Sunday, May 22, 2022

Lemon Cream Cookies: or, If you ate liver you earned these

I couldn't stop thinking about the grimmest newspaper recipes I've ever seen clipped.

I found this pressed into the pages in my college library's copy of The Woman's Club of Fort Worth Cook Book. This book lives in protective custody in the special collections, but they gladly let any library patron look through it. However, you can only read the book on premises and under their watchful eyes. The librarian saw me copying down recipes to try and helpfully said "There's a scanner over there." I just had to also scan this joyless slip of newspaper that someone had carefully pressed between the book pages like a dried flower. I wondered what unfortunate dieting person would cut this out and press it into a book. Also, did they come from a densely packed page of dieting recipes? An article about how to eat dinner like you have two dollars for groceries when you only have one?

Anyway, a while ago I tried to get a free trial to Newspapers.com. They wouldn't let me sign up without giving them a credit card number, and I knew I would forget to cancel before it was too late to avoid paying. But every now and then, I get an email about a discount or other promotion. And so, when they announced a free trial that didn't require me to hand over a card number, I had to see what these recipes came from. I searched the Fort Worth newspapers (since the page turned up in the Fort Worth woman's club cookbook) for any mention of both "buttered turnips" and "liver and bacon." This turned up almost instantly.

I finally found it!


Lemon Cream Cookies
⅔ c butter
2 c sugar
2 eggs
4 tbsp cream
2 tbsp grated lemon rind
1 tsp lemon extract
¼ tsp salt
3⅓ c flour
2 tsp baking powder

Heat oven to 350°. Grease a baking sheet.
Cream the butter, sugar, lemon rind, salt, and baking powder. Beat until light. Add eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each. Add cream and lemon extract, beat well. Mix in the flour.
Drop the dough by the spoonful onto greased baking sheets and bake 12 minutes. If you want them a little more neatly shaped, form the dough into balls instead- but they'll come out fine either way.

Source: "Helping the Homemaker" by Marian Manners, Fort Worth Star-Telegram morning edition (Fort Worth, TX), May 9 1934, page 11

This clipping comes to us from the women's page of the Fort Worth newspaper. Since it was pressed between the pages of The Woman's Club of Fort Worth Cook Book and it is now in a library in the Fort Worth area, it appears the book I found it in has spent its entire existence in the same city. 

Based on the date headings on the news page, the newspaper had separate morning and evening editions in those days. This clipping comes from the morning of May 9, 1934. I kind of like how the later newspaper date shows us that whoever owned the book in which this clipping lay dormant still used the book six years after it was printed. You don't stash recipe clippings in cookbooks you never use. You will notice that whoever saved this brittle newspaper scrap left out the only good recipe. The rest of the day's suggested menus, while perhaps not thrilling to someone living in this millennium, are not as grim and punitive as the two clipped recipes suggest.

The rest of the women's page is a time capsule of 1930s ladyhood (or at least, what people thought 1930s ladyhood should look like). There is the daily inspirational article which on this particular day is about how women hold the country together while the men go to work ("all riches come to naught if emotional comfort is lacking"), the daily romance novel chapter, a dress pattern of the day which you can order from the newspaper's sewing pattern department, childrearing advice, fashion updates, puff pieces about the rich and famous, and other things of ladylike interest. A laundry soap advertises that with their product you can remove dirt and stains without "scrubbing your clothes thin in a few months' time," an interesting reminder that many people still washed their clothes with a tub and washboard long after the pioneer days were over. A short article about the importance of exercise opens with "When joints are stiff and the sprint for street car or bus is ambling, something has to be done." Apparently even Texas used to have such good transit that you didn't need a car.

But moving back to "Helping the Homemaker." If liver and boiled turnips are supposed to help the homemaker, I wondered how many homemakers appreciated the aid-- even if they also clipped the lemon cookies printed with the other two. To give "Helping the Homemaker" a fair shake, I looked it up by that name. It ran in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in the early to mid-1930s. Most of the recipes are better than the ones we saw lovingly pressed into the cookbook. The food choices skew towards easy yet interesting (well, interesting for the time) recipes that you, the lady news reader of 1934, can make for dinner on short notice tonight. If the recipes weren't written by women who had families at home, the writers at least consulted them before publishing. The person who clipped the liver and turnips, despite having the good taste to write down my favorite bread recipe, cut out the worst edition of the column.

Some interesting things to note: "Helping the Homemaker" occasionally detours away from meals and gives recipes for preserving the season's produce (since home freezers didn't exist for most people). Also, a lot of the recipes in various "Helping the Homemaker" columns call for bacon grease but not for bacon. I guess bacon often graced the table, and every sensible housewife kept a jar next to the stove to thriftily save the grease. (We have learned that bacon grease is an easy way to add a lot of flavor to whatever you're cooking- especially if you already have it on hand.) Moving away from the jar of bacon grease that apparently lived on every stove, "Helping the Homemaker" uses nearly every ingredient that could be purchased for a reasonable price in the 1930s. A lot of recipes use dates- which in this century are one of the more expensive dried fruits in the store. Ham also makes many appearances in "Helping the Homemaker," whether it's listed among the ingredients as leftover ham, raw ham, chopped ham, cured ham, sliced ham or a whole ham. On a lot of days, the featured recipe tells you to chop up the main ingredient (whether it's meat, boiled eggs, or vegetables), stir it into hot gravy, and serve it on toast. It looks like a very routine way for the housewife in the 1930s to make last night's dinner stretch into today's lunch. I can't help wondering whether people never really liked creamed-whatever on toast but merely tolerated it in the name of economizing, or if it went out of style after enough years of people calling it "shit on a shingle" (or "stuff on a shingle" if children are present). Lastly, "Helping the Homemaker" columns never have any loving introductions or mouth-watering descriptions of the day's recipes as one would include today. Each short installment of "Helping the Homemaker" has two or three recipes with very terse instructions, and maybe a suggested menu (sometimes for dinner and sometimes for the whole day) - and that's it.

Next, I had to ask. Who was helping homemakers? The column sometimes was credited to someone named Louise Bennett Weaver, but sometimes had no name at all. I first dismissed this as an odd but arbitrary choice, but then I found newspaper issues that had both an anonymous and a Louise Bennett Weaver homemaker-helping column on the same page. Sometimes the two were right next to each other.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram morning edition, October 28, 1933

Where were the non-Louise Helping the Homemakers coming from? Coming at this search another way, I decided to stop restricting myself to the Fort Worth area. I searched every newspaper in the country for "liver and bacon" and "buttered turnips." The same recipe column appeared in various newspapers across the country, all within a few days of each other. So, "Helping the Homemaker" was a syndicated column and not the work of the Fort Worth newspaper staff. A few newspapers credited it to someone named "Marian Manners." Aha! We finally had a name to look up!

