This week called for something from home, Tea Cake or Brambrack as we call it in Ireland. Here in Como, the morning air is still fresh, so a cup of Irish Tea for breakfast with something not too sweet but full of flavour is what I wanted.
Mam used to make Brambrack for us for Halloween. I loved the smell of the fruit soaking in Tea and whiskey overnight, and the delicious aroma of it baking the next morning. hmmm sweet spicy cake lathered with irish butter and a cup of tea. Pure heaven!
Tea Cake or Brambrack Tradition
Halloween by tradition was the end of the Celtic Year, so this cake was made to also tell your fortune for the following year. My Mam used to hide a coin and a ring (pre wrapped in baking paper of course!) in the cake. Who ever got the slice with the ring in it would be the next to marry and who ever got the coin would see wealth come their way. There was also some Irish tradition about a stick I never understood, but mam never hid sticks in her cake so we were fine!
Today in Como I discovered a big container full of dried cranberries, raisins and some juicy prunes that no one was eating. At the same time my lovely friend Una Hennessy in Dublin had just posted a beautiful picture of her Brambrack. So it was time to bake one here in Como too.
This cake is somewhere between a bread and a cake, and I wasn’t sure about the lack of butter or oil, so I read around a few other recipes to double check other options. and found Donal Skehan’s very helpful. He does suggest using 125g of sugar in his batter, but I preferred Una’s idea not to add sugar as there is so much dried fruit in the recipe it is really not necessary.
So this recipe below is the version I used, perfect for lockdown cooking as is my Irish Soda Bread recipe. this tea cake only uses one egg and no butter or added sugar (apart from my touch to add a sprinkle to the crust before baking for extra crunkyness ), and while I like using the Tipo “1” flour , you really can use any plain flour that you have I the cupboard, although the more wholegrain the flour the more liquid it will soak up so if the batter seems a little too dry you can always add a dash more whiskey or water!
This Tea Cake is also a very handy way to use up any mixed dried fruit you may have in the cupboard. For any larger dried fruits such as Apricots or Prunes. Just made sure you remove any stones first and chop them up a little before soaking, so the pieces aren’t too large in the final cake. Enjoy!
Irish Tea Cake (Brambrack)
- 225 g Plain flour / Farina Tipo "1"
- 2 tsps Baking Powder
- 375 g Mixed Dried Fruit Raisins, Cranberries, Prunes, Apricots…
- 250 ml Cold Irish Tea Black Tea e.g. Breakfast or for an elegant touch Earl Grey or Lady Grey
- 50 ml Irish Whiskey
- 1 Egg
- 1/2 tsp Mixed Spice or Cinnamon
- 1 tbsp Brown Sugar to sprinkle on cake before baking
- Place the fruit mix in a bowl and pour over the whiskey and cold tea. Allow to soak up the liquid overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 170˚C/327°/Gas Mark 3 and grease and line a 900g loaf tin. Combine the flour, baking powder and mixed spice in a mixing bowl. Make a well and break in the egg, using a wooden spoon, mix the egg with the dry ingredients. Add all the fruit mix and liquid it is sitting in and stir through the fruit mix until everything is thoroughly combined.
- Spoon the wet dough into the lined loaf tin. Spinkle on top with the tablespoon of brown sugar and place in the oven on the middle shelf and bake for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before removing from the loaf tin and placing on wire rack.
- Once cool if you can resist and have time, cover in cling wrap and tin foil and allow to sit for 1-2 days before cutting into it. If you can't wait then Serve in slices spread with a Golden Irish butter and good cuppa!