The Easter Rising, Gur Cake and What It All Means
- April 3, 2015
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“In the days before packaging, Dubliners bought slabs of Gur Cake, burned Coal Blocks sold from a horse and cart, and drank ‘loose milk’ from the churn and sold sweets and biscuits from large glass jars’” – Paddy Crosbie, The Sunday Press.
This coming Monday, the 6th of April, you have the chance to literally step back in time to Easter 1915 and see first-hand the socio-economic circumstances that paved the way for the 1916 Easter Rising. O’Connell Street will progress back to a century ago. There will be vintage displays, historians, Edwardian style, people demonstrating professions from that time and much more. There will be a tented village and eats and treats from that period in Ireland. RTE’S “Road to the Rising” promises to be a truly spectacular and unique event.
For those of you not familiar with the events of the 1916 Easter Rising, it was an insurrection that took place in Dublin during Easter week 1916. Carried out by the Irish Republican Brotherhood and the Irish Citizens Army, it was a protest against British Rule in Ireland at that time.
The rebels branched out and began to take over various areas of the city such a the General Post Office (GPO), St. Stephen’s Green and the Shelbourne Hotel. In the beginning the Brits didn’t engage in the conflict due to the fact it was the Easter public holiday. However, this was short lived and they began to arrive in their numbers to fight against the Irish.
The majority of the fighting took place in Boland’s Bakery, on the corner of Great Canal Street. The building was the Headquarters for Eámonn De Valera and his Irish Volunteers troops fired against the “Sherwood Foresters”, a nickname given to members of the British Army.
After six days, the GPO was in ruins and sixteen of the Irish leaders had been shot by a British firing squad. With several hundred deaths on both sides, the Irish surrendered. They were outnumbered and drained and Dublin was in a bad way.
So, where does Mannings Bakery feature in all of this? Well, we will be at the Road To The Rising with a special cake that we produce, referred to as Gur Cake by the Dubs, as ‘Chester Cake’ by Corkonians and ‘Donkey Gudge Cake’ by people from the Deise (Waterford).
The word ‘gurrier’ is an old Dublin term used to describe a young boy, a street urchin or a trouble-maker. In the early 1900s in Dublin, this was a child who more than likely lived in a city centre boarding house. Gur Cake was very popular in The Liberties, where Mannings Head Office is located. Gurriers would often be known to skip school or as they said in those days, be ‘on the gur’. Those were poor days in Dublin and gurriers would often have to swipe food wherever they could so as not to go hungry.
Gur Cake was considered to be the cheapest confectionery in the bakeries as it consists mostly of scraps, stale bread crumbs and leftover cake cuttings. Often the gurriers would take these scraps home and turn them into a delicious treat.
At Mannings Bakery, we pride ourselves on being a traditional family-run bakery – a bakery which has continued to produce Gur Cake since we first opened in 1945.
In his book ‘Gur Cake and Coal Blocks‘ (1976) , Éamonn MacThomáis, a staunch Irish Republican, vividly describes a fond childhood memory:
“As we came out of the shop we were stuffing ourselves with the Gur Cake. It was only gorgeous, steaming hot, with sugar-coated pastry and the juice oozing out of the large currants and the other soft brown stuff. We could feel our bellies heating up.” – Éamonn MacThomais, Gur Cakes and Coal Blocks.” The Easter Rising is also a recurring theme in this book.
Éamonn’s son, Shane MacThomáis, an admirable and renowned historian tragically passed away last year. He is buried alongside the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising in Glasnevin Cemetery, where he was held in high regard during his years there as a tour guide.
Mannings Bakery is honoured to have been asked to take part in is to be a memorable and magical occasion- ‘The Road to the Rising’. We hope to see you there and have you taste some of this famous Gur Cake which is symbolic of Dublin in the ‘rare auld times’ and steeped in Irish heritage. If you can’t make it on the day, here’s our recipe –so you can try it at home!
Mannings Bakery Gur Cake Recipe:
- 1Kg of Muffins/Pastry/Bread Chopped Up – (There must not be more bread than cake!)
- 450mls of Strong Earl Grey Tea (Nice Complex Ornage Flavour)
- 500gs of Sugar
- 800gs of Dried Fruit
- 5gs Of Cinnamon
For The Base:
Line a square 1” high tin with Shortbread Pastry, Egg Wash and bake for 10 minutes or until cooked.
For The Filling:
– Chop up Muffins/Scones/Bread and weigh. With the bread weight adapt the recipe as appropriate.
– Make up a bucket of Earl Grey Tea (quantity relevant to the recipe size)
– Soak the dried fruit in the tea until soft.
– Place the bread/cake mixture in the mixing bowl with a dough hook and add the sugar and cinnamon.
– When the fruit is soft remove from the tea and add to the mixing bowl
– Turn on the mixer on low and add the tea gradually with a sticky but not wet paste is formed.-
– When you have baked your base layer of pastry, spread the bread and fruit mixture over, cover this with a sheet of puff pastry, egg wash and bake until golden brown.