It turns out "Marian Manners" was the Betty Crocker of the Los Angeles Times. By that I mean she was the fictitious face of their cooking staff writers. And so, this brittle, ancient newspaper clipping of unexplained and depressing recipes that has mystified me for so long turns out to be a syndicated column from a test kitchen in Los Angeles.

With all that said, I wanted to try the lemon cookie recipe that a scissor-wielding home cook deprived herself of in 1934. It starts with grating off a lot of lemon rind. 


Meanwhile in the mixing bowl, we commence with the butter and the sugar. I find it interesting that this recipe calls for butter measured out in thirds of a cup. These days, most of us get our butter by the stick- each of which measures a half cup. It seems most recipes these days have adapted to using butter either by the stick or by the tablespoon (since they print tablespoon-sized measuring lines on the wrappers). A third cup of butter leaves odd-sized lumps in the refrigerator. 

We are directed to cream the butter and sugar, then just add everything else in. I'm going to assume that they wrote this recipe for people who knew better than to just dump everything in all at once. If I am right, they left out the really obvious directions that any competent cook in 1934 would know. It's not until much later in history that everyone starts publishing recipes with detailed instructions. At this point, a lot of recipe writers (especially newspapers trying to cram as much as possible into the limited page space) only gave finely detailed directions if you were supposed to do things differently from what most people were used to.

With that in mind, we added in the lemon rind and gave it a good beating with the butter and sugar. In theory, the sugar crystals would sand the lemon rind and bring out a lot of the lovely flavor.

 As we add the egg, you should know that this lemony butter-sugar tasted absolutely wonderful. 

I checked and double checked the recipe, but we are not supposed to use lemon rind but not any lemon juice. The recipe uses lemon extract instead. Well it's 1934, Old Man Depression keeps knocking on our door, and I guess we should be glad we can grate off the rind and economically save the rest of the lemons for another use. Because we failed to read the recipe, we did not purchase lemon extract. But this random mini-bottle has been hanging around in the refrigerator for so long that no one knows how it got there. 


Because we are economizing like they had to in the 1930s, I squeezed out the lemon juice and froze it for a later time. I also grated off the rind of the other lemon we bought and crammed it into the little vodka bottle to turn into lovely lemon extract. Shoving all those happy yellow shreds through a tiny bottle opening was a bit trickier than I expected.

And now, we get to the second title ingredient in today's recipe! When I first saw the recipe name, I thought "lemon cream cookies" meant lemon sandwich cookies with some sort of creamy filling. But no, the "cream" in "lemon cream cookies" simply means we're supposed to add a splash of the stuff to the dough. I thought about substituting in milk (since the recipe doesn't use very much cream anyway), but then I decided that they deliberately chose not to write a recipe for "lemon milk cookies." 


We should also note that in those days, milk was not yet homogenized before selling it. The cream still separated into layer on top of it. If you had milk on hand, you didn't need to go out for cream to make these cookies. You just had to carefully pour the cream off the top of the milk bottle already in your icebox. These days, since cream is a separate item you must deliberately purchase, you don't see as many recipes that just use a spoonful or a splash of it. In our age of homogenized milk, recipes tell you to use most (if not all) of the carton of cream if you're buying it at all.

I know it sounds silly to say this, but adding the cream made the mixture look, well, creamy. 

The cookie dough seemed a little stiff for drop cookies- like it might not actually spread. I didn't want a lot of oven-hardened lemon clumps, so I shaped most of the cookies into flattened balls. The dough really wanted to stick to my hands, which made this take a lot longer than it should have. But to test the recipe as written and to see what someone following the instructions in "Helping the Homemaker" would have pulled out of the oven on a lovely May day in 1934, I dropped a few unshaped cookies from the spoon just as the newspaper said to. 

When the cookies were done, the shaped and the dropped ones looked a lot more similar than when I had first put them onto the baking sheet. The spoon-dropped ones look a bit more bumpy on top, but they spread out just fine. 

 

I shaped the remaining dough into balls while waiting for the first batch to bake, and put them into the oven without flattening them. These cookies weren't quite as thin as the ones I flattened before baking, but there wasn't as much of a difference as you may think. There is no need to try to pat each cookie flat. As you can see, they come out just fine without it. 


Just to show how the cookie dough seems to turn into perfectly nice cookies instead of misshapen dough clumps no matter how you shape them, here are all three ways on one plate.

As for how they taste: Oh these are so good! Whoever left this recipe behind when clipping "Helping the Homemaker" was missing out! Perhaps I should thank her for accidentally leading me to this recipe by setting off my curiosity when I first found that clipping. I have long wanted to know where that grim newspaper snippet of liver and boiled turnips came from. I would not have seen the lemon cream cookie recipe were it not for her newspaper-cutting scissors in 1934.

These cookies are soft in the middle, crisp outside, and as someone else put it "Just the right amount of lemon to taste really good without being too sour." About a day later, I was told "I finally figured out what they remind me of! Froot Loops!" And once that was said, I couldn't un-notice it when I ate one. I guess this goes nicely with all the people around the world and want to know why Americans eat dessert for breakfast. These cookies really do taste a lot like a less synthetic version of some cereals. That, by the way, is no detraction. These cookies got eaten a lot faster than a heavily-loaded plate should disappear. They were unexpectedly good when dipped in the black tea with lavender that I splurged on last time I was at a grocery store with an expansive tea aisle.

My only warning is that this recipe makes a lot of lemon cream cookies. I cut it in half, and I got forty of them. If you're not filling a cookie jar to keep around the house or giving these away, you should at least think about cutting it in half. If you make the full recipe amounts instead of halving it, you will have two platters that look like this:

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Second-Stab Saturday: Chatting away our runny cookies!

Today I wanted to share a very simple change to recipe I really like! It's the fourth-to-last sentence in the directions.

Chatters
½ c peanut butter
½ c butter
½ c brown sugar
½ c white sugar
1 egg
¾ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1¼ c flour

Put peanut butter and butter in a bowl. Add sugars, beat thoroughly. Beat in egg. When all is mixed, add the soda, salt, and baking powder. Mix well, then stir in the flour. Roll into small balls, and roll these in sugar. Press criss-cross lines on top with a fork.
Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator before baking.
When ready to bake, heat oven to 375° and grease a cookie sheet. Place the cookies on it, about 3 or 4 inches apart. Bake 10-12 minutes.

