Mrs Hanly's Porter Cake (14)


This is a recipe from my sister Mary, who inherited it from her Mother in law, Norah. They are both called Mrs. Hanly, so this is definitely their cake! Of course it’s a perfect cake for St Patrick’s day, and it will last all the way through Paddy’s week, as it now is!

Porter Cake

Porter is an Irish word for a very dark ale, such as Guinness.  However one day I went to make it, and had all the ingredients, except the Porter. I phoned Mary in a flap; she said just to use beer, so I used one of Mr Sat. Night’s expensive German beers, and it turned out beautifully. It’s always worth knowing that there’s an alternative!

This is a huge cake and keeps almost forever, wrapped in grease-proof paper and put into a tin with a close fitting lid. It is terrific for school lunches, as it is your original ‘cut-and-come-again’ cake.

I like it as one big – and it is BIG – cake, but Mary has previously made it in two loaf tins with reduced cooking time.

EDIT: To make ONE 2lb loaf-tin sized cake, use half of the ingredients below, but use 2 eggs, and gave it 50-55minutes at 140Fan. It still makes a very substantial cake..

As you can see from the photograph above, Mary wraps it up in tinfoil for keeping, and for travelling to grateful recipients!


  • a 23cm circular cake tin, sides and base lined with baking parchment.
  • Your largest saucepan – I use my cast iron casserole dish.
  • a long-handled wooden spoon.
  • A heat-proof board.
  • 2 medium/large bowls.
  • A sieve.


  • 350g  butter or margarine (I’m only putting the margarine in because it’s in the original recipe, but I use butter for this)
  • 350g  dark brown sugar
  • 700g of sultanas, or fruit of your choice mixed – yes, this is a BIG cake!
  • 300mls of Guinness
  • 700g Self-raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon of Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp each of mixed spice and ground cinnamon
  • 3 large eggs


  • Line and butter the tin
Time spent lining the tin is always worth it!

Time spent lining the tin is always worth it!

  • Heat the oven to 140 degrees fan; cooking time will be up to 2 hours.
  • Sift the flour, baking powder and spices into a large bowl, and leave to one side.
The spice-covered peaks..

The spice-covered peaks..

  • Weigh the fruit into another bowl, then weigh in the sugar on top of it.
  • Put the butter into the saucepan, and allow it to melt on the hob on a medium heat.
  • Add the sugar and the fruit, and stir until sugar has dissolved – this happens very quickly, but do check the back of your spoon to make sure there are no grains of sugar left.
  • Add the Guinness

Mrs Hanly's Porter Cake (3)

  • Remove the pot from the heat, and put it onto a level, heatproof surface – I use a wooden board.
  • Sift in the flour mixture in batches, folding in well before any new addition.

Mrs Hanly's Porter Cake (4)

  • Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well between each addition.
  • Put the mixture into the prepared tin, it will look rather odd as it has a slightly strange consistency, but this is fine.

Mrs Hanly's Porter Cake (8)

  • Set the timer for 1 hour or so, then have a look. It won’t be done at this stage, but it’s a good time to turn the tin through 180 degrees, to allow it to bake evenly.
  • Give it another half hour then start testing.  Test every 15 minutes up to a final cooking time of about 2 hours. When the cake tester comes out dry, it’s done.
  • If the cake starts to get too brown towards the end, cover it with a double sheet of brown paper with a hole cut in the top
  • Beware: when Mary got a new oven, it took 15 minutes OFF the cooking time!
  • Allow to cool in the tin for at least 1 hour. then remove to a cake rack.
  • Allow to cool completely overnight, covered with a clean tea-towel. Don’t let the family nag you into cutting it before then, as it will be terribly crumbly and difficult to slice!


  • This cake keeps really well – it appears to be the original Cut-and-Come-Again Cake. Mary used to put a buttered slice into the kids’ school lunchboxes – what a treat!
  • I keep mine, wrapped in grease-proof paper, in a large tin, in a cool spot.
  • Although it’s a lovely moist cake with a delicious flavour, and you can certainly eat it on it’s own, I do like a slice every now and then, with a generous spread of Irish butter!

Mrs Hanly's Porter Cake (16)


I started writing down recipes in an old copybook when I was about 16. With 6 children at home, my Mother was always glad of a hand in the kitchen, and really allowed us to experiment - as long as we washed up afterwards, and left the kitchen immaculate! Having a tidy kitchen has followed me through my life, as has the habit of writing down my favourite recipes; except that these days I write them for my website, and add photographs when I can. The website really started when it occurred to me that my daughter might like to have these recipes when I've forgotten them. In my early days of cooking for family and friends, I used to phone my Mum all the time to ask her for the recipe for some of our favourite family dinners. She rarely had a recipe to hand - I think, like me, she made a lot of it up as she went along.. So welcome to Eating for Ireland - these are the recipes that my friends and family having been eating these past 40 years.. yes, I truly am ancient! They are tried and tested, and have worked for me for all that time - I have updated them as new ingredients became available - I really hope you'll find something that you can make into a family favourite of your own. You don't have to tell anyone where you found these great new dishes that you're serving up - it can be our little secret, but I'd really love it if you could give me a sneaky 'follow' on Facebook and Instagram.. So off you go - have a good rummage around, you're bound to find something new! My sincere thanks to all of you who have found a recipe that you liked and dropped me a line to tell me - I really do love to hear from you! Happy Cooking! Becks xx

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