Home of Halloween – Barmbrack Recipe

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Caution is required at this time of year when biting into a slice of warm barmbrack. This traditional Halloween bread/cake could contain any number of items, ready to tell the future of the person lucky (or unlucky) enough to find something in their slice. You may find: a ring (married in a year); a stick (a walking stick indicating future travels); a thimble (a spinster forever); a button (a bachelor forever); a coin (a lifetime of wealth); and a piece of cloth (a lifetime of poverty). Years ago, religious medals could also be found in bracks, predicting a life in the Holy Orders.

For those of you unfamiliar with barmbrack, this recipe is a winner.



For the fruit mix:

  • 350g (1½ cups) sultanas
  • 50ml (¼ cup) Bushmills whiskey
  • Warm tea (enough to cover the sultanas)
  • 1 lemon, juice and zested skin


For the dough:

  • 450g (2 cups) strong bread flour
  • A pinch of salt
  • 15g (1tbsp) dried yeast
  • 280ml (9.5fl oz) milk, at room temperature
  • 50g (3½tbsp) butter, softened
  • 50g (3½tbsp) sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten


For the topping:

  • 1tbsp butter
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½tsp ground mixed spice



  • Soak the sultanas in the whiskey, warm tea and lemon juice for 30-45 minutes, then drain off the liquid.
  • To make the dough: put all the ingredients into a mixing bowl and bring together with a wooden spoon.
  • Knead on a floured surface with your hands for 5 minutes.
  • Put the dough in a bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and leave for about 1 hour, until the mixture has risen and fills the bowl.
  • Knead the dough again ona floured surface, adding the soaked fruit until evenly spread throughout.
  • Place in a 20-23cm buttered cake tin and cover with a damp tea towel.
  • Leave in a warm place for about 20 minutes until the mixture rises up to the top of the tin.
  • Bake for 50 minutes in oven preheated to 200C.
  • For the topping: cream the butter and spices together until soft.
  • Remove the barmbrack from the oven. Immediately spread spiced butter on top. Leave to cool.
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