Irish Tea Brack

 

 

Brack is a traditional Irish cake baked at Halloween.  The name comes from the Irish word ‘breac’, which means speckled.  Fruit freckles every slice of this delicious cake or bread.

What makes this cake so much fun is the tradition of baking trinkets inside.  I remember chewing each slice, hoping I would be the lucky one to bite into the ring. I wasn’t interested in marriage at six years of age, but just fancied the ring.  Each trinket had a meaning:

  • Ring = marriage within the year
  • Coin or bean = wealth
  • Cloth or pea = poverty
  • Thimble = continue to be a spinster
  • Button = continue to be a bachelor
  • Religious medal = join a religious order

There are two types of brack:  barm brack and tea brack.  Yeast is used as a raising agent in barm brack, while tea brack rises with the aid of baking powder.

Today, I am going to share a recipe for tea brack.  This version is a little lighter than the tea brack of my youth.  The end result is just how my kids like it.

Here are the ingredients you will need:

  • 1 and 1/2 cups raisins
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup soft brown sugar
  • 2 cups black or orange flavored hot tea
  • 3 and 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1/4 cup orange marmalade
  • 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice

raisins

The key to tea brack success is soaking the dried fruit in tea overnight.  The night before you plan to make your brack, put the raisins in a glass bowl that can handle high heat.

Add the brown sugar to the fruit.

Make a pot of tea and let it brew for a little while.  You can use a strong black tea such as English Breakfast Tea, or I chose to use an orange infused tea to add flavor to the fruit.

Soaking fruit for tea brack

Add 2 cups of hot tea to the fruit and sugar.  Stir it well at this stage to dissolve all of the sugar.  Cover the bowl and leave it overnight.  It is best to leave it at room temperature to maximize soakage.  The fruit tends to contract a little in a refrigerator.

On baking day, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Grease a 9-inch round cake pan.  In olden days, it was necessary to butter the pan, and then line it with parchment paper to avoid sticking.  I just use a non-stick, quick-release pan, which I spray with flour infused oil.  I love this stuff for baking.

Next sift the flour, baking powder and pumpkin pie spice into a bowl.  In Ireland we use mixed spice, which has a very unique combination of cinnamon, coriander, caraway, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, allspice, and mace.  It adds a very distinctive flavor to Irish and British baking.  The best American alternative is pumpkin pie spice mix.

In another bowl add two eggs, the orange juice and orange zest.  Beat them together.

Next, add the marmalade and beat it all together.

You are now ready to add the soaked fruit to the egg mixture and blend all the wet ingredients together.

Next step is where wet meets dry.  Add about one third of the flour mixture to the eggs and mix it together.  Add the next third, and mix well before adding the remainder of the flour.

Brack before cooking

The batter is a fairly gloopy mess.  If you plan to add trinkets to your cake, now is the time to do it.  First wrap them in parchment paper.  I did not add any, this year.  I don’t fancy any choking hazards for my trio of four-year olds.  Make sure you don’t use anything plastic or toxic that might melt.

Pour the batter into the cake pan.  Sorry this photo is a little out of focus.  I was trying to hold the bowl, pour and take the picture all at the same time.

Here’s how it looks in the cake pan before cooking.  Place it in the oven for 90 minutes.  The cake is cooked when a tooth pick is inserted and comes out clean.  Cool it in the pan for one hour after removing it from the oven.  Then transfer it to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Here is the finished product.  It can be sliced up and buttered to accompany a cup of tea or coffee, or it can be stored in an air-tight cake box.

Plated tea brack

Slices of speckled brack – absolutely delicious.

The printable recipe is outlined below.

Irish Tea Brack

Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 1 hour, 30 minutes
Total time 1 hour, 50 minutes
Occasion Halloween
Region Irish

Ingredients

  • 1 and 1/2 cup Raisins
  • 1 cup Golden Raisins
  • 1 cup Soft brown sugar
  • 2 cups Black or orange flavored hot tea
  • 3 and 1/2 cups Cake Flour
  • 2 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 2 teaspoons Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Grated orange zest
  • 1/4 cup Orange marmalade
  • 2 tablespoons Fresh squeezed orange juice

Directions

Step 1 The night before you plan baking this brack, put the dried fruit and brown sugar into a large bowl. Pour the hot tea over the fruit, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cover and leave overnight to allow the fruit to soak in the tea and swell.
Step 2 Grease a 9 inch round x 3 inch high cake pan. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Step 3 Sieve the flour, baking powder, and pumpkin pie spice together in a bowl.
Step 4 Beat the eggs, marmalade, orange zest and orange juice in another large mixing bowl. Add the tea-soaked fruit and mix well.
Step 5 Add the spice and flour to the wet raisin mixture in portions (about one third at a time). Mix the flour with a large spoon after each addition.
Step 6 Pour the cake mixture into the prepared cake pan. Smooth the top and bake in the preheated oven for 90 minutes.
Step 7 Leave to cool in the pan for about 1 hour before turning the cake out onto a wire rack to fully cool. When it is cold it can be cut in slices to serve, or stored in an airtight cake box.

