scoop right down to the skin or your appetizers will fall apart. Leave enough flesh so the sides are well supported.

I line up the skins on a foil covered baking sheet, that I spray with a little oil.  Cheese will ooze everywhere when you cook these babies so the foil makes clean up a cinch.

Adding grated cheddar cheese to mashed potatoes

Mash all the potato flesh in the bowl, add the milk and the other half of the melted butter. 

Season with pepper and salt.  

Add about 2/3’s of the cheese, reserving the last third to sprinkle on top of the appetizers.

Mixing mushrooms and mashed potato for appetizer filling

Next add the cooked mushroom mixture and combine everything together.

Now you’re ready to reload those potato skins.

 

Halved cooked red potatoes with mashed potato and mushroom topping

I use my melon baller  once again, to refill the potato shells with this scrumptious mixture.

Topping potato bites with grated Irish cheddar cheese

Once they’re all loaded there’s one final step, and for me it’s the crucial step to ensure these little morsels are extra tasty.

Sprinkle the remainder of the cheese on top of each potato bite.

I like to use Kerrygold Dubliner cheese. It is a really sharp, white cheddar, but I love the extra tang it adds to these little bites.

Bake the appetizers in the pre-heated oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

They’re ready when they cheese has melted and is turning a light golden brown.

If you prepare these appetizers ahead of time, and keep them refrigerated prior to cooking, they’ll require the full 20 minutes, maybe longer, to heat through.

Garnishing potato bites for St. Patrick's Day party.

Once they’re cooked I like to stand them on some paper towels to absorb any excess grease.  Let them cool slightly before garnishing.

Party Appetizers - Cheese and Mushroom Potato Bites

Serve these potato bites warm as party finger food, or they also make a lovely side for chops and steaks.

I hope you like these potato appetizes as much as I do.  They’re hard to photograph well. I don’t think these shots do them justice.

Trust me the hint of thyme with the mushrooms and creamy potato filling is simply scrummy.

Wishing you all perfect parties, with plenty easy finger foods, that can be prepared ahead of time.

Here’s the printable recipe:

 

Cheesy Mushroom Potato Bites

Serves 15
Prep time 30 minutes
Cook time 20 minutes
Total time 50 minutes
Meal type Appetizer
Occasion Casual Party
Region Irish
Cheddar and mushroom potato bites are tasty little appetizers, that can even double up as a side dish. These versatile little morsels are perfect for parties, especially Irish themed celebrations.

Ingredients

  • 15 Small red potatoes
  • 8oz shredded white cheddar cheese
  • 4oz butter
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 8oz mushrooms (chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • chopped fresh parsley (to garnish)

Directions

Step 1 Place the potatoes in a large saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the potatoes for 20 minutes until tender.
Step 2 Drain the potato water and let the potatoes stand until cool enough to handle.
Step 3 Melt half the butter in a large skillet. Stir in the mushrooms and minced garlic. Sautée over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add the chopped fresh thyme and turn off the heat.
Step 4 Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Step 5 Cut each potato in half. Scoop out the center of each potato using a melon baller, collecting the potato in a bowl. Put the potato shells to the side.
Step 6 Melt the remaining butter in the microwave for 15 seconds. Add to the potatoes with the milk. Mash together. Season to taste. Add 2/3's of the cheese and all of the mushroom mixture. Combine well together.
Step 7 Place the potato skins on a foil lined baking sheet, sprayed with cooking oil. Spoon equal amounts of the filling into each shell. Sprinkle the remaining grated cheese on top of each potato.
Step 8 Bake in the pre-heated oven for 15 to 20 minutes. The appetizers are ready when the cheese is melted and turning a light golden brown color.
Step 9 Cool the potato bites on paper towels. Garnish with parsley and serve warm.

 

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

Irish American Mom

Beans On Toast – An Easy Lunchtime Staple For Irish Moms

Beans on toast featured regularly on my lunchtime menu as an Irish kid – a simple, nutritious meal I’m quite certain continues to be eaten regularly by many Irish and English children.

Beans on Toast

An American friend once asked me about Irish lunchtime menus. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are the all-American, easy, lunchtime staple. No PB & J for me when I was growing up in Ireland. Even after spending over twenty years in the United States, I still don’t appreciate them.  I must confess I find it very hard to eat a peanut butter sandwich. The whole bread, jelly, and peanut butter combination is just too sticky for my Irish trained palate.

When posed with this Irish lunchtime inquiry I had to think for a minute before answering. What is the inexpensive, go-to lunch for Irish mothers? The answer I believe is beans on toast.

