Wednesday, 20 March 2013

porter cake

for as long as i've been cooking i've been interested in feast day foods from different cultures..the two cultures that i have had the most association with though are british and greek since my ancestral background is a mix of english and scottish (and french way back) and i've lived in greece, i married a greek man and i have three half greek a result i tend to recognise the feast days from these two cultures a lot more than others..

just this last sunday 17 march was st patrick's patrick, the patron saint of ireland, was the son of a roman tax collector who lived in wales and was captured at the age of sixteen and sold into irish slavery..he escaped though and entered the priesthood, returned to ireland and converted his capturers to christianity..

even though i don't have any irish blood the australian psyche is awash with irish narrative because of the large numbers of irish who came to australia during the early period of settlement and later on and the subsequent contribution they made to the australian way of life..

up until this week i was only aware of a few well known st patrick's day culinary traditions such as soda bread, beef and guiness, corned beef and cabbage and shepherd's pie..but while looking for other more obscure traditional foods i came across a cake called a porter cake that i'd not heard of before and so i made it out of interest and to celebrate the day..

porter is a type of dark beer that got it's name from its popularity with london's river and street porters.. it began being brewed in england and ireland in the 1700's and porter cake evolved sometime in the 1800's when it started being added to fruit cake..guinness seems to be the most common substitution for the harder to find porter which makes sense given that guinness was originally marketed as porter..

porter cake
from here
ingredients cake batter

175 gms butter
190 gms muscovado sugar
320 gms flour
100 gms sultanas
100 gms currants
100 gms raisons
100 gms dates chopped
300 mls guinness
3 eggs beaten
60 gms mixed peel
grated rind and juice of an orange
1 teaspoon (tsp) baking powder
2 tsp mixed spice

ingredients topping

20 gms muscovado sugar
almonds of choice (whole almonds, blanched, slivered or flaked)


~ line a deep 20 cm cm cake tin with 2 layers of brown paper and one of baking paper
~ place butter, dried fruit, guinness and orange juice and rind in a saucepan and slowly bring to the boil stirring
~ once boiling reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes then take off the heat and cool for 10 minutes
~ sift dry ingredients together
~ add a little of the still hot mix to the beaten eggs while stirring* well then slowly add the egg/hot mix to the saucepan mixing constantly to prevent curdling of the egg
~ fold in flour mix
~ spoon into cake tin, sprinkle with topping sugar and decorate with almonds as desired
~ bake at 160 deg centigrade for 1 1/2 hours covering the top after an hour to prevent the top burning
~ remove from oven and cool in the tin for 20 minutes and then remove the papers and cool on a wire rack

an interesting aspect of this cake which i'd not come across before was in the method where the heated mix was not completely cooled before the remaining ingredients were added..i've included an additional step (see *) not included in the recipe i used because there's a danger that unwary cooks could curdle the mix if all the egg is added at once..  

when i first cut this cake i didn't think i was going to like it because it looked too moist for my see, from what i've noticed, there seem to be two types of fruit cakes..the very moist solid ones and then the dryer lighter variety..and then there are the people who favour one more than the other..well, i'm definitely a dry cake aficionado..but i was surprised to find that even though it looked heavy and moist it was really good..and i wondered about the sugar on top..i thought it would just add to the overall sweetness of the cake but it added more in the way of a surprising and gentle crunch..overall it thought it had a lovely treacly flavour and it wasn't sickly sweet like i find some fruit cakes to be..


  1. Hi Jane. This looks like a delicious, hearty no nonsense cake. I hope you had a little sample of the Guinness too!

  2. thanks jane..yeah..i started drinking early in the day and had the 75 mls left in the bottle! x

  3. Lovely looking fruit cake Jane. Give me dense and fruity any day, (and just quietly, undercooked slightly is good too.)
    I haven't made a fruit cake in a long while.

    1. thanks brydie..i usually only make a fruit cake at christmas..the rest of the time there are too many other things to make that take my attention :)