Recipes » Dessert Recipes » Traditional Irish Barmbrack

Traditional Irish Barmbrack

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Traditional Irish Barmbrack (or Tea Brack) is the perfect sweet ending for your St. Patrick's Day feast!
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
A loaf of Irish barmbrack on a wooden cutting board.

For an authentic taste of Ireland, enjoy a loaf of traditional Irish Barmbrack (or Tea Brack) with your St. Patrick’s Day feast. This sweet bread studded with dried fruits and flavored with warm spices will put an Irish twinkle in your eye.

Barmbrack is a treat steeped in tradition and a feature of Irish Halloween celebrations for centuries. Its name in the Gaelic, Báirín Breac, means “speckled loaf” referring to the specks of fruit throughout. 

A loaf of Irish barmbrack on a wooden cutting board.

Similar to an American-style quick bread, it’s usually enjoyed slathered with butter and paired with a cup of tea or coffee for a fitting start to the day or the perfect ending to an authentic Irish dinner. Even though it’s traditionally served at Halloween, it’s great year-round.

Traditionally, barmbrack was baked with charms scattered through the batter which would tell the fortune of those who received the charm in their slice. If you got a dried pea, you wouldn’t marry. If your slice contained a tiny piece of cloth, you’d have bad luck. A coin meant you’d have good fortune, and a ring ensured you’d be married within the next year!

Irish bakers usually still include the ring charm just for a bit of whimsy and as a nod to the old ways.

About the Ingredients

All ingredients needed for the recipe.
  • Black Tea (The dried fruits are steeped in tea for this recipe. The tea should be hot when added to the fruit. Irish Breakfast, English Breakfast, and plain black pekoe tea are good choices.)
  • Golden Raisins and Black Raisins (Golden raisins are also called sultanas. You’ll find them along with the regular black raisins in the grocery store. If you don’t care for raisins, you can substitute any dried fruit such as prunes, dates, or cherries.)
  • Cinnamon and Cloves (In Ireland, this recipe would call for “mixed spice” which is literally a mixture of warm spices such as cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg. If you have pumpkin pie spice on hand, it’s a good substitute.)

You’ll find detailed measurements for all ingredients in the printable version of the recipe at the bottom of this post.

How to Make Barmbrack (Tea Brack)

Let’s Go Step-by-Step

I always like to show you the photos and step-by-step instructions for my recipes to help you picture how to make them in your own kitchen. If you just want to print out a copy, you can skip to the bottom of the post where you’ll find the recipe card.

Raisins and tea in a mixing bowl.
STEP 1.

STEP 1. Place the raisins (or other dried fruit) in a bowl. Pour over the hot tea. Cover the bowl and let the fruit sit until plumped (at least 8 hours, preferably overnight).

STEP 2. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Liberally grease or butter a 9×5 loaf pan.

STEP 3. Drain the raisins reserving the liquid. Set both aside.

Dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
STEP 4.
Egg added to dry ingredients in bowl.
STEP 5.

STEP 4. In a large mixing bowl, add the sifted flour, salt, cinnamon, cloves, brown sugar, and baking powder. Whisk well.

STEP 5. Add the egg, stirring with a wooden spoon until the mixture is a crumbly texture.

Tea added to mixture in bowl.
STEP 6.
Raisins added to batter in mixing bowl.
STEP 7.

STEP 6. Add half of the reserved tea and mix well. Add more tea a little at a time until the mixture is the consistency of cake batter. (Note: you may not need all the tea.) 

STEP 7. Add the plumped raisins to the batter and stir well.

Batter added to a loaf pan.
STEP 8.
Finished loaf of barmbrack on a wooden board.
STEP 9.

STEP 8. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

STEP 9. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes. Turn the loaf out and let it cool completely on a wire rack. 

A slice of Irish barmbrack with butter spread on top.

Recipe Tips

  • Because there is no fat (other than the yolk of the egg) in the batter, it’s important to adequately prepare the pan to prevent sticking. In addition to a liberal application of shortening or butter, you may wish to also line the pan with parchment paper and a spritz of cooking spray.
  • Make sure that you’ve worked out any clumps in the brown sugar. Using a fork helps to break it up.
  • If the raisins have absorbed all the tea, simply brew a little extra so you’ll have enough for the batter. 
  • If you notice the top of the bread getting too dark, tent the loaf lightly with foil.
  • Substitute 2 tablespoons Irish whiskey for an equal amount of the tea.
  • Try a slice toasted and spread with butter for the most amazing “cinnamon raisin toast” you’ve ever had!

Storage

Barmbrack keeps well-wrapped at room temperature for about a week. Wrap well and freeze for up to 3 months.

A slice of Irish barmbrack with butter spread on top.

FAQs

Are barmbrack and tea brack the same thing?

Yes and no. Older barmbrack recipes contained yeast and produced a raised loaf. More modern recipes, such as this one, call for fruit steeped in tea. The two terms have become fairly interchangeable though some Irish cooks do differentiate the two.

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Recipe

A loaf of Irish barmbrack on a wooden cutting board.

Traditional Irish Barmbrack

Traditional Irish Barmbrack (or Tea Brack) is the perfect sweet ending for your St. Patrick's Day feast!
5 from 2 votes
Print It Rate It Save
Course: Breads, Desserts
Cuisine: Irish
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Resting time:: 8 hours
Total Time: 9 hours
Servings: 10 servings
Calories: 184kcal
Author: Lana Stuart

Ingredients

  • 2 cups hot brewed black tea
  • ¾ cup golden raisins (sultanas)
  • ¾ cup dark raisins
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour sifted
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • cup brown sugar
  • 1 large egg beaten

Instructions

  • Place the raisins (or other dried fruit) in a bowl. Pour over the hot tea. Cover the bowl and let the fruit sit until plumped (at least 8 hours, preferably overnight).
  • Preheat the oven to 325 F. Liberally grease or butter a 9×5 loaf pan.
  • Drain the raisins reserving the soaking liquid. Set both aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, add the sifted flour, salt, cinnamon, cloves, brown sugar, and baking powder. Whisk well.
  • Add the egg, stirring with a wooden spoon until the mixture is a crumbly texture.
  • Add half of the reserved tea and mix well. Add more tea a little at a time until the mixture is the consistency of cake batter. (Note: you may not need all the tea.) 
  • Add the plumped raisins to the batter and stir well.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
  • Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes. Turn the loaf out and let it cool completely on a wire rack.

Notes

Storage: Barmbrack keeps well-wrapped at room temperature for about a week. Wrap well and freeze for up to 3 months.
Recipe Tips:
  • Because there is no fat added to the batter, it’s important to adequately prepare the pan to prevent sticking. In addition to a liberal application of shortening or butter, you may wish to also line the pan with parchment paper and a spritz of cooking spray.
  • If you notice the top of the bread getting too dark, tent the loaf lightly with foil.
  • Make sure that you’ve worked out any clumps in the brown sugar. Using a fork helps to break it up.
  • If the raisins have absorbed all the tea, simply brew a little extra so you’ll have enough for the batter.

Nutrition Information

Serving: 1slice | Calories: 184kcal | Carbohydrates: 44g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 16mg | Sodium: 131mg | Potassium: 214mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 21g | Vitamin A: 24IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 28mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is calculated by software based on the ingredients in each recipe. It is an estimate only and is provided for informational purposes. You should consult your health care provider or a registered dietitian if precise nutrition calculations are needed for health reasons.

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