Source: "La Mesa" in Confidential Chat, Boston Globe, 1963; via Something from the Oven, Laura Shapiro, 2005

Our favorite peanut butter cookie recipe has been this one from the Boston Globe. But every time we made the recipe, the cookies ran together into one big baked peanut butter slab:


And yes, sometimes we oversoftened the butter and melted it instead, which would definitely worsen the problem. But the cookies ran like this even when I softened the butter by leaving it out for a few hours like a proper cook would. But while I didn't care too much about having to cut them apart with the edge of a spatula while they were still hot, it occurred to me that one extra step might forestall that:

If you put them in the container upside-down, you can just lift them off the lid as easily as plucking them off a plate.

That's right, we are popping the shaped cookie dough blobs in the refrigerator for a few hours so they get good and hard before baking! I usually chilled the dough before shaping it, but it always softened a bit while I was working it in my hands. There only hard part about letting the shaped cookies refrigerate. I had to resist eating too many of these lovely chilled cookie dough bonbons.

It seems these cookies only needed some time in the refrigerator to actually look like cute round cookies instead of a formless yet tasty runny mess! This is also a perfect discovery as we get into the hottest parts of the year. You can make the cookies in the sweltering day, and then just leave them in the refrigerator until later at night when you bake them.

Granted, the fork lines reduce to subtle suggestions of a grid pattern on top, but I do not care. These are officially my favorite peanut butter cookie recipe. They're crisp on the outside, very soft in the middle, and taste delicious.

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Second-Stab Saturday: Elizabeth's Rolls made easier!

 Today on A Book of Cookrye, we are revisiting a recipe I have made many times. The other night, I realized I've filled in the missing instructions made it a lot harder than I needed it to be. Here we have the original recipe:

Incidentally, assuming "821 Louisiana" is Elizabeth's address and that she lived in Fort Worth (since the recipe was written in the Woman's Club of Fort Worth Cook Book), her house site is now under the interstate.

When someone writes a recipe down in a cookbook, they mean to keep it. Recipes written on index cards or paper sheets can be thrown out as wanted. But if you're writing a recipe in a cookbook, you have decided that this recipe is not getting kicked out of the kitchen. Furthermore, this recipe isn't written in the back of the book. It is written right at the beginning of the bread chapter (you can kind of see it on the back of the page). Therefore, whoever wrote this down didn't even want to flip through the blank pages at the back of the book. They put it right where anyone looking for a bread recipe would find it.

Elizabeth's Rolls
1 c milk
½ c shortening
½ c sugar
½ c mashed potatoes*
2 egg whites
1 cake or envelope yeast
about 4½ c flour, divided
1 tsp salt

Scald the milk, then stir in the shortening to melt it. Stir in the sugar. Then whisk in the mashed potatoes and about 1½ cups of flour, beating until smooth. Whisk in the yeast and the egg whites. Set in a warm place and let rise for about two hours. (Be sure it has a lot of room to expand.)
In a large bowl, mix the salt and remaining flour. Press it against the sides of the bowl, making a big hole in the middle. Pour the mixture into it. Stir from the center outwards, gradually incorporating more flour until all is mixed. Knead, then set in a greased pan or bowl. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours. (Overnight or a few days is fine.)
When ready to bake, set the dough in a warm place to rise. When it has doubled in size, shape it into rolls. You can either roll the dough into a sheet (somewhere between ¼" and ½" thick) and cut it like biscuits, or you can shape the dough into balls. The dough may be sticky- if you're using a rolling pin and a biscuit cutter, have plenty of flour ready for dusting the counter and the top of the dough.
Let rise, then bake at 400° until nice and golden on top, about 15-20 minutes.

*If you don't have any left over, microwaving some instant potatoes will work just fine. If you mashed your potatoes with the skins on or if they stay a little chunky when you mix them with the rest of the ingredients, putting the batter mixture into a blender will reduce the skins to really pretty-looking flecks and eliminate any potato lumps.
I prefer scalding milk in the microwave instead of the stove. It never scorches like it does in a pot, and it's so much faster. Just use a large bowl so the milk has plenty of room to bubble up. Pop the milk in the microwave and cook until it looks like it's starting to simmer, and that's all you needed to do.


Source: Handwritten note, The Woman's Club of Fort Worth Cook Book, 1928

Recently, I thought to myself that it's been a while since I made Elizabeth's rolls, and that we should make them again. Then I realized my interpretation of the recipe was a lot harder than it needed to be. Up until now, I always mixed the flour and mashed potatoes together, then slowly added the liquids until it was mixed into a smooth batter. I had to add the milk very slowly, beating every little spoonful and splash in very hard, otherwise I would get unmixable clumps floating in a gravy. It was a bit like making a stovetop white sauce, except you have to stir a lot harder. It was also the only way I knew of to get this done with absolutely no lumps unless I wanted to clean out a blender in my dishwasher-free kitchen. 

Today I was looking back over the instructions and realized... I could have just thrown everything together and gotten out a whisk. First we start with the milk, shortening, and flour, and get everything mixed in about an eighth of the time it took to do this with a spoon.


Then we just dropped in the smashed spuds and flicked the whisk around some more.


Doing it the long way makes sense when you only have a wooden spoon to work with. But if you have a whisk at hand, it slices right through those little lumps and clumps without even slightly wearying your wrist. Another thing I like about this recipe: it doesn't matter if you accidentally get a bit of egg yolk in your whites. You needn't expend yet another egg in the name of getting 100% yolk-free whites like you would if we were making a meringue. I thought that perhaps we were supposed to beat the whites stiff anyway (the original instructions call for "beaten egg whites"), but then I realized that the yeast livens and aerates this mixture really well anyway-- and then it gets worked, kneaded, and squished.

After this point Elizabeth's original handwritten instructions get a bit clearer, and we can finish the recipe by following the original handwritten notes. But as we removed the dough from the refrigerator after its requisite three hours, we ran into a bit of a problem. As aforementioned, hamburger makes regular appearances on our table. Therefore, we have been using the rendered-off beef fat instead of shortening in many recipes. However, bread dough made with a bovine substitution gets unworkably hard in the refrigerator. You can't roll the dough out with a rolling pin, though smashing it flat might work. We ended up just leaving it out on the counter until it softened up a bit.

