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Irish cake

by Noellen Newton

I think that St. Patrick's Day on 17 March is the best reason to cook the 1913 Irish Cake recipe! This recipe makes a very tasty cake covered with chocolate icing and some of those who tasted it queued up for a second helping. Always a good sign that the recipe is a success. 

The method for cooking this cake is unusual and not one I've encountered before. Be prepared to use a few more bowls than usual as the eggs are separated and beaten before adding to the mixture and icing.

Colour photograph of a cake covered in chocolate icing.

Cake: 1 and a half cups plain flour, 3 small teaspoons of baking powder, 125g of butter, three quarters of a cup of sugar, 4 x 60g eggs – separated. 4 yolks in one bowl, 2 whites in another bowl, the remaining 2 whites put aside to beat and use for the icing when the cake has cooled. 300ml milk.

Icing: 1 and a half cups icing sugar, 2 tablespoons cocoa, 1 tablespoon hot water – this is half of the amount in the recipe but I found it made a less runny icing. Add more if needed. Vanilla essence – a few drops. 2 egg whites that you put aside when making the cake.

Follow the recipe's directions precisely. Note that the baking powder really is added to the mixture after it is mixed! I was very sceptical that this would work so I kept my fingers firmly crossed and sprinkled the baking powder over the creamed mixture and then mixed it all together.

I cooked this in a buttered and floured 23cm round cake pan at 180 degrees (fan forced) for about 55 minutes. I checked it at thirty minutes as the recipe states and found it needed the extra cooking time. Cool the cake and make the icing as directed. Serve and then sit back and enjoy the rave reviews you will receive for making this!

Colour photograph of an Irish cake which has had one slice removed.  The slice is being held in a person's hand.

I hope that you will cook this recipe and share your results and experience with us.

Photograph of a typed recipe for 'Irish cake' , listing 'Ingredients' and 'Mode'.

Irish cake recipe

Ingredients: three quarters of a pound of flour, 3 small teaspoons of baking powder, 4 oz. of butter, 6 oz. of sugar, 4 eggs, 1 and a half gills milk.

Mode: Separate yolks from whites. Beat both. Sift flour without baking powder. Beat butter and sugar to a cream. Add all the yolks, and the whites of 2 eggs, flour and milk by degrees, until all is used.  Then add baking powder. Bake in hot oven for half an hour.

Icing for Above: half a pound of icing sugar. Sift icing sugar, put into saucepan with 2 tablespoons chocolate (grated), or cocoa, 2 table-spoons hot water, the remainder of the whites. Flavour with essence of vanilla. Stir over the fire (do not boil) till quite smooth, and just sufficiently moist to pour.  Spread on cake.

Source: Home Cookery for Australia: All Tested Recipes, 1913, Arbuckle, Waddell & Fawckner, Melbourne, p. 126.

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Clinton Paine
31 Mar 2013 7:31pm

As a beginner cake baker, I do like to follow recipes precisely as suggested, however as I avoid dairy products, I would like to attempt this one using nuttelex and soy milk in place of butter and milk. They are usually pretty good substitutes, but we shall see. Obviously I will have lost the authentic 1913 touch in this case... 

Noellen - Mixing Bowl
31 Mar 2013 8:05pm

Hello Clinton, I'm glad that you are willing to cook this with a modern twist. This is a good basic cake recipe that should still make a tasty cake if you substitute those two ingredients. Happy cooking! Please let us know how it turns out. 

28 May 2013 1:41pm

I can't wait to try this cake! It looks delicious. 

Glorious Days: Australia 1913 was on show at the National Museum of Australia from 7 March to 13 October 2013.

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