Irish Barmbrack (Bairín Breac) – the perfect Halloween teacake
It doesn’t happen that often that someone writes about me, but when Savour.ie did, I was truly over the moon: “It’s rather interesting to witness a passion for everything Irish when so many Irish people tend to face outwardly when searching for foodie inspiration. This is beginning to shift as more people discover the wonders of Irish food (and Irish produce) but for now, we can thank Tine for providing us with this fantastic recipe for Boxty (Traditional Irish Potato Cakes). Tine really knows how to make a tummy grumble and a heart swell with patriotic pride!”
It’s no secret that I have a deep love for Ireland and its language, culture, nature and people. Although a lot of people might think there isn’t much to discover in Ireland, when it comes to food, I’m still discovering more and more each day!
As today is Halloween I decided to make an old Irish Halloween tradition: Barmbrack (Bairín Breac)! It’s a moist teacake with loads of dried fruit inside. The fruit gives it a very sweet flavour but it’s also packed with great spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.
“Barmbrack is the centre of an Irish Halloween custom. The Halloween Brack traditionally contained various objects baked into the bread and was used as a sort of fortune-telling game. In the barmbrack were: a pea, a stick, a piece of cloth, a small coin (originally a silver sixpence) and a ring.
Each item carries a meaning to the person who finds it in their slice. The pea, the person would not marry that year. The stick meant they would have an unhappy marriage or continually be in disputes. Those who found the cloth or rag would have bad luck or be poor. The coin meant would enjoy good fortune or be rich. And the ring symbolised you would be wed within the year. Other articles added to the brack include a medallion, usually of the Virgin Mary to symbolise going into the priesthood or to the Nuns. Although this tradition is not widely continued in the present day.”
There are quite a lot of different recipes out there, some using baking powder and plain flour, others self-raising, some use caster sugar, brown or light brown sugar, a splash of whiskey, .. I’m not a huge fan of whiskey so I left it out and I’ve made my recipe both with a mix of brown & white sugar as well as only with light brown one. If you cannot find mixed spice in stores then you can also easily make your own. I described my mix below, just remember to only use one teaspoon.
As for the shape: I used a bundt cake this time but you can use any normal cake tin instead.
Now let’s get cooking and make sure to hide a ring in there to keep the tradition alive! One last thing to keep in mind though. You need to soak the fruit overnight so make sure to prepare the ingredients the day before.
|2 Irish Breakfast tea bags|
|750ml freshly boiled water|
|275g dried fruit mix|
|105g light brown sugar|
|1 large egg|
|225g self-raising flour|
|1tsp mixed spice To make your own Mixed Spice: 1 tablespoon ground allspice (I used whole allspice, crushed them first with a mortar and then blended them), 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg, 1 teaspoon ground cloves|
|Icing sugar to dust, a ring, a splash of whiskey|