St. Patrick’s Day–Traditional Kerry Apple Cake


According to Darina Allen, the doyenne of Irish cooking, apple cake is the quintessential or at least the most traditional Irish dessert. And because it is made everywhere, each baker makes it just a bit differently than the baker next door.

Image result for photo of Darina Allen

I think this is kind of like, “As American as apple pie,”  though not a lot of Americans bake pie, more’s the pity. Many of these cakes are oh-so-simple, often flavored only with the apples themselves and butter–so both had better be good. While I can’t vouch for Irish apples, though I probably ate some on one trip or another, I can vouch for the butter. And why wouldn’t the butter be stellar considering the color of the grass the cows eat?

Begin your baking with a little Irish music.

above: I can’t remember exactly where we were in Ireland when I took this, but it stands out as one of my favorite green grass photos.

This easy, tender, moist, and not-too-sweet apple cake made in a 9×12 pan is not a glossy, fancy-pantsy birthday cake or the stuff of which Parisian pâtisseries are made, but perhaps it should be. It needs no whipped or ice cream and is best eaten out of hand, I’d guess–humble–yes, that suits it. Unassuming, maybe. Here is the kind of down-home cake you gratefully have with coffee or tea in the afternoon when you’re really ready to sit down or would love to have baked and sliced to give your kids after school with their milk.

The kind of cake you cut a little more of each time you pass through the kitchen. The kind of cake about which, late at night, someone goes, “Is there any of that cake left?” You might it take camping, slicing off a nice hunk each day after swimming. Surely you could bring it to a Saint Patrick’s Day potluck where it would be snarfed down go han-tapa. (Gaelic for “very quickly.).  It comes together swiftly if you use your food processor for chopping the apples and cutting in the butter, as did I, but won’t take much longer if you do the whole thing by hand as is recommended in the original recipe.  Kids could make it with a little help chopping the apples. (I did add an apple to the recipe, by the way.) Try this:

Traditional Kerry Apple Cake–adapted for an american baker

Apple Císte in Gaelic

My directions or helps for American bakers are in italics. I left the Irish baking directions so you can make your own measurement conversions if you like.

Makes 25-30 very small pieces    (Note: nutritional information at bottom of post  is for 20 pieces per pan.)

  • 450g (1lb) plain white flour — 3 1/3 cups unbleached, white all-purpose flour
  • 175g (6oz) butter   —12 tablespoons or 1 1/2 sticks salted butter
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 175g (6oz) castor sugar  — 3/4 cup  superfine sugar (can make in blender/food processor)
  • 3 free range eggs
  • 225ml (8fl oz) milk–1 cup
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves (I used ¼ teaspoon ground cloves and ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon)
  • 2 cooking Bramley apples (I used 3 peeled, cored, finely diced Granny Smith apples)
  • 1/8th cup Light Brown Sugar 

Equipment– Baking tin pan 30x20cm 7.5cm deep (12x8in 3in deep) I used 9×12 pan.

  • Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6.
  • Grease pan and line with parchment paper.
  • Peel, core and chop the apple into 5mm (1/4in) dice. In a large bowl, rub the butter into the flour. (I used food processor to chop apples, then rinsed/dried the bowl and cut the butter into the flour there, too. After putting the flour mixture into a large bowl, I processed my granulated sugar briefly there to create castor sugar.)
  • Add the baking powder, castor sugar, diced apple and 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves or ¼ teaspoon each ground cloves and cinnamon.
  • Whisk the eggs with a cup of milk in another bowl. Add to the dry ingredients and mix well with a wooden spoon, the mixture will be a soft texture.  Do this by hand to keep the lumpy, thick texture of the cake batter.
  • Pour into the greased and lined baking pan. Bake at 200C/400F/gas mark 6 for 35 to 40 minutes or until the apples are soft and the top is golden brown. Dredge (sprinkle the top) with soft brown sugar while hot, cool and serve.

American Baker’s Note:  I baked my cake in a Blue Star gas oven at 6,500 feet altitude at the center of the oven and it was nearly done in about 28 minutes. I gave it another 4 minutes to brown the top a bit (as the instructions noted “golden brown”), though the tester had already come out nearly clean.

{printable recipe}      Nutritional info at bottom of post.


Irish Examiner, Aug. 29, 2015: original recipe

above: a favorite trip to Ireland included a visit to a green, green sheep farm.



                                  above:  Irish scones from the blog

                           below:  My Irish Soda Bread from the blog

Richard Corrigan’s Irish Apple Tart (BBC Good Food)

Classic Apple Tart from Stasy dot com

Irish Bakery Recipes

Darina Allen’s Classic Apple Tart

Irish Fruit and Cream Flan

Ireland’s Top Pastry Chefs

Ballymaloe Cooking School website

Glory of Irish Baking (Corby Kummer in The Atlantic)

Measurement Conversion Table

Darina Allen’s Traditional Irish Cooking is an excellent source. You can get an inexpensive used copy from

You might also be interested in Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cooking School Cookbook–a great boon for those of us who can’t make it to her classes!
Irish maps just for fun. Be an armchair traveler.
Cook some Irish food right after you grab your Guinness,
 … …
Kerry Apple Cake Nutritional Facts: Recipe indicates 25-30 pieces per pan; those are very small pieces. I think it’s closer to 20 for American servings, so that’s the factor I’ve used here. If you cut smaller pieces, adjust accordingly. The nutritional data is from the American version.
Nutrition Facts
Servings 20.0
Amount Per Serving
calories 177 
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 8 g 12 %
Saturated Fat 5 g 23 %
Monounsaturated Fat 2 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 46 mg 15 %
Sodium 18 mg 1 %
Potassium 81 mg 2 %
Total Carbohydrate 23 g 8 %
Dietary Fiber 1 g 5 %
Sugars 7 g
Protein 4 g 7 %
Vitamin A  6 %
Vitamin C  1 %
Calcium  4 %
Iron  2 %
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.

2 thoughts on “St. Patrick’s Day–Traditional Kerry Apple Cake

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