This post originally appeared in the October 21, 2023 edition of Eater’s Travel newsletter, a place for Eater’s editors and writers to share their tips for navigating the world’s most delicious destinations. Subscribe now.
This past summer, in search of cooler temperatures and stunning natural beauty, my best friend and I flew to Dublin for a week of exploring the Emerald Isle. Our trip actually began in earnest in Northern Ireland, where we stayed for a few days to explore the region’s tumultuous political history, the gorgeous sights of the Causeway Coastal Route, and of course, the food.
After a few days spent on the northern coast, we hopped in the car to drive down south. Our first stop was Belfast, the capital city of Northern Ireland and home to St. George’s Market, one of Europe’s oldest continually operating open-air markets, dating back all the way to 1604. On Saturdays, local purveyors of produce, baked goods, and freshly made sandwiches set up shop in the market, so of course we had to make a stop.
Upon entering St. George’s, I paid £1 for an oyster caught that morning and shucked before my eyes, and knew I was in a really special place. I downed a towering breakfast sandwich loaded with potatoes, and mushrooms, and sausage, and egg on top of a Belfast bap, the city’s signature crusty roll. I bought some of the best strawberries I’d ever eaten from a woman who grew them in her backyard. And then, I stumbled upon the chewy, crunchy dessert that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about for months: a coconut-dusted tray of Fifteens.
Fifteens take their name from the impossibly simple recipe for making them: 15 digestive crackers, usually store-bought McVities, 15 glace cherries, and 15 of those big puffy marshmallows, all crushed (or chopped, as appropriate) and mixed together with a tin of sweetened condensed milk. The resulting confection is rolled into a log or pressed into a tray, then coated with tiny shreds of coconut. As the fifteens rest, the sweetened condensed milk softens the cookie crumbs, which come together with the marshmallows and cherries to produce a chewy, exquisitely gooey bite. At this particular stall, the fifteens were cut into thick squares, each speckled with chunks of cherry and marshmallow.
Obviously, I bought two and ate them a few hours later while sitting in the lush rose garden at Kilkenny Castle, marveling at how this massive structure built in 1260 is still, somehow, around. I also found myself wondering why fifteens don’t have a broader presence outside of the region. They are, objectively, a great dessert. They may not be as complicated to make or visually stunning as, say, a colorful macaron, but they are proof that a no-bake dessert can be a whole lot more than the sum of its parts.
Since flying home, I have thought about fifteens no less than once a week. I have Googled recipes, but it’s hard to find digestives and glace cherries in my home state of Texas. However, I am this close to breaking down and making an exorbitantly expensive order on some grocery import website, if only to relive that memory of sitting in a beautiful Irish rose garden, eating a perfect treat.