Irish Tea Brack

Barm Brack or Tea Brack is a a sort of cross between cake and bread traditionally eaten at Halloween. While bracks bought in stores will use yeast as a rising agent, this version is closer to the original, using bread soda instead.

It is very moist and delicious and although in theory it will stay fresh for several days it never lasts that long!

The word Brack comes from an old Irish word, ‘breac‘, meaning speckled, which refers to the fruit I imagine. Barm (often is pronounced Barn) is thought by some to be from an old English word ‘beorma‘ meaning yeasty. Others say it is a mispronunciation of ‘aran’, which means bread. Aran Breac would have meant Speckled bread, so that version makes sense to me.

Traditionally small items are mixed into the brack before it is baked, each with a message or prediction for the person who gets it in a slice. The items always include a ring, which predicts a wedding within the year, but any or all of the following are sometimes included.

  • a coin for wealth
  • a small piece of cloth for poverty
  • a pea for plenty
  • a thimble for a spinster
  • a button for a bachelor
  • a matchstick to beat your husband/wife (perhaps leave that one out, I ‘m not sure it sends a good message!)

If you are using any of these items, wrap them well in greaseproof or waxed paper before adding them to the mix.


US Imperial Metric
1½ cups 12 fl oz 330ml Cold strong tea
2 cups 9oz 270g Plain or all purpose flour
½ cup 4oz 80g Soft brown sugar
3 cups 1lb 350g Mixed raisins & sultanas
½ teaspoon 1 level teaspoon Bread soda (Bicarbonate of Soda)
½ teaspoon 1 level teaspoon Mixed Spice or allspice
1 teaspoon 1 heaped teaspoon Grated lemon rind (optional)
1 egg

The lemon rind is not added by everyone, but I like the slight tanginess it gives. You will need a 2lb loaf tin or a deep 7″ round tin. I prefer to make it as a loaf, but the round version is probably more traditional.


Put the tea, sugar, lemon rind and dried fruit in a bowl. Stir well, then cover and leave to soak overnight.

The next day, preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC/Gas Mark 4) and grease the loaf tin with a little butter. Beat the egg and mix it thoroughly with the fruit. Sieve the flour, spices and bread soda together and stir well into the fruit mixture.

You can mix in any of the charms you are using at this point, or wait until the batter is in the tin and push them in then. The latter method ensures they are ‘fairly’ distributed, especially important if children will be eating the brack!

Turn the batter into the tin, place in the oven and bake for 90 minutes. Allow the brack to cool for about 20 minutes in the tin before turning it out to cool on a wire rack.

Don’t give in to the temptation to eat until completely cool (you will be tempted!).

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  1. Ruth O’ Flynn | October 31, 2015 at 8:49 am

    Hi that’s for all the items in the brack. You forgot to mention the ring which is all they include now. Thank you for the other items. I had forgotten those.

  2. Have fruit etc. soaking, will bake tomorrow, can’t wait to share with friends here in Wales. X

  3.  Made this last week and it was perfect. I’ve made your Christmas cake two years running. Thank you for your recipes…
    If I double the mixture and bake it in a round tin will that effect cooking time and temperature?

    • I did double the recipie.
      I lowered the oven temperature and baked for an extra hour with a lid made of baking paper and cardboard.
      It was perfect.
      Once again; go raibh maith agat!

  4. Fiona Blake | July 23, 2013 at 6:54 am

    Having an Irish themed weekend away ,am really looking forward to trying out the Barm Brack recipe .

  5. Lived in Cloughmore, Achill Island, Co. Mayo almost 40 years ago and remember this cake Oh so well! Can’t wait to try your recipe.  There were cut up apples as well as the raisins soaking in the tea…anyone tried this?

  6. great barn brack rep thank you

  7. Can you make this in a breadmaker?

    • I really don’t know as I’ve never used a breadmaker, but I don’t think it would be suitable. It’s quite cakey, more than bread. Anyway, it’s so easy to make without any special equipment that I honestly wouldn’t bother.

  8. Noreen Hegarty Cork artist | February 18, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    I baked this and it’s so easy!  Hubby and friends loved it and want to know when I’m doing the next one.  I’m off now to make the pot of tea and then will put the fruit soaking overnight.  Everyone welcome to call tomorrow for tea and Barm Brack!!

  9. Instead of the lemon rind add 4 tablespoons of marmalade… after you mixall the other ingredients add the marmalade…

  10. Catherina McDonnell | November 4, 2011 at 5:01 am

    I have been looking for a tea brack recipe that my mother used to make
    Looking forward to trying this one
    Go raibh maith agat

    • BETTY NICHOLL | June 21, 2012 at 3:54 pm

      my mam made the exact recipe and always soaked the fruit over night she said it made it more moist and i still make one every week….really nice

  11. Thanks! I just wanted to be sure. I made it and it is gorgeous! Don’t think we ever had home made brack when I was growing up and they dont sell it here in Iceland where I live now, so homemade it will be from now on.
    Great recipe thanks.

  12. I really want to bake this, but silly question first. Does the tea already have milk in it or just black tea? Would be great to get a reply asap 🙂

  13. Patricia greene | August 14, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    Could I soak the fruit with orange juice instead of cold tea.?

    • I don’t know to be honest – but I imagine it would work. Nice idea, if you try it, I’d love to know if it worked and how it tasted.

  14. I have tried this recipe a couple of times and it has not failed to impress friends and family alike. Over the weekend I wished to make another but the website was unavailable for some reason so I tried an alternative version which to be honest, never came close.

  15. I made this at Halloween, and it was very popular. I personally like it at breakfast with my tea. Thanks for posting this!

  16. I have a barn brack in the oven the third one this month, thanks to you, the smell is wonderful and it tastes great. Im looking forward to trying the christmas cake too.
    Thanks again DOCHARA

3 Trackbacks

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