The Cake Café

When I was in Dublin recently for a meeting I found another adorable little gem called The Cake Café.   Its tucked in behind the Daintree Paper Shop in Camden street (which is tempting enough in itself – a range of fine and hard paper and stationery).   The indoor and outdoor space was designed by Solearth Architects - there’s lots of steel and thick bamboo and cute little tables covered in check, flowery and spotted oil cloth, under the awning of the bicycle shed.

The crockery is charmingly mismatched and everything is simple and stylish.   The café itself is tiny – inside another 7 or 8 tables and a tall counter piled high with goodies with evocative names like hugs and kisses, and iced cookies, a few cake stands laden with cup cakes and crumbly scones.  There’s a tiny kitchen from which a team of passionate young people produce great bread and a variety of good things to eat.   There’s bunting hanging from the ceiling and there’s a little blackboard on the wall where the day’s specials are chalked up.

Always a soup, savoury tart, salad and terrine of the day and a cup cake of the day which of course I had to have – it came with scary blue icing and both looked and tasted divine.  I also had to have Portuguese sardines on toast which came with a little rocket, roasted red pepper and sunblush tomato salad.  I adore sardines but often forget about them for months on end, these were really good.  I wanted to taste just about everything on the short menu.   ‘Our very own Beans on Toast’, made from scratch with best cannelli beans, sausage and tomato, sounded irresistible, as did ‘Tasty Irish tapas with a twist’.

Must go back but I did order one of their sandwiches for the train.  It came bulging with organic leaves, Gubbeen salami, chilli jam and Cáis na Rí cheese.  When that was safely tucked in my briefcase I ordered a pot of tea and three tiny macaroons .  What joy, this sophisticated little café offers 20 beautiful handpicked teas, some from single estates like Darjeeling Castleton.  I love tea with a passion, not just Barry’s classic leaves, but the myriad of other teas like Gunpowder Temple of Heaven from the province of Zheijang, each single leaf is rolled into a shiny green pearl, reminiscent of gunpowder.   There was also a Moroccan Mint Tea, Indian Chai, Japan Gen Mia, Pai Mu Tan White Tea, Orange Rooibush Eucalyptus …. an unbearable choice.

I have to go back very soon, maybe for breakfast, to have Eggs and Soldiers, Toast and Brown Sugar Marmalade, a bowl of homemade Granola with seasonal fruit compote and Killowen natural yoghurt and a cup of  Ariosa coffee made from freshly roasted beans in Ashbourne, Co Meath

I rushed off to catch my train clutching an egg box full of tiny iced cup cakes and some melting macaroons.  

What a treat to find a café where the owner Michelle Darmody and her team are steeped in the Slow Food ethos, and are truly committed to using the ‘best quality possible ingredients supporting small Irish producers’.

Sadly, far too many chefs and cooks talk the talk but don’t actually deliver – hopefully the team at The Cake Café will continue to adhere to standards which have enchanted their customers thus far. 

www.thecakecafe.ie

The Daintree Building, Pleasants Place, Dublin 2 – behind Camden St, off Grantham St. (opposite O’Sullivan’s Graphics)  Monday to Friday 8am-5pm  Saturday 10am-6pm

Tel 01-4789394     - evening opening coming soon.

GRANOLA

1.5 kg porridge oats
500g shredded coconut

Mix until dissolved
150 ml honey
100 ml sunflower oil
300 ml water
2 tsp vanilla essence 

Add liquid mixture to mixed oats and coconut
Spread on to baking trays and leave to dry in a warm oven. It will take a few hours to dry out. Stir and break up larger chunks. 

Once dry stir through sultanas, chopped apricots, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds.

Store in an air tight container.

CUPCAKES

500g butter
500g sugar
500g self raising flour
10 tbl sp milk
8 eggs
2 tsp vanilla or other flavour

Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix milk, eggs and vanilla and add to butter n sugar. Add in flour.

Bake at 170 for 15 mins

We top the cup cakes with chocolate ganach which is made with 200g good quality chocolate melted and stirred into 200g cream.

TOMATO, CHICKPEA AND ORANGE SOUP

 Serves 4
 1 medium onion

2 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons oil

400g tomatoes

1 orange

75g chickpeas (soaked overnight and then simmered for 30-60 mins, or pre-cooked tinned)

300ml stock

 To serve:

Crème fraiche

Freshly chopped mint

 Chop the onion finely. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the onion. Fry on a gentle heat for 10 mins, until the onions have softened, but not coloured. Add the garlic to the onion. Finely grate the rind from the orange. Peel the orange and chop into small pieces. Add the orange rind and orange to the onions. Add the tomatoes and the stock. Bring to the boil, and then simmer gently for 20 mins until cooked through. After this time, add the chickpeas and simmer for a further 10 mins. Liquidise the soup.

Serve with a dollop of crème fraiche and a sprinkle of freshly chopped mint.

 Cooks Book

James Martin’s Desserts published by Quadrille.

