Tea with Miss Marple (2)


A cross section of Irish seed cake from "The Art of Irish Cooking" by Monica Sheridan, published in 1965.

If you lived in Ireland in the 1960s and had an interest in food, you surely turned the channel to see Monica Sheridan in her element. As someone once wrote, this chef of the airwaves was the Nigella Lawson of her day, right down to licking her fingers on live television, which shocked many viewers. Sheridan, who died in 1998, had a huge following, and many fans looked up to her as a local girl made good (one of a farmer’s 14 children, she ended up marrying a wealthy barrister). And no fancy recipes for her—Sheridan’s specialty was traditional Irish cookery, pure and simple, and one of the recipes in her cheerful book The Art of Irish Cooking (Gramercy, 1965) is a seed cake doused with Irish whiskey. I have no idea whether she would have approved of our using Jim Beam Straight Kentucky Bourbon instead of Irish whiskey—it was the only liquor we had that came close—but the seed cake that resulted was strangely delicate, even ladylike. Presumably this is because Sheridan specified using cake flour instead of regular white flour. Also she limited the caraway seeds to just over a teaspoonful; other traditional recipes use many more seeds, so the flavour can be somewhat aggressive.

Monica Sheridan's Irish seed cake, straight from the oven.

SEED CAKE (2)
SOURCE: The Art of Irish Cooking by Monica Sheridan (Gramercy, 1965)

INGREDIENTS
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
2-1/2 cups sifted cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1-1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
2 tablespoons Irish whiskey
Extra caraway seeds for dusting on top

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cream the butter and the sugar together until white and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, with a dust of flour. Beat well after the addition of each egg. Sift the flour with the baking powder and fold gently into the egg mixture with the caraway seeds. Add the whiskey and pour the mixture into an 8-inch cake pan that has been lined with wax paper. Scatter some caraway seeds on top. Bake for 1 hour. Reduce the heat toward the end of the baking time.

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2 comments on “Tea with Miss Marple (2)

  1. Charlotte says:

    How funny! The New York Times Dining section featured an Irish cook today named Darina Allen. As I read the article and ate my toast with orange mamalade and drank my coffee, I wondered if I should explore Irish cookery. And now this post! Your were evidently baking your cake while the NYT writer was meeting her deadline!

  2. Charlotte says:

    That would be “marmalade”. Breakfast was so long ago and now I’m on my second glass of wine!

    Best,

    Charlotte

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