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
1 c flour
¼ c sugar
1 egg yolk
½ c butter
¼ tsp vanilla
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
½ c Guiness
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" instead of  "Saint Paddy's." 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 for our purposes 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 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 would 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) and 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 on top of 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 as soon as the first typewriter landed on the first office desk. 

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 re-exposed 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. After hearing some commentary from this Irish person about this tower of sugar, he 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 withstood 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 piece of skewer 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. Had I made enough icing, 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 is removed from the silver-plated chafing dishes and 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.


  1. Ah, the wacky world of Dare Food. I blame the Turducken for starting all of this!

    That said, Bailey's cheesecake ain't a half bad idea. They do make lots of different flavors of it, so it could be a fun thing to toy with...

    And as a final thing, I'm glad someone else is a little... baffled? Maybe? That salted caramel is still around. I have no objection to the combination of sweet and salty (milk-chocolate-dipped pretzels are a thing of majesty, and I like to increase the salt in my chocolate chip cookies a smidge), but I've never liked salted caramel much. I've always felt like the salt brings out the bitter burnt undertones in caramel in the worst way, and it's worse if they use that horrible pink salt that's supposed to be fancy but has a nasty metallic undertaste in my opinion. (Maybe it's a cilantro-like thing. I also taste soap on cilantro--maybe the pink stuff doesn't taste bad to other people.) And I don't feel like things have to be French fry-salty to pair well with sweetness--just a little goes well. Buuut that's just me.

    1. Turduckens! We tried to find one last year because it was the one thing someone else in the house asked for, but they've gotten surprisingly elusive since the surprise wore off.
      It really is fantastic. I may make one batch of cheesecake batter and then individual cupcake-sized cheesecakes for fun sometime. There's this cinnamon Kahlua that no one's drank aside from the odd drop in hot chocolate....
      I really don't get the persistence of salted caramel. It's like having your dessert brined. I don't know how many people actually like it and how many are trying to prove that they're up to the latest trends with their salty sundaes.

  2. Now I'm imagining bakers giving themselves food coloring tattoos.

    1. That does not sound as farfetched as it probably should.

  3. I think the Guinness is missing from the ingredients list in the green velvet cake recipe.

    This sounds... interesting, but probably not enough for me to try to render the whole thing at home.

    1. Good heavens, I really forgot to type that all this time! It's fixed now.
      And... it was an adventure, but I don't know that I'd do one of these again unless someone really wanted it and bought the ingredients.