As you know I have been doing some recipe testing in preparation for the business launch next month. I want to explore the rest of the world and it’s cakes and I thought a good place to start was at home i.e. Ireland! I found a great book of traditional Irish baking when I was trawling the internet (mentioned in my bookshelf post here), Maura Laverty’s Traditional Irish Cookbook, Bread & Cakes. It is a treasure trove of great Irish cakes and one in particular, the Chocolate Potato Cake.
I had found a recipe for this online and tried it about a month ago but it was pretty tasteless, not much of a chocolate taste to it at all so I was looking for a better version. Maura Laverty’s recipe called for 8 tablespoons of grated chocolate (don’t get me started on grating chocolate, life’s too short both for the explanation and the grating!) which worked out to be 38g. That’s not going to add any taste to a supposed chocolate cake so I upped this to 60g. I did grate the chocolate this time, always best to follow the recipe the first time and then tweak it. As well as upping the chocolate I added 40g of cocoa powder, the combination of both make sure that chocolate is the star of the cake.
Now for the potato, potato in a cake? This makes sense in many ways, vegetables have been used in baking for years and why not the potato? Potato adds body and moistness to the cake without adding any flavour. The potatoes need to be boiled, mashed and left to cool completely before adding to the cake. On my first attempt I mashed the potatoes as I would normally, with a masher. The recipe called for them to be sieved but, in this case, I decided not to follow the recipe to the letter! And I should have, the cake had tiny potato lumps distributed throughout which wasn’t very pleasant (although it didn’t effect the taste). I made the cake again this weekend and used my ricer, much better result so worth that extra effort.
The recipe used the creaming method to add volume. It also called for baking powder and separating the eggs and folding in the whisked egg whites at the end. This gave the cake a good rise. The baking time was 1 hr and 3/4 at 180C, this seemed a bit long so I checked it at 50 minutes and it was done in 1hr and 15mins.
The recipe book is from 1960 and assumes that you will know instinctively what size tin to use, it doesn’t give any sizes. The instruction is “turn into a greased lined tin”. I went with a 8in/20cm tin which yielded a very high cake. You could cut this in two and sandwich it with icing as well as icing the top. I left it alone and iced the top with a cream cheese icing.
I distributed some slices to friends for tasting, they all liked the cake (apart from the bits of potato!) although one asked about the purpose of the potato, she didn’t see what it added. I guess that is the beauty of it, it adds moistness but doesn’t interfere with the taste. The one I made last weekend turned out better, no lumps with the use of the ricer and I used a slightly bigger tin (9in/23cm) which made was the perfect size.