Irish Barmbrack Recipe

Last week I posted a blog about my not so successful Barmbrack recipe test with all the history behind it which you can read here. Not to be defeated and having made it successfully many times in the past I set about devising my own recipe. There are so many variations out there, interesting how there isn’t really a definitive recipe. Many use butter but in some it’s melted in others it’s rubbed into the flour, some use mixed spice while others use individual spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom), some use plain flour and others bread flour.

Having made a lot of these enriched breads in the past and eaten a lot ot Barmbracks in my time I decided to use my knowledge and instinct to come up with my own recipe. I have used quantities that I know work, ratio of dry to wet ingredients etc and this is what I came up with.


  • 450g Strong white bread flour
  • 30g Unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 30g Caster sugar
  • 150g Raisins
  • 50g Sultanas
  • 50g Mixed peel
  • 3/4 tsp Nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp Ground ginger
  • 300mls Whole milk
  • 2 tsp yeast (I use Doves yeast)
  • 1 tsp Caster sugar
  • 1 Egg, beaten



Put the flour and salt in a large bowl and rub in the butter until the mix looks like crumbs. Now add the dried fruit and spices and mix well. Some people will say that adding the fruit at this stage is wrong as it can affect the first rise but I find it a lot easier to add the fruit at this stage and I haven’t had problems with the rise. Adding them after the first rise is a messy business and sometimes means over working the dough.

Heat the milk until it is lukewarm and transfer to a bowl. Add a tsp of caster sugar and the yeast and leave for about 10 minutes until the yeast has created a foam on top of the milk.

Add the beaten egg and the milky yeast mixture to the dry ingredients. If you have a stand mixer, mix it using the dough hook for about 6 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic (this is a wet dough so don’t worry