Baking and stuff

‘Mr Guinness Cake’

Now referred to by its rather generic name, ‘Porter Cake’, this cake was known as known as Guinness Cake when I was young. I loved the name my mother recorded this recipe under: ‘Mr Guinness Cake’ giving it an elevated status that makes me smile. Another thing which made me smile was the date given: 28 April 1971. My 6th birthday and certainly this was not the cake served at my party! I had mum’s chocolate cake. I always had Mum’s chocolate cake.

When people ask what they should bring from Ireland as gifts abroad, I always recommend a Porter Cake, which is now available in tins, and a bottle of whiskey – of which there are many varieties and standards of excellence.

8 ounces, butter
8 ounces, soft brown sugar
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
10 ounces, plain flour sifted
2 level teaspoons of mixed spice, sifted in with the flour
8 ounces, seedless raisins
4 ounces, sultanas
4 ounces, mixed peel, roughly chopped
4 ounces walnuts, roughly chopped
8-12 tablespoons, Guinness

1. Pre-heat oven to 325 F degrees (160 C)
2. Cream together the butter and sugar until pale
3. Gradually beat in the eggs and mix through
4. Fold in the flour and mixed spice
5. Add the dried fruit and walnuts
6. Mix together well
7. Add in 4 tablespoons Guinness
8. Turn into a prepared 7 inch round cake tin
9. Bake in a moderate oven for 1 hour
10. Reduce heat to 300F degrees (150 C) and bake for another 1½ hours
11. Allow to cool in the tin
12. Remove from the cake tin
13. Prink the base of the cake with a skewer and spoon over the remaining 4-8 tablespoons of Guinness
14. Store for one week before eating

Baking and stuff, Baking and the Delights of Being a Researcher, Dark Chocolate Cake, Stuff and Nonsense

Baking and the Delights of Being a Researcher…

Through the years, I have worked on quite an array of projects and campaigns. In the late 1990s, I spent many months in a darkened room, flicking through decades of Irish newspapers stored on Microfiche. Ah, those were the days when researcher-friendly technology had yet to arrive – working through pages so awkwardly photographed that you stand on your head and still be unable to read them!

While I scoured the paper for gruesome information to prepare a client for the Tobacco Trials, I did so in-between hordes of Americans looking through Church Records for their Irish ancestors. The Librarian’s knuckles would whiten as he gripped the Information Desk, listening to yet another visitor reveal enthusiastically how their great, great, great grandfather came from ‘Ire-land’ and while they didn’t know the county, they were sure the surname was ‘Murphy’.

As they searched the records, their roars cracked the expected silence of the library and their delight met with scowls from the rest of us. One group was particularly raucous. I was about to lean over to ask them to pipe down until I spotted what they were looking at – my own family tree. Not being in the mood to reclaim lost relatives, I returned to my work and simply carried on…

Spending up to seven hours a day looking at Microfiche, my mind would take to wandering. I delighted in reading ads for jobs clearly stating a higher rate of pay for men over women doing the same job. I read reports of police searches for the spy, Guy Burgess, while I knew from history he was already in Russia by this time. As I covered year after year of newspapers, I was particularly stunned to learn of the overwhelming popularity of an entertainer called the “Chocolate Covered Coon” – a name which now makes the Black and White Minstrels seem almost respectable.[1] I would emerge at the end of the day into daylight: notebooks full, copies ordered with bleary eyes and a mindful of facts which were alarmingly out-of-date if I bumped into a pal who asked the inevitable question “Any news?”


I scanned through the Women’s pages too and collected recipes from bygone years. I found this one in The Irish Press of 3 May, 1962 and tried it out on the teen. It’s low flour content and deep chocolate flavour met with instant approval even if it was pronounced ‘very rich.’


3 eggs, separated
4 ounces of bitter, dark, chocolate*
4 ounces unsalted butter
4 ounces castor sugar
2 ounces ground almonds
1.5 ounces plain flour

*It is essential to use bitter, dark, chocolate in this cake

1. Beat the butter and sugar until it is pale
2. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of water
3. When melted, allow it to cool down
4. Whip the egg whites until stiff and set aside
5. Combine thoroughly the butter and sugar mixture with the chocolate, almonds, flour and yolks of the eggs
6. Fold in the stiff whisked egg whites
7. Place the mixture into one greased sandwich tin
8. Cook in a non-Fan oven at 180 for about 45 minutes (place a little tin foil on top if cake top looks as if it is cooking too quickly)
9. Insert skewer into the centre to ensure the cake is cooked – if it comes out clean, it is
10. Cool on a wire rack
11. Serve with whipped cream.