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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Irish Porter Cake inspired by The Quiet Man | #FoodnFlix

Irish Porter Cake
This month's Food 'n Flix pick is an oldie, originally released back in 1952, starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara—The Quiet Man. This flick is set in the fictional town of Innisfree, Ireland...not to be confused with the isle of Innisfree, an actual place made famous in a poem by William Butler Yates, located on Ireland's western coast.

Our main character, Sean Thornton, is an Irishman by decent, although he grew up in Pittsburgh. Looking to start over (I won't tell you why—I'll let you watch the movie to find out), he leaves the states and moves to this Irish town that he's known only through his mother's stories.

Though not particularly a foodie movie, there is plenty of inspiration to be had. First of all, it's March—and the movie is set in Ireland (exactly why I'm sharing this post on St. Paddy's Day). But even if it wasn't the month where everybody taps into their inner Irish, I would have went the same route. I can't think of Ireland without fond memories...from divided plots of land in all shades of green with sheep roaming freely to the whiskey distilleries and many glasses of beer to the breathtaking cliffs of the Giant's Causeway to the brown bread—Ireland will forever be a part of me.

In this film we often see thick slices of (what I'm guessing is) potato bread, plates of hearty roasts, sides of potatoes and peas, whiskey, and plenty of beer. There is talk of a true Irish garden, filled with cabbage, turnips, and potatoes. But mostly, it's left up to the imagination.
Irish Porter Cake
I decided to go with a couple of scenes that took place in the local bar as my inspiration. The first one is very early on, soon after Sean arrives in Innisfree. He greets the locals, who have yet to learn of his heritage, and walks up to the bartender to and says:

"I'll try one of those black beers."
"Aaaah, the Porter. Yes sir."

Black beers, such as porters and stouts are some of my personal favorite. The second scene comes fairly late in the movie towards a scene that borders on ridiculous, but is quite funny—a fight scene between Sean and his brother-in-law, Will, that is a long time coming. Part of the way into this "traveling fight", the two of them take a little intermission in the bar for a glass of porter. The fight continues once their glasses are almost drained...

"Oh now, let me see...whiskey? No, that'd be too warm, it'd get your blood up. Porter's the very thing."

I took that porter and turned it into a traditional Irish Porter Cake, which is basically a fruit cake. It's dense, studded with tons of dried fruit (although I steer away from technicolor fruit cake "fruit" and candied peel - you could use it if so desired), and richly flavored with the deep, dark taste of "black beer". A different route from my favorite Peated Whisky Nut Fruitcake, but an equally delicious option!

Irish Porter Cake
A dense Irish cake that is made with dark, rich porter beer and studded with moist fruit.
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Irish Porter Cake
by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 45 minutes (mostly unattended)
Cook Time: 60-75 minutes
Keywords: dessert vegetarian soy-free nut-free beer dried fruit Christmas St Patricks Day cake Irish

Ingredients (serves 8-10)
  • 12 ounces Irish Porter or Stout
  • 8 ounces (225 grams / 16 tablespoons) salted butter
  • 8 ounces (225 grams / 1 packed cup) dark brown sugar
  • ~16 ounces (455 grams / 3.5 cups) mixed dried fruit, chopped if large (I used a mix of golden raisins, cherries, currants, apricots, dates, cranberries, and prunes)
  • 1 teaspoon orange blossom water
  • 20.3 ounces (575 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Combine porter, butter, and brown sugar in a medium saucepan and slowly bring it to a boil, stirring from time to time. (Be sure to keep an eye on it, as it will want to foam up and boil over.) Once it does start to boil, stir to be sure butter has melted and sugar has dissolved. Add the dried fruit, reduce heat to a gentle simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in orange blossom water, and allow to cool until just warm.

Preheat oven to 350° F. Line the bottom and sides an 8-inch springform pan with wax paper.

Sift the flour, baking soda and powder, spices, and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center, then add the eggs and fruit mixture to the well and stir everything together until no dry spots remain. Scrape into the prepared baking pan and smooth the top.

Slide into preheated oven and bake for 60 minutes, or until richly golden and a skewer comes out clean when inserted in center. Allow to cool for 15 to 20 minutes in the pan before removing and setting on a wire rack to finish cooling.

Store completely cooled case in an airtight container at room temperature or in the fridge, tastes even better after a day or two (similar to any fruitcake).
Irish Porter Cake

Food 'n Flix club logo
This month's edition of Food 'n Flix is being hosted by Joanne of What's On The List?, with her movie choice, The Quiet Man. If you'd like to join us, simply watch the film, mix up something inspired by it, then share it in a blog post. Send your entry to Joanne by 3/28 (find out more in her announcement post).

Next month our chosen flick is Chef, as chosen by Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla. As always, you're welcome to join in!

Irish Porter Cake