Irish Tea Cake (Brack Irish Tea Bread) Recipe


Moist dense thinly-sliceable fruit cake.



Dried sultanas or mixed cake fruit 500 g
Boiling water 400 ml
Teabags approx 2 to 4
Moist brown sugar (preferably muscovado or darker) 200 g
Self raising flour 250 g
Egg (chicken) 1
Mixed cake spice 1/2 tsp


Oven. Kettle (or some other way of boiling water for making tea). Mixing bowl. Knife to mix with. Scales (or just estimate). Bread tin (about house-brick size). Baking paper (or reusable alternative).

Detailed Instructions

  1. Brew tea using 400 ml of boiling water and approx. 2 to 4 teabags (more or fewer to personal taste preference).
  2. Put the 500 g of dried fruit in the mixing bowl with the brewed tea (minus teabags).
  3. Leave to soak for a minimum of 2 h but preferably much longer, e.g. overnight or whilst out at work.
  4. Turn on the oven to warm up to 175°C (Gas Mark 4).
  5. Mix in the 200 g of sugar, the egg (shell removed) & the half tsp of mixed cake spice.
  6. Mix in the 250 g of self raising flour.
  7. Line the loaf tin with baking paper.
  8. Put the mix in the tin.
  9. Loosely cover with baking paper as a lid, allowing space for the cake to expand (unless one prefers a traditional burnt crust).
  10. Bake for about 1 h.
  11. Remove the baking paper lid (so that the top cooks into a crust).
  12. Continue cooking for about 30 min longer (it is ready when a skewer pushed into the centre of the cake does not come out with dough stuck on it).
  13. Remove the cake from the tin & allow it to cool.

Extra Moist Version

Use 600 ml of water for the tea instead of 400 ml. The result is moister than the traditional form, almost sloppy rather like very fruity bread pudding, can take an extra 30 min to adequately cook and is difficult to cut into neat slices (but quick shallow motions with a serrated bread knife work reasonably well) but is very succulent.

Vegan Version

Simply omit the egg. It works almost the same without the egg, especially in the extra moist version.



This recipe was passed down as a family recipe from my mother. She had copied it from her mother-in-law who in turn had obtained it from the church magazine of St. Mary at Stoke, Ipswich, in the 1950s. That is as far back as I have traced it. I knew it as 'Irish Tea Cake' as a child but the original name of the recipe was 'Brack Irish Tea Bread'. The generic name I've heard from friends is simply 'tea bread' or 'tea loaf' (not 'teacake' which is a type of bun to have with tea rather than a cake containing tea).

The ingredients were originally specified as 1 lb of mixed cake fruit, 2 cups of tea, 1 cup of brown sugar, 2 cups of self raising flour, 1 egg, 1/2 tsp mixed spice, and cooking for 2 hours at "a low heat". I converted it from cups to grams & ml because different countries have different ideas of what a typical 'cup' size is. I guessed that it meant a full level UK tea-cup and it worked so that is what I converted to the metric measurements above.

The extra moist version I made by accidentally putting in too much water when making it for a party in 2010. I took it anyway and was surprised to it produced many spontaneous favourable comments! I guess it was not traditionally that moist because it is not practical for either robust lunch box or neat cake tray.

The vegan version I invented for when taking cakes to an event with lots of vegetarians & vegans. My first experiment was simply with no egg prior to testing substitutes. To my surprise it worked fine with no egg & no substitute. I wonder why the traditional recipe included egg.

Covering it during part of the cooking to prevent burning the top I added because I found that most friends preferred it without the  charring. A substantial amount of charring on the top was common in the way I originally knew the cake.

The problems with greaseproof paper & with silicone rubber liners I found when my local supermarket changed its formulation of greaseproof paper from one that was just about non-stick enough to one which stuck fast to the cake. Previously I had wrongly, like many, treated "greaseproof" & "baking" papers as being synonymous and had simply used the cheapest (supermarket generic greaseproof). I then experimented with alternatives.