Craving something sweeter than soda bread and perhaps convinced I could reap the luck of the Irish through baking, I stumbled on a recipe for arán spíosraí (Irish spice bread) at Irishabroad.com . A subsequent search for variations proved fruitless. Countless aggregate recipe sites, Irish or otherwise, listed recipes for arán spíosraí, but with minor exceptions, they were all the same. I wondered, "What if arán spíosraí is a mythical creation like the Leprechaun?"
The pronounced sweetness in this “bread” pushes it closer to the cake category though with half the fat of most cakes. None of the recipes I found suggested a frosting, but the dry crumb of this intensely flavored bread-cake called for a little something creamy. If you’re not a fan of whiskey, make the glaze with orange juice and double the amount of vanilla extract. Or skip the frosting and slather it with some Kerrygold butter instead. Éirinn go brách!
Line a 9×5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper or grease it with butter. (I sometimes like making two smaller loaves–one to enjoy now and a second to stow in the freezer for unexpected guests. The smaller loaves also seem to bake more evenly.)
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Stir in the raisins and candied citron. Make a well in the center.
In a small sauce pan, melt the butter. Remove it from the heat and stir in the brown sugar and your liquid sweetener(s) of choice. Beat in the egg and milk.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until just combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan(s).
Bake for 50-60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. (Adjust the baking time if you are using smaller loaf pans.)
Cool on a rack for 20 minutes then remove from the pan. Allow to cool completely before glazing.
To make the glaze, melt the butter in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and whisk in powdered sugar, vanilla, and whiskey or orange juice. Allow the glaze to cool and thicken for 15 minutes. Spoon the glaze into a pastry bag fitted with a large tip or into a sturdy plastic bag with a 1/2-inch opening in the corner. Pipe glaze in a zigzag pattern across the top of the bread.