Stick on some ’80s tunes, backcomb the hair and dust off the rolling pin because Irish Country Living is going retro.

For me, food is so much more than fuel. It plays an important part in creating beautiful memories with the ones we love.

Some of my earliest and happiest memories are standing on a kitchen chair watching my mum make brown bread or patiently waiting for my Granny’s jam tarts to cool on the kitchen window ledge.

The revival of home baking over the past 12 months has been nothing short of amazing. People have taken a step back and reconnected with food, and I believe that’s why these retro nostalgic bakes are so very popular. Not only do they taste amazing but it also transports people back to simpler – and possibly happier – times.

Growing up, these two throwback desserts only meant one thing in our house: we had visitors coming over. While as kids we may not have relished the small talk over dinner, we knew it would be worth it to get a big slice of Viennetta or a fondant fancy afterwards.

These are just two of the many retro desserts I think back on and smile about. Both of these recipes involve some preparation but trust me when I say you will savour every single bite and memory.



Chocolate Hazelnut Viennetta

Chef Shane Smith's Chocolate Hazelnut Viennetta.

Serves eight

For the base:

500ml single cream

1 tin condensed milk

Dash vanilla essence

200g dark chocolate (melted)

a pinch of salt

For the caramel sauce:

110g brown sugar

110g butter

120ml single cream

Dash vanilla

For the garnish:

50g melted chocolate

60g chopped hazelnuts

Caramel sauce (above)

  • 1 To make the chocolate sheets (for the center of the vienetta), pop the chocolate in a bowl set over a pot of gently simmering water to melt.
  • 2 Place a sheet of parchment paper on your work surface and, using a pencil, trace around the base of your 2lb loaf tin (you will need five tracings for the dessert).
  • 3 Flip the paper over and spoon the melted chocolate to fill in the traced spaces. Set aside to cool.
  • 4 For the viennetta filling, line your 2lb loaf tin with a double layer of clingfilm, allowing it to hang over the edge as this will help with removal when frozen.
  • 5 Whisk the cream, add the condensed milk, vanilla and salt. Re-whisk until thick and it’s time to assemble.
  • 6 Spoon some cream mix into the base of the lined tin and pop on a cold chocolate sheet, keep alternating these layers until you have used them all up.
  • 7 Pop this into the freezer overnight to firm up.
  • 8 For the caramel sauce, add the butter and brown sugar to a saucepan and cook over a medium-low heat until combined and it turns a golden brown colour.
  • 9 To this, carefully add the cream and vanilla. Reduce the heat and cook for five minutes until all the sugar is dissolved and the sauce has thickened slightly. Set aside to cool to room temp.
  • 10 To assemble, remove the frozen viennetta from the tin and place on your serving dish, top with some melted chocolate, caramel sauce and toasted hazelnuts and enjoy.
  • Shane’s fondant fancies

    Shane's fondant fancies.

    Makes 20

    For the sponge:

    190g soft butter

    190g caster sugar

    Dash vanilla essence

    4 medium free-range eggs

    1 level tsp baking powder

    190g self-raising flour

    For the buttercream:

    200g soft butter

    200g icing sugar

    Dash vanilla essence

    For the fondant:

    1kg icing sugar


    Pink/yellow food colouring/cocoa powder

    Melted chocolate

  • 1 Preheat your oven to 180oC (160oC fan) and grease and line a 20cm square baking tin with parchment paper.
  • 2 In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until soft and creamy.
  • 3 Add the vanilla and the eggs gradually, mixing to incorporate between each addition. Don’t worry if the mix splits slightly, once the flour is added all will be good again.
  • 4 To this add the sieved flour and baking powder and mix.
  • 5 Pop this into your lined tin, spread evenly and pop into the centre of your oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.
  • 6 Once baked, allow to cool in the tin. Once cold, pop into the freezer for 45 minutes. As the sponge is super fresh this will stop it crumbling once we cut it.
  • 7 For the buttercream, simply beat the butter, icing sugar and vanilla together until smooth and creamy.
  • 8 Remove the sponge from the freezer and cut into 4cm squares. Using a pallet knife or kitchen knife, cover the sides and top of the sponge squares with the buttercream.
  • 9 Once all the squares are covered, pop the remaining buttercream into a piping bag and pipe a round blob of buttercream on top of each one.
  • 10 These go back into the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up.
  • 11 To make the fondant icing, add the icing sugar to a mixing bowl and begin to mix. Pour a slow steady trickle of water into the icing sugar and keep mixing until you are left with a smooth and thick icing.
  • 12 Divide this mix into different bowls and add your chosen colours – pink or yellow food colouring paste, or unsweetened cocoa powder.
  • 13 Pop a sheet of parchment paper on your work surface and place a wire cooling rack on top.
  • 14 Place the chilled fondant fancies on top and spoon over your chosen coloured icing, you may need to give the wire rack a tap to help cover all the sponge.
  • 15 Alternatively, some people like to stick a fork in the base of the fancies and dip in the fondant. Feel free to try both methods and see which you prefer.
  • 16 To finish, drizzle some melted chocolate on top and tuck in.