A rich and moist Irish Porter Cake is all you need to please your sweet tooth on St. Patrick’s Day! Made with dried fruit, hearty spices and porter beer, this cake is traditionally served during the holidays but easy enough to be enjoyed as an afternoon snack whenever you feel like it.

Love Irish recipes? Make sure to also check out my Homemade Irish Cream and my Guinness Chocolate Cake!

A slice of Irish Porter Cake.

An Irish Cake made with Porter Beer

Forget the dry, overly sweet fruit cakes you’ve had in the past. 

This porter cake is coming to this site to prove that fruit cakes CAN be delicious! Especially when they are made with beer.

Don’t like beer? Then this recipe is not for you. While the alcohol will cook off, the cake does have a distinct, bitter-like, porter flavor.

I find that that’s what makes this cake so enticing. The deep and caramelized notes of the porter beer balances out the sweetness and spiciness, adding complexity to this recipe!

Serve it with a cup of strong black coffee or, why not, with more beer. Cheers!

Porter Beer Cake

What is Irish Porter Cake

Porter cake is a traditional Irish fruit cake made with porter ale. 

In Ireland, this cake is typically baked a few weeks before Christmas and then kept in an airtight tin. To keep it from drying out, a small amount of whiskey, brandy or ale would be poured on the cake weekly until ready to serve.

Ingredients to make Irish cake.

Grocery List

WHAT YOU’LL NEED TO BUY:

  • 3 cups dried fruit: I used a combination of golden raisins, dried currants and dried cherries. You can also use candied peel if you can find it.
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 orange
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 1 bottle (12 fl oz) porter ale

PANTRY ESSENTIALS:

Ingredients I’m assuming you already have in your pantry. But, if not, make sure to buy them as well!

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Salt
  • Cinnamon
  • Ground all spice
  • Ground ginger
  • Nutmeg
  • Ground cloves
  • Ground coriander
Porter and Stout beers

What is the difference between a stout and a porter?

While both names are often used interchangeably, there is a historic difference between a stout and a porter.

Back in eighteen century London, a pub bartender came up with what is now a porter by mixing lighter beers with aged ales. The results were a dark, medium-bodied, malty beer that quickly took off, inspiring brewers to start brewing and selling it.

As more breweries started making porters, new recipes – with different ingredients and alcohol content – emerged and the stout was born as a stronger version of a porter.

Nowadays, however, there are porters that are stronger than stouts, and stouts that are weaker than porters, so it is really hard to differentiate between the two.

Beer snobs will tell you that the kind of malt used to brew them is different. Porters use malted barley and stouts are made from unsalted roasted barley, which gives them the coffee flavor that is characteristic of stouts.

Even that rule can’t be trusted 100%, as craft brewers are always experimenting and coming up with new recipes!

That all being said, for the purpose of this cake recipe, we can say that they are basically the same thing! So if you can’t find porter ale at your store, feel free to grab a bottle of stout instead.

Fruit cake made with porter ale.

How to make Porter Cake

This Irish cake is very easy to make, no special equipment needed.

It is also easily customizable, so you can use whatever dried fruit you have on hand as well as omit or substitute the spices you don’t like.

Porter cake is traditionally made with mixed spice, which is a British blend of sweet spices, similar to pumpkin pie spice here in the United States. You will see that I’ve broken down the spice blend into individual spices in the recipe, but you can use pumpkin pie spice (or mixed spice if you can find it) if it’s easier.

Generally, this cake does not include nuts like other fruit cakes do, but you could add that as well if you love them! Whatever floats your boat.

Recommended tools and equipment: saucepan, wooden spoon, fine mesh sieve, mixing bowl, springform pan, parchment paper.

Step by step instructions for porter cake.

Here’s how I make porter cake. As always, you will find the printable (and more complete) version of the recipe at the end of this post!

  1. Combine butter, citrus zest, beer and sugar in a saucepan. Cook until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Add the dried fruit. Cook for 3 minutes then remove from heat and let it come to room temperature. By that time, the fruit should be plumper, juicier, and softer. 
  3. Sift all the dry ingredients into a bowl.
  4. Add the reserved liquid mixture. Add the eggs. Mix until combined.
  5. Transfer the batter to a 9-inch springform pan.
  6. Bake until golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

    Optional: While the cake is still warm, drizzle 2-3 tablespoons of porter ale over it. It will help keep it moist!

Olivia’s Tip: While you can eat the cake right away, it is traditional to not cut into it for at least 2 to 3 days. The cake tastes better as it matures.
Rich and moist Irish cake.

How long does porter cake keep and how to store it

As I mentioned earlier, this cake keeps for several weeks when stored in an airtight container.

Most recipes will even instruct you to wait a day or two before removing from the cake pan and cutting into it. That is almost never possible at my house though, so I can attest that the freshly baked cake is also very delicious!

If you choose to wait a few days before cutting, make sure to not skip the step of drizzling beer on the warm cake, to keep it moist.

And if you plan on keeping it for a long time, I’d do what is called “feeding the cake” and drizzle beer (or whiskey) on it every week, turning the cake to ensure the liquid penetrates everywhere. This process keeps your cake moist and intensifies the flavors. 

Did you make this recipe? I love hearing from you! Please comment and leave a 5-star rating below. You can also take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #oliviascuisine.
Irish Porter Cake

Irish Porter Cake

Yield: 10 to 12
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes

A rich and moist Irish Porter Cake is all you need to please your sweet tooth on St. Patrick’s Day! Made with dried fruit, hearty spices and porter beer, this cake is traditionally served during the holidays but easy enough to be enjoyed as an afternoon snack whenever you feel like it.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  • Zest of one orange
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1 bottle (12 fl oz) porter ale (or stout)
  • 3 cups mixed dried fruit
  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground all spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 3 eggs, beaten

Instructions

    1. Combine the butter, brown sugar, orange and lemon zest and beer in a medium saucepan. Bring it to a boil, over medium-high heat, stirring until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved, about 2-3 minutes.
    2. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the dried fruit. Cook for 3 minutes. Then, remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature.
    3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
    4. Line a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray or grease with butter.
    5. Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices into a large bowl. Pour the fruit liquid mixture and mix to combine. Gradually add the eggs, mixing until incorporated.
    6. Transfer the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean and the cake is golden brown.
    7. Optional: pour 1/4 cup of stout over the cake while the cake is still warm. It will absorb it and become even moister!
    8. Allow the cake to cool for 20 minutes in the pan before unmolding and transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Notes

  • Recipe adapted from Serious Eats.
  • Make ahead: The cake tastes better (and more intense) if you wait 2-3 days to unmold and cut into it. If you plan on doing that, don't skip drizzling the warm cake with extra beer to keep it moist.
  • Feeding the cake: If you plan on waiting several weeks before cutting into your cake, make sure to feed it by drizzling ale (or whiskey) weekly on both sides. Keep the cake in an airtight tin until ready to serve.
  • Storage: Store in an airtight container for several weeks. You can also freeze it, tightly wrapped with foil or in a freezer bag, for up to 3 months.

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