MacDougall’s Irish Victory Cakes
As Thanksgiving approaches, when lawns are covered by leaves from the surrounding trees and the air has a cold chill, people in, around, and outside Chester County are interested in cuddling up under a warm blanket, watching holiday movies, and indulging in their favorite dessert; a MacDougall’s Irish Victory cake.
These cakes originated in Belfast, Ireland by James MacDowell (of the MacDougall clan), or as the family calls him, Dassie. Today, his great granddaughter, Deborah, carries on the family tradition in the kitchen of the Paoli Presbyterian Church.
When I walked into the church’s kitchen through the basketball court, the smell of freshly baked ingredients, especially the pumpkin scent that everyone enjoys so much this time of year, instantly hit my nose. I was greeted like a family member with hugs and smiles from Deborah Streeter-Davitt, Head Caketress, her dad, and her Aunt Margaret. Although only three were in attendance that day, the larger the order, the larger the number of MacDougalls appear in the kitchen.
The family, which includes Deborah’s mother and father, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews, come together four days a week to bake the Irish cakes. The eggs, dairy and chocolate are purchased locally and Deborah is now in process of switching to local flour.
The exquisite chocolate is from Wilbur Chocolatier in Lititz, PA. Wilbur makes their chocolate from scratch and once it hits your lips, you can tell the difference. Deborah is proud of the fact that her products all originate from the area, which one can tell by the twinkling smile on her face as she retells of her shopping excursions for fresh ingredients.
The history of MacDougall’s Irish Victory Cakes is an intriguing story of European royalty and escape from the oppression and famines of Belfast, Ireland. James MacDowell, Deborah’s great-grandfather, was a championship baker and the most in-demand culinary artisan amongst Europe’s elite. Although his buttery cakes were delicious beyond compare, Dassie was most famous for his cake decorations. He won multiple medals throughout the British Isles, and baked for the Kings and Queens of Europe. Aunt Maggie recalls the memory of watching Dassie at work in his kitchen in Ireland. Focused and intent on perfection, Dassie did not allow a word to be spoken while he was creating his masterpieces, so the grandchildren would line up along the counter and sit patiently in complete silence. Like little birds perched in their nest, waiting for mama to drop a morsel into their beaks, Maggie and her brothers and sisters would wait for Dassie to break his concentration, smile mischievously and squirt a bit of frosting into their mouths.
MacDougall’s Irish Victory Cakes was founded on the principles instilled by Dassie in and out of the kitchen. The term “Irish Victory Cakes” comes from the MacDougall clan’s motto, “Buaidh No Bas,” which means “Victory or Death.” Dassie’s ultimate victory was to get his family to the United States, sacrificing everything. Dassie would be proud of his great-granddaughter’s continued legacy of his famous Irish Victory Cakes. Deborah works tirelessly to ensure each cake is made to honor his legacy and remains authentic to the original recipes. “Dassie wanted to create a nice balance so the cake isn’t ultra-sweet. The cakes maintain its roots with him because we appreciate what he’s done to bring the family to the States. We wouldn’t be here today without him,” Deborah says. In fact, many cakes they make are named in honor of a different family member. The original cake is the “Dassie,” while others include “Albie’s Loopy Leprechaun,” “Massie’s Sweet Butter,” and “Patty’s Butterscotch Goody.” All of the cakes are listed on the company’s website, www.macdougallscakes.com.
When I asked Deborah how she got involved with carrying on the family tradition, she replied, “You know what’s funny about life…” Deborah worked for a financial service company and due to the declining economy, her division closed and she was left without a job. A wee bit downhearted and approaching her fiftieth birthday, Deborah reflected on her life’s path and found herself back in the kitchen. Surrounded by the spirit of her great-grandfather, Deborah found the courage to launch out and do something different with her life.
MacDougall’s Irish Victory Cakes has been extremely successful, right from the start. Deborah describes the continued progression of her company as “slowly, but surely.” Recent successes include, appearances on Philadelphia’s, The 10! Show and, a debute on QVC in 2013 to be scheduled close to St. Patrick’s Day. Although the family plans on making a much greater quantity than usual for the QVC appearance (estimated 5,000 units), they are honoring the same principals that got them where they are today – fresh ingredients and hand stirred.
Dassie would be so proud!
Extra hands are always a necessity at the Victory Cakes kitchen and if you would like to lend some muscle to stir a few batches and have great fun in the process, please contact Deborah at call 610-608-6889 or email at MacDougallsCakes@aol.com.
If you would rather sit back, brew a cup of tea and delight in a buttery cake, steeped in tradition, you can place your order online or by phone and Deborah will deliver your order right to your door.
MacDougall’s Irish Victory Cakes
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