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 brown sugar
300ml Guinness (you can of course use another brand of stout)
zest of one orange
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
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 –
HAPPY SAINT PATRICK’S DAY
PS Apologies for the blue tinged photo I am not exactly sure what went wrong.