Around St. Patrick’s Day, grocery stores and bakeries sell premade loaves of Irish Soda Bread. After all, what better to accompany a dinner of corned beef and cabbage? However, the texture and flavor of store-bought soda bread leaves much to be desired. Maybe it is because I was raised eating bread made using the best authentic Irish soda bread recipe!
Both of my father’s parents were born in Ireland but met in New York as young adults after immigrating here. My grandmother arrived at Ellis Island from County Offaly with dreams of better opportunities in the United States. The one recipe she brought with her was her family’s version of Irish soda bread.
She explained to me that the ingredients in this soda bread were ones that most families in Ireland would have been able to afford and would have on hand. While it is called bread, it is more of a cross between a bread and a cake. It is definitely not as dry as bread, but has a firmer texture than cake.
Back when I could still bake goodies to bring to school (before food allergies became more prevalent), I would bake this Irish soda bread recipe for St. Patrick’s Day for my class. For most of the children, it was the first time they had ever tasted soda bread. Of course, as soon as they heard the name, they wanted to know what type of soda is in the bread!
That’s when I would have to explain the name! It is called soda bread because it uses baking soda instead of yeast as a rising agent. With the addition of butter and buttermilk, it has a sweet flavor. It makes this authentic Irish soda bread a great choice for breakfast, a snack, or an alternative to typical bread at dinner.
Children seem to either love or hate raisins, so I would make a loaf without raisins or caraway seeds. I knew that children with braces or other orthodontia are supposed to avoid seeds, so I wanted to give them a safe alternative.
I would give each student a choice of the bread with raisins and seeds, or the plain version. Over the years, I found that about half requested the plain version. However, once they tried it, they came back for seconds. Many would then ask to try to “real” version. They declared that they now liked raisins since they loved the taste of the Irish soda bread.
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Authentic Irish Soda Bread
Being that my Ancestry DNA test showed that I am 75% Irish and 25% Scottish and English, I feel like my taste buds can recognize authentic Irish soda bread!
This recipe has more flavor than the store-bought loaves I have tried. One particularly tasteless version from a bakery seemed to be made with the same dough used to make Italian bread, but with raisins thrown in. Grocery store loaves tend to be dry. So if you have never tried homemade Irish soda bread before, you don’t know what you are missing!
My grandmother’s recipe featured here is so simple to make. All the ingredients get mixed in one bowl in just a few minutes. The batter then bakes up in 35 minutes in a 9-inch round pan that is coated with baking spray. Even with time to cool in the pan, you can be enjoying a slice of fresh soda bread in less than an hour from start to finish.
Irish soda bread is delicious with a cup of tea or coffee. I find that this recipe has enough flavor on its own due to the butter and buttermilk baked into it. I do not feel that it needs an additional smear of butter. The buttermilk also gives it a slightly moist texture, so it is not dry like typical yeast breads.
Even though this is baked in a round cake pan, my family always slices it in parallel slices instead of wedges. Use a serrated knife for best results.
Irish soda bread can be stored in an airtight cake container for up to three days. It could also be tightly wrapped in foil. You can rewarm slices for 10-15 seconds in the microwave if desired, or toast a slice in the toaster.
What family recipes do you have that were brought here from your “Mother Country?” Let me know in the comments below.
Irish Soda Bread
- Large bowl
- Wooden Spoon
- Measuring Cups
- Liquid Measuring Cup
- Measuring Spoons
- 9 inch round pan
- 3 ¼ cups all purpose flour
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tbsp caraway seeds (optional)
- 1 cup raisins
- 3 tbsp butter (softened to room temperature)
- 1 ½ cups buttermilk
- 2 eggs
- Preheat oven to 425° F.
- Combine all ingredients in a large bowl with a wooden spoon until the dry ingredients have been incorporated. The dough will be stiff.
- Coat a 9 inch round baking pan with baking spray or shortening and flour.
- Put dough into prepared pan. Use the back of the wooden spoon to smooth the batter evenly.
- Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean, or a baking thermometer should turn red.
- Let cool in pan on a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Then transfer to a cutting board or cake plate.
- The soda bread may be served warm, or can be stored in an airtight container for 3 days.
- To soften butter to the right consistency, let it sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. It should be soft, but not melted.
- Low-fat buttermilk works perfectly in this recipe.
- The caraway seeds and/or raisins can be omitted.
- You can use a 9-inch round cake pan with either straight or sloped sides.
- If you do not have baking spray (a premixed spray containing oil and flour) you can grease your pan with shortening and coat with flour.
For another quick bread, check out my recipe for chocolate chip banana bread.