Kerry Or Irish Apple Cake

Kerry Apple Cake, also known as Irish Apple Cake, is a moist cake with a crunchy top, and can be served cold or warm with chilled cream or custard.

An Irish Apple Cake is technically not a cake at all.  Apple bread is a better description, but I suppose our ancestors assigned the title cake to any baked good with a little bit of precious sugar added.

Known as Kerry Apple Cake in many parts of Ireland, I thought it was high time to share my recipe, especially since we took a lovely photo tour of County Kerry in an earlier blog post this week.

This cake was traditionally cooked in a bastible, a black wrought iron cooking pot.  The bread was covered in the pot and hung over the fire to cook.

I remember my granny’s kitchen in County Cork, with a black iron kettle singing over the fire, or the bastible cooking potatoes or bread.  The day the open fire was replaced with a big range, complete with oven and cooktop, has left an indelible mark on my memory.  On that day I witnessed the end of an era. But that’s a story for another day.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 4oz butter
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3 or 4 large Granny Smith apples
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (to sprinkle on top of cake)

The apples I use are Granny Smiths.  If I was in Ireland I would use Bramley cooking apples, the best apples in the world for baking.  But alack and alas I can’t find my favorite cooking apple here in America.

But why are they better than an eating apple, you may ask?  When cooked they retain a lovely tangy flavor, and with heat develop a pefect ‘melt-in-the-mouth’ texture, since they contain more acid and less sugar than other apples.  Granny Smiths are my chosen substitute when baking this cake in America, because they are the tangiest of American apples I can find.

You’ll notice I stuck one small apple into my ingredient shot, just to prove every apple is not created equally.  They come in all the same shapes, but different sizes.  The amount of sliced apples used is key to apple cake success so really check your apple size. Three apples means three large Granny Smiths.  If you can only get small apples, then you will need to use at least six.

Directions:

 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare a 9-inch round baking pan by spraying with oil or coating with butter. 

Sift the cake flour, baking powder, salt, cloves and nutmeg into a large mixing bowl.  Trust me – you need a big bowl, because once the sliced apples are added you’ll have a large amount of cake mix.

I like to prepare the flour and rub in the butter before I peel and slice my apples.  This avoids adding browning apple slices to the cake.

All-purpose flour works for this recipe, but I prefer cake flour.  This lighter flour produces a softer crusted cake, which better resembles an apple cake made in Ireland.

You’ll notice I don’t use any cinnamon.  I prefer to add a hint of cloves and nutmeg, spices more closely associated with apples in Ireland. If you can’t imagine cooked apples without cinnamon, feel free to toss some in.

When I first came to America I was overwhelmed by the amount of cinnamon used in so many breads and cakes.  It took many years for my taste buds to adjust to apple pie with cinnamon.   Irish apple pies or tarts are made without spice or with a hint of cloves.

Cut the butter into the flour and rub it in using your fingers or a pastry cutter until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. 

I confess I don’t own a pastry cutter.  Throughout my childhood I watched my mom and grannys rubbing butter into flour using their bare hands, so there’s no modernizing me at this stage.  You can’t teach an old horse new tricks.

If you use all-purpose flour instead of cake flour, I would increase the amount of butter to 6 ounces.  This helps keep the crust from getting too hard.

Next toss in the sugar and mix it through the flour.

Now it’s time to wash your hands and prepare the apples.  Use a minimum of 3 large apples, but in my opinion, it is hard to have too much apple in this cake, so feel free to add an additional one.

Peel and slice the apples into similar sized pieces. 

My apple slices are about 1/4 inch thick.  Lie each slice flat and cut them into triangular quarters.  The thinner rectangular side slices can be cut in half.

Some cooks like to dice the apples into smaller pieces and add walnuts.  I prefer larger apple slices and as my granny would have said – “It’s far from walnuts you were reared.”

Toss the apples into the flour mixture and combine them thoroughly.

My advice is to work quickly because apples turn brown pretty fast.  The faster they are covered in flour mixture the better.  You can see how my apples are beginning to go a little brown at the edges, but I did have to pause to take photos.

Beat the eggs and add a dash of milk.  Add to the apples and flour and combine well with a large spoon. 

Add more milk as needed to fully moisten the flour.  The result is a pretty sticky dough.

Transfer the dough into the prepared cake pan and flatten the top surface using the back of a large spoon.

I use a 9-inch round pan.  An 8-inch round pan will simply yield a taller cake.  However, moving up to a 10-inch round pan is not advised.  With these specific ingredient ratios, the cake would be way too flat.

Next comes the final touch for a crispy top layer.

Sprinkle two tablespoons of sugar over the top of the cake. 

In Ireland I recommend using caster sugar, but regular American sugar is just perfect.  Regular Irish sugar is far grainier than the American variety.

Bake the cake in the preheated 375 degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes.  A toothpick or knife will come out clean when it is cooked and the top will be a lovely golden brown.

Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a wire wrack to finish cooling.

I love to see the slices of apple peeping through the top layer.  Just yummy!

My family love this cake served still slightly warm.  Lovely with butter melting on top, or a dollop of cream or smothered in custard, you’ll certainly be licking your fingers and asking for seconds.

Hope you all enjoy this little taste of rural Ireland.

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

 

Irish American Mom

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Comments

  1. This looks delicious. My mother used to make soda bread, but I’ve never had this kind of apple cake. Seeing one cooking over an open fire in the old iron pot must have been amazing. Thanks for another great Irish recipe.

    Mary

  2. Love it! I’m adding this one to my pile of ‘Mairead’s recipes’ to try! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Michael says:

    Just fantastic! My mother made those when I was young. I haven’t seen one anywhere in donkey’s years. I’ll have to prod the wife to make one. Thanks.

  4. Mariana says:

    I might do it tomorrow, it looks delicious.

  5. Mairead:
    I am a big fan and follow you on FB.
    Now I just added your Apple Cake recipe to my Irish Food and Drinks Board
    on Pinterist. See Website link or go to: http://pinterest.com/netstrider/
    Congratulations on a entertaining and useful website.
    George

    • George – Thanks so much for following my blog and for all your support on Facebook. Thanks also for the link to your Pinterest boards. I clicked the tab to follow you. You have a great collection of interesting boards. Pinterest is really amazing and totally addictive. I could spend hours scrolling through beautiful pictures, so I have to limit how much time I spend on it, or I’d never get anything done around the house.
      Anyway, thanks again for your kind words and have a lovely weekend.
      Best wishes,
      Mairead

  6. That looks amazing! I think I’ll pick up some apples this afternoon and maybe even make this tonight!

    • Hope you enjoy it. I think I’ll have to make another one today, too. The one I made for this blog post only lasted less than an hour in my house. Everyone loves it.
      Have a lovely weekend.
      Mairead

  7. Sharon Crickmer says:

    Mairead,
    Thank you for this recipe! Will be baking as soon as I can visit Trader Joe’s or Jungle Jim’s to buy Kerrygold butter. Will be waiting for your future post bringing a bit of Ireland here in Kentucky.

    • Sharon – I too use Kerrygold butter for my baking. You just can’t beat the flavor it adds to cakes and breads. American butter just doesn’t compare in my book. American farmers are probably scowling at me for saying it, but once you have tried Irish butter you’re taste buds just won’t settle for anything else.
      Take care, and thanks for checking out my recipe.
      Mairéad

  8. Mary Mulvihill says:

    Can’t wait to try this Apple Cake sounds great. So glad to have found this site….

    • Mary – I’m delighted you found our little Irish American corner of the world wide web too. Hope you enjoy this Apple Cake. It’s one of my easy go-to recipes, for a simple but tasty treat.
      All the best,
      Mairéad

  9. Maureen O' Hanlon says:

    Mairead, that apple cake cake looks delicious, i cant wait to try it, well done your recipies are just lovely. :)

    Maureen from Doneraile Co Cork

    • Thanks Maureen. I intended to take a photo of a cake slice on a plate. I was in a rush out the door when I took it out of the oven. I snapped a few shots and then intended to take a few more of a single slice when I got back. The poor cake didn’t last long enough for me to take my photos. It was practically gone when I got home – the sign of a good cake.
      All the best,
      Mairéad

  10. Maureen O' Hanlon says:

    The sign of a good cook, oh what i wouldnt give for a slice of it, it looked delicious :)

  11. Jennifer says:

    Thanks so much for sharing! Had a lot of fun making & eating this! Even my two year old & husband helped out.

    • Jennifer – So glad your family enjoyed making this cake together, and especially that you all loved eating it. Your husband will know how to make it now, and he can always surprise you with a delicious, warm apple cake on a cold day.
      All the best,
      Mairéad

  12. Katherine says:

    This looks delicious! I’m thinking of making it for a meeting I have on Sunday, but will be doing all of my cooking and baking on Saturday. Does it keep well overnight or would I be better off just mixing up the batter on Saturday and waiting until Sunday morning to bake?

    • Katherine – This cake keeps pretty well in an airtight container. Of course, it is at its best when it has just cooled, but is still warm fresh out of the oven. I wouldn’t recommend mixing the wet and dry ingredients the day before, since the baking powder will start to react and lose its rising power. Also the apples need to be peeled fresh to put in the cake batter or else they turn really brown. I think baking the day before and keeping as airtight as possible is your best bet.
      Best wishes, and have a lovely St. Patrick’s Day.
      Mairéad

  13. Mairead, it is so good to have stumbled across your site! I’m third generation born in US and my family is from the Limerick area. You have a lovely website and Blog and I’ll be following you on Facebook and linking you with my blog…if you don’t mind!

