Barmbrack – Irish Sweet Bread

Barmbrack is a traditional Irish sweet bread, usually made for Halloween. Shortly called brack, it is a moist and delicious bread, filled with raisins and sultanas.

This is a great loaf cake to smear with Irish butter and serve with a cup of strong black tea in a good company.

After making Irish Soda Bread, Barmbrack was on my list. And after few tries the final recipe won’t disappoint you!

It is something between the bread and cake, but I designed it very moist and flavorful!

This tea brack is an easy recipe that you can make at home, without kneading or proofing! Barm brack is also made without yeast.

Barmbrack - Irish sweet bread, cut and served on the board

Halloween’s tradition – history of Barmbrack (in Gaeilge Bairin Breac)

The name of Barmbrack (also called brambeck or brack) comes from the Irish word bairín – a loaf – and breac – speckled. So it is speckled loaf, due to the raisin dots in the batter.

You can find a similar – Bara Brith bread in Welsh culture.

Halloween’s celebration in Ireland and Celtic culture takes it roots to an old Samhain festival.

It was a mark when people completed gathering of harvest.

It is believed that the souls of dead can visit their homes on Earth.

There was a tradition of leaving the food, such as piece of sweet Irish bread, for ghosts-visitors.

This was also the last day in Celtic calendar. It was marked 1st of November.

When Christianity was introduced to Ireland, this celebration was turned into All Saints’ Day (also known as All Hallows’ Day).

You can find this rich bread in loaf or round shape across the Ireland as a centerpiece on Irish Halloween table.

Every Irish family has its own recipe! Barmbrack is also sold commercially since 19th century.

You should also check our other Irish recipes like Colcannon and Irish Beef Stew that can be served for Halloween or St. Patrick’s Day dinner.

Holding a piece of Irish sweet bread with butter

Barmbrack ring and other surprises

It is believed that if you find in traditional Irish Barmbrack:

  • coin, you will be wealthy;
  • ring, you will marry within a year;
  • pea, you won’t marry that year;
  • bean, you will have fortune but not money;
  • stick, you will have unhappy marriage or disputes;
  • piece of cloth or rag, you will be poor.

I wish you find only coins and rings in the bread! It can be fun to share with your family and friends!

I would suggest skipping adding cloth and pea in your bread to leave everyone happy.

But those, who find the ring or coin will be more happy!

Not only they will have a piece of moist bread, but also fulfill their dreams of being reach and marrying the love of their life. How cute is that, right?

Try it this Barmbrack recipe on Halloween!

Don’t forget to clean your coin or ring and wrap it into baking paper, before adding to the batter in the loaf pan.

It is so cool to feed someone you love with a homemade bread and possibly make more fortunate!

What is barmbrack made of

This is a dairy-free version of barmbrack. It is made with simple ingredients that every Irish household already have in the pantry.

Ingredients for Irish Barmbrack: brown sugar, mixed spices, all-purpose flour, baking powder, eggs, lemon and orange, raising and sultanas soaked in black tea
Ingredients for Irish Barmbrack: brown sugar, mixed spices, all-purpose flour, baking powder, eggs, lemon and orange, raising and sultanas soaked in black tea

The dry ingredients are all-purpose flour, baking powder, brown sugar and spices.

You will need a teaspoon of mixed spice.

I used ground cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger (1/4 tsp of each spice).

Raisins and sultanas (golden raisins) are used in this speckled bread.

You will also need to brew a really strong black tea to soak the fruits overnight. English breakfast tea or Assam are great to use in this recipe!

You can also add dried cranberries and candied lemon, if you don’t have enough or don’t like raisins.

To add more flavor I used freshly zested orange and lemon peel.

You will also need two medium eggs to help the batter bind together. The bread will become richer and rise.

Whole Barmbrack on the wooden board

How to make Barmbrack

Start making the recipe at least one day ahead. You need to soak raisins and sultanas or golden raisins in strong black tea overnight.

To make black tea, use about 3 tablespoons of leaf tea per large pot (about 2 large cups or 500 ml) or 4 teabags.
Make sure your raisins are covered with tea, then cover with a cling film or plate.

Next day, mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl: flour, baking powder and spices.

Zest in 1/2 lemon and one orange to add more flavor.

Mix in soaked raisins and sultanas and add leftover tea.

If you are making this bread for adults, you can add a teaspoon of whiskey.

Mix in whisked medium eggs. Wet batter should have a pour-able, but not too runny consistency.

Batter for Barmbrack

Butter your loaf pan and layer the bottom with parchment paper. You can also bake it in the round shape pan.

