It’s official. I’ve lost the plot.  Or, as one might say in Ireland: I’ve gone mad as a brush, a bit doolally, cracked as a cricket, bonkers, a bit touched…. and, in all likelihood--away with the fairies.

You see, the cake pictured above is not your average-ordinary cake. It is NOT a gorgeous vanilla sponge slathered with tangy Meyer lemon icing, nor is it a secret red velvet covered in velvety cream cheese frosting. No, no, no. It is a cake made out of four layers of homemade bread, filled with savoury, creamy goodness and spackled with chilled mayonnaise. Oh, and by savoury, creamy goodness, I mean stick to the ribs, wholesome, rich, Irish-style sandwich fillings. {Ahem, mad as a bag of cats}

I’ve had a notion for quite some time that I needed to share a post about the beauty of Irish Sandwichery with you. I suppose I am taking a bit of liberty with the term Irish Sandwichery, but I believe it serves it well. The art of the Irish sandwich or “roll” is a craft to be reckoned with.

However, it did take me a bit of time to adjust to sandwiches in Ireland. I say this because sandwiches were kind of my ‘thang’ for a long time. I felt intimately close with sandwiches as they comforted me on days when I worked through lunch (more often than not) crunching production numbers or screening through buckets of directors.

I treasured my weekly stiletto sprints to the deli to choose my special sandwich, grab a bag of chips (crisps) and a spritzy lemonade before heading back to my office. I had a bit of a system in place, whereby I would alternate rare roast beef with cheddar on a braided roll with corned beef and Swiss on Kaiser. The odd day I would splash out for chicken salad with grapes and almonds on croissant.  If it was cold out, perhaps a gooey tuna melt and some soup too. Chicken and stuffing had not yet entered my universe.

It is possible that my sandwich affinity started when I was a small girl. I remember my mother making up platters of tuna sandwiches or fluffer-nutters for us when I was still young enough to run around topless on a hot summer sprinkler kind of day. We would eat sandwich after sandwich washed down with tumblers of Country Time lemonade. The picture of health.

So, when I saw my first sandwich board at a popular Irish café, I was stumped. Egg mayonnaise? Ham and salad? Cheese and Onion? Chicken and Stuffing? Tuna and Sweetcorn? Ploughman’s? Bacon and Boiled Egg? Not one turkey pastrami on rye. Wha? Despite the obvious carbtasticness of Chicken and Stuffing, I went for it. And, umm, never looked back.

I have tried each and every one of these traditional Irish sandwich fillings and they are all some kind of wonderful. We often have just sandwiches for evening tea on the farm. Now, these are not the only choices you will find in Ireland, but without a doubt, you will find most of these options in every deli, grocery store, filling station, pubs and casual cafes around this fair country. (*Oh, and for early morning sandwich lovers, try the famous Irish breakfast roll: sausage, rasher, egg, hash brown, puddings, onion, butter and sauce on baguette)

For this post, I really wanted to celebrate Irish sandwich fillings and was trying to think of how to go about it when I was struck by a tasty memory of eating a cake made out of sandwiches years ago. Growing up in the Midwestern part of the USA, you will find plenty of Scandinavian influence in cooking and baking. I distinctly remember a friend’s Scandi mother making these massive sandwich cakes from time to time, and online research tells me that they were likely called Smörgåstårta.

And, so it was decided: I would make a sandwich cake layered with Irish-style fillings. Serendipity!

First, using Rachel Allen’s recipe, I baked my bread layers in springform baking tins, just like you would a sweet layer cake.

Then, I made up the fillings; I chose to do three fillings, which makes it a gorgeous tower of a cake, but to be honest, a bit too much trouble to cut into. If you decide to make this, I would go with two thick layers for the ease of it. I went with tuna + sweetcorn, cheese + onion, and chicken + stuffing (with a bit of rocket). I “iced” the cake with chilled mayonnaise and adorned the top with wild garlic flowers and sorrel leaves.

And, for the big reveal…..sloppy, creamy, oozy, bready, messy, scrumptious savoury cake heaven.

Really lovely treat to bring to an afternoon lunch, garden party or pot luck. Choose your own favourite flavours and decorative toppers. You can also do this using bread rounds from the bakery or store.

Slan Abhaile

Imen x

Photos & Styling by Imen McDonnell 2012. Wild Garlic & Sorrel foraged by Geoffrey McDonnell. With thanks to the Irish Twitter squad for helping me with the mad Irish expressions.

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35 Responses to “An Irish Sandwich Cake”

  1. [...] have mentioned before that I am a tried and true sandwich girl. This beautiful creation sent me straight back to deli [...]

  2. [...] anymore. the idea for this sandwich cake is from the very lovely blog farmette and there you can have a look on the gorgeous [...]

  3. Patty Barnett says:

    As a GRAD student at UCD I lived on sandwiches for lunch or tea. The only thing I would have done differentky, was made one of the layers egg mayo, which I loved, along with chicken and stuffing,, and maybe turkey cream cheese and
    Cranberry! LOVE this blog…..

  4. [...] Try an Irish Sandwich Cake, shared by Imen at [...]

  5. Julie Smith says:

    Hi Imen, looks like you are having fun with the all the Irish food in your blog. This one reminded me when we were in Dublin, we met a couple of girls from New Orleans that were traveling. They ordered a cheese sandwich and crisps. We didn’t know what to expect. Maybe onion rings on the sandwich? We were surprised it was potato chips in the sandwich. That was another surprise, all the flavors of potato chips. Amazing, while I was paying at a gas station, we were entertaining ourselves by reading all the flavors on the chip bags. Only regret not trying some of them. Maybe next time. Will you be visiting Jody, your cousin this year in Bloomer? (yes, that’s a strange name for a town). Enjoying your Blog.

