Baking with flowers of the fairest and experimenting with ingredients the rarest- new kid on the blog Naomi Ní Chatháin is building quite the fanclub with her guilt-free cakes, writes Maria Moynihan.
You could argue that Naomi Ní Chatháin is like a virtuous version of a modern-day Marie Antoinette.
“I want everyone to be able to eat cake, every day,” smiles the 25-year-old French and philosophy graduate and sommelier-turned-baking blogger, as she serves us a slice of her red clover and raspberry cáca milis, which is an unexpected combination that brings to mind a Brunch ice cream.
But this is what Naomi does – she fuses foraged flowers and other hedgerow bounties with more experimental ingredients to produce guilt-free treats: think elderflower, honeysuckle and wild rose petal infusions with beetroot powder or coconut flour.
One of nine children, Naomi lives in Kilmaley, Co Clare. As a child, she spent a year in France due to her father Conor Keane’s work as a traditional musician.
It clearly planted a seed. After graduating with a degree in French and philosophy, Naomi returned to teach in a university in Brittany for a year, where she says she first got “obsessed” with wine. So much so that she became the first non-national to be accepted on to the master’s in wine tourism in Nimes, where she studied everything from viticulture and oenology to marketing.
“It was a heavy enough course actually, and I saw it as an achievement as well to do something through (French), and to be the first foreign person to ever do the course,” she says, adding: “There was no allowances ever made for me!”
After graduating, Naomi worked as a sommelier in McCambridge’s in Galway, before spreading her wings by travelling around the United States, where she hosted fun tasting workshops like “French wine and cinema” and “cider and spaghetti western” nights in upstate New York.
Returning to Ireland at the start of this year, however, she decided to take her passion for flavours in a new direction by baking, experimenting with different recipes and sharing the results on social media through the photo-sharing website Instagram.
“Instagram is the reason I put the blog together. I didn’t expect for people to be so interested at the start,” she says. “And people were like: ‘What are you using?’
As well as foraged ingredients and plenty of good butter and eggs, Naomi is fascinated by what she refers to as “high-tech” ingredients, such as alternative sweeteners.
This means that many of her recipes are grain-free, low in sugar and high in protein and fibre, so that as many people as possible – with or without dietary restrictions – can enjoy them.
“Which is what I’m all about: it’s about making it possible for everyone to eat treats, and for treats not to have these connotations of guilt,” she says.
However, aware that many of these ingredients can be difficult or expensive to source, she recently decided to launch Naomi’s Bake Club, where subscribed members will get two pre-weighed bake mix with a recipe and nutritional breakdown delivered straight to their door for €16.95 a month, with initial orders from as far as London, Scotland and Belgium. All you have to do then is add your generic “wet” ingredients, like eggs or butter.
In addition, after getting HSE approval for her kitchen, she recently made her first foraged flower wedding cake for a fan (the layers included honeysuckle and wild rose tiers) and was invited to give a tasting workshop at the Connemara Summer School on Inisbofin, where she shared samples of dandelion cake among other delights. She is also currently applying for an enterprise grant to help turn her hobby into a business – which for the rest of us means just one thing. Let them eat cake!