Monday, March 5, 2012

County Derry Gilroy Porter Cake

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...This is probably the most Irish of the recipes I'll be featuring this week. Recipes for porter cake abound, but I wanted to share an authentic version of the cake as it was baked in Irish kitchens a hundred years ago. That took a bit of research. This dense fruitcake is made by using a goodly measures of dried fruit and stout and, while in polite society, it is called porter cake, we all know they are talking about a cake made with Guinness, as true a symbol of the Emerald Isle as is the shamrock or the leprechaun. Harder to divine was why this particular version, which comes from the family of Mary Johnson, was dubbed a Gilroy porter cake. I don't give up easily. It took several phone calls to folks more Irish than me to solve the puzzle, but we got it done. John Gilroy was the artist who designed the early advertising campaigns for Guinness and the recipe for this cake was included in one of his campaign designed to convince folks that "Guinness is good for you!" This is a lovely tea cake if it is allowed to age before it is sliced. I recommend it be made at least 48 hours before serving. I'm posting the recipe exactly as I found it on the website of the Telegraph Media Group. That means some conversion and ingredient replacement is in order. I, of course, used butter in place of margarine and pumpkin pie spice instead of the mixed spice called for in the recipe. You'll notice that no specific temperature is given for baking the cake. I assumed a moderate oven ranged from 350 to 375 degrees and decided to bake the cake at the lower temperature. I think the 3 hours suggested in the recipe is too long and next year I'll cut baking time to 2-1/2 hours. The cake is supposed to crack as it bakes so don't stress when it craters. I'd also suggest using a 9-inch pan to contain the batter. I hope that some of you are into vintage recipes and will give this one a try. Here's the recipe.

County Derry Gilroy Porter Cake...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of Mary Johnson via the Telegraph Media Group


1 pound plain flour
1 pinch salt
1/2 pound hard margarine
1 lemon- grated rind of
3/4 pounds brown sugar
1/2 pound currants
1/2 pound sultanas
1/4 pound mixed peel
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
4 eggs-well beaten
1/2 pint of stout (a little less than)


1) Prepare 8 inch cake tin- grease and line.
2) Put fruit and lemon rind in a bowl and mix in a little of the flour.
3) Sieve flour and salt then rub in the margarine until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
4) Add sugar, mixed spice and prepared fruits. Mix well with wooden spoon.
5) Put stout in a jug then place jug in a saucepan of water. Heat stout to blood heat. Add the bicarbonate of soda to warm stout and while fizzing up add to the dry ingredients followed by the well beaten eggs.
6) Beat the mixture by hand with a wooden spoon for 20 minutes (this cake cannot be made with an electric mixer. It must be hand beaten)
7) Put mixture into prepared tin, smooth out the top and bake in preheated oven (moderate oven). After two hours cover cake with brown paper. A used A4 envelope or brown paper bag is ideal. Cook for another hour (3 hours total cooking time). When the cake is ready it will have a crack across the top.
8) Place tin on a wire tray and leave cake in tin until completely cold.Yield: 16 servings.

One Year Ago Today: Albondigas - Pork Meatballs in Chipotle Sauce

Two Years Ago Today: Key West Lime Bars


KimH said...

I'd love to make this.. I'll have to find out about those sultanas though.. :) Thanks!

Tanna said...

Wow, that seems like such a long time to bake. Looks very tempting! I'm with Kim on the sultanas. Have a great day, Mary! blessings ~ tanna

Margaret Murphy Tripp said...

Oh Mary, I just love this recipe and can't wait to try it when I get back from Florida. When I make a vintage recipe it makes me pause and think of all the generations that enjoyed it before. I believe it's a unifying thread through history. Thanks for a great post! xo

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

I've heard of this cake, but never tasted it or knew of the history. I'm now really curious how a cake baked with beer would taste -let alone the "good for you" nutritional value!

Kim said...

Here in Quebec, there a lot of people who prepares fruit cakes in Christmas... It kind of look like this! Love it!

Unknown said...

This is a great recipe! I had a friend in college who's mom was full blooded Irish - she used to make this cake.. or at least something very similar. It was delicious!

Epicurea said...

just sounds like a wonderful idea to add Guinness to a cake as part of a tradition :-). and it looks delicious!

Merisi said...

Note to myself:
Don't visit Mary if you are lusting for something sweet. She'll have the most delicious temptations and you cannot even get a scratch off your screen! ;-)

Valerie Gamine said...

Mary, this looks delicious! Thanks for all the background information! Knowing the history behind a recipe makes it all the more enjoyable.

Barbara said...

What fun, Mary. I think this would be fabulous at Christmas, too. Saving the recipe...

Anonymous said...

I got so excited when I say your recipe - I LOVE potter cake - it reminds me of home!!
Mary x

Diane said...

Mmmm I am enjoying this week of Irish food, This sounds fantastic, I will have to do a search for stout next time I go shopping. Keep well Diane

® said...

Olá Mary!!

Fiquei feliz com sua visita! =D
Amei suas palavras ♥

Também vou ficar aqui no seu blog e aprender com você.

Vinni (Brasil)

Unknown said...

Wow, that name is quite a mouthful but the cake looks simply delicious!

Joanne said...

Guinness is good for that's a mantra I can get behind. And obviously I need to make this cake to prove it!

Ginny Hartzler said...

Never heard of this one, it IS kind of like a round fruitcake!

Lenia said...

Why is it that whenever I visit your blog you make me hungry?:)))

teresa said...

this is so fun, i've never seen a cake like this. perfect for the upcoming holiday :)

Sarah @ Homestyle Cooking Around The World said...

Such an interesting vintage recipe- love it!


Hi Mary,
I made your great pudding recipe for Jenny, substituting carob. She loved it. Thanks so much ... it is hard to find treats for her.


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