    • imen says:

      Julie, how lovely to hear from you! And, what a great little story! I am always in awe of all the potato chip flavours….prawns? bbg beef and onion? Great stuff. Thanks again, yes, we always visit and stay with Jod and family at some point in the summer. I was sorry to hear about the passing of your father, condolences to you Julie. Hopefully meet you again! xx

  6. kale says:

    This is one of the most bizarre and beautiful things I’ve ever seen!

  7. O wow Imen it’s strange combination, but it’s so beautiful.

  8. sara says:

    Away with the fairies me girl so Ye are!

  9. Kate says:

    I had the treat of travelling with my husband to Ireland a couple years ago and I was just startled by how delightful the sandwiches were. Small castle tea room? Botanical garden? Little convenience store on a side street? All of them had the most delightful sandwiches, often, like yours, with corn. The corn in tuna threw me at first, but goodness was it ever tasty!

  10. Aoife Mc says:

    This has blown my mind. A Cake Sandwich is almost as good as a Cake Jumper!!!

  11. Wildsherkin says:

    A stunning image and a fab blog!

  12. Elizabeth says:

    Imen, what a creative way to celebrate the many sandwiches of Ireland! I’ll always remember how I was equally stunned and amazed when I first saw a sandwich filled with…stuffing. I’ve actually seen sandwiches in Ireland mad of nothing but stuffing. And I’ve delighted in earthing them! Yes, carbs on carbs. It’s all good. :)

  13. Rachel says:

    I love this idea. And the mayonaise makes a beautiful frosting, how unexpected!!! I now want to travel to Ireland for a sandwich.

  14. Christy Kendall says:

    Can you enter the Pillsbury Bake-Off abroad? :)

  15. Nessa Robins says:

    Imen, I love this idea and had to show it to the boys, first thing this morning! We’ll have to attempt it for our next picnic!

  16. Mary says:

    Working in Boston I can totally relate to the corned beef on rye and dashing around the city to get it! LOL! I’m sorry, but the idea of your “sandwich cake” is this just a bit too much for me . . . now maybe if you could slip in some ham, cheese and turkey I’d be OK with it! LOL!!! I will admit, it’s a beauty!

  17. Laura says:

    Imen, the vision of you filling a pastry bag with mayonnaise to pipe rosettes on this delightful behemoth cements in my mind that we are indeed of one mind when it comes to food. Love it! Love it! xo, Laura P.S. Used your gorgeous honey in a grapefruit curd I made this week and it is delicious. Thank you again.

  18. Whoa! I agree Irish Sandwichery is a very special category deserving more kudos than it gets. But this is so surprising, novel and funny you’ve taken Sandwichery to a whole new place.

    Beautiful photos too… I loved it, thank you!

  19. Uncle Beefy says:

    Well, Imen, I’m am the LAST one who should talk about the crazy-makings of someone else. Believe me! And, if this is crazy, it might just be mad genius talking! Love the look (Duh, it’s like CAKE!), and I can just bet it’s wicked delicious and so versatile. What could be more civilized than the idea of the two of us sharing a slice of ‘cake’ over tea? Now, if they’d just unbuckle the straps of this darn jacket! ;)

    Hope that life is going swimmingly for ya’! :)

  20. From this day forth, let it never be said that you are a “few sandwiches short of a picnic”, because that is a truly epic rendition of a sandwich cake!

  21. Móna Wise says:

    We would say ‘a few slices short of a loaf’ … but they all mean the same thing don’t they? Imen – you have outdone yourself. I think you are right, two layers would be plenty for cutting purposes. Very pretty as always.

  22. Hi Imen congrats on being nominated best of luck and success.
    Wow love your post your Irish sandwich looks amazing and delicious
    Best wishes xo

  23. Siobhan Kelly says:

    Well, I will tell you this… If I ever need to earn a few brownie points with my husband.. this beast of a sandwich will do it for me!!
    I love hearing about new recipes for tasty treats! I’m off now to try my hand at some mango salsa to have with chicken tomorrow.. Take care

  24. Sinéad says:

    Firstly congrats Imen on Saveur nomination!! Moving swiftly to “sambos” – yes I think you are a bit ‘craiced’ ;) Holy mother of the divine hour but why would you make a tower of sambos like that but of course make it look truly wonderful – you must have had good fun doing it. Our family love sambos and my sis would be the undisputed queen – beautiful combos with the addition on the side of Irish crisps, a pot of tea & lots of other yummy things – oh joy. Just one other memory – side street in Cork years ago serving crunchy bread roll, ham etc etc + Ballymaloe cucumber relish (A REVELATION). As another Irish saying goes – I died & went to heaven. Mine was a TOASTED ham/cheese/red onion today! Take care & thanks again for wonderful blog S

  25. Melissa L. says:

    Ha ha!! What a GREAT idea! I saw a gal do something similar on Come Dine With Me UK…I remember her saying it was Swedish. Crazy! I will HAVE to try this!

  26. I would like to tell you how happy your blog makes me. Yours along with a few others have allowed me to ‘live’ in Ireland while still here in Canada. Thank you. Thank you as well for this terrific idea…..now to choose which filling to try first!

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