In a later batch, we tried simply shaping the dough before giving its requisite three hours of refrigeration, but for whatever reason it refused to rise no matter how many hours I let them wait in a warm, moist environment. Well, they expanded a tiny bit, but you can tell just from looking at the rolls that they were dense and hard.

I've made so many batches of Elizabeth's rolls in the Before Times and they were always so good that I would voluntarily make the recipe again. People would specifically ask me to make this recipe. Therefore, I was not prepared for this recipe to betray me.

I thought the failure to rise might be a result of making little dough balls instead of shaping the rolls with a rolling pin. So I tried to see if perhaps making these with a rolling pin and a biscuit cutter might give me the results I've gotten before. They rose a bit after three hours of rising time, but most of what you're seeing is the result of the bread puffing up the way it always does when you first put it in a hot oven. It didn't rise much before baking, though I guess the yeast put in enough tiny bubbles that they could expand when suddenly heated up.


I was not prepared to have to test the errors out of a recipe I've made more times than I can count. Usually, when I make these, they are slow to rise at first but then suddenly start growing and expanding more than one would ever expect. Elizabeth's rolls are (normally) so good that I once made six dozen of them and gave them away at Christmas. You don't spend all that time waiting for rolls to rise if they're not good enough. 

You don't make this many rolls unless the recipe actually works.

 I was so frustrated. How could one of my most-used bread recipes suddenly stop working? Then I checked the notes and realized I had omitted a step: letting the whole mass of dough rise again after removing it from the refrigerator. Apparently this is more crucial than I thought. Maybe it wakes up the yeast from its refrigerated slumber so it will actually raise the bread. After an embarrassing number of disappointing bread batches, I had finally figured out how to, um, make my bread recipe again. 

When I used a rolling pin and a biscuit cutter, they rose so high they fell over themselves. If one was better at planning ahead, one could use a muffin pan to steady them as they rise. But the point is, they rose gloriously and unstoppably. Everyone eating these instantly knew why I had been determined to make rolls using this recipe.


Just for completeness, I also rolled the dough into balls and baked those. They started out this big:

They soon rose until they almost melded into one big bread slab in the pan.

In case you're wondering about the saucepan, I've found a new method for making a yeast-raising habitat of the oven. I used to set it to a very low temperature and then turn it off after putting the dough in. But I've had much better results by boiling a full pot of water and setting it into the oven. This way, the bread doesn't dry out before you had the chance to bake it. 


Granted, they look a little flat in the picture, but keep in mind that the pan has very high sides. So while the rolls barely peep over the top of the pan, there's a lot of pan under there. As further proof, we can break one open to show the airy happiness inside.


I am very happy to share this bread recipe after having to do too many trials and make too many errors before it actually worked like it ought to. They're delicious. Also, since you are supposed to refrigerate the dough for a few hours before baking, you can do all the mixing and resultant cleanup early. So if you're making these to go with dinner, you won't have a small pile of bread-related measuring cups and stirring spoons needing a wash with all the dinner dishes. 

Anyway, this is by far my favorite roll recipe. I highly recommend you give it a go.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

The Saint Patcaken: or, Acts of ambitious domesticity

This was not my idea.

Mine does not look this good.

I don't even know if you're supposed to eat this. How would you serve this thing? Do you let people pick what layer they want? Try to cut pieces like it's a layer cake and hope they don't fall apart as you lift them away? I don't even know that this is meant to be eaten.

The Saint Patcaken looks like you're meant to photograph it for Instagram and then look at it until it droops and expires. People have noted for years that restaurants and chefs have long been putting more emphasis on making foods suitable for customers to photograph for The 'Gram. Restaurants routinely have a few spots expressly painted and decorated to make a suitable backdrop for selfies. I think we have a prime example of technically edible social media currency on our hands. 

Whiskey-Pecan Pie
1 unbaked pie shell
3 eggs, beaten
1 c sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ c whiskey
1 tsp vanilla
6 oz chopped pecans

Heat oven to 350°.
Gradually add the sugar to the beaten eggs. Then add the remaining ingredients.
Pour into the pie shell and bake 45 minutes.

Adapted from A Taste of Texas by Jane Trahey, 1949
Irish Cream Cheesecake
   Crust:
1 c flour
¼ c sugar
1 egg yolk
½ c butter
¼ tsp vanilla
   Filling:
1¼ lb. cream cheese
1 c minus 2 tbsp sugar
4½ tsp flour
½ tsp vanilla
2 eggs plus one egg yolk
¼ c Irish cream

   To make the crust:
Combine the flour and sugar. Quickly add the remaining ingredients and mix together. Divide in half and chill until firm enough to roll out.
Meanwhile, grease a 9" pan- preferably with a removable bottom. If you don't have one, simply serve the cheesecake out of the pan instead.
When the crust is ready to shape, heat oven to 350°. Roll out one dough portion into a 9" circle. Place in the bottom of the pan and bake until slightly golden. Set aside to cool. Reduce oven heat to 300° for baking the filling.
Press the remaining dough against the sides of the pan. For me, the easiest way to do this was to divide the dough into four pieces. Roll each one into a sausage that is long enough to go a quarter of the way around the pan. Lay all four of them into the pan and then press them into the corners.
   To make the filling:
Set oven to 300°.
combine the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and vanilla in a large bowl. Mix well. Add the whole eggs and the yolk, one at a time, beating well after each. Then mix in the Irish cream.
Pour into the crust. Unless you have a deep pan, there might be a bit extra. This you can pour into one or two cupcakes and bake alongside it. Bake the cheesecake until it jiggles just a bit in the center (for me, it was about 40 minutes).
Chill for at least 2 hours. Remove from refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving.

Adapted from The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook, Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin, 2011
Green Guinness Velvet Cake
1 oz green food coloring
4½ tsp cocoa powder
¼ c shortening
1 beaten egg
¾ c sugar
1 c + 1 tbsp flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp vanilla
½ tsp baking soda
1½ tsp vinegar

Heat oven to 350°. Grease a 9" round pan.
Mix food coloring and cocoa, set aside. Sift flour and salt three times.
Cream shortening and sugar, then add the beaten egg. When mixed, add the cocoa-coloring. Beat well. Add the flour and salt alternately with the Guinness. Add vanilla and beat well again. Remove from the mixer. Add a mixture of soda and vinegar, stir in by hand until blended.
Pour into the pan and bake 30-35 minutes.

