Springtime Sweets

While desserts are a year-round affair, there’s something special about springtime sweets surrounded by flowers, Easter eggs, and first-of-the-season fruits. In my new cookbook, Delicious Ireland, I use some of my favorite photos of Ireland to open the chapters, such as the one pictured below for SWEETS, Puddings, Tarts, Crumbles, and Cakes. Here are a few recipes from the chapter that would be perfect to add to your Easter menu. To order a signed copy of the cookbook, visit irishcook.com.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.

The collage, clockwise, from left; Cottage & Garden, Adare, Co. Limerick, Margaret M. Johnson; Bread & Butter Pudding, Christine Mehedinteanu | Dreamstime; Pudding In A Teacup, Zdenek | Dreamstime; Mikey Ryan’s Pub, Cashel, Co. Tipperary, Margaret M. Johnson; Blueberry Mousse, Bellaruslady | Dreamstime


Serves 8 to 10

 Even devoted Irish cooks have discovered that a traditional bread and butter pudding can be made with several other breads — including panettone, croissants, and a baguette — and baked full size or in ramekins for individual service. This recipe uses a loaf of butter brioche and adds a touch of Irish whiskey for flavor and a handful of pecans for crunch. If time permits (no worries if you’re in a pinch), start the pudding a day ahead to let the bread absorb the custard. You can make the caramel sauce one day ahead or cook it while the pudding bakes.

For the pudding

5 large eggs, beaten

1 1/2 cups sugar

4 cups heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Pinch of salt

3 tablespoons Irish whiskey (optional)

1 loaf (16 ounces) brioche, cut into cubes 

8 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

1 cup finely chopped pecans 

Caramel sauce, for topping 

Vanilla ice cream, for serving (optional)

1. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer until blended. Beat in the cream, vanilla bean paste, salt, and whiskey (if using).  

2. Coat a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with butter flavored cooking spray. Spread bread in prepared pan; toss with melted butter. Pour egg mixture over top. Toss to coat the bread; sprinkle with pecans. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate overnight. 

3. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Uncover pudding; bake for 1 hour 15 minutes, or until pudding is set and top is browned. 

4. Let cool on a wire rack. Cut into squares; top with caramel sauce. Serve with vanilla ice cream, if desired.

For the sauce

1 cup (packed) light brown sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream

1 tablespoon Irish whiskey

1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, and salt to a boil, whisking to dissolve the sugar. Boil for about 3 minutes, or until the mixture is thick and syrupy. 

2. Remove from heat; stir in cream and whiskey until smooth. Serve warm, or cool, cover and refrigerate until serving time. Reheat before serving


Serves 4

A posset is an old-fashioned drink originally made with hot milk and flavored with spices. It was once drunk as a delicacy and even as a remedy for colds. More recently, the “drink” has been popular as a refreshing and oh-so-simple dessert, particularly pretty when served in a stemmed or decorative glass and topped with blueberry compote or a few fresh berries. Serve the posset with shortbread “fingers” (recipe follows).

For the posset

2 1/2 cups heavy (whipping) cream

1/2 cup sugar

Zest and juice of 3 lemons

1. In a medium saucepan, bring the cream and sugar to a boil. Reduce heat. Simmer, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes, or until smooth. Stir in the juice and zest.

2. Remove from the heat; let cool for 10 minutes. Pour into stemmed or decorative glasses; refrigerate for 12 hours, or until set. 

3. To serve, spoon the compote over the posset. 

For the compote

2 cups fresh blueberries

3 tablespoons water

1/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

3. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine 1 cup of blueberries, the water, sugar, and lemon juice; cook for about 10 minutes. Add the remaining blueberries; cook, stirring frequently, for 5 to 6 minutes longer. Remove from heat; let cool completely. 


Makes 14 

Coat a 14- x 4-inch rectangular tart pan with a removable bottom with no-stick baking spray. In a large bowl, beat 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 3 to 4 minutes, or until smooth. Gradually beat in 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. In a small bowl, whisk together 2 cups of flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt; gradually beat into the butter mixture until smooth. Pat and spread the dough into the prepared pan. With a fork, prick in several places to prevent the dough from rising. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Bake the shortbread for 55 to 60 minutes, or until the top is pale and the edge is golden. Let cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes. Lift out the bottom of the pan; cut the shortbread into 14 fingers. 

 Margaret Johnson’s “Recipes” page also includes “Ireland Hopping: Adventures in Food, Drink, and Travel.” For further details on her work, or to order a signed copy of any of her cookbooks, visit irishcook.com