Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Irish Tea Cake

There was an assumption that my paternal ancestors came from Ireland. No one knows where this information came from and I suppose when you looked at the family's dark hair and fair skin, you didn't really question it.

As a child I learned Irish dancing; we ate lots of potatoes and cabbage, drank a lot of tea and my father was a Socialist. So it came as quite a surprise when, years later I started to uncover the real family history. No trace of Irish anywhere! 

I've found a brief but unexplained encounter with King Charles II and the Holt Family of Aston Hall, but no Irish. So I'm a bit bemused to understand why I feel so at home when I visit the Emerald Isle.

Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland
But I have strayed a little from the topic of tea and teacake. I hope you will see where I am heading -  soon.

There's not one good reason to visit Ireland, there's many. Wonderful scenery, the greenest green countryside, a torturous history and the very friendly Irish themselves. 

Powis Castle, Ireland
Portballintrae, Northern Ireland

But if you are not able to visit, I have a suggestion. You can have a hint of the country by baking a Barmbrack, (Irish teacake) . This has been a family recipe for a very long time, although I must admit it's a fair time since I have cooked it. (And why my non-Irish family had this recipe is still a total mystery.)

I'm feeling a little homesick (for a country I don't come from) so I've rustled up some dried fruit and lots of cold tea and here is the result.



375g dried fruit - I use currants, sultanas, raisins, cranberries and peel

50ml whiskey*
250ml cold tea - I use Irish Breakfast Tea
225g Plain Flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 egg, beaten
100g soft brown sugar
3/4 tsp mixed spice
1 tablespoon of whiskey extra ( optional)

  • Soak dried fruit in whiskey and cold tea, overnight.
  • Preheat oven to 160/320ยบ. Grease and line a loaf tin (about 750g)
  • In a large bowl add sugar, plain flour, baking powder, mixed spice.
  • Using a wooden spoon mix beaten egg to the flour mixture. 
  • Now add any remaining liquid from the soaked fruit.
  • You need to have a reasonably wet looking batter. 
  • Now add the fruit and mix until everything is even.
  • Spread this into your prepared tin and bake for 30 - 50 minutes. 
  • Check with a skewer to see if it is cooked through, leave in the tin to cool slightly, then finish on a rack.
  • I added 1 tablespoon of whiskey to the base of the cake, then wrapped in foil for 2 days before slicing and eating. Delicious with a strong cup of tea and shared with friends.

Eat it as it is or slather it with butter, either way it's very Irish.

* In Ireland, whiskey is spelt with an 'e' but in Scotland it is spelt without.

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