Appalachian Food

Arsh Potato Cake

Irish Potatoe Cake
I’m going to share my favorite black walnut cake. Granny has made it for years. She said she got the recipe from some ladies she used to work with in Hayesville. It seems to be an old recipe. You can tell from the ingredient list which calls for things like sweet milk and a lump of butter.

I suppose the name is supposed to be “Irish Potato Cake,” but Granny calls it ‘arsh potato cake’. Older folks in my part of Appalachia often call white potatoes arsh potatoes. They call them that to differentiate white potatoes from sweet potatoes. I’ve heard Granny and Pap say arsh potato my whole life.

The cake is time consuming to make and it’s so rich you can’t eat more than a small piece at a time, but it’s perfect for the holidays…well it’s perfect anytime if you like it as much as I do.


  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup warm mashed potatoes (If I have mashed potatoes left over from supper I pop them in the freezer so I’ll have them when I make the cake. Or you can boil up a potato and mash it right when you need it)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sodie (baking soda)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sweet milk (just regular whole milk)
  • 1 cup black walnuts
  • 3 egg whites beaten light (save the yolks for the icing)


  • 1 cup sweet cream (or evaporated milk)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 beaten egg yolks
  • 1 lump butter (1 tablespoon)
  • 1 cup black walnuts or less or none
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded sweetened coconut


~first beat egg whites till light and fluffy; set aside.

~cream butter and sugar thoroughly

~sift together all the dry ingredients except the cocoa; set aside

~after the butter and sugar are creamed add cocoa and vanilla; mix well

~add mashed potatoes mix well

~alternately add dry ingredients and milk; mix well after each addition

~fold in black walnuts

~fold in egg whites

~pour into greased and floured cake pans (I use two 8 inch round cake pans and have enough batter left to put in a small loaf pan. I think Granny uses her 9 inch round cake pans and it works out.)

~bake at 350 for 30 minutes or till done (It takes 28 minutes in my oven for the size pans I use.)

~remove cake from pans and let cool (Mine always stick a little-you can use parchment paper to make the cakes easier to remove)

~to make the icing-cook cream, sugar, and reserved egg yolks over low heat until thick (The icing isn’t very thick-its more the pour and let drip kind.)

~remove from heat; stir in butter

~stir in coconut and black walnuts

Arsh Potato Cake

~I don’t worry about the sides-I place one layer on the cake stand pour some icing on it and then place the other layer on top and add the rest of the icing spreading it evenly on top allowing it to drip where it will down the sides.

The cake is actually sweet enough that if you wanted to forgo the icing it would still be very tasty especially with a big glass of milk or a cup of coffee.

If you decide to try the recipe-please let me know if you like it.


p.s. I looked in the Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English to see if the word ‘arsh’ was in there-it was. The book documents the word being used in 1939-Roaring Fork TN; 1942; 1991-Haywood Home.


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  • Reply
    Stacy Walker
    August 6, 2021 at 11:21 pm

    Thank you for posting this. I have looked for years. My grandmother used to make this and I was made fun of in school because I said she made Arash potato cake. I was not told until I was an adult by my aunt that it was Irish potato LOL. I am going to try this recipe out the only difference was they used pecans. God bless thanks for posting

  • Reply
    December 13, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    This is my first time on your site, been meaning to look it up since my sister & brother both subscribe to your blog. It’s great..can’t wait to read more. My Dad was born on Hazel Creek, so love reading this all. Am planning to try this cake for Christmas – will let you know what everyone here in Arizona think!

  • Reply
    December 11, 2010 at 9:19 am

    That just looks delicious!
    It reminds me of the German chocolate cake my mother used to make. It was her favorite.

  • Reply
    December 7, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    I’m going to try this recipe. Your picture sold me on it! It’s funny. My husband is black and comes from Alabama. When we first got married he called all white potatoes “Irish Potatoes”, but he pronounced it “Arsh potatoes” because that’s what his people had called it where he’s from. I’m from Kentucky, and for us, potatoes were just potatoes (unless we differentiated “new” and “red”), and sweet potatoes were sweet potatoes.

  • Reply
    December 4, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    You using the term sodie brought back memories of Grandma. She always said “sodie” instead of baking soda.
    Grandma and Mom both made something very similar to this when I was a child. If I get time, I’m going to make this. It sounds delicious.

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    December 3, 2010 at 11:15 pm

    The cake sounds wonderful!
    And my grandparents from Alabama always said Arish potatoes.

  • Reply
    December 3, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    The cake looks delicious! My grandparents called them “arsh taters” as well and lived near “arsh creek.” My cousin was called “Arey.” I was grown up before I knew his name was actually “Ira.”

  • Reply
    December 3, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    I thought I knew every way to eat potatoes and now you show me another one. Like I need another one.
    Looks soooo good.

  • Reply
    Patty Hall
    December 3, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    Looks delicious!!! may have to give this one a try.
    Patty H.

  • Reply
    December 3, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    This is definitely going on my holiday baking list. It sounds so good.