Now it’s not a menu item for school lunch boxes, but for midday meals served at home, beans on toast are just perfect.  In fact, beans on toast may be found on breakfast, lunch and dinner menus in many Irish or English homes, especially when budgets are tight.

Should I use a singular verb after beans on toast, or the plural form?  Beans on toast ‘is’ or should I type beans on toast “are”????  Not sure what the answer is, but I hope you’ll forgive any beany grammatical errors.

An Irish Lunch - Beans on Toast

Many Americans are probably saying “what’s the deal?”  For those whose palates are trained on spicy foods this meal may seem very bland. But let’s face it, we Irish think salt and pepper are spices, so beans on toast suit us perfectly.

And into the bargain they’re cheap and easy to store. A can of beans in the pantry and you’re set.

Furthermore, beans in red sauce are one of the most inexpensive forms of protein available to a busy mom, and preparation is a snap. (That “furthermore” is really making me sound like a bean aficionado.)

Here are my cooking instructions:

  • Heat some beans in a saucepan.
  • Toast a slice of bread.
  • Butter the toast if you wish.
  • Then pile the beans and sauce on top.

Some beans on toast connoisseurs forego the butter, but I find a slice of thick white toast spread with Kerrygold butter is a perfect bean base.  The salty butter adds a lovely complimentary flavor to the beans.

Fried Egg with Beans on Toast

To beef the beans up for dinner, a poached or fried egg can be served right on top. I suppose beefing them up is the wrong word when using an egg, but you know what I mean.

I hope you like how over cooked that fried egg is by American standards, but that’s how they turn out when fried Irish style. No sunny sides up or over easys for an Irish cook.

Another option is to top them off with a slice of grilled or fried tomato, and two slices of bacon or rashers as we say in Ireland. Yummy! Yummy! Yummy!

I knew someone who liked to spread Marmite on their toast, before topping it off with beans. Marmite is a dark brown, salty, savory spread made from yeast extract. Not for me, but everyone adds their own little touches to make their beans on toast special.

Finely diced onion can be caramelized in a pan before adding the beans for heating. A dash of Worcestershire sauce and mustard kick the flavor up a notch.  I suppose these steps bring the beans a little closer to American BBQ beans.

A slice of cheese, grilled to melting point on the toast, is delicious hidden beneath the beans. My mouth is now watering thinking about bland old beans on toast.

As children we loved to drink a cold glass of milk with our beans, but as I grew older I replaced the milk with a nice cup of hot tea with a little dash of milk. Again, most Americans are probably aghast at this menu combination. But the plain old fact is, I have Irish taste buds.

English Lunch - Beans on Toast

Here in America I buy vegetarian beans. No pork and beans in this house. I’m not fond of a piece of  pork rind floating in my beans as they heat. A can of vegetarian beans reminds me of Irish beans the most.  Luckily, my local supermarket stocks Heinz vegetarian beans.

The brand of choice when I was growing up in Ireland was Bachelor’s beans. Their advertising logo consisted of two little men singing to their hearts’ content:

“Bachelors! Bachelors!”

 

Anyone remember them?

 

I’d say there were, and probably still are, many Irish bachelors whose cooking repertoires consist of beans on toast; no more; no less.  The after affects of said beans may be one of the reasons for the aforementioned state of  bachelorhood.     :)

Wishing you all happy and easy lunchtimes.

 

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

 

Irish American Mom

 

Summer Pudding

Summer pudding, packed with juicy fresh berries, is one of my all time favorite desserts of the summer. This pudding looks spectacular when plated, giving the impression it’s a pretty complicated recipe, but making this classically English dessert is so much easier than it looks.  It’s so easy in fact, I think it’s a perfect recipe for beginners.

Summer Pudding

The red and blue fruits of this pudding are perfectly highlighted by white serving cream, making this a perfect dessert for 4th of July celebrations.  So today I plan to make summer pudding converts of all my American readers.

When in Ireland I make this pudding using strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, and red currants. In a previous post I revealed my love of blackcurrants and my disappointment upon finding they are actually illegal to grow in some parts of America.   Once I discovered currants are not grown in all states, and therefore not readily available, I substituted blueberries for the red and black currants in my summer pudding recipe.

Aerial shot of an English summer pudding

And always remember, if you can’t get your hands on enough fresh fruit, this pudding is just as delicious when made using frozen fruit. If you don’t have a pudding bowl you can make it in a loaf tin – no need to be fussy. Individual ramekins look really attractive too.

