Patrick's secret recipe

Patrick’s Secret Recipe?

The first thing you need to know about the Irish-Anglo prison now rebranded as Australia is the all-conquering bar of deliciousness that is the Violet Crumble. Or the second perhaps, after learning not to stand directly under the hole in the o-zone. This crackly honeycomb wrapped in chocolate is virtually unknown outside of the Oceanic country, with the secret recipe remaining closely guarded by stern-faced officials. But could some early version of the treat have formed the basis for St Patrick’s path to sainthood?

Irish snacks trumped by Australian genius

Long a mainstay of the southern sweet tooth, the Violet Crumble is embedded at the heart of modern-day Australia. And with good reason, Aussies have been chomping on the iconic candy bar since their nation was only twelve years old. Arguably, the snack was originally created to provide solace from the strain of being such an adolescent whiz kid. Part of some kind of virtuoso coming of age. Because in the scheme of things, producing such a top-quality piece of confectionery after only twelve years of existence warrants serious respect.

By the time the Irish saint died in the 5th century AD, Ireland may have had a codified legal system and a national religion. But it is hard to imagine Patrick snacking on such a highly delicious treat. The evidence is of course lost in the sods of time. But could Violet Crumble, or similar Irish snacks, have been purchasable – via clandestine trading networks or otherwise – in Patrick’s time? Scrumptious elixirs from which the Irish saint drew his prowess?

Patrick's legacy, bridge in Brisbane, Australia
Victoria Bridge, Brisbane. Seven million Australians claim Irish heritage – more than the total population of Ireland.

Patrick’s secret recipe kept under wrap(per)s

If in those frugal times he did enjoy such edible strokes of genius as the Violet Crumble, it is likely that St Paddy’s secret recipe for sainthood was kept far from prying eyes. The patron saint of Ireland (and Nigeria) would have had to wait several years for each candy shipment to arrive, before partaking in a glutinous binge for the ages. The back of the pantry would likely have been a good spot for such unsaintlike activities – “Where are ya, Paddy?” “I’m in heeeere, haawney, thought I saw a snake…nom nom nom nom”.

Although definitive supporting historical documentation on the secret recipe is lacking, you can at the very least conclude with certainty that, unlike Australia, the Irish saint was not consuming such delectable treats after just twelve years of life. Kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave, Patrick’s adolescence saw him forced to prostitute himself (as a shepherd). In this setup, you’d imagine he was God-blessed to have even the scantiest of sheep heads to lick come the colder nights of winter.

At least the Irish saint wasn’t Greek

The rapidity of Australian evolution becomes even more impressive when viewed in the broader cultural context. Because whilst Irish society was deeply rooted and built by an ancient race, the Celts stem from sunnier climes and originally only came to Ireland for a short vacation, to catch a brief glimpse at what is called ‘rain’.

Alas, the Celts were caught with their kilts down, and their arch nemeses spotted their opportunity. Soon, on account of being murdered, herded and raped into that corner lot of land by the Romans, the Irish became the Irish. But what about those societies that were able to stay put, gradually building up knowledge and traditions? Doesn’t the sheer scale of the Australian achievement undermine all they ever produced?

Because the Violet Crumble does diminish the Irish traditions and societal achievements of Patrick’s era. But that is nothing compared to the way Violet crushes the high points of civilizations that developed in calmer conditions, unhampered by the problems the Irish faced. Comprehending the feat achieved just twelve years in to Australia’s development must truly mind boggle (not to mention head mess) people from such societies. And the implications reach far back into time.

What does learning of Australian civilization’s candy bar achievement do to the mind of, say, a Greek? One day you’re seeing the same old philosophy book by Plato you’ve known your entire life. The next you’re frantically scrutinizing the author bio pic on the back, so overcome with shame and the weight of crashing illusions that in the end you see spent chocolate wrappers peeping out from the Athenian’s pocket. (That seer of logic! Hiding the evidence! That’s what the gown was for!)

Nitpicking Danes

Envious of the heights attained down under, recent Danish studies have added a layer of controversy to the issue, suggesting that something may be be rotten, or at least peculiarly aromatic, in the state of Australia. A slew of high-profile research teams, comprising scholars from all branches of the archaeoconfectionary field, now dispute the dating system used to determine the age of the Violet Crumble’s secret recipe, officially created in the 1910s.

The teams of specialists conclude that the question of the purported date of formulation is similar to the claim of Egyptologists that Ancient Egypt began at its height, exploding suddenly into highly sophisticated civilization during the Early Dynastic Period (3150-2650 BC). Logic dictates that such a zenith of civilization that can produce astronomically aligned tomb structures or snacks so delicious as the Violet Crumble are necessarily preceded by longer periods of development. You’re not top dog on your first day on the job, you got to put in the grind.

Patrick's secret recipe may have stemmed from the Australian Bush
Hotel in Victoria. The Australian Bush is one of the possible origins of St Patrick’s secret recipe.

Transforming Australian genius into Irish desserts

Amidst the inflamed and ever-broadening discourse surrounding the cult candy from down under, focusing on technicals is a good option if you are to grapple with the subject. The modern Aussie Oracle known as Violet boasts a light coat made of (not too) dark chocolate and, temporarily casting the finer points aside, can be seen as similar to one of the favorite Irish snacks, the (English, Cadburys-produced) Crunchie.

Although, it’s a bit lighter on the honey. And the hallowed Violet Crumble outdates the Crunchie, of course. Australia was in its late 20s by the time the Crunchie hit British gobs in 1929, probably already had chocolate-chomping children by then.

Alas, backed by the might and networks of the British chocolate industry, the Crunchie would become a globetrotter, while the Violet Crumble has remained an Oceanic insider secret. US readers with an unreasonable amount of candy cash can head to their local Cost Plus if they fancy having a taste of the original (or order online).

Recipe for the Irish dessert version

But for those of you unlucky enough to live outside the Violet Crumble Catchment Area (VCCA), here’s the recipe for an Irish ice cream version of the treat. If you’re feeling frizzled after slurping on it, perhaps enlist the help of the original Irish coffee to heat you back up. Or if it’s way too cold outside to even think about ice cream, opt for warmer Irish desserts like classic apple pie tart from the old country or strawberry mousse.

It’s of course not a traditional Irish drink, but it does come with Irish alcohol built in. If you’re outside of Australia, that ought to help numb the disappointment of not being where the magic happens. In fact, odds are that the most famous Irish alcohol was actually Patrick’s secret recipe for sainthood: uisce beatha. Directly translated as ‘elixir of life’. Or, in plain English, ‘whiskey’.


(Makes 1 ice cream shake)

  • 2 cups Vanilla Ice Cream
  • 1 cup Honeycomb Ice Cream
  • 2 oz (60 ml) Irish Cream
  • 1 oz (30 ml) Irish Whiskey
  • 1 oz (30 g) Dark Chocolate – chips or bar


  1. Pop your Dark Chocolate into a Blender and Pulse until the chocolate is finely ground – if you’re using chips, this will be happen very quickly.
  2. Take a Milkshake Glass and Add the Ice Cream, then the Irish Whiskey, the ground Chocolate, and the Irish Cream. Stir ever so gently.

Do serve in a milkshake glass – or at least something slim and tall. Using the right kind of ice cream will make this Irish dessert vegan and vegetarian friendly. Give serious consideration to topping with either chocolate or honey sauce.

Irish Violet Crumble image appears courtesy of Nathan Jones/Flickr, adapted and used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license.