Like most of the best things in life, I came across Kate Packwood’s baking creations by word of mouth. Images of Kate’s beautifully displayed market stall popped up in my twitter feed and I knew we had to meet. Her unique combinations and use of interesting spices really set her cakes apart, like her passion fruit cake with olive oil drizzle and passion fruit curd, dark chocolate and sea salt caramel brownies, and banana, cardamom and pistachio loaves. Is your mouth watering yet? I haven’t managed to visit her stall in the Honest2Goodness market in Glasnevin, Dublin, but last week I had the opportunity to try her cakes. Kate kindly agreed to a cake filled photoshoot where we shot three rather special cakes and bakes, Pear, Vanilla and Smoke Cakes, Raspberry, Pistachio and Rose Cake and Earl Grey Profiteroles with Dark Chocolate & Tonka Glaze and Honeyed Figs. I also got the opportunity to ask Kate about her background and why she started baking…

What is the ethos of the wild flour bakery?

Cake and sweet treats should be an exquisite luxury rather than just a banal intake of empty calories. With The Wild Flour Bakery I am passionate about offering that moment of the sublime in the everyday. To this end, I only use the finest quality ingredients that I can find the raw materials are the most important thing. Ireland is a brilliant country to be a baker in, its dairy produce is the best in the world and its agricultural tradition and landscape is so rich that you are spoilt for choice with beautiful ingredients Irish butter, single estate milk and cream from producers like David Tiernan and Mossfield Farm, organic eggs, seasonal fruits, organic flour such as Dunany s. With this as my starting point I aim to bring a spark of originality with exciting blends of flavours. I approach baking as an artform. I love it when someone s face lights up when they taste something new and wonderful. I only use organic eggs and I try to use Irish ingredients bought directly from small producers as much as possible. I believe in keeping spending local and making sure that producers that go that extra mile get a fair price for their produce rather than going to multinationals. I really aim to celebrate Ireland s produce and producers.

What is your background and when did you start baking?

My background isn t in food, it s in the arts. When I started The Wild Flour Bakery I left a doctorate in Shakespeare, as I had discovered that I preferred the creative world of baking to the critical/analytic one of academia. I didn t cook at all until five or six years ago. I began to travel extensively and eat wonderful food that I wanted to recreate myself.

Why did you start baking?

I started to bake as I was sick of the same old stock cakes and boring flavours. I loved to experiment with ingredients and creating something unique. I also love the precision of baking as it suits my nature. I take great care in what I eat, not in the sense of calorie counting but in terms of only eating products from animals that have been reared kindly and to high standards. I found it supremely irritating to go to a caf or restaurant and eat a cake that was made with eggs from battery hens or, worse still, pasturized liquid egg, just for the sake of someone s profit margins. I wanted to create something that was wonderful and transformative and which wasn t achieved by maltreating animals or using disgusting processed ingredients.

Where does the inspiration for your cakes come from?

The inspiration for my cakes comes from all sorts of places the inspiration for the Pear, Vanilla, Smoke came from an amazing artisan chocolatier I came across in Brooklyn, New York called Mast Brothers Chocolate who made a chocolate bar called Vanilla and Smoke. I found it enchanting. One of my favourite things to do is to spend hours perusing wonderful little food shops or markets and buy an ingredient that is completely new to me then take it home, smell it, taste it, spend hours trawling through cookbooks and online finding out about it s history, uses, pairings, and then do something wonderful and new with it. Really learn it. There is nothing more inspiring than that first ever smell of tonka beans or the first time you open your little pouch of matcha tea to see a green so astonishing that you have to make something with it right away.

Do you have a favourite place to shop for baking ingredients?

My favourite place to shop for ingredients is from my friend Rosie O Sullivan who has a stall at the same market as me in Glasnevin and who grows some of the most superb organic fruit you can buy in Ireland. I love talking to her about what s in season, and visiting her beautiful farm in Kinnegad. I also love McNally s Family Farm stall in Temple Bar market, especially for organic duck eggs and farmhouse butter and cream. For the more unusual ingredients my favourite place by far is Fallon & Byrne in Dublin, it is Mecca to me. I love the element of discovery they bring, they are Ireland s version of Dean & Deluca.

What is your favourite flavour combination?

I think my personal favourite flavour combination is Earl Grey and tonka, but I also love lavender and coffee, or anything with rose in it.

What is the weirdest ingredient you have used in your cakes?

The weirdest ingredient I ve ever used for a cake is probably candied chilli. My close friend Lily Ramirez-Foran who runs her My Mexican Shop stall next to mine, commissioned me to make Mexican inspired cakes for the Mexican feast of The Day of The Dead. I topped a spiced chocolate cake filled with cajeta (like dulce du leche) with candied chillies. Another weird ingredient in a sweet treat was Gortnamona, a luscious soft Irish farmhouse goats’ cheese that you would normally find in a more savoury context. I made a Gortnamona, honey and Ariosa coffee macaron, which was an incredible contrast of sweet and savoury. Because my flavour combinations are comparatively unusual they can be quite polarizing. There are a lot of people that adore each creation, but there are as many that will hate them. I m happy about this as I find people really engage with the different flavours. Most food that we are offered today is aimed at a mass market so is bland and generic and unadventurous. I love to take risks. Each flavour combination has a niche of people who are blown away by it, but I repel as many as I attract and that s what makes my cakes interesting.

What was it that made you decide to start a market stall?

I am evangelical about Irish produce and animal welfare. I really believe that this shouldn t just apply to savoury food, but that it is even more crucial in what we have as a luxury good. I wanted to offer a product that married these ethics with exquisite flavours and exciting design. I get so much joy out of rocking someone s world with a crazy flavour that I wanted to make a living out of it. That is the wonderful thing about the farmers market movement in this country you don t need to have money behind you, you can just get out there and sell your goods directly, if they re good enough you will do well. There s real honesty in that. I fell in love with Honest2Goodness market as a customer, it s part of the vanguard of the Irish food scene on Dublin s Northside and it s a growing movement I am very proud of which to be part. Engaging with my customers at H2G is my favourite part of the process. I love making their faces light up. I aim to be better every week, to constantly delight in a new way each time.

What does the future hold for the Wild Flour Bakery?

My ultimate dream is to open a tiny contemporary patisserie. It would have that kind of old-fashioned customer service where I would know many of my customers by name and know their individual preferences. I would love to be able to put my passion for design to good use and make a small space that is joyous to be in. It would be a place that is driven by decency and ethics. I hope that is what the future holds for The Wild Flour Bakery, but in this financial climate this is a far-reaching dream. In the meantime, I want to hone my craft and continue to delight.

To see more of Kate and her Wild Flour Bakery check out her new blog or visit her at the Honest2Goodness market every Saturday in Glasnevin, Dublin.

- RECIPES -

Raspberry, Pistachio and Rose Cake… {Recipe}

Pear, Vanilla and Smoke Cakes… {Recipe}

Earl Grey Profiteroles with Dark Chocolate & Tonka Glaze and Honeyed Figs… {Recipe}