Classic Irish Chester Cake
The image of this cake appealed to me. It is rare that I come across something that is completely different from any of my reference points. It is called a cake and yet I spied some pie dough. The filling looked deep and moist. It deserved a harder look. I am always fascinated with the inclusion of tea in baking, as I am a fan, and this Irish classic with tea and brown sugar, golden syrup, spices, raisins peaked my interest. Clodagh McKenna has compiled a book of Irish cooking and baking with a contemporary spin. Take a look at her Rose Water-infused Carrageen Moss with Rhubarb Compote and Elderflower Cordial Gelatin Desserts as well.
Excerpted with permission from Clodagh’s Irish Kitchen: A Fresh Take on Traditional Flavors – a fresh take on traditional flavors by Clodagh McKenna. Published by Kyle Books. Photography by Tara Fisher.
This is also known as Gur cake in Dublin, but I grew up in County Cork and we called it Chester Cake. The recipe originated in bakeries across the county to use up the leftovers of other cakes that didn’t sell. The filling is rich and dark, using leftover cake or stale bread, tea, brown sugar and fruits. I have added a light, fluffy vanilla icing to balance the richness of the cake, which I think makes it even more delicious. You can add puréed dates to the filling or substitute the golden raisins with dried cranberries at Christmas time.
- 10½ ounces stale white bread or cake
- 1 cup cold Irish breakfast tea
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for flouring
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- 31/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cubed, plus more for greasing
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- zest of 1 lemon
- ⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon golden syrup or dark corn syrup
- 11/4 cups golden raisins
- ⅔ cup milk
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 9 ounces pie dough, chilled
- 31/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons cream cheese (not low-fat)
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Grease a 12-inch square shallow baking pan with butter.
- In a food processor, blend the stale bread or cake until you get fine crumbs. Transfer to a mixing bowl and cover with the cold tea. Let soak while you prepare the other ingredients.
- Sift the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl and stir in the sugar. Using your fingertips, rub in the butter. Next, stir in the cinnamon, ginger, and lemon zest, followed by the syrup.
- Drain any excess tea from the bread or cake crumbs and squeeze dry using your hands or the back of a wooden spoon. Bit by bit, mix the crumbs into the flour mixture, followed by the golden raisins.
- Lastly, mix in the milk and beaten egg, then set aside.
- Remove the pie dough from the refrigerator and cut in half. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out one half of the dough to fit the prepared baking pan. Spoon the batter into the pastry shell and
- smooth it out evenly. Roll out the second half of the dough and cover the batter. Prick the top of the pastry with a knife, and bake in the oven for an hour.
- While the cake is baking, make the frosting: Using a handheld electric mixer, beat all the ingredients until light and fluffy.
- Once the cake is baked, remove from the oven and let cool completely in the pan, then spread the frosting on top. The cake will keep for up to 1 week in an airtight container.