Porter is a weaker form of ‘stout’, a dark, almost pitch-black ale, and here either an Irish porter or a stout, like Guinness or Murphy’s, can be used for this recipe. The name ‘stout’ came about because in the early 1800s a strong porter ale was called “Extra Porter” or “Double Porter” (signified with a double XX) or a “Stout Porter”, and the term Stout Porter would later be shortened to just “Stout” meaning strong. The addition of porter or stout makes this an excellent and very moist, rich fruit-cake, with the warmth of treacle, (almost like a wonderful sticky toffee pudding) which can last in an air tight tin for many weeks, improving with age. In Dublin this Porter Cake also traditionally made a good Christmas cake, and if you ice it with marzipan and royal icing it will keep very well in a tin. A London version of this cake can be seen here: Porter Cake | London Recipe.
Porter Cake Irish Recipe
You can get at least 14 slices from this cake
Note: This traditional Irish recipe makes quite a large cake, you can reduce all the ingredients by one-third or by half if you want to bake a smaller one. The reason that this cake is so good, treacly and moist, with lots of fruit, is the way it is baked … for a long time, at very low temperatures, and with the cake tin lined with baking parchment. This way the cake does not dry out, the fruit does not burn, and all the flavours have time to mellow and mingle. If using an Irish stout like Guinness or Murphy’s water it down to the consistency of a traditional Porter. You can plump the dried fruit up in porter or stout over night if you have the time. We used a wider cake tin (30cm) to make a cake which was not as deep, but had a larger circumference, like cakes sold by the slice in Irish tea shops.
- 500g plain flour
- 250g butter (diced and softened)
- 350g brown sugar
- 200g raisins
- 200g currants
- 200g sultanas
- 150g glacé cherries
- 100g chopped candied peel
- 1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (melted in the warm Porter or Stout)
- 4 eggs
- 330ml Irish Porter – or 290ml Irish Stout and 40ml water
- grated rind of 1 lemon
- 1 tsp mixed ground spice.
In a large mixing bowl rub the softened diced butter into the flour with your fingertips (to make fine breadcrumbs) and then add all the other dry ingredients. Blend and mix very well. Make sure all the dried fruit is broken apart and mixes in evenly without clumps. Coat the cherries in flour and cut them in half to stop them sinking in the cake when baked.
In a smaller bowl beat in the eggs, then add the lukewarm Porter or Stout, grate in the lemon zest, and finally add the bicarbonate of soda and ground mixed spice. Stir. Mix all the wet ingredients into the dry, and stir thoroughly to make a slightly wet cake batter. Leave it to rest for ten minutes.
Preheat the oven 120C
Line the cake tin in baking parchment – base and sides.
Turn the cake batter into a greased non-stick cake tin (use one with a removable base or use a spring-form tin) measuring at least 23cm in diameter and 8cm high. The inside base of the cake tin should be lined in baking parchment, as should the sides – cut the paper to fit. The paper around the sides should come above the top of the tin by a good 7cm. If you lightly oil the inside of the cake tin first the paper will stick to it and make it easier to line – stick the edges together with a little cake batter where they overlap.
Bake the Porter Cake in an oven at a low temperature of 120C for about 3 hours (180 minutes). The cake may need another 15 to 20 minutes depending on the depth of the cake batter in the cake tin used.
Test with a skewer before removing the cake from the oven. It should come out warm and dry, with no raw cake batter sticking to it, but do not over-bake, the cake should remain moist. Let it cool for 15 minutes then turn out of the cake tin, remove the paper from the sides and place on a wire wrack to cool. Either serve, or store covered in clean baking parchment in an air-tight tin, it will last several weeks.