Spotted Dog

This is a cross between bread and cake, and is usually eaten spread thickly with butter. It is also very good toasted.

All the comments made in the recipe for white soda bread about the choice of ingredients, especially the flour and buttermilk, and the need for very careful handling of the dough apply equally here, so if you have not seen them, please take a look before you begin.

Spotted Dog doesn’t keep very well, so make it the day you need it – there won’t be a problem with leftovers! If you want a longer lasting Irish fruit cake/bread, make Tea Brack instead.


US Imperial Metric
3½ cups 1lb 450g Irish white flour or unbleached flour
½ cup 3oz 80g Mixed raisins and sultanas
3 teaspoons 1 tablespoon Castor sugar
½ teaspoon 1 level teaspoon Bread soda (Bicarbonate of Soda)
½ teaspoon 1 level teaspoon Salt
1 Egg
2 cups ¾ pint 0.5 litres Buttermilk or sour milk

Preheat the oven to 450ºF (230ºC/Gas Mark 8). Do not start until the oven is hot.


Sieve the flour, bread soda, salt and about 2/3rds of the sugar into a large bowl and mix in the fruit. Whisk about 2/3rds of the milk together with the egg and pour into the flour mixture. Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in almost all of the milk and egg mixture. Quickly and with a light touch bring the flour in from the edges and mix with the milk, until all the ingredients come together into a dough.

Use your hands, not a spoon or mixer. Work quickly and lightly.

The dough should be soft rather than wet or sticky. If it is too dry add a little more of the milk and egg mix or the of the remaining buttermilk. Once it has come together, do not knead, just place it on a floured wooden board, pick up a handful of flour and rub it into the palms of your hands so that they are perfectly dry, and and then shape the dough into a round about 2 inches thick.

Brush the top of the dough with some of the remaining milk and sprinkle the rest of the sugar over it. Cut a deep cross on the top of the dough.

Put the bread into the oven immediately. After 5 minutes turn the oven down to 400ºF (200ºC/regulo 6). The initial high temperature gives the bread a nice brown crust. After another 25 minutes take the bread out and knock on the base. If it sounds hollow it is done, if not return it to the oven for about 5 minutes and then check again.

Eat the day of baking or toast it the following day.

Published: November 16, 2008 | Updated: March 31, 2017

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  • Joe says:

    Found this site today and already added to my Favorites.  This “Spotted Dog”  appears to be very much what is typically found here in US Bakeries as “Irish Soda Bread.”   I have made, and as of the moment am eating a fresh from the oven original (4 ingredients) Soda bread and love both for their own.   

  • […] las manos. Se come en el día y si lo vas a comer al día siguiente debes tostarlo.Fuente: vía DoCharaFoto: vía Capital LifeFoto 2: vía The Empty […]

  • Chey says:

    Does any one here think that it would be a good idea to bring this in for my daughter for a culture day project? if so please let me know

  • […] Irish Fruit Bread Recipe Made with just a little sugar and plenty of dried fruit, this bread has been an Irish favourite, especially with … […]

  • ailene says:

    My mother used to make treacle cake,same receipe as for spotted dog except she used treacle and milk.

    • Jacqueline in Galway says:

      Hi Ailene
      I’m looking for a Treacle Cake recipe but am having trouble finding one.  Do you have the recipe?  I want to know how much treacle and milk to add?  Also, do you put these in instead of one/more of the ingredients for the Spotted Dog cake above?
      My husband buys a treacle cake sometimes and I just LOVE it.  It has a texture like madeira cake but is brown in colour and has fruit in it.  It has a ginger/treacle taste…….mmmmm
      Thanks a million 🙂

  • S. Whitaker says:

    I’m surprised you say it wont keep seeing as Raisins are a natural preservative. Raisin bread keeps longer than any bread I have ever bought. Irish Soda Bread sounds interesting to make, I will have to give it a try. I buy it at a local store here in Texas, it’s quite good.

    • admin says:

      This does not keep well, believe me. Soda bread, and all breads based on it, need to be eaten fresh. The brown keeps a little better than white, but neither are going to stay fresh for more than a couple of days. Cake with a lot of dried fruit, like the Christmas Cake elsewhere on this site keeps wonderfully well, but this is not a cake recipe and is almost certainly completely different from the one you buy in Texas.

  • C. Reavis says:

    I made “Spotted Dog” for the first time today (with out an egg).
    It was so delicious!  My mother’s father’s family (Cooley) came from
    Moulton Lincolnshire England, however we’ve been told they
    originated in Ireland.  My mother likes to make scones with cranaberries.

  • Katherine is completely right this is spotted dog/railway cake, often incorrectly commonly  called fruit soda. there are only 2 traditional types of soda bread, brown and white. You can reference this with many Irish chefs and cooks including Darina Allen.

  • […] these are included in any recipe you find, it may be nice bread, it may even be Spotted Dog, but it isn’t Irish Soda […]

  • Ann says:

    The above is just a sweet soda bread, we never called it spotted dog, not sure where you got that from!! You may be mixing it up with spotted dick which is an English bread pudding….  I never put eggs into my soda breads, and I have been making them to my Grannys recipe for many years, we live in Dublin and all Dublin grannies made soda breads to the same old recipe handed down through the generations.  We also use the same recipe for scones and rock cakes, just a bit more milk in them.

    Enjoy the bread, but please, for an real old flavour, do not put an egg into it…..

    Ann (Dublin Ireland)

    • Katherine says:

      There you go, different families, different traditions! We always called it spotted dog – I got that from my Granny who made it in Kildare (as I presume did her mother before her), my mother made it in Dublin and I now make it in Kilkenny, so I think it qualifies as Irish anyway.

      I don’t but eggs into soda bread either – I agree with you there, it isn’t soda bread anymore if you do – but this recipe isn’t just soda bread with dried fruit and sugar added (which is as you say possible to make), its a different thing entirely, a sort of cross between cake and bread which needs the egg.

    • Callahan says:

      Traditional Irish Soda bread has a mere 4 ingredients.  Flour, baking soda, salt, soured milk.   This recipe is most certainly Irish Spotted Dog.  Soda bread became popular after the potato famine when ingredients like caraway and raisins were not common in the household of a peasant.  Just saying.

  • Eli R says:

    I made this for an Irish potluck at work. It was a big hit and so easy to make. Thanks so much

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