Baking: Porter Cake for St Patrick’s Day

guinness cake for st patrick's day

I am Irish so therefore I like Guinness. Right? No, wrong. I don’t like it at all. I believe it’s an acquired taste but no sip of it that I have ever had has encouraged me to try to acclimatize my taste buds to what’s known locally as the black stuff.

Despite my not liking Guinness the drink, Guinness the name is etched onto my psyche and I suspect onto the psyches of many of my fellow countrymen and women. This is not because the iconic drink, developed by Arthur Guinness in the 1750’s, created so much employment nor because it contributed so much to the Irish economy over the centuries but because of the very many philanthropic deeds of the Guinness family since the foundation of the company. Guinness the brand is now owned by the drinks behemoth Diageo but back in the day when the brewing Guinnesses were at the helm they had a formidable reputation as enlightened and caring employers. They also changed the face of Dublin by: establishing the Iveagh Trust in the 1890’s to build modern housing for the then slum dwelling poor; buying and landscaping St Stephen’s Green (a city centre park) and opening it to the public: restoring St Patrick’s Cathedral; and much more besides.

This Sunday is St Patrick’s Day and to celebrate I baked a porter cake. With Guinness naturellement. I may not like the taste of Guinness the drink but I do like the distinctive and agreeable depth of flavour it adds by some mysterious alchemic process when it’s used in cooking. This porter cake recipe is from Darina Allen’s book ‘The Festive Food of Ireland’.


225g butter
225g brown sugar
300ml Guinness (you can of course use another brand of stout)
zest of one orange
225g sultanas
225g raisins
110g mixed peel (I used dried cranberries as I am not keen on peel)
450g plain white flour
1/2 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons of mixed spice
110g glace cherries
3 eggs


1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and prepare a 22cm round cake tin by lining it with buttered greaseproof paper.

2. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and mixed spice into a large mixing bowl and set aside.

3. Put the Guinness, sugar and butter in saucepan and melt over a gentle heat. Add the orange zest and all the fruit, except the cherries. Bring to the boil and boil for three to four minutes stirring often. Take off heat and allow mix to cool until it is lukewarm.

4. Add the fruit mixture to the flour with the reserved cherries and combine thoroughly.

5. Then whisk the eggs and add them gradually mixing well.

6. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for about one and a half hours.

It’s not a cake that’s meant to be poshed up so I hope porter cake purists will forgive that I dusted mine with icing sugar and decorated it with a flower and a sprinkling of shamrock. The cake should rest for a day before you cut and if it’s stored in a cake tin it will keep well for several weeks.

Goodbye for now from the Emerald Isle and –


PS Apologies for the blue tinged photo I am not exactly sure what went wrong.


Filed under Cake, Celebrations, Ireland, Recipes

13 responses to “Baking: Porter Cake for St Patrick’s Day

  1. I have not tried guinness…and I probably won’t, but I might try this cake.

    • You are wise not to try the Guinness. I only say that because I don’t like it, although I know it is revered by many. The cake is delicious and is easy to make. I confess, somewhat shamefacedly, that I have already eaten two very large slices.

  2. notausgang

    I actually do like Guinness 🙂 but in German “Irish” pubs it’s served quite cooled, not as chilly as normal beer, but also not room temp. Yet I’ve never tasted it in Irish Irish pubs, an experience that wouldn’t go amiss.
    The cake sounds amazing, thank you for sharing the recipe. I will try and bake it. And of course I’ll just add attitude 😉
    Happy St Patrick’s 🙂

    • Thank you for your St Patrick’s Day greetings.

      Hopefully you will get to taste Guinness one day in Ireland. The cake is seriously good and is easy to make. I am wishing I hadn’t eaten quite so many slices of it today. *sighs*

      Thanks for visiting. 😉

      • notausgang

        haha, that’s the trouble with cake. it feeds you up without further ado and quite by itself 😀

        if I’m verrrry lucky, it’s gotta be an Emerald Easter for me, but only if some work plans don’t cross it. *fingerscrossed*

  3. My Mr is a Guinness drinker and he likes cake. However, he doesn’t need any encouragement so I may just make the cake for myself!

  4. I, too, am of Irish descent.. I do enjoy a Guinness now and then but not regularly. I just purchased a four pack for the auspicious day, but wondered what the heck to do with the other 3 tins (clearly I’m not a drinker!) This looks outstanding!! xx

    • Hello Barbara,

      And thanks for your visit. The porter cake is good I would recommend it as a way of using up some of those cans. I visited your new site yesterday and it looks so very good, well done and many congratulations. With good wishes from the Emerald Isle. B xx

  5. Hi B,
    First off, happy belated St Patrick’s!!! Francesca and I have spent the weekend dealing with tricky leprechauns, golden shamrock coins, rainbows and pots of chocolate gold with our 6 1/2 y.o. daughter, so in spirit we were with you! 🙂
    I used to drink pints and pints of Guinness when I was growing up, but lately I have to say that I am more partial to Bavarian lagers or weiss beers. Guinness will anyway remain an iconic beer forever!
    Love your porter cake!
    Take care

    • Thank you Stefano for your St Patrick’s Day good wishes. Leprechauns do get about and they also seem to have mastered the art of time travel! I hope you had a good and peaceful family weekend. 😉

  6. How lovely! I share your feelings about Guinness–great ingredient, not a favorite straight from the bottle/tap. I hope the cake was only part of what was an altogether fine St. Patrick’s Day for you! xo 🙂

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