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 (yeah leave that one out!)

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


US Measurements

  • 1 cup Cold stong tea
  • Grated rind of a lemon and orange
  • Juice of a lemon and orange
  • ½ cup Soft Brown sugar
  • 3 cups Mixed raisins and sultanas
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups Plain (all purpose) Flour
  • 1 level tea spoon Bread Soda
  • 2 level tea spoons mixed spice


  • 300ml Cold stong tea
  • Grated rind of a lemon and orange
  • Juice of a lemon and orange
  • 80g Soft Brown sugar
  • 350g Mixed raisins and sultanas
  • 1 egg
  • 270g Plain (all purpose) Flour
  • 1 level tea spoon Bread Soda
  • 2 level tea spoons mixed spice

The fruit rind and juice is not added by everyone, but I like the tangy freshness 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, fruit rind and juice and the 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 will have a thick batter.

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!).

Published: October 15, 2011 | Updated: November 12, 2017

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  • Edel says:

    I come back here year after year! I think this is my tenth year now coming back. I always make my Christmas cake based on your recipe. This year, I’m making the barm brack.

    Thank you so much!

  • Ruth O' Flynn says:

    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.

  • Mairead says:

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

  • Lorcán says:

     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?

    • Lorcán says:

      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!

  • Fiona Blake says:

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

  • Virginia says:

    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?

  • […] tea is the next easiest to use.  Barnbrack is my favorite. It’s the sort of hearty, rich dessert that Bilbo Baggins would have with his […]

  • val kearney says:

    great barn brack rep thank you

  • Alison says:

    Can you make this in a breadmaker?

    • Katherine says:

      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.

  • 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!!

  • pip says:

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

  • Catherina McDonnell says:

    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 says:

      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

  • Karen says:

    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.

  • Karen says:

    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 🙂

  • Patricia greene says:

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

    • Katherine says:

      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.

  • […] I must point out this modest offering to our American cousins on this most auspicious occasion, Barack’s ‘Brack’. Yes, to celebrate the election of America’s first ‘Brack’ president […]

  • […] won’t be a problem with leftovers! If you want a longer lasting Irish fruit cake/bread, make Tea Brack […]

  • SultanaUK says:

    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.

  • Jeff Doyle says:

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

  • Samantha says:

    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

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