Ireland, unfortunately, gets a bad rap when it comes to its culinary offerings. One area of Irish food that is often overlooked is its desserts. Simple yet delicious, sampling a few are a must during any trip to the Emerald Isle. Here, we share our recommendations for the best Irish dessert recipes to make at home.
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What Is Irish Food?
Corned beef and cabbage, Shepherd’s Pie, and potatoes, that’s what people think of when they hear Irish food. It’s food that’s boiled, lacking flavor, and creativity. While other cuisines like Italian, French, and Spanish are highly regarded, Irish food has never received such accolades. But things are looking up.
In the last 15 years, Irish food has experienced a renaissance. A renewed focus on using locally sourced ingredients has lead to this renaissance. Irish chefs who went abroad to study and work in top kitchens have returned home to Ireland to reinvent what we consider Irish food. We’ve seen this first hand – we live in Ireland.
What Are Irish Desserts?
All too often people think by adding a shot of Irish whiskey, Baileys, or a pint of Guinness stout this automatically makes it an “Irish” dessert. I’m not pointing any fingers, but chain restaurants like Bennigans and TGI Fridays have played a role in what people consider an Irish dessert. So, while I do enjoy a slice of Bailey’s cheesecake, the Baileys (Irish) Tiramisu (Italian) might be a step too far.
Like making desserts at home? Check out our other round-ups of tasty dessert recipes:
Desserts In Ireland
So then, what are Irish desserts? Desserts in Ireland have a lot in common with desserts from other cuisines. First and foremost, they use ingredients sourced locally. Ireland is fortunate to grow a variety of apples, berries, and other fruits ideal for desserts. Barley and oats are staples in Irish cooking. As a result, many desserts in Ireland feature these local ingredients.
Having a long history of poverty and strife, many Irish desserts like rhubarb tart or stewed apples, traditionally feature only a few ingredients. This is not a bad thing. In our travels for food, we’ve learned that dishes with only a few ingredients are oftentimes the best. And this is true of a number of Irish desserts.
Much like the rest of Irish food, Irish desserts have gone through their own renaissance. Irish pastry chefs are finding new and innovative ways to “modernize” traditional Irish dessert and Irish pastries. But rest assured, there are plenty of opportunities to grab a slice of tart or fresh brown bread across Ireland.
Traditional Irish Desserts
Irish Apple Pie, Tart, And Cake
Growing up on apple pie in the US, I’m a bit partial to this dessert. In 20+ years of traveling to Ireland, I’ve learned that Ireland grows some seriously delicious apples. It shouldn’t come as any surprise as apples have been growing in Ireland for over 3,000 years. Thankfully in addition to making excellent cider, Irish Apple Pie is a popular Irish dessert.
It’s more likely that in Ireland, it would be called an apple tart, or apple cakes are also quite popular.
The recipe for Irish Apple Pie is nearly identical to that for an “American” Apple Pie. There is, however, a subtle difference in how apple pie is garnished in the US and here in Ireland. In the US it was always apple pie and vanilla ice cream. Here, custard seems to be the garnish of choice. Perhaps this is just my aunt’s way of serving it, but that’s how it’s been served to us.
Irish Porter Cake
It’s exciting to discover new food experiences. While we’ve been coming to Ireland for years and now live here, we only scratched the surface on Irish food and drink. One of our most recent discoveries is the Irish Porter Cake. With a limited knowledge of Irish cakes, we were rather intrigued to make our own Irish Porter Cake when we learned of its special ingredient.
One of the more traditional Irish cakes, the Irish Porter Cake is a beast. Put simply, it’s essentially an Irish fruitcake and it’s most likely made during Christmas time. It’s dense. It’s packed with fruit. And is so heavy, it can be used to prop open a door.
What separates the Porter Cake from other fruitcakes, is that the cake is “fed” a dark Irish beer. Hence the name Porter Caker. Ireland being Ireland, Guinness is the dark beer of choice. Periodically a small amount of Guinness is poured or “fed” over the cake. This keeps the cake moist over the holidays and keeps children away from the cake.
Say the word “rhubarb” to me and my first reaction is Ireland. Forget the potato, I feel like rhubarb is the national vegetable. I asked some Irish friends on Twitter what they considered to be traditional Irish dessert. Nearly every one of them gave me a dessert with rhubarb. Stewed rhubarb and custard, rhubarb crumble, and of course rhubarb tart.
Rhubarb Tart is a surprisingly tasty Irish dessert. In order to break down the sourness of the rhubarb, a fair amount of sugar is used. If this is done right, the tart will have a sweetness we all love from desserts, but with just a hint of sourness.
Ireland Dessert Recipes
We tried to mix things up with our list of Irish desserts recipes. You’ll find traditional Irish dessert recipes along with contemporary desserts using Irish ingredients like Irish whiskey, Baileys Irish Cream, and Guinness.
Also, because this is Ireland, which is a country known for its drinks, we also include a recipe for the classic Irish coffee and even a Guinness float – no reason you can’t drink your dessert!
We’ve tried our best to include easy Irish dessert recipes too. Thankfully most Irish desserts are straightforward and can be made by the most novice of bakers. As we find and test out new recipes, we will continue to update.