    Happy Days!
    Ebeth

    • Hi Ebeth – I am delighted you found my blog too and thank you for your kind words. I would be honored if you would link your site to mine. When I have a few moments to myself tomorrow when my kids are at school I’ll check out your blog and stories.
      My grandmother was from Limerick too – a beautiful part of Ireland.
      Thanks for stopping by and I hope you had a lovely St. Patrick’s Day.
      Best wishes,
      Mairéad

  14. Amanda Champney says:

    I just finished making this. And oh my god it is so good!!!! The hubby will be pleased since he said I should perfect it in the nice big new kitchen he bought me before he gets home from Afghanistan.

    • Amanda – I am so happy you liked this Irish cake, and I hope your husband will love it too. Enjoy your new kitchen – I am trying to convince my husband we need some new counter tops. A big thank you to you and your husband for your sacrifices as he serves our country.
      Happy St. Patrick’s Day.
      Mairéad

  15. Elizabeth says:

    My husband & I just returned from our Honeymoon in Ireland! Striving to keep a bit of Ireland around us, I made this apple cake for our Easter dessert & it was delicious! Thank you very much for sharing such a scrumptious recipe!

    -Elizabeth

    • Elizabeth – I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed this cake, and that it reminded you of Ireland and your honeymoon. Congratulations on your recent marriage. In the words of an old Irish blessing:

      “May the blessing of light,
      Be with you always,
      Light without and light within,
      And may the sun shine
      Upon you and warm your heart
      Until it glows
      Like a great fire
      So that others may feel
      The warmth of your love
      For one another.”

      Best wishes,
      Mairéad

      • Elizabeth says:

        Thank you very much! We also baked the raisin scones this past week & they were amazing as well! I love your website! Thank you!!!

  16. Paula McGill says:

    Hi there!
    At my workplace we all drew a country and then have turns at making something from there to bring for morning tea. I drew Ireland which was fantastic as my great grandfather came out from Ireland to NZ.. However I was then totally stuck. What do people in Ireland eat as a traditional cake?! I Googled it! Thanks so much – this recipe is a God send! I can’t wait to get started and I love your nice clear photos!!!
    Thanks again! Paula

    • Dear Paula – I’m so glad you found my blog and my recipe for this cake. I hope it was a big success.
      All the best,
      Mairéad

      • You’ll delete this comment because you only like posts that say positive things about your horrible recipe. I made this. It was terrible.

        • Hi Rita – You are correct when you say I do not post all comments on my site. I have no problem publishing a negative comment about a recipe, since I know it’s impossible to please all of the diverse palates and tastes throughout the world. However, I do choose not to publish comments using sharply, critical words, especially those directed at other readers and commenters. My guidelines are outlined on my FAQ’s page. Here is the link:

          http://www.irishamericanmom.com/faqs/

          Thanks for stopping by with your feedback.
          Take care,
          Mairéad

    • Don’t bother making this – it’s horrible.

      • Thanks for your feedback Rita. It’s impossible to have a recipe that appeals to all. This cake isn’t sweet as is expected of most American cakes, and will not appeal to many. It really is a type of bread.
        All the best,
        Mairéad

  17. I just made this today, and it was delicious! I really appreciate your detailed instructions and photos–they made this recipe very easy to put together.

    I used all-purpose flour and increased the butter to 5 oz, but should have done 6 oz like you said, because it came out a little crusty. I also think I added a bit too much milk since it took a lot longer to bake than it should have. I imagine that also added to the crusty-ness. I’ll definitely file it away to make again, though!

    • Serena – I hope your next apple cake is a little less crusty. You’ll get to know the right consistency for your oven when you bake it a few times.
      Best wishes, and thanks for stopping by.
      Mairead

  18. I just put this in the oven…can’t wait til it’s done! Mine seemed like there was very little dough, compared to your pictures. I hope it turns out well! : )

  19. Cool, just made this for a classroom sized, mini cultural festival tomorrow. I love baking! Hope it’s popular. If not, I’m sure it will be at home! :)

  20. Maureen O Hanlon says:

    Thank you Mairead, its looks lovely. im definately going to make it, I was brought up in the era of the Bastible, remember my mother and myself putting the red cinders on the cover, my mother used to cook the goose, roast potatoes , etc for christmas in it, they always came out so amazing and her apple cakes as well,
    when will you bring out your cookbook i really want it, your recipies are great with step by step directions.

    have a nice day Mairead :):)

    Maureen

    • Such lovely memories, Maureen. I’m starting to work on an e-cookbook, but I have a lot to learn about how to format it. I’m afraid my technical computer skills are sadly lacking, but if I keep plugging away at it, I’ll finish someday. The kids are all back at school, so hopefully I’ll have a little time to myself during the day to dedicate to my cookbook.
      Thanks for all your support and for following my ramblings.
      All the best,
      Mairéad

  21. I’ve never had this. I will definitely try it.
    I too remember my grandmother’s open hearth fire. It was a beautiful sight and many amazing foods came from there.

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