Adapted from "'Recipe of the Week,' Mrs. Cagle's Red Velvet Cake," Denton [Texas] Record-Chronicle, June 16, 1960 (p. 12) via Food Timeline
Salted Caramel Frosting
1 c brown sugar, firmly packed
1 c granulated sugar
2 c milk
2 tbsp butter
Salt to taste
2 c powdered sugar
1 c water (you won't use it all)

Select a big pot with plenty of room for the mixture to boil up.
Boil brown sugar, granulated sugar, and milk until a small amount of syrup forms a very soft ball in cold water (232°F.). Add butter and remove from heat. Cool to lukewarm (110°).
Beat until it is thick. Then add the powdered sugar and beat well. Add the water, about a tablespoon at a time, until the icing is the right consistency to spread.
This makes enough for the tops and sides of two cake layers.

Adapted from cooks.com

This tower of dessert is as American as saying "Saint Patty's Day." Pecan pie is from Texas (or at least, the oldest recipe is), but as far as most of us are concerned it's from the manufacturers of Karo corn syrup. As for cheesecake, we could try to get into the history but it more or less comes from all over Europe. Red velvet cake is, of course, American. There are a few conflicting theories about precisely where in America red velvet cake comes from, but it doesn't matter. Whatever part of America has the true claim to red velvet cake is very far away-- culturally and by boat ride-- from Ireland. 

So, in this baked masterpiece, we're stacking an American pie under a European dessert under an American cake. This is all encased in salted caramel, which is also not from Ireland. To make this creation Irish, we are adding a lot of alcohol to it and then dyeing part of it green.

The Saint Patcaken is a perfect symbol of Irish history in America. Irish people in this country have absolutely no cultural connection to Ireland at all. No one speaks the occasional sentence of Gaelic at home or has a handful of family traditions carried from the old country. Most people wouldn't even know they were part Irish if their last names didn't give it away- all of that culture has been erased. Just as Mexican food entered the America and got turned into Taco Bell, Irish people came here and then the Saint Patcaken came out-- with Guinness in the middle and green sprinkles on top.

Let's talk about how we ended up making one. It begins with that picture and typewriters. 

You see, one of the people in the house has taken to restoring them. I'd love to say that it's me. But as much as I like typewriters, I may as well use a club instead of a screwdriver for all the good my mechanically-daft hands do to them. Anyway, we were at an antique mall because we had received word that an IBM Selectric sat there with a price tag swinging off of it. Unfortunately, I saw this perched on the top of a shelf.

My mother had a newer one of these until I burnt out the motor attempting to make divinity.


This really is a work of mid-seventies art. They even used marbled brown plastic on the part that holds up the bowl.


As the two of us were lugging our combined fifty pounds of household appliance to the car, we were talking about how to properly christen this new kitchen treasure. He had attempted to make cookies with the repaired handmixer a few times, and always been frustrated that it couldn't do cookie dough without whining and threatening to burn itself out. And so, that very night, a batch of snickerdoodles was made.
We had to christen the mixer with something good.

Anyway, someone else in the house had earlier found the picture of the Saint Patcaken and sent it on the household meme chat (which is a thing in this domicile). You might surmise that I kept thinking about the Saint Patcaken, that it insidiously burrowed into my mind and would not leave- and for once you would be incorrect. Someone else had the bright idea of perpetrating it. When I first saw the Saint Patcaken, I joked about how it looked like the most aggressively all-American tower of butter and sugar I had ever seen and then forgot about it. 

However, the person who brought the mixer into the house (not me, though I definitely was glad we got it) couldn't stop thinking about the Saint Patcaken. In an unconvincingly offhanded tone, he asked how hard it would be to make one. I had to ask what it was, and he reminded me of that picture that had gone across the household meme chat about a fortnight ago. I speculated that it wouldn't be difficult since there's nothing hard about pecan pie, red velvet cake, or cheesecake. But, it likely would cost a lot to obtain the necessary groceries. He said to add up all the ingredients and see how bad it would be. 

Before we continue, I would like to repeat that the Saint Patcaken was not my idea. I didn't think we would actually make this thing. But, in the name of humoring others in the house (and also because I thought it would be amusing if we actually did this), I found recipes for the three components of a Saint Patcaken (four if you count the icing) and added up the ingredients. Spreadsheets got involved. To my surprise, this entire tower of pastry only required one and three-quarters sticks of butter. I then read out the total amounts, dead certain that no one would want to make this after hearing things like "8 eggs, a pound of sugar, 3 bricks of cream cheese...."

I should never be this organized when cooking.

As I read the grim grocery news out loud, I didn't see the expected reactions of "well never mind then." I saw people thoughtfully considering the stunning amount of groceries this thing would entail. I tried to squelch their consideration by adding "And then of course we'll need to purchase the Irish cream, a bottle of Guinness, and whiskey." I was then helpfully reminded that a bottle of whiskey has been in the pantry for months. Furthermore, the makers spelled it whiskey and not whisky, making it Irish enough for the increasingly-likely Saint Patcaken.


As I was drawing up the grocery list, I had to wonder: where the heck did that picture of the Saint Patcaken come from? It seems like a masterful satire of our American ability to add more butter and sugar to absolutely anything. I thought I would trace this image back to a satire page somewhere, but this comes from a real bakery. The owner of the Piecaken website does not know I exist (as far as I know) has not asked for my endorsement- though if you're reading dear sir, please send greetings! Anyway, these people specialize in stacking a cake on a cheesecake on a pie and then icing the whole thing. They sell pink piecakens for Valentine's, pumpkin-spice piecakens for autumn.... You get the idea. 

Let's discuss the recipes involved.

I looked up "green velvet cake" and found a lot of recipe postings online. However, every single one of them started out the ingredients list with "one box white or yellow cake mix, two spoons cocoa powder, 1 bottle green food coloring." I was not about to do this entire kitchen production and put cake mix on top. And so, I went to Food Timeline, used the oldest of their recipes for red velvet, and substituted Guinness and green food coloring for buttermilk and red. At first I wondered if the baking soda would have anything to fizz with if I used beer. But I looked up the average pH of buttermilk and of beer, and found that they were about the same (if anything, beer is just a smidge more acidic). Thus we confirmed that we were not in danger of a cake that tasted ruinously of unreacted baking soda.

I tried to find a whiskey pecan pie recipe but didn't see one I liked- mostly because I do not like the pecan pies that involve half a bottle of corn syrup. After a lot of frustrated searching, I decided to look for recipes another way: starting with the whiskey we were planning to add. Surely various liquor websites have recipes for spiked foods. If food companies can make an entire cook-pamphlet out of ketchup (yes, it has a dessert chapter), I figured the liquor industry has a few out there for whiskey. 