Individual Serving of Summer Pudding

Individual Serving of Summer Pudding

This pudding looks very impressive, and can be made ahead, so it’s a really a great dinner party dessert.  I often imagine the gentry of Downton Abbey enjoying a little summer pudding in July.

And so here’s my recipe…..

Ingredients for Summer Pudding

Ingredients for Summer Pudding

Ingredients:

 

  • 16 oz fresh strawberries (2/3 of a container for the pudding and the remainder to garnish)
  • 6 oz fresh blackberries
  • 12 oz fresh raspberries
  • 4 oz fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 10 medium slices white bread (day old bread is best)

Adding raspberries to sugar syrup for Summer Pudding

The first step involves bringing out the juices from the fruits. Add the sugar and water to a large saucepan over gentle heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and allow the syrup to simmer for 1 minute.

Add the raspberries, blackberries and blueberries to the syrup and reduce the heat to low. Some summer pudding cooks like to heat the strawberries too, but I find they turn too mushy when simmered. I recommend not cooking the strawberries.

Fruit simmering for Summer Pudding

Cook the fruit for 3 minutes, stirring the mixture gently a few times, being careful not to break up the fruit. Shaking the saucepan works well to prevent sticking, but you do need to stir a little to cover the fruit in sugar syrup to draw out the juices.

Straining fruit for summer pudding

Remove the fruit from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Strain the fruit using a sieve over a large bowl.

Bread sliced for a summer pudding

The next step involves preparing the bread to line the sides of the pudding bowl.  I use a 1.5 quart pudding bowl for this recipe.  I find a country white bread is best, but you can use whole wheat bread or brioche.

  • First remove the crusts from all the slices of bread.
  • The sides require 4 slices of bread cut in half on a slight diagonal.
  • 3 circles of bread are required for the bottom of the bowl, the middle of the pudding and to cover the base.
  • Use the bowl to cut a circle the size of the small end of the bowl from one slice of bread.
  • Place 2 slices of bread side by side, and use a saucer to cut two semi-circles.  This will be the circle for the middle of the pudding.
  • Place 2 slices of bread side by side with another one perpendicular, and cut a circle the size of the large open end of the bowl.

 

Building a summer pudding

Use 2 x 20 inch sheets of plastic film to line a 1.5 quart pudding bowl, allowing the excess film to hang over the sides of the bowl. I find it’s easier to use two pieces of plastic wrap rather than trying to get one large piece to fit into the bowl.  Without the plastic wrap the pudding may end up sticking to the basin. Nobody wants a messy heap on plate when serving.   I like to soak dip the bread pieces in the juices as I assemble the pudding. It prevents white patches of bread with no juice in the finished pudding.

Note: A reader let me know his finished pudding would not hold its shape, even when chilled overnight. He may have oversoaked the bread pieces. The goal of dipping the bread pieces is to color them red, so only dip them long enough to get an even color on the outer surface of each piece. Saturating the bread will result in a wobbly pudding.

Bread lined pudding bowl for summer pudding

  • First, take the smallest circle of bread and dip it into the fruit juices to coat it. Place it at the very bottom of the pudding bowl.
  • Next dip the triangular side pieces into the juice. Line the sides of the bowl by slightly overlapping the bread pieces.
  • Add the sliced strawberries to the fruit mixture.
  • Spoon one third of the fruit into the bowl.
  • Dip the smaller two semi-circular bread pieces into the fruit juice. Place them over the first layer of fruit.

 

I like to add this extra layer of bread in the middle of the pudding. I find it helps to support the fruit and the pudding doesn’t collapse when you cut it for serving.
Fruit added to summer pudding
  • Add the remainder of the fruit to the pudding bowl.
  • Soak the larger semi-circles of bread in the juice and place them over the fruit in the bowl.
Reserve any excess juice in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Sometimes when I make this pudding I have left over juices, and sometimes the bread just soaks it all right up.  The amount of juice yielded is totally dependent upon how juicy your fresh fruit is.  I usually keep a bag of frozen raspberries in the freezer. If the fruit I am using doesn’t yield enough fruit juice to completely soak the bread pieces, I quickly heat up some frozen raspberries with sugar and water to yield a little more juice.
Summer pudding covered in plastic wrap
  • Bring the cling film up and over the bottom of the pudding.
  • Place a smaller plate or saucer on top of the pudding and weigh it down with cans.  Sometimes I just place another bowl filled with water on top.
Weighing down a summer pudding
  • Chill in the refrigerator for 6 hours or overnight.
  • To remove the pudding for serving, open out the saran wrap.
  • Place a serving plate upside-down on top and flip the pudding over.
  • Remove the saran wrap.
  • Decorate with left over strawberries or any other fruit.
English Summer Pudding
Serve slices of the pudding with leftover juice, and cream.