Wishing you all happy baking days and a very happy Halloween.

Click here for other recipes you might like.

Slan agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom

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Comments

  1. Grannymar says:

    I love your version of tea brack and will give it a shot very soon. I like the warm friendly look of your blog and will return again to explore further.

    • Thanks for checking out my blog. My tea brack is a lot lighter than a typical Irish one, since I used orange flavored tea and light brown sugar. Also, by soaking the fruit in the tea with dissolved sugar, most of the sweetness is in the fruit and not the actually dough. I have just discovered your site, and will be checking out your great recipes over the coming days.

      • Hi there Irish mom,
        I just took me Bram Brack out of the oven get my recipe from Annie in Dublin some 30 years ago.They made it for Halloween I make it for Christmas.Im not a baker but this one never fails me.I use Cyleon Black tea!!! what a great little cake. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. This looks so delicious. Now if I can convince my husband to eat raisins, I’m set!

  3. would you be having a recipe for Easter Hot Cross buns? My Mother was born in County Lietrim and she made them every year for Easter! Love your website!!!!!!!! You and your family have a Blessed and Happy Easter…..God be with you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Dennis – I plan to post my recipe for hot cross buns later this week. I will be baking them tomorrow and taking photos. If I get the photos edited and the post written quickly I’ll try to get it published on Wednesday, in time for Easter cooking. Easter Blessings to you and your family too!

  4. Penny Wolf says:

    In step 4 I am uncertain if to add the remaining tea from the soaked fruit or just the fruit? Also I believe I will bake this in a cast iron chicken fryer/skillet for a nice crust. I can’t wait! :)

    • Penny – Add the soaked fruit AND the remaining tea – no need to strain the fruit. I have never tried baking a tea brack in a cast iron skillet, but it will probably turn out great. Enjoy!

      • Penny Wolf says:

        I just had a slice of your bread and it turned out wonderful! I did bake it in an iron skillet with no problems. Also I used whole wheat flour which made the bread batter drier and as a result it baked in 60 minutes. The next time I may add some walnuts only because I love them not because they are needed. Thank you very much.
        Are you familiar with a yeast version? If so what are your thoughts and comparisons.

        • Penny – I am so glad to hear you enjoyed this tea brack. I have only made a yeast brack, or barm brack as it is called in Ireland, two or three times. Since I am quite a tea drinker I always have plenty of tea on hand for soaking fruit, so making a tea brack is easy in my house. I also tend to shy away from using yeast very often. I think I am not patient enough to let my dough rise. Barm brack has a lot less fruit than this tea brack, and has a doughier quality to it. If I have time I will dig out my old recipe, and make a barm brack before Halloween.
          All the best,
          Mairead

  5. Thank you for your lovely website. It brings good memories of Ireland back to me, culinarily.

    I’m eager to try the recipe for Brack. Is there really no butter or shortening in it at all?

    • Sara – No butter in this particular recipe. Soaking the fruit in tea, together with the eggs and marmalade add moisture, but it is closer to a bread than a true cake. Thanks for checking out my website. So glad my ramblings bring back good memories of Ireland.
      All the best,
      Mairead

  6. Mairead,
    Just a little note to say how I love your website. My life parallels yours it seems, having my first at 39 as well. I’m now at a stage where I reminisce about “all things Irish” in my life that I took for granted so many years ago. As times change, and loved ones pass, I find it more important to imprint the loveliness of those times; the conversations, the food,the stories, and the way of looking at things “that all works out in the end”, on my son who has been back to Ireland three times. So I be back for the recipes and have a wonderful Thanksgiving to you and yours….Judy

    • Judy – I too have lovely memories of my childhood in Dublin. Sometimes I feel Irish literature and films paint a very bleak picture of growing up in Ireland. I wonder if people around the world think we were all in a constant state of misery. Here on my blog, I try to share my happy stories, “to imprint the loveliness of those times” as you so beautifully put it.
      It seems like we both have a lot in common. I’m glad to hear your son has been blessed to visit Ireland three times. So happy you found my website and enjoyed my recipes and ramblings.
      Best wishes for a very happy Thanksgiving.
      Mairéad

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