There must be some liquor-related law that says a hard-liquor website can't post food recipes. All of their recipes are for cocktails- they don't even have something obvious like a whiskey-spiked barbecue sauce. And so, we decided to consult our own pie recipes and just add whiskey to one of them. The most likely candidate was the Osgood Pie. In place of raisins and a splash of vinegar, we are putting in whiskey and extra pecans. 

As for the cheesecake, Bailey's website actually did have recipes for a lot of desserts. However, the cheesecake did not look promising as it is not baked. Though I do love their choice to write out the instruction to "chill at least two hours. Spend some of that time licking the spoon." I looked in my new favorite beat-up cookbook, thinking that surely a lot of Slovak-American ladies sending recipes to the Cookbook Committee (always capitalized) would have sent cheesecake recipes among the other pants-rippingly decadent desserts and pastries. However, that book had only a few cheesecakes, all of which were more like an Italian ricotta pie than the cheesecake we all know and love today. 

We decided to revisit the cheesecake we made for the Mad Men Finale Virtual Dinner Party since everyone loved it so much the last time. We made two big changes. First, we cut the filling in half because we don't need to stack a tower of Saint Patcaken using a cheesecake the size of a car battery. Second, we traded all the orange and citrus for Irish cream.

All right, enough nattering, let's get to making! Before we could commence preparing foods, we had to get the pans ready. I've never tried to lift a pie or a cheesecake out of the pan in one piece before. I often line pans with foil, but for this three-layered adventure we needed some serious planning. I landed on the finished idea of putting cardboard discs in the bottom of the pans. Underneath the discs, I would put long strips of parchment paper that would hang over the sides of the pan. In theory, one could carefully lift up the paper and it would take the pastry-laden cardboard up and out of the pan with it.

It's never a good sign when your cooking begins with a box cutter.

For those of you trying this at home, you should know a few things. First, you want your cardboard to fit the bottom of the cake pan, but you do not want it snug. This is because you want to easily lift it back out of the pan. Second, because the parchment paper has been stored in a tight roll ever since it first got packed in the box and shipped out to the store you got it from, it will want to curl and loop over itself. You may need someone else to hold your parchment strips out of the way while you lower the cardboard over them so that they don't curl under it. 

Also, for the pie, you will want to put the cardboard inside the foil lining. As we found out, you cannot lift a pie out of the pan without breaking it. Since the pecan pie goes on the bottom of this creation anyway, you can just lift the foil lining, cardboard, and pie out of the pan at once, carefully peel the foil off the sides, and then place the cardboard and pie out together onto whatever serving plate you're using. No one will see the cardboard after you've put the icing all over this thing. And I promise that if anyone cares that that a corrugated brown disk reveals itself as you cut away slices of the finished Saint Patcaken, they were too persnickety to want any.

I had originally planned to omit a foil lining from these pans, but the little parchment strips kept making curlicues that flopped over where the delicious baked creations would be. So, I added foil linings to keep the paper pressed out of the way. We don't want lifting-straps embedded in the pie, do we? The foil, however, was probably for the best. We could now bake with the poise that knowledge gives, free from any dread of cheesecakes and pies sticking to the pan.

We only had two matching-size pans for this.

Right, let's get to cooking!

I said that a typewriter partially led us here, didn't I?

You may wonder how I have such an astonishingly low mistype rate on a typewriter. The answer is that this is a correcting typewriter. It has that magical built-in eraser that every secretary prayed for when we first started typing. 

At any rate, the pie as easy to make as last time. And now, we're adding a measured splash of one of today's special ingredients:

With no other spices or raisins in the way, the cinnamon in the pie filling burst forward with an unimpeded fiery vengeance. Then, we poured in the whiskey and got a pie that tasted like you were eating Fireball with pecans in it.

Anyway, we had one crucial extra step after baking the pie: preparing it to get stacked on. For this, we had to trim the crust until it was level with the top of the pie--- without breaking or crumbling it.

All right, let us set aside the pie and move on to layer two of this... um... masterpiece. Viz., we're making the cheesecake. We are not using Bailey's because it was twice as expensive as every other Irish cream in the liquor store. I really wanted to get a mini-bottle so we could punch holes in the cap and turn it into a really cute salt shaker, but there were none to be had. I feel a bit bad about using a Bailey's knockoff since they invented Irish cream in 1973, but I didn't feel bad enough to send Diageo an extra handful of money just to get the correct name printed on the bottle. Anyway, I was really excited about the cheesecake because it was now the Mixmaster's time to truly shine!

The last time we tried to use a mixer to make a cheesecake, it was a handmixer which made painful whining noises until I relieved it of duty lest it burn out. But the stand mixer could pulverized everything without slowing down.

I've used mixers with single paddles and mixers with pairs of beaters, and I have to say (with apologies to the KitchenAid crowd) that I prefer the latter. Two beaters are just better at chopping up those last little lumps in the batter and mixing them together. Every time I've made a cheesecake with a KitchenAid, I've ended up having to pour it through a strainer to get out stray cream cheese pieces- regardless of whether stopped the motor to use a rubber spatula on the bowl, started with room-temp cream cheese, beat the cheese on its own before adding any other ingredients, etc. But the Mixmaster eliminated even the most persistent cream cheese clumps.

The bowl didn't do its magical self-spinning until we added the various liquids to make the batter runny, though. I don't know if you're supposed to just let the bowl turn itself or if it's acceptable to push it around for yourself, but the mixer didn't seem to mind the help. After letting it run for perhaps longer than strictly necessary, we had this lovely, creamy, smooth cheesecake batter that stood at near-stiff peaks when we lifted out the beaters.

Some cheesecakes are so runny that you can just pour them into the pan. This one, in the most delicious way possible, needed a lot of help with a spatula to actually spread out.

Having gotten two recipes deep into this venture, I found that I rather liked tidying up afterward. It was pleasantly contemplative to put on some calm tunes, neatly file the dishes into the dishwasher, and hear it cleaning them while I wiped the countertops. Instead of a sink full of drudgery, cleaning a kitchen was just a little pleasant moment by myself where I reveal the shiny surfaces that I had covered with egg splatters.

And so, as we near the end of the production phase, we move on to the cake! As a historical note, we're using the oldest known recipe for red velvet cake published under that title. It involves sifting the flour not once but thrice.

