My Irish grandmother, Annie Allen, arrived at Ellis Island in 1909, a twenty-one-year-old with two little boys, four and two, in tow. I can’t imagine. She joined her husband, who’d come ahead two years earlier and had never met his son Sam. Grandma set up house, had two more kids, and lived a long life in her own home, cooking, baking, and tending her garden until she passed in her late 80’s. As a young lad, I enjoyed her “Irish Cake” sitting with her for tea, a ritual she held to every afternoon around four whether I was there or not. Grandma’s Irish Cake is a variety of Irish soda bread, loved by many. We never captured her exact recipe, which I can be sure, came straight from County Down, where Grandma probably learned it from her mother, Mary Anne McGee.
Irish Soda Bread
- loaf pan
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
- 5 tbsp sugar
- 1 1/2 cups raisins
- 1/2 cup butter, melted
- 1 egg large and fresh
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
- Pre-heat oven to 350°
- Whisk together dry ingredients (flours, salt, soda, sugar). Mix in raisons.
- Mix together wet ingredients (butter, egg, buttermilk).
- Blend wet into dry until moistened throughout, but don't mix beyond this.
- Place dough in buttered loaf pan. Smooth out a bit with the back of a spoon.
- Cut a line down the length of the loaf with a sharp knife. (Let's the fairies out.)
- Bake 30 minutes; then lower temp to 325° and bake 15 minutes more. Internal temp should be 200-210° measured with an instant-read thermometer, or until a probe comes out with no dough sticking to it. Don't overbake.
- Let the loaf sit for 10 minutes, then remove the bread to a wire rack for an hour to let cool completely.
- Cut a slice and enjoy with butter.