Slice, Stoneybatter: Have your cake and eat it too
The way French people envision cakes is very different to the way Irish people do. In France, when we want a dainty, elaborate, refined cake, we go to the pâtisserie, the pastry shop, and we buy it. Usually, most boulangeries (bakeries) have a pastry window, so you can basically find delicious pastries on every French street - there are no less than 35,000 bakeries in France. The cliché is true, we always walk around with a baguette under our arm (or at least once a day).
When we bake at home, to make a cake for le goûter (our treasured afternoon sweet break), or for a birthday, we actually don't care a lot about how the cake looks. We love extra rich gooey chocolate cakes - like a fondant, fruit tarts, or our ultimate family favourite, the classic gateau au yaourt, the yoghurt cake, where every ingredient is measured out using a small tub of yoghurt*.
So when I arrived in Ireland and discovered the huge baking culture, I was quite impressed. Most Irish mums bake, on a regular basis. Every shop has a section, or at least a big shelf, dedicated to pastry products and most importantly decorations.
Because this is what I realised quickly when I learnt about this pastry addiction Irish people have: the look is often much more important than the actual taste of the cake. As long as it is covered in a rich sickly sweet buttercream or a rubbery sugar paste, with tons of colours and glitter, everyone is happy. The base is usually a sponge cake, vanilla or chocolate, which I tend to find dry and lacking flavours. More often than not, style wins over substance, it seems.
Yet for having tasted some delicious cakes in cafes and restaurants around Ireland, I know some pastry chefs are able to combine style and substance, like The Flour Artist, who provides amazingly beautiful and tasty cakes to our beloved Fia cafe. I am also addicted to everything that is served in Queen of Tarts.
Among the most highly regarded cake shops in Dublin, the Cake Café and Camerino have been on my radar for a while. Last weekend, taking advantage of the bank holiday weekend, I ventured North of the Liffey to have brunch with my friend Anaïs in Slice, the sister of the Cake Café in Stoneybatter.
Still enthralled by the flavours of Sicily, I ordered the free-range eggs and sardines baked with lemon zest, slow roast tomatoes and shallots (it usually comes with red peppers as well but I'm not too fond of them), which turned out to be a truly satisfying dish. Between the acidity of the tomatoes, the creaminess of the eggs and the saltiness of the sardines, everything worked so well together, accompanied with some crunchy sourdough bread.
Anaïs went for the bacon, avo and pomegranate on toast, with lemon and poppyseed dressing, which she topped with a poached egg. This hearty dish, a more classic brunch option, was as fulfilling as she expected.
While my friend was satiated with her dish, I felt compelled to consider the dessert offering. We were in a cake café, after all. Looking slightly like a carrot cake, my interest was drawn by the courgette cake. Filled with a homemade citrus curd, topped with a cream cheese icing - and a cute flower, it wasn't as moist as a carrot cake but I particularly enjoyed the balance of the flavours and the fact that it was just the right amount of sweet. Pretty AND tasty!
After this delicious treat, I also decided to bring home a slice of the cocoa brownies with peanut butter, which I think were gluten free. Damien and I tried it a few hours later, but unfortunately, it left us both quite disappointed.
While we noticed a nice chocolatey flavour, we didn't like the texture at all, not rich enough and even slightly cardboardy. Damien even wondered if the brownie wasn't a bit "old"... I actually think it was supposed to be a "healthy brownie", but I didn't realise that when I ordered it. I don't want my brownie to be healthy, I want it to be super rich, I want to feel a decadent amount of butter and heaps of chocolate. Too bad, I should have left it at the courgette cake, or ordered the caramel slice sitting right next to it in the window, which looked scrumptious. For €12 for the eggs and the cake, I will be back for more (just not more brownie).
* I feel like you are dying to know the recipe, so here it is:
GATEAU AU YAOURT
- 1 tub plain yoghurt (the 125g type, which is the most widely found in France)
- 2 tubs sugar
- 1 sachet vanilla flavoured sugar (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
- 3 tubs flour
- 1/2 tub oil (such as sunflower)
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 sachet baking powder (or 1 tsp)
- 1 pinch salt
Heat the oven to 180°C. Butter a round cake tin.
Empty the yoghurt tub in a large mixing bowl. Then, use the empty tub to measure the other ingredients as you go, mixing with a wooden spoon between each ingredient: sugar, eggs one by one, flour, baking powder, salt and oil (and vanilla extract if using).
Transfer the batter into the grease tin and bake for 35 minutes. Let cool and remove from tin.
You can add pretty much whatever you want to this basic recipe, cacao powder, chocolate chips, nuts, chunks of apple or banana, raisins, honey...