I'm only triple-sifting so I can blame the recipe for any failures- and also because a dishwasher is at hand. I have to wonder: did people really used to put flour through the same sifter three times, or did more people own those triple-sifters in those days? Or, did everyone read those triple-sifting instructions and skip them unless their home ec teacher was watching?

Red velvet cake is another one of the things that my mother didn't make often, if at all. I know she likes it because she often purchased them from the supermarket. I used to think she just didn't have time to make cakes. Then, looking back later, I thought she avoided making red velvet cake in the name of reducing the amount of butter and sugar in the house when children are present. Now I think it's because anyone making red velvet cake has to contend with food coloring getting everywhere. If one drop gets on your hands, then you get it on the soap and the kitchen faucet before you can wash it off. You inevitably get little drops of it on the counter and permanently dye it. It somehow got on my feet, leaving splotches that will probably persist for a few days. Undiluted food coloring is absolutely nothing to mess with lightly.

A lot of people postulate that red velvet cake is a way to get a rich-looking cake while economizing on chocolate. I think that's not quite correct. You see, a lot of cake decorators will suggest that for black or brown icing, you first add cocoa powder to darken it before adding the food coloring. This means you can use less food coloring and avoid that chemical taste. I think that's what we're looking at in this recipe. The cocoa powder is simply darkening this cake so we can get that wine-dark red (or green) without using even more food coloring than the recipe already does. You should also know that others in the kitchen went slack-jawed at the sight the food coloring and said things like "The WHOLE BOTTLE?"

You should also know that while the mixer had been unable rotate the bowl when laden with cheesecake, it made the shortening and sugar whirl at a dizzying speed.


It was now time to add our last novelty ingredient: beer! While we were making the cake, one of the people in the house was yakking it up with an acquaintance in Ireland (since the Internet has made international calls possible without extraordinary bills). and he gave a short description to said person of what was going on in the kitchen. He then marched resolutely to the kitchen and said "He wants you to know that Guinness is actually British." 

Had I been using a spoon instead of a stand mixer, I would have dropped it onto the floor. How can Guinness be British? They even print a harp on the bottle! Ask anyone in America with an Irish surname about Irish culture, and the most you'll get is green, potatoes, Guinness, and maybe corned beef. But a quick consultation of Wikipedia revealed the dirty truth: Guinness is owned by a British alcohol conglomerate. (Incidentally, so is Bailey's.)

 
 
In a way, it's kind of appropriate that we're making an "Irish" dessert with British-owned alcohol.
It makes this Guinness-spiked American-origin cake recipe is a pretty good representation of the modern-day Irish-American experience. Bereft of any handed down traditions, Irish-Americans can only try to recreate what they lost by thirdhand rumors of what it means to be Irish. In this country, that generally translates into a lot of plastic green decorations, alcohol, corned beef and cabbage on Saint Patty's Day (or Saint Paddy's Day if you are really trying to be authentic), and perhaps a flag of Ireland on the wall.

There was a minor amount of curiosity about the Guinness. It turns out I'm the only person in the house who has ever drank it. After measuring out the cake's share, the portions of the beer were dispensed to everyone who expressed an interest. Assorted comments: "It kind of smells like Worcestershire sauce" and "It tastes like bad bananas." This did not bode well for a cake in which Guinness is the star ingredient.

The beer also broke the cake batter into tiny, unpromising little flecks and globules of dyed shortening. Did the Denton Record-Chronicle omit Mrs. Cagle's above-the-recipe bio blurb for her protection? The cake batter looked like what happens when you add too much food coloring to icing and you end up writing HAPPY BIRTHDAY ALICIA in unfortunately curdled letters on top of the cake.


The batter was (almost) fixed after getting all the flour into it. I saved the rest of the Guinness bottle in case we needed to try it again. The faint yet still visible batter curds didn't unnerve me so much as the instruction to stir the baking soda and vinegar together and then hastily get the whole fizzy thing into the batter. I didn't stir fast enough for that to happen, and feared that the bubbles that would have raised the cake had instead merrily burst into the open air before they ever got mixed in.

Now, a word about cleaning up after a green velvet cake. I usually hate prerinsing dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. Doing the machine's work for it doesn't just annoy me, it pisses me off. I often tell people it's a dish washer, not a dish baptizer. I do not understand the practice of washing your dishes in the sink (without soap for some reason) and then putting them in the dishwasher to... moisten and bless them I guess? However, for this recipe I made an exception to my anti-rinsing stance. I was afraid I would permanently dye the machine and all the dishes green if I didn't near-thoroughly clean everything that came in contact with food coloring.

And now, we at last get to the icing. I'm surprised this thing is coated with salted caramel. I thought the salted caramel moment was long over, and it was as painfully dated as sriracha-bacon sundaes.

The icing instructions seemed simple enough. The only warning I add is that milk loves to froth and bubble over the top of the pot. You will want to use a big pot so the icing has room to boil up without spilling over the pot. This icing was not even an inch deep in the pot before we turned on the burner, but it nevertheless rose all the way to the top and did its best to spill over.

Lacking a candy thermometer, we had to use the cold-water test to determine if this was right. Seeing the molten syrup immediately harden as it hit the water fascinated everyone in the house. Who knows, I may make someone into a confectioner if they keep asking questions while I'm at the stove. After its long cooking time, we dutifully set it aside to cool until lukewarm. We then gave it the good hard beating the recipe asked for. 

However, we didn't end up with a nice, spreadable icing out of this recipe. We had this really heavy, would-have-been fudge with greasy butter that kept separating out and floating on top. It was also very gritty. One might name a few things I should have done differently, and maybe you would be correct, but I followed all of the terse instructions in the recipe. I refuse to feel inept for skipping over recipe directions that were never there.

To salvage this icing, we dumped in large quantities of powdered sugar, which eliminated the grittiness and made the icing look exactly like peanut butter. This had a surprisingly strong placebo effect on people who drifted in with a ready-to-dip spoon. Even those who had seen me put only sugar and milk into the pot would have sworn they tasted peanut butter. However, this was obviously far too thick to put on the cake. We ended up adding water by the spoonful until it looked right.

It was then time to get the pie onto the plate. With my wonderful advance planning and pan preparation, I lifted it right out of the pan with no effort. The cardboard I had thoughtfully placed under it prevented it from even slightly cracking. I had a bit of a tricky time peeling the foil off the sides, but I managed it after a few careful minutes. I then tried to lift it off of the foil, and it simply would not let go. A tiny warning fissure appeared dead center. It was obvious that the pie would not leave the foil and remain intact. I've successfully cleaned a burnt pie pan with the pie still in it, but even I can't get a whole pie on a spatula without breaking it. Therefore, the pie on which our entire dessert will rest is being served on a foil-lined platter.

