In exactly 1 month from today I will get up at early o’clock, try to shower as quietly as possible and then debate whether vanity or not waking up other people is more important when it comes to blow drying my hair. Wearing a hat, I will then get into a car with my parents and drive to Wales.

I will do not this because the lure of Wales is so strong that it’s worth a dawn alarm clock call or because I really enjoy motorway service stations (although I do), but because you can get ferries from Wales to Ireland. We’ll cross the Sea, enjoying as much complimentary coffee and biscuits as possible because we’re booked into fancy class and we want to get our money’s worth. And then we’ll drive, shouting and snatching the map from each other, to the bustling metropolis of Shanagarry.

On the Monday afterwards, I’ll start the 12 week cookery certificate course at Ballymaloe. It’s been a long time coming, but finally I’m going to learn how to cook.

With such imminent Irishness in my life, I couldn’t let St Patrick’s Day pass unremarked. I was casting about for something to make when I hit on a recipe for porter cake here. I had a bottle of London porter kicking about the house and it seemed appropriate. London porter, Irish cake; London woman, Irish cookery course – you see what I’m doing here, right?

I adapted the recipe to deal with a 330ml bottle of Porter and baked the most enormous fruit cake I’ve ever made. I made it on Sunday and may have had a teeny slice then, when it was soft and fluffy. Today it’s starting to develop the rich denseness that I associate with fruit , but it’s still much lighter on the stomach than brandy and port enriched . It’d be perfect for .

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig!

Porter cake
Serves 16

220g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
220g soft dark brown sugar
4 eggs
200g sultanas
200g raisins
100g currants
120g mixed peel, chopped
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
330ml bottle porter (I used Curious Brew Admiral Porter)
500g self raising flour
1 tsp powder
2 tsp mixed spice

1 Preheat the oven to gas mark 3/170°C/fan oven 150°C. Grease a 20cm cake tin with butter and line the base with baking parchment.

2 Beat the butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl until pale, fluffy and combined. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, until combined. Stir in the dried fruits, mixed peel and porter.

3 Sift in the flour, baking powder and mixed spice and stir well to combine. Scrape the cake batter into the prepared tin and bake for 11/2 hours or until risen, firm to the touch and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin. Wrap it in greaseproof paper and foil and store in an airtight tin until needed. It should keep quite well for a couple of weeks.

Tagged with: Afternoon teaBakingCakesIrish

14 Responses to Porter cake

  1. Nora says:

    OK, I am now VERY jealous – of both the course and the cake! What a great way to celebrate St Patrick’s Day.

  2. Ivan says:

    Excellent, I’m booked into the course too. See you there

    • ginandcrumpets says:

      You’re the second person I’ve met online who’s going in April. This internet thing is great way of meeting people. 😉

  3. Di says:


  4. I love fruitcakes, you introduce me to so many traditional things I’ve not heard of. Have a brilliant time at Ballymoe, can’t wait to hear all about it.

  5. Lizzie says:

    This is terribly exciting. So soon!

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  8. oxfordfood says:

    You’re way more organised than me – I haven’t booked my ferry and I let St Patrick’s Day pass me by. This cake looks right up my street, excellent use of porter!

    • ginandcrumpets says:

      Driving there with my mum and dad – no choice but to be organised! The AA route finder maps are printed out, the boiled traveling sweets are in their tin, and we’re all practicing our” “No, I said turn RIGHT!” 🙂

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