Opening a summer pudding

I hope you enjoy this pudding as much as I do – it truly is a taste of summer.

Here is the printable recipe:

 

Summer Pudding

Serves 8
Prep time 1 hour
Cook time 10 minutes
Total time 1 hour, 10 minutes
Meal type Dessert
Region British

Ingredients

  • 16oz fresh strawberries (2/3 of a container for the pudding and the remainder to garnish)
  • 6oz fresh blackberries
  • 12oz fresh raspberries
  • 4oz fresh blueberries
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 10 medium slices white bread (day old bread is best)

Directions

Step 1 Add the sugar and water to a large saucepan over gentle heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and allow the syrup to simmer for 1 minute
Step 2 Add the raspberries, blackberries and blueberries to the syrup and reduce the heat to low. Do not cook the strawberries. Cook the fruit for 3 minutes, stirring the mixture gently a few times, being careful not to break up the fruit.
Step 3 Remove the fruit from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Strain the fruit using a sieve over a large bowl.
Step 4 Remove the crusts from the slices of bread. Cut 4 pieces of bread in half on a slight diagonal. Place 2 slices of bread side by side, and another above them. Place the 1.5 quart pudding bowl upside down over the slices of bread and cut around the circumference to create two semi-circles of bread, plus an additional crescent.
Step 5 Take another two slices of bread and use a saucer, smaller than the circumference of the bowl, to cut an additional two semi-circles for the middle of the pudding. Cut a smaller circle from the last slice of bread.
Step 6 Use 2 x 20 inch sheets of plastic wrap to line a 1.5 quart pudding bowl, allowing the excess film to hang over the sides of the bowl.
Step 7 Take the smallest circle of bread and dip it into the fruit juices to coat it. Place it at the very bottom of the pudding bowl. Next dip the triangular side pieces into the juice. Line the sides of the bowl by slightly overlapping the bread pieces.
Step 8 Add the sliced strawberries to the fruit mixture. Spoon one third of the fruit into the bowl. Dip the smaller two semi-circular bread pieces into the fruit juice. Place them over the first layer of fruit.
Step 9 Add the remainder of the fruit to the pudding bowl. Soak the larger semi-circles of bread in the juice and place them over the fruit in the bowl. Reserve the excess juice in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
Step 10 Bring the cling film up and over the bottom of the pudding. Place a smaller plate or saucer on top of the pudding and weigh it down with cans, or another bowl.
Step 11 Chill in the refrigerator for 6 hours or overnight.
Step 12 To remove the pudding for serving, open out the saran wrap. Place a serving plate upside-down on top and flip the pudding over. Remove the saran wrap. Decorate with the additional strawberries and any other fruit of choice. Serve slices of the pudding with leftover juice, and cream.

 

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

Irish American Mom

 

 

 

Irish Sponge Cake

Irish sponge cake is a light and delicate egg sponge filled with a layer of jam and lots of luscious cream, with a light dusting of confectioners’ sugar on top.  I loved this cake when I was growing up in Ireland.

This cake recipe requires no butter.  That’s right! A butter free cake! This is my Mom’s go-to recipe whenever she wants to make a quick, inexpensive cake that is relatively good for you.  The recipe calls for four eggs, resulting in a protein-rich treat, disguised as cake.

I confess I was easy to please as a child.  When my mom asked what kind of cake I wanted for my birthday I always requested this sponge cake.  No frosting frenzy required for me.  Just a simple dusting of confectioners’ sugar on this cream-filled delight, and I was as happy as a bee.

 

Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cups cake flour (plus two tablespoons)
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup strawberry or raspberry jam
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Optional

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

I loved to bake cakes when I was a teenager in Ireland.  My Mom’s sponge cake recipe was easy to remember – 4 eggs, 4 ounces of sugar and 4 ounces of flour.  4-4-4 made it ever so simple.

Not so simple when I came to America, and tried to replicate my Irish cake baking successes.  My first attempts were a complete failure.  I used 4 eggs and 1/2 cup of both sugar and flour.  It took me a while to realize that 4 ounces of sugar is a half cup, but that flour is significantly lighter than sugar.  I needed 3/4 cups of flour, plus an additional 2 tablespoons to achieve the exact same ratios as in my mother’s recipe.

 

Sponge cake success is dependent upon beating as much air as possible into an egg and sugar mixture to ensure the cake rises when it hits the heat of the oven.  Make sure your eggs are at room temperature before beating them.  Cold eggs do not hold as much air.