But we made a fun discovery about the icing. (That is a euphemistic use of the word "fun.") Because it's basically a boiled candy, the icing got harder as it cooled off. It was like trying to spread fudge that's been sitting out on a platter long enough to dry out. We kept having to add more water to the icing as we progressed.

The cheesecake was mercifully a lot easier to get into position than the pie. You could easily flip it around, or hold it up in one hand like a cocktail tray. I got the cheesecake into place as quickly as possible, but the cookie crust marvelously sturdy. 

I think they deliberately ordered the stack of desserts by fragility. The pie's kind of delicate and wants to break apart, so you just carefully get it right on the plate and then leave it. The cheesecake, once you refrigerate it overnight, is firm and pleasantly resilient. Unless you handle it very roughly, you can easily just set it down on the pie like you're stacking books. 

The pie would have fallen to pieces had I attempted this.

And of course, the cake was the easiest one of all to place (and also the lightest). It took a pretty respectable amount of flipping back and forth before it landed, flat-side down, on the waiting cheesecake. 

The layers threatened to slide off of each other at this point, so a lot of wooden skewers were employed to make them stay put. A great tip I saw online for anyone skewering a layer cake into place: get those long wood skewers they sell for grilling, and also get something that can easily cut them. Jab a skewer all the way down to the plate. Then lift it up about a quarter inch, snip it flush with the top of the cake, then use the cut-off bit in your hand to push it down and out of sight. I wasn't worried about the choking hazard because every skewer is as long as the cake is tall. They're not like little fish bones lurking semi-hidden in the food. You absolutely are going to notice a six-inch wooden rod in your cake long before it threatens to choke you.


All right, we have a surprisingly competent attempt at stunt-baking- so far. Though to be honest, the only hard part of this was stacking these. There's nothing difficult about any of these recipes except possibly making the pie crust- and you can just buy one if it's daunting. 

However, this is where we messed up. After all this effort; after two days of overworking the dishwasher, the mixer, and the oven; after wiping the same countertops down enough to use up half the clean rags in the house over the course of making a pie, a cake, and a cheesecake; we decided to skimp on icing. We had agreed as a house that we did not want to slather this thing inside and out with five pounds of icing as the original photo does. For some reason, I never realized I could make gobs of icing and then, I don't know, set the extra aside for some future batch of cookies or something. The Saint Patcaken would not have stretched the limits of  "homemade charm." Instead, we barely managed to make the icing stretch all the way around the cake, and it looked bad.

I'm also kind of disappointed we don't have a bright orange pie under this. It's so close to being an Irish flag.

I didn't think about this until we cut pieces of it, but a narrow slice of Saint Patcaken is ideal for someone who wants just a little sample-sized sliver of all the lovely things on the dessert table. It's basically a dessert sample plate with icing on the edges. Also, even if your icing job looks dreadful, no one can see your ineptitude if you cut the Saint Patcaken before they have a chance to view it.

 
 
As already stated, this seems like a dessert meant to be photographed for Instagram rather than eaten (even if mine doesn't look good enough to be "social media content"). But we do not purchase that much cream cheese, pecans, flour, and sugar only to toss it aside after taking pictures. So here's the notes:

I really liked the cinnamon-whiskey pie, but my first thought after was "Where would I serve this?" It seems like I only bring pecan pie to holiday gatherings, and I can't imagine setting a Fireball-flavored pie out for my nearest and dearest. I may decide to start bringing spiked cinnamon pecan pies to my friends just to have an excuse to make this again. If you like Fireball you'll like this pie a lot- and if you don't, I'd give the recipe a go anyway.

The cheesecake was delicious, but you couldn't really taste the Irish cream. It was everyone's favorite layer anyway. If you really want it to taste like Irish cream, you will want to double the amount you pour in. Or, since Irish cream is mostly cream and whiskey anyway, just add a tablespoon of that as well. 

The green velvet cake, to my surprise, was really good also. I thought the Guinness would ruin it. But instead it just added a little bit of depth to the flavor and strengthened the cocoa a little bit. You couldn't recognize the beer even if you knew it was there, but the cake tasted subtly different in a very good way. Even if you don't tell people the surprise, no one's going to be saying "This cake tastes funny..." If you're making a red velvet cake, I definitely recommend swapping out the buttermilk for Guinness. 

The salted caramel icing, after we salvaged it with half a bag of powdered sugar, tasted fantastic- mostly because boiling it for that long turned it almost into cajeta. You really don't need to dump all that salt into it though. The dessert was just fine without it.

Anyway, like people do after a fancy party is over, we hack-sawed this cake, which we had spent half a week making, and forced hunks of it fit into the only storage tubs that were tall enough to (nearly) not squish it.

After we put the various hunks of Saint Patcaken back into the refrigerator, I had that distinct feeling like when you've come home from a fancy party with big tubs of catering leftovers. You know, when all of that extravagant food that was in silver-plated chafing dishes on top of dry-cleaned tablecloths and under expensive mood lighting is just shoved into any disposable box they can come up with, thrown into your back seat (where you hope it doesn't leave high-class grease stains), and then crammed in your fridge.

Here my final thoughts. First, do not attempt this unless you have a dishwasher. I don't care how much you love handwashing dishes, you won't find any sink-side happiness by the time you've completed a  Saint Patcaken.

Second, make a lot more icing than you think you will need. You may think you won't want a Saint Patcaken with gobs of icing, but you'll end up using a lot more icing than you think to fill in the sides of this thing. Also, it won't be as much an icing overload as you think- because no one will want more than a tiny sliver of this baked tower anyway. Don't skimp on the icing. You've already made (or purchased) a lot of desserts for this. There's no need to start scrimping at the very end when you get around to making the icing. If you have any extra, you can freeze it for either another cake or a future batch of icing macaroons.

Third, do you have a lot of people to give pieces of Saint Patcaken away to? Are you taking one to a very big party? If not, you will have a lot of pie, cheesecake, and cake in your refrigerator.

Once you get past the dramatic presentation, a Saint Patcaken is basically a dessert assortment stacked and encased in icing. If you're short on table space, stacking your desserts is not at all a bad way to make them all fit among the plates.

One last note: For a few days after we made this thing, I was carefully sawing off slivers from the chunks of Saint Patcaken we couldn't give away. Then, someone else in the house ate a quarter of this thing in one very sated sitting, and the Saint Patcaken was no more.