Fruity Tea Loaf (Barm Brack)

This traditional Irish fruit cake, or Barm Brack as it’s called, is typically eaten at Halloween. It was a year round favourite when I was growing up though and I also tend to make it at any time of the year when the fancy takes me. Funnily enough I’m not a big fan of dried fruit and even pick the raisins out of my muesli. However, for some reason when it comes to a good fruit cake, it’s another story – I love it. Tradition has it in Ireland that at Halloween a ring (or another fortune-telling object) is baked in the Barm Brack, and superstition has it that the person who finds the ring will be married within the year. In this house it was my husband who got the ring this time. I’m not sure what the significance of that is! Nevertheless, I think it beats the more callous tradition of baking a stick in the cake – to beat your wife with – which forewarns of an unhappy marriage.

Anyway, I have to say that this cake is very easy to make, tastes fantastic and is enjoyed by young and old in this family :)

Makes 1 large loaf and 1 small

450g raisins
450g sultanas*
450g soft brown sugar
425ml freshly brewed tea
450g flour
3 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon powder
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cloves
3 tablespoons warm honey to glaze

* you can adjust the fruit ratio as you wish. In fact in the version I baked this Halloween I used 830g raisins and 70g dried blueberries and it worked a treat.

Put the fruit and sugar in a bowl and pour in the tea. Cover and leave to soak overnight.

Heat the oven to 160° C

Butter 1 large loaf tin and 1 smaller one and dust them with some flour. Add the flour and the beaten eggs alternately to the fruit & tea mixture. Next, add the baking powder and the spices and mix. Pop the ring in (I usually wrap it in baking parchment for easy identification) if using. Pour the batter into the prepared tins and place in the oven for 1¼ to 1½ hours. (Test with a skewer to make sure the cake is cooked though).

Allow the loaves to cool slightly before turning them onto a cooling rack. When cold, brush the warmed honey over the top of the cakes and allow it to set.

Serve in slices with plenty of lovely butter.


  1. Duncan
    Posted October 31, 2010 at 4:47 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Hi Kerry. Looks great. The trees are on fire everywhere at the moment. Beautiful time of year.

  2. Posted October 31, 2010 at 5:13 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I know! That’s why I just had to sneak them in there ;-) I guess it just takes one windy day now though to spoil it all…

  3. Posted November 1, 2010 at 6:56 am | Permalink | Reply

    My Mum used to make this sometimes! My family aren’t so much into fruit cakes though, so not sure I should bake it or I’ll end up eating it all myself…..

    • Posted November 1, 2010 at 9:50 am | Permalink | Reply

      I’m actually really surprised that mine all love this. I think it’s because it’s very moist (and sweet ;-) I have an extra one I’m considering giving to the scouts for their bake sale this weekend. I have a fear though that they might think it’s a bit weird and it won’t sell!

  4. Posted November 1, 2010 at 7:14 am | Permalink | Reply

    Delicious cake. I think the significance of me finding the ring is that it’s our wedding anniversary today. Happy anniversary, Mrs. Foody Two Shoes :-)

  5. Sarah
    Posted November 1, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Hello – good recipe; I think I might make that for my visitors this weekend. BTW I am fascinated by the brack-lore. I don’t think I have ever heard the one about the stick before!

    • Posted November 1, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Good call.

      No, for some reason mother never introduced the stick to us…

  6. Posted November 25, 2010 at 5:29 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Happy to have found your blog! This loaf reminds me a lot of Stollen – a German christmas bread. Usually hate raisins in baked goods, but breads like the one above naturally call for raisins, and with butter slathered generously all over it you can’t go wrong…yum, must make it soon…

    • Posted November 26, 2010 at 10:12 am | Permalink | Reply

      Thanks, Scarlett. I’m not a big fan of raisins in baked goods, or in anything for that matter, except for in a good fruit cake. Strange that. I’m glad you dropped by my blog :)

  7. brown diamond
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 8:02 am | Permalink | Reply

    Fantastic information on Fruity Tea Loaf (Barm Brack) « Foody Two Shoes. Precisely what I was searching for! We’ll be following your webpage for updates.

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