Desserts is the eagerly-awaited book on sweet treats and puddings from one of the nation’s favourite chefs James Martin, and is the accompanying book to his BBC TV series Sweet Baby James, in which he travels Britain cooking up some truly irresistible dishes and looks at all aspects of sweet tasting treats, from the best puddings, to chocolate heaven and perfect melt in the mouth pastries, pies and tarts – Tarte Tatin, Pavlova and Chocolate Mousse, Sticky Toffee Pudding, Spicy Plum Crumble …..

Gooseberry crème fraiche tart

– from James Martin’s Desserts
 Try this with new season’s gooseberries.

 Serves 6-8

 Butter for greasing

200g sweet shortcrust pastry – see recipe below

Flour for rolling out

 Filling:

200ml crème fraiche

4 large egg yolks

1 whole egg

100g caster sugar

450g gooseberries, topped and tailed

 Pre-heat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5.  Lightly grease a 23cm,2.5cm deep, loose-bottomed tart tin.

Heat a baking tray in the oven while you roll out the pastry.  Roll the pastry on a floured surface so that it is larger than the diameter of the tin.   Line the tin with the pastry and prick the base all over with a fork.   Brush the base and sides with some of the egg white leftover from the eggs for the filling.  Place the pastry-lined tin on the hot baking tray (this will make the base cook.)

Bake for 20 minutes until the pastry is just beginning to turn golden brown.   Then remove it from the oven and reduce the heat to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4.  

To make the filling, whisk the crème fraiche, yolks, whole egg and sugar together.

Carefully arrange the gooseberries in the pastry case, pour the crème fraiche mixture over the top and return the tart to the oven for 40-50 minutes or until it’s a light golden brown.  Allow to cool before serving.

Rich Shortcrust Pastry

 James says the best way to make shortcrust with that crumble-in-the-mouth texture is to do it by hand rather than by machine, as a blender will overwork the gluten in the flour and cause the pastry to be springy and shrink when cooked.   In addition, resting the pastry in the fridge is important, as the high proportion of butter to flour makes it difficult to roll out when warm.  Any unused pastry can be frozen (freeze it rolled into a tin, rather than in a ball.)
 Makes 300g

 200g plain flour

¼ tsp salt

2 tbsp icing sugar (if making sweet pastry)

100g cold unsalted butter, cubed

1 egg, beaten

1 tsp lemon juice

2 tbsp iced water

 Mix together the flour, salt and sugar (if making sweet pastry).  Add half the cubed butter to the flour.  Gently and swiftly rub the fat into the flour until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs.  Add the rest of the butter and mix until it’s the size of small peas.  Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients.

Mix the egg with the lemon juice and water and gradually pour into the well, a little at a time, rubbing it through your fingers, until it forms a  stiff dough (you may not need all the liquid.) Turn out onto a floured board and knead lightly until smooth. Shape into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  

To line a tin or mould, roll the chilled pastry onto the rolling pin, then unroll over the tin, draping the pastry into the tin or mould.   Gently press it in place using your fingers.

 Foolproof Food

Fresh Strawberry Shortcake

 A real taste of Summer – make the most of fresh Irish strawberries
 Serves 6 – 8

 Shortbread

6 ozs (170g) flour

4 ozs (110g) butter

2 ozs (55g) castor sugar

 ½ lb (225g) strawberries

8 fl ozs (250ml) Chantilly cream - whipped sweetened cream

1 teaspoon icing sugar

¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Garnish: 6 - 8 whole strawberries and fresh mint leaves

 Rub the butter into the flour and castor sugar as for shortcrust pastry.  Gather the mixture together and knead lightly. Rest the dough for a few minutes if you have time.

  Roll out into 2 circles 7 inches (17.5cm) in diameter, ¼ inch (7mm) thick.  Bake in a preheated moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4, 15 minutes approx or until pale golden.  Remove and cool on a rack.  One circle may be marked with a knife into wedges while still warm, to facilitate cutting later.

Shortly before serving sandwich with Chantilly cream and halved sugared strawberries. Sieve icing sugar over the top and decorate with rosettes of cream, whole strawberries and fresh mint leaves.

 Note: Individual strawberry shortcakes may be made with 3 inch (7.5cm) discs of shortbread.  Cut the strawberries lengthways and brush with red currant jelly if available.

Fresh Strawberry Sauce

Delicious with good vanilla ice-cream
 400g (14 ozs) strawberries

55g (2 ozs) icing sugar

Lemon juice

Garnish

Fresh mint leaves

  To make the strawberry sauce, clean and hull the strawberries, add to the blender with sugar and blend. Strain, taste and add lemon juice if necessary.   Serve with ice-cream or meringues with some fresh strawberries.

 Hot Tips

Panem Cafe

Another little gem in Dublin, Panem is a tiny café overlooking the river on the Lower Ormond Quay, across from Millenium Bridge.   They serve a limited menu sing really fine quality ingredients and bake cakes, brioches, breads and biscuits through the day in their tiny open kitchen.

I had a delicious chocolate chip brioche with an excellent double expresso followed by a glass of orange juice, freshly squeezed as I waited.   Why oh why can’t other people do this.   There were lots of other tempting things to try but I didn’t have time or space, but Panem could well become a regular haunt on trips to Dublin from now on – Simple and Delicious .   Panem, 21 Lr Ormond Quay, Dublin 1. Tel 01-8728510