I love holidays because they make an otherwise normal week something special, and also allow pause for ritual. Tonight I streamed Celtic-inspired pub music, poured myself a Guinness, and made a decadent Irish Wake Cake.
You can make it yourself using Sarah Troop’s recipe from her blog Nourishing Death.
The history of this buttery dessert gets its namesake from the traditional (or sometimes known as the “countryside”) Irish Wake. Sadly, it seems to have become more of a historic ritual than a modern one, as at-home wakes have been replaced with funeral parlor viewings.
In the old days, the body of a departed loved one would have been washed, dressed “in white linen and adorned with black or white ribbons,” and laid out in a coffin in their home. Friends and family would gather round the body and a lively celebration would commence. There would be eating, drinking, more drinking, and then a bit more, as stories and memories about the loved one were exchanged. With all the boozing (half-merrymaking, half sorrow-induced, perhaps) there needed to be a dependable way to mop up all the alcohol in the mourning party’s stomachs.
And so the Irish Wake Cake was born.
It’s one of those soul-nurturing foods. A light and creamy cake, it will cure even the most aggressive St. Patrick’s drunchies and hopefully quell any symptoms of hangover. It’s a dessert that will serve as a little memento mori on even the most merry of days. Make it for a holiday, a normal day, or even a Death Café.
Thank you for the recipe, Sarah!