Irish Hallowe’en Barmbrack (Báirín Breac)

Hello dear readers :) Yesterday I had a go at making the barmbrack that I had mentioned in my last post. I had intended to give it to the charity auction, but didn’t get the time to make it so I raffled off some lovely books instead. So, in the end my raisins were soaking in tea for 5 days! LOL! And here is how it turned out:

homemade irish barmbrack, yeasted barmbrack recipe, bairin breac

As you can see, I have not taken a bite yet, but it looks and smells like brack (in Ireland we just call it brack). In Ireland, it’s not quite hallowe’en without a cup of tea and a slice of buttered brack :)

Looking through lots of online recipes, it was actually quite hard to find one that isn’t like a fruit loaf or like a soda bread and one that is made with yeast because from my memory that is quite essential. My boyfriend commented that it also looks like a “real” brack. Supermarket-bought brack is more often made in a round shape, but my round cake tin is too big so I just baked it in my loaf tin.

The brack itself is an old hallowe’en custom, where different little objects (usually at least either a coin or a ring) are baked into the cake. Finding the ring foretold love or marraige for the finder in the coming year and the coin meant that the finder would have some luck financially. In keeping with the tradition, I baked a cleaned €2 coin, wrapped well in tinfoil into the cake :)

I’m not sure how old the custom is, but Hallowe’en is a pre-cristian (pagan) celtic harvest festival called “Samhain” (pronounced something like “Sah-win”) where it was thought that the spirit world was closest to the land of the living. “Samhain” is still the name for the month of November in the Irish and Scottish gaelic languages.

Ah, the squabbles that were had in our house when we were kids over finding the ring or the pound coin! I remember one year our mum baked different coins into the brack so as we all could find something :)

I adapted my recipe from this recipe but just made one loaf.

Ta da! Here is what it looks like when it's cut. The texture is not exactly like the shop-bought kind but it is still very tasty and soft.
Ta da! Here is what it looks like when it’s cut. The texture is not exactly like the shop-bought kind but it is still very tasty and soft.


To steep the fruit in for at least 1 day:

  • 150g raisins/sultanas
  • 1 mug of hot darjeeling tea (if i didn’t have darjeeling tea, I would just use regular Lyons or Barry’s tea or some kind of english breakfast tea or failing that any kind of black tea)

For the cake batter:

  • Just less than a mugful of milk.
  • 1pkg fast-action yeast (approx 7g). I used the Dr. Oetker brand because I find that the cheaper brands just didn’t work.
  • 1 egg
  • 45g sugar
  • 250g bread flour
  • 30g butter left at room temperature

To spice the steeped fruit before it goes in to be baked:

  • half a teaspoon cinnamon
  • quarter of a teaspoon of nutmeg
  • quarter of a teaspoon of salt
  • 6 chopped dried apricots (not traditional, but I didn’t have any candied peel)

For the Glaze:

  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon icing sugar (you can also use any kind of sugar)

You will also need a small amount of tinfoil to wrap your charms in, and some parchment paper and a little butter to line your cake tin with.


  1. Leave the hot tea to cool down, and then remove the teabag. Add the fruit to the tea in a small bowl and place into the fridge. I left mine for about 5 days- no joke!
  2. When you are about to start baking the brack, take the butter out of the fridge if it is in there and leave it to come down to room temperature.
  3. Heat the milk until it is just warm, (not hot because this damages the yeast).
  4. Crack the egg into a big baking bowl and mix it up a little bit.
  5. Add the warm milk to the yeast and the egg and mix it (I used my electric mixer).
  6. To this then add the softened butter and the sugar and sift in the flour. Mix this all again.
  7. Strain the steeped fruit, chop up the apricots if you are using those and add the salt and spices. Carefully add this to the mixture and only stir as much as is necessary to distribute the fruit through the mixture evenly.
  8. Get a clean teatowel and cover the bowl and leave it somewhere warm until it doubles in size. This took about 2 hours for me.
  9. Add another handful of flour to the mixture if it is very wet (mine was) and then transfer the mix carefully into the prepared cake tin with the parchment paper that has also been greased with butter.
  10. Cover this again with the clean teatowel and leave to rise another hour.
  11. Now it is ready to bake! Clean the metal ring or coin(s) and wrap them up in tinfoil. Push them into the risen cake mixture and warm the oven before putting the cake in on a low shelf at about 160 degrees centigrade (my fan-assisted oven is really powerful, so you may need to adjust the temperature with this in mind) and I left it for 45-50 minutes. I could smell it when it was ready and was aaaaaalmost on the overrdone side :)
  12. Then mix the glaze in a cup and pour on top of the hot cake and pop it back in the hot oven for 3 minutes for it to harden. Then leave to cool before enjoying with a cuppa.

Be sure to warn all the participants of your brack to be careful with their teeth because there are metal objects in it!

It apparently keeps very well in an airtight container, but if it goes a bit stale then it is delicious toasted with some butter on it :) I hope you enjoyed this little recipe. Please let me know if you try it! And happy Hallowe’en!


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