Add batter to the loaf tin. You can insert ring or coin, cleaned and covered with baking paper.

Bake in the preheated oven to 170 C / 340 F about 90 minutes or until inserted skewer comes out clean.

Let it cool completely before transferring to the plate. It will take about an hour to be cooked through.

Slice and serve with butter and tea!

You can wrap and freeze your Barmbrack to eat it all year round.

Irish sweet bread

This moist Irish bread is sweetened with brown sugar, and the raisins add the sweetness too.

It is something between the bread and cake, but I designed it very moist and flavorful!

This loaf of bread set on the table will definitely get you into holiday spirit.

I think this sweet bread is similar to Christmas cakes like this Christmas Pudding Recipe.

Sliced Irish Barmbrack, served with butter

 

Other Halloween recipes:

Check also our post about roundup of 30+ Best Halloween Recipes (#29 will shock you). Follow our Halloween Pinterest board to find more Halloween treats to make.

Other easy no yeast bread recipes:

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And if you make this easy Irish sweet bread or one of our other recipes, tag us to let us know. We love to see what you are baking!

A slice of sweet Irish bread with raisins

Barmbrack - Irish Sweet Bread

Cooking Journey
5 from 5 votes
Barmbrack is a traditional Irish sweet bread, usually made for Halloween. Brack is a moist and delicious bread, filled with raisins.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 30 mins
Total Time 1 hr 50 mins
Course Breakfast
Cuisine Irish
Servings 10
Calories 354 kcal

Equipment

  • loaf pan or round cake pan
  • 2 big bowls for mixing and soaking
  • teapot
  • spatula and or whisk
  • cling film or plate to cover the bowl
  • parchment paper
  • Oven




Ingredients 

  • 160 g raisins seedless
  • 160 g sultanas golden raisins
  • 200 g brown sugar
  • 500 ml strong hot black tea brewed with 4 teabags or 3 tbsp leaf tea
  • 450 g all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 1 lemon for zesting
  • 1 orange for zesting



Instructions
 

  • Start the recipe the day before. Put raisins and sultanas in a heat-proof bowl. Pour hot tea over the raisins and sultanas.
    160 g raisins, 160 g sultanas, 500 ml strong hot black tea
    Start the recipe the day before. Put raisins and sultanas in a heat-proof bowl. Pour hot tea over the raisins and sultanas.
  • Cover the dried fruits with cling film or plate and leave overnight.
    Cover the dried fruits with cling film or plate and leave overnight.
  • Next day start by preheating the oven to 170 C / 340 F.
    Next day start by preheating the oven to 170 C / 340 F.
  • Mix all dry ingredients just until combined.
    200 g brown sugar, 450 g all-purpose flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground cloves, 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg, 1/4 tsp ground ginger
    Mix all dry ingredients just until combined.
  • Zest 1/2 lemon and orange in the flour mixture.
    1 lemon, 1 orange
    Zest 1/2 lemon and orange in the flour mixture.
  • Add soaked raisins and sultanas to the flour, mix until combined.
    Add soaked raisins and sultanas to the flour, mix until combined.
  • Add leftover tea from the soaked fruits. Mix with a spatula or spoon until well combined.
    Add leftover tea from the soaked fruits. Mix with a spatula or spoon until well combined.
  • Add eggs. Mix together.
    2 eggs
    Add eggs. Mix together.
  • Generously butter or spray the loaf pan and layer the bottom with parchment paper.
    Generously butter or spray the loaf pan and layer the bottom with parchment paper.
  • Pour batter into the loaf pan until the top.
    Pour batter into the loaf pan until the top.
  • Bake for 90 minutes until browned and inserted skewer comes out clean.
    Bake for 90 minutes until browned and inserted skewer comes out clean.



Notes

Start to make the bread the day before, to soak raisins.
You can wrap and freeze the loaf cake.
Nutritional value per WHOLE BREAD:
Nutritional value per slice (if it is cut in 10 slices):
Keyword dairy free, easy, loaf cake, no yeast, raisins, tea cake

10 thoughts on “Barmbrack – Irish Sweet Bread”

  1. 5 stars
    Thanks for sharing this lovely Irish tea brack recipe. Yours looks delicious, especially when slathered in good Irish butter. It’s perfect for Halloween and fall.

  2. 5 stars
    What a great recipe – YUM! I love that you don’t have to knead or proof the dough, and it was fun to learn that this is traditionally prepared as an autumn treat. Thanks for another winner!

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