Add the eggs and sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer.  Turn onto high and let the mixer perform its magic.

While the mixer is busy beating up those eggs and sugar, prepare two 9-inch round baking pans by spraying them with non-stick spray infused with flour.

I love this stuff!  It is so much easier than the old fashioned way.  We used to grease the pans with an old butter wrapper, then add flour and tap it around the pan to completely coat the buttery surface in a thin white layer of flour.  Now that awkward job has been transformed into a few quick spritzes with this miraculous floury spray.  Hats off to whoever invented this stuff!  You have my eternal gratitude.

Next prepare the flour by sifting it with the baking powder.  My mom does not use any baking powder at all, but I find that just 1/8 of a teaspoon helps when using American flour.

Always sift the flour.  The process adds air to the flour mixture, helping create a lighter sponge cake.

The egg and sugar mixture will increase in volume many times over as it gets whipped up with air.  It takes anywhere from 6 to 8 minutes depending on the power of your mixer to achieve a thickened, glossy consistency.  When the egg mixture is ready the beater will be leaving markings on the mixture as it turns, and the mixture’s color will be a very, very pale yellow.

Spoon half the flour into the egg mixture.  Using a spatula, gently fold in the flour.  Do not use the electric mixer to add the flour, since this would deflate all the lovely air pockets that will help the cake to rise.

Add the vanilla essence at this point if you like the flavor.  I never add vanilla – it is not a sponge cake flavor I grew up with.

Add the second half of the flour and again fold it in gently.  Make sure to lift the mixture from the very bottom of the bowl as you fold in the flour.  This will release air pockets of trapped flour like the one pictured above.

When the flour is fully incorporated pour half the mixture into each of the prepared baking pans.

Spread it out evenly using the spatula.  Place the cake pans in the pre-heated oven and bake for 15 minutes at 375 degrees and then reduce to 350 degrees for a final 10 minutes.

When cooked the cakes will be a light golden color and will be slightly springy to the touch.  When touched with a finger tip, no indentation will remain.

Use a knife to loosen the edges of the sponge layer from the side of the cake pan if necessary.  Turn the cakes onto a wire rack to cool.

Spread a 1/4 cup of jam on the inner aspect of each sponge layer.

Beat the heavy whipping cream in a mixing bowl using an electric mixer, until the cream is thick and easy to spread.  Add 1 tablespoon of confectioners’ sugar to the cream if a sweeter taste is desired.

Place the lower layer of the sponge on a serving plate.  Cover the jam with a thick layer of cream.

Place the top sponge layer on top of the cream, to create a jam and cream sandwich.

Decorate the cake with a light coating of confectioners’ sugar sifted on top.

Slice and enjoy this light, delicate cake with jam and luscious cream.  My little girl announced tonight, that sponge cake is her favorite cake in the whole wide world.  It’s her Mommy’s favorite cake too.

Here is the printable recipe.

Irish Sponge Cake

Serves 8
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 25 minutes
Total time 45 minutes
Meal type Dessert
Region Irish
An Irish Sponge Cake is a light and delicate egg sponge filled with a layer of jam and lots of luscious cream, with a light dusting of confectioners' sugar on top.

Ingredients

  • 4 Large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cups cake flour (plus two tablespoons)
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup strawberry or raspberry jam
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

Optional

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Step 1 Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray two 9-inch round baking pans with non-stick spray infused with flour, or grease with butter and dust with a light coating of flour.
Step 2 Add the eggs and sugar to a large mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar for 6 to 8 minutes until the mixture has increased in volume and thickened to a consistency of whipped heavy cream.
Step 3 In a separate bowl sift the flour and baking powder together. Spoon half the flour into the egg mixture and gently fold it in using a spatula. Repeat with the second half of the flour, folding gently to fully incorporate the flour. Add the vanilla essence with the flour if desired.
Step 4 Pour half of the cake mixture into each of the prepared baking pans. Bake in the preheated oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 10 minutes. The sponges will be golden brown, with a slight spring to the touch when cooked.
Step 5 Remove the sponges from the oven and cool on a wire tray.
Step 6 Whip the heavy cream using an electric beater until thick. Add one tablespoon of confectioners' sugar to sweeten if desired. Spread jam on the inner surface of each sponge. Place one layer on a plate, spreading the cream over the jam. Sandwich the cream with the upper sponge layer.
Step 7 Decorate by sifting a fine layer of confectioners' sugar on top. Slice to serve.

Happy baking!

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom