W hen I was a kid and St. Patrick’s Day was approaching, there were two things that would pop into my mind: Shamrock Shakes from McDonald’s and boiled corned beef dinner.

I would beg my mother for one of those shakes but hide in my room when the boiled dinner hit the table.

My son brought a Shamrock Shake home the other day — I haven’t had one in years — and I got a little green with envy when I saw the empty cup. This was the inspiration to create a Shamrock Shake cake to celebrate my Irish roots without compromising my commitment to less processed food.

I made the cake by separating 10 room-temperature eggs, the best quality farm-raised eggs I could find. I whipped the whites and sugar into a meringue and beat the yolks with sugar until they were light yellow and fluffy.

I mixed cake flour with baking powder, a pinch of salt and vanilla powder, then combined everything together and baked three square cakes to make a layer cake. I made a vanilla buttercream frosting and added mint extract. I frosted each layer, the top and sides of the cake, and used green sanding sugar for decoration.

It was the best cake ever.

As for the boiled dinner, I gave that a little makeover, too. Instead of putting cabbage, potatoes and carrots into a pot of water to boil away into a gloppy mess with a corned beef brisket, I roasted the cabbage and carrots, mashed the potatoes with sautéed kale, and made colcannon, a classic Irish dish.

The brisket was braised in apple cider vinegar with the spice packet it came with, then finished in the oven. What a difference. The brisket had much more flavor. I made an au jus-like accompaniment to drizzle over the corned beef and vegetables and it really pulled the dish together. Delicious.

Braised Corned Beef

4 to 5 lb. beef brisket

1 large sweet onion, coarsely chopped

4 T. apple cider vinegar

Spice pack from corned beef

2 tsp. fresh ground pepper

Place the onion in the bottom of a Dutch oven and set the brisket on top, fat side up. Sprinkle with seasoning packet. Add the apple cider vinegar and 3 cups of water (enough to cover a little less than half the brisket). Set on a stove on medium-high heat and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cover with the lid. Simmer for about 15 minutes, then transfer to the oven. Braise in the oven for about 2 1/2 hours, turning the brisket over after about an hour and spoon the pan juices over the top. Cook until the meat is fork tender with an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Remove from oven and slice brisket, then return to pan with juices and let the meat rest and marinate for about five minutes before serving. Spoon remaining juices over vegetables for added flavor.


2 lbs. waxy potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, peeled and diced

2 c. fresh kale, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tsp. olive oil

1 1/2 c. cream

3 tsp. Kosher salt, divided

1 1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper

4 or 5 leaves fresh sage

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Add the potatoes to a saucepan and add enough cold water to just cover the potatoes. Add teaspoon of salt and set over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to medium. Simmer for about 8 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. While the potatoes are cooking, add the cream, sage, garlic and 1 tsp of the salt to a saucepan and set over medium heat. Heat the cream for about 5 minutes then set aside. Set a sauté pan over medium-high heat and add the olive oil when the pan is warm. Add the garlic and kale and cook for about 2 minutes to soften the kale, then remove from heat and set aside. When potatoes are done, drain and return to the saucepan, then set over medium heat and steam for one to two minutes to remove any excess moisture (this makes for fluffier mashed potatoes). Transfer the potatoes to a ricer and rice into a large bowl. If you do not have a ricer, you can use a potato masher. Strain the cream through a strainer as you slowly pour it into the potatoes. (You can use as much or as little of the cream as you desire to reach the consistency you prefer). Mix the potatoes and cream well, then season with remaining salt and pepper. Stir in the kale before serving.

Roasted Cabbage and Carrots

1 lb. fresh carrots, peeled

1 med. head of cabbage, cut into 2 inch slices

2 T. olive oil

2 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper

1 T. apple cider vinegar

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and heat an oven to 425 degrees. Brush foil with a light layer of olive oil. Set the cabbage and carrots on the foil and lightly drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set in the oven and roast for about 15 minutes or until the vegetables are slightly charred and have softened.

Shamrock Shake Cake

10 eggs, room temperature

2 c. sugar, divided

3 tsp. vanilla powder (or 2 tsp. vanilla extract)

1 1/2 c. cake flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking powder

Fresh mint leaves for garnish (optional)

Sanding sugar for garnish (optional)

Mint Buttercream Frosting (recipe follows)

Separate the eggs so you have a bowl of yolks and a bowl of whites and set aside. Add the flour, salt baking powder and vanilla powder to a bowl and whisk together, then set aside.

Using a stand mixer or electric hand mixer, add the yolks and begin to beat on medium-high speed. Slowly add one cup of the sugar while the eggs are beating. The yolks will become light yellow and fluffy; continue beating until the sugar is incorporated. (This will take 4 to 5 minutes).

If you are using vanilla extract, you can add it to the beaten yolks at the end and beat for an additional minute. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and set aside.

Clean and thoroughly dry the whisk attachment and mixing bowl.

Add the egg whites to the mixer and beat on medium-high until they start to foam, then slowly add the remaining sugar. Turn the speed to high and beat until the whites become opaque and fluffy (think shaving cream consistency).

Add a third of the whites to the yolks and fold in gently with a spatula until well incorporated, then add another third and repeat.

Add the flour mixture and continue to mix. Fold in the remaining whites and stir until well incorporated.

Spray three 8 x 8-inch square baking pans. Add the batter to the pans filling about three-quarters of the way, then bake in an oven preheated to 350 degrees. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the top is light golden brown and the sides are pulling away. Remove from oven and transfer cakes to cool on wire racks.

To frost, set one cake on a plate and frost the top, then set a cake on top of it. Frost the top of the second cake and top with the third cake. Frost the top and sides of the stacked cakes and decorate with sanding sugar and fresh mint.

Mint Buttercream Frosting

16 oz. powdered sugar

1 stick butter, room temperature

3 tsp. mint extract

3 T. milk

Add the butter to bowl and beat for a minute on high speed with an electric mixer. Add about a third of the powdered sugar and one tablespoon of the milk and continue to beat on high. Slowly add the remaining powdered sugar (stop the mixer when adding to avoid a mess) and slowly stream in the milk. When the frosting is smooth and creamy, add the mint extract and beat for an additional minute.