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. Tea in the name refers to the practice of soaking dried fruit in cold tea overnight, before adding it to the cake batter.
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Brack – An Irish Halloween Tradition
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: barmbrack 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, an Irish sweet bread with lots of dried fruit.
This version is a little lighter than the tea brack of my youth. The end result is just how my kids like it.
Ingredients for Irish Tea Brack
Here you’ll find a quick list of what you’ll need for this recipe.
Check out the printable recipe at the bottom of this post for US and Metric equivalent versions of the recipe.
There you can choose the measurement system that works best for you.
Here’s what you will need:
- golden raisins
- light brown sugar
- black or orange flavored hot tea
- cake flour
- baking powder
- pumpkin pie spice or mixed spice
- grated orange zest
- orange marmalade
- squeezed orange juice
Ingredient Tips and Substitutions
The spice mix used to give tea brack a warming taste is known as mixed spice in Ireland. You can substitute pumpkin pie spice for this spice blend if you wish.
I use cake flour rather than all-purpose flour for this recipe. It yields a much lighter cake, with that is moist and airy. I also use baking powder, instead of choosing self raising flour. You can add a pinch of salt to the flour if you wish.
Dried currants would be used in a tea brack in Ireland. For my American version of this recipe, I only use raisins. Currants are difficult to find in American grocery stores. We discovered the reason why when I reminisced about blackcurrants.
I don’t use any mixed peel in my recipe, but you could add some candied orange or lemon if you wish.
I bake my tea brack in a round baking pan but you could choose to bake it in loaf tins instead. A 2lb loaf tin should work for this recipe.
Directions for Irish Tea Brack
Here you’ll find step-by-step photographic instructions to help you recreate this recipe successfully. There are plenty of tips included along the way.
Soak the dried fruit
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.
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.
Some people just pour cold tea over the fruit, but I find the raisins get plumper when I start off with hot tea.
Prepare a baking pan
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. You have a prepared pan in double quick time.
Prepare the dry ingredients
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.
Wet ingredients for teabrack
In another bowl add two eggs, the orange juice and orange zest.
Beat them together.
Next, add the marmalade and beat it all together.
Marmalade is not a traditional ingredient to add to the batter. However, I find it gives this cake a deliciously moist texture, with a hint of orange flavor.
Make the batter
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.
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 material that might melt.
Pour the batter into the cake pan.
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 toothpick 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’s 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 airtight container or cake box.
Slices of speckled brack – absolutely delicious.
Lots of fruit speckles means this is an authentic brack (remember breac in the Irish language means speckled.)
Printable Recipe for Irish Tea Brack
The printable recipe is outlined below. Please feel free to save and print this recipe for your kitchen files.
- 1½ cups raisins
- 1 cup golden raisins
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 2 cups tea black or orange flavored hot tea
- 3½ cups cake flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
- ¼ cup orange marmalade
- 2 tablespoons orange juice freshly squeezed
- 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.
- Grease a 9 inch round x 3 inch high cake pan. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
- Sieve the flour, baking powder, and pumpkin pie spice together in a bowl.
- Beat the eggs, marmalade, orange zest and orange juice in another large mixing bowl. Add the tea-soaked fruit and mix well.
- 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.
- Pour the cake mixture into the prepared cake pan. Smooth the top and bake in the preheated oven for 90 minutes.
- 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.
Nutrition Information is estimated based on the ingredients and cooking instructions as described in each recipe and is intended to be used for informational purposes only. Please note that nutrition details may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients used.
Wishing you all happy baking days and a very happy Halloween. I hope you enjoy a few slices of tea brack with a nice cup of Irish breakfast tea.
Click here for other recipes you might like.
Thanks for following my recipes and ramblings.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom
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