Adelaide Bartow’s Irish Soda Bread


My mom has two recipe cards written in her mother’s hand. One is for Irish Stew, the other is for soda bread. My mom remembers her father once making soda bread. He put a ton of baking soda in it and it was pretty awful. He insisted that that was the way his Irish mother made it. In retrospect it probably was. Apparently true Irish soda bread is made with just flour, buttermilk and baking soda, and it sounds like it’s hardly worth eating. Nanny found this recipe so Pop could stop making his. My mom has always made this soda bread for St. Patrick’s Day, and we all scoff at any other. It’s not too sweet or too cakey, and its made with raisins, no caraway seeds.


I have no idea what a pudding pan is, and I think a line or two was left out of the instructions, but I think this is what she meant.

  • 4 cups sifted all purpose flour [I went back and forth trying to decide whether she meant sifted flour or flour, sifted but I finally decided sifted flour was right.]
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cup seedless raisins
  • 1 1/3 cups buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

Mix and sift flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. [See this is what got me confused about when I was supposed to sift the flour. I actually sifted the flour, then measured it, then sifted it again to combine with the other dry ingredients.] Cut in butter with a pastry blender or two knives until it resembles coarse cornmeal. Stir in raisins. [This part she left out: Whisk together the egg and the buttermilk. Stir in the baking soda. (The chemical reaction between the acidic buttermilk and the baking soda causes the leavening.)] Combine the buttermilk mixture into flour mixture until just moistened. Bake in greased 1 or 1 1/2 quart pudding pan or casserole at 375 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes or until golden brown.

Turn it out of the pan and allow to cool slightly before cutting. Its delicious still warm, slathered with butter.



22 thoughts on “Adelaide Bartow’s Irish Soda Bread

  1. christa


    I’m eating the piece you gave me right now and it is amazing. Even Henry tried to stick his face in it. I didn’t him try any, though, because once he gets a taste of people food he won’t stop. (I learned the hard way with cheesesteaks.) Thank you so much for sharing this with me. I love it.


  2. meg

    I have two recipes from mom from when I got married, Irish Soda Bread and Irish Stew, so I make the bread every year, often wondering why only once a year, because it tastes so good. You did Adelaide justice with yours, and the beautiful pictures. Smothered in your butter makes it even better. I send it into school with the kids every year, and Ms Rosenman passed along the info that creamcheese on it is delicious
    Happy St Pats, Meg

  3. Sharon

    What a terrific sounding recipe, and I absolutely loved that you scanned the actual Adelaide-written one. I will make this, for sure.

  4. christa

    the soda bread is gone. I will have to make my own next weekend. It’s perfect.

    Maybe I should add this to the red lentil soup post, but tonight after I went to Petco I went to fairway and bought red lentils and extra onions to make soup. I think I may still be missing a few things. But next weekend I plan on making it. I also want to make potato leek soup. If I take pictures while I do it, can I send them to you for the blog?

  5. mary-kate

    my grannies made the best soda bread! i am irish and living in ireland (happy paddy’s day!) it is very traditional to put a big cross on the soda bread and then you can cut the cooked bread into those quarters and take slices from each quarter

    and my grannies both did plain soda bread, soda bread with currants AND soda bread with black treacle

    and you can also make soda bread scones (same mix, just cut out little rounds with a cookie cutter and bake) then when baked cut in half horizontally and spread with butter, jam and whatever you like (yummy!)

  6. Andi

    hey kate
    you did a beautiful job! mommy will be sooo proud!
    Love your blog!
    My girls love their soda bread!

  7. Marjorie


    Thanks for posting that fabulous recipe. I baked the bread on a cookie sheet and it turned out very well. Next time, I will cut a cross in the top before I bake it. I gifted it to my neighbors since they had us over for dinner. We were too stuffed with corned beef, cabbage and potatoes to eat any of the bread! I am going to bake it again in a few days, just for us!

  8. Aunt Judy

    Wow Uncle marty sent me this note and said kate had Posted Adelaide’s Irish Soda bread recipe so here I am. your mom is rught pop did make the worst soda bread I only remember it once but that was enough to turn me off the “bread” for many years but Mom’s “bread ” brought me back .
    I lost the recipe so thanks for getting it back to me
    Your “Nanny” would be so proud.

  9. marybeth

    Hi Kate,
    I love the site!! I can’t wait to make the Irish Soda Bread!!!
    Your pics make it all look so appetizing too.
    See you in NY.

  10. chef dan

    my dad (marty b ) let me know about it.
    it feels like a blessing from pop & nanny.
    what a great ending to st. pats day !
    danny b (legends norh shore restaurant pittsburgh, pa )
    thank you

  11. Lizzie (neice)

    again k fam recipy otta be god and boy o boy waz it!!! happy belated st.patts!!! maby we can bke one time !!

  12. Jill

    Yours has a texture like mine. I think the trick is that it isn’t at all like yeast bread and people try to mimic that and end up with this really dry loaf. Mine has the texture of a biscuit. Those “just until moistened” directions are VERY important. Very yummy!

  13. Pingback: Irish Brown Bread « cooking the hard way

  14. Pingback: Nanny’s Irish Soda Bread | The Museum of Forgotten Pickles

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