  • Reply
    December 3, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    Looks DE-LICIOUS, Tipper!

  • Reply
    Pat in east TN
    December 3, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    Oh my gosh but that looks absolutely delicious! I’m going to have to give it a try. Thanks for sharing Tipper.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    December 3, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    Tipper–My ear has interpreted the pronunciation of Irish a bit differently–it always sounded more like Arish to me. As for the origin of the term, it is directly connected to Ireland. The potato was the staple of Irish diet until the devastating famine of the late 1840s when a type of blight saw the entire crop of this key food destroyed. That’s when so many Irish came to this country.
    The recipe is an interesting approach, and when you mentioned Hayesville I just knew you were going to offer the recipe for walnut cake I acquired from a now deceased second cousin, Frankie Ledford. She made a walnut cake for every Casada family reunion and let me use int in print in an article (I think in “Wildlife in N. C.”) and in one of our cookbooks. She then decided she hadn’t given me permission and had a mini-hissy fit. Such is sometimes the nature of recipes, although they can’t be copyrighted. Her cakes were wonderful but just a tad dry. I suspect the taters help in your approach when it comes to being dry.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    December 3, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    Never heard of such a thang! But I
    will try this arsh tater cake soon
    as possible. The icing looks good with those walnuts and coconut.
    Yours sure looks good! Enjoyed all
    the Christmas Music on your radio
    player, especially No. 6 of the girls singing “It’s Christmas Day
    at My House.” …Ken

  • Reply
    lynn legge
    December 3, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    mmm that cake sounds delicious.. and whats better than making such great desserts that we have grown up to love.. those are my favorites.. bet the house smells delicious… 🙂
    thank you for sharing with us, especially during this hectic season.
    big ladybug hugs

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    December 3, 2010 at 10:59 am

    The cake looks like it is delicious. We will give it a try.
    By the way, I communicated with the author of The Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English, Michael Montgomery, and he tells me that a new expanded edition is scheduled to be published in the latter half of 2011. He is going to put me on his list to let me know when it will come out.

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    December 3, 2010 at 10:28 am

    I would give it a try today, but I don’t know where I can find black walnuts in Hawaii. Maybe it will work with Macadamia nuts!
    Mama and her sister always said “Ish Taters”.

  • Reply
    December 3, 2010 at 9:39 am

    That looks delightful! I love cakes that have drippy icings on them. To me those are home cakes for sure. Good honest eating. Ahhh for some black walnuts……

  • Reply
    December 3, 2010 at 9:29 am

    it is so beautiful i know it is worth all the work, yummmy looking to me. i had to laugh when i saw your post title. i knew exactly what it was, since most of the people in my childhood called irish arsh. thanks for more memories.

  • Reply
    December 3, 2010 at 9:27 am

    Sound utterly delicious. I had to tweet this. I love black walnuts. A definite try out for me.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 3, 2010 at 9:17 am

    Wow, your right it is a lot of effort but, my goodness, that cake looks soooo gooood!

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    December 3, 2010 at 8:59 am


  • Reply
    Melissa P
    December 3, 2010 at 8:43 am

    Oh, Tipper, my mouth’s a waterin’ like crazy! Just thinkin about that cake put several pounds on my hips. I sure miss black walnuts (not the stain, mind you, but the taste). I’m gonna have to see if anyone sells them online. Just don’t find them in Michigan.

  • Reply
    Lonnie L. Dockery
    December 3, 2010 at 8:37 am

    Tipper, I try most of the recipes you mention here, and I haven’t found a bad one yet, but I think I’m going to skip this one. I just can’t imagine ‘taters in my walnut cake! And it does look like a lot of work…but, I might be willing to try just a little piece if somebody already had one made–just so I’d know.

  • Reply
    barbara gantt
    December 3, 2010 at 8:13 am

    I grew up eating ‘arsh potatoes too. Didnt know potatoes could have another name til I moved away from NC. Cake looks yummy. Barbara Gantt

  • Reply
    December 3, 2010 at 7:49 am

    Would love to have a big piece of that cake to go with this cup of coffee I’m having for breakfast. Have made the yellow icing and put it on a hickory nut cake.Oh so good!! Don’t have any black walnuts or I’d be cooking one now.

  • Reply
    Canned Quilter
    December 3, 2010 at 7:33 am

    Tipper this sounds wonderful and I will definitely give it a try!

  • Reply
    December 3, 2010 at 7:16 am

    yummies! will definitely be trying this cake, sounds luvly and something the manthing would love!

  • Reply
    Vera Guthrie
    December 3, 2010 at 6:54 am

    My baking skills fail me at times and I get scared to attack a project like this. Mama always said I was too careful when putting my cakes together and to loosen up. I also have a phobia about getting batter or goo on my hands so I go through a roll of paper towles wiping my hands when cooking. That may explain why as a child when all the other kids ate mud pies I ate soap. The cake looks like I could eat the whole thing and I love balck walnuts and coconut. Maybe I’ll muster up the courage to try it.

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