Thanks in great part to the universal success of Guinness, the history of Ireland and stout – a type of porter – is inseparable. Irish Porter Cake, best made with stout, is something of a tradition in the country. Whether it’s a cake eaten but once a year – on St. Patrick’s Day – is up for debate. But it’s certainly a valid excuse to indulge.
Irish porter cake is a moist fruit cake, best made with a dark, rich stout. Guinness will do the trick, but I opted for a particularly flavoursome double stout. The cake benefitted.
Like many of the most traditional cakes from around the British Isles – Cornish hevva cake, being another example – porter cake is exceptionally simple. Ready to bake in just 15 minutes, it is a cake that you can throw together at a moment’s notice.
That is not to say that it should be slung together and served immediately. It is generally accepted that porter cake ought to be baked and left to sit in its tin for at least 24 hours. The longer the better; time allows for flavours and richness to develop. Though it does taste good straight from the oven.
A word on the mixed fruit too. If frugality is your central desire, then by all means use a basic mix; things will still turn out well. But for a little extra fancy give a better quality mix a go.
I used 100g of currants, 100g of sultanas and 300g of a ‘luxury fruit mix’, comprising sultanas, raisins, cherries and cranberries. A little more expensive, but certainly worth it. Spending a smidge more is often worth it; life must be enjoyed.
Traditional Irish Porter Cake
Makes 1 cake (20x20cm)
- 225g butter
- 225g light brown muscovado sugar
- 300ml porter or stout
- 500g mixed fruit
- 100g candied peel
- a pinch of salt
- zest of 1 lemon
- 450g plain flour
- 1 tsp mixed spice, or equivalent
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 eggs, beaten
- In a large pan, melt together the butter and sugar. Once liquid, tip in the stout and bring to a brisk boil. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C(fan). Line a cake tin of 20x20cm, or equivalent.
- Incorporate the fruit, candied peel, salt and lemon zest. Reduce the heat to a simmer for 3 minutes. Set aside to cool.
- Meanwhile, mix together the flour, spices and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Once cool, fold through the fruit and stout mixture. Beat in the eggs.
- Transfer the batter to the prepared tin, level and bake for 1 ½ to 2 hours, until cooked through.
- The cake is ready once cooled a little, but it’s best served having been left to mature for up to a week.