Irish Pound Cake


A proudly Irish Islesboro matriarch gave me this recipe. Eileen Shea Boardman sent this recipe along years ago, and as I do with practically all the recipes anyone sends me, I tucked it away for a time when I needed an idea or inspiration. I ended up making it to take as my contribution to a big reception held following her memorial service in mid-February where I met her daughter-in-law who was probably the original source of it. We’ll miss Eileen and remember her with this cake.

Now I hate to say that probably the reason it is called Irish is less because it hails from the Old Sod, than it contains whiskey. The recipe calls for Irish Mist or Irish whiskey in which we soak the golden raisins. Once it is baked just the slight hint of whiskey flavor is left behind while the alcohol all evaporates. Still, it is a very nice version of pound cake.

It used to be, of course, that pound cake had literally one pound each of flour, butter, sugar, and eggs. What a wonderful rich, dense, buttery cake that makes. In fact, making historic cakes like pound cake convinced me that I actually liked cake, having grown up on fluffy, overly sweet, box mixes which I didn’t think were particularly interesting.

When this comes out of the oven, it has a lovely crusty exterior. It is perfect to eat with a cup of tea, or coffee. Probably even good with a shot of whiskey.

Irish Pound Cake
  • Grated peel of one lemon
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 3 tablespoons Irish Mist or whiskey
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Grease a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan, flour it, and line the bottom with a piece of lightly greased parchment paper.
  3. Put the lemon zest and raisins in a small bowl and dribble the whiskey over it, tossing to coat.
  4. Cream together the butter and sugar until the mixture is fluffy.
  5. Add the eggs, beating well after each addition.
  6. Lift the raisins and zest with a slotted spoon and put into a separate bowl and add the whiskey and vanilla to the egg mixture.
  7. Whisk the flour, salt and baking powder together and mix the flour into the egg, sugar, butter mixture, stirring only enough to blend.
  8. Toss the raisins with a little flour and fold into the batter.
  9. Bake for an hour and ten minutes, test for doneness, and bake until golden, slightly cracked along the top, and until a tester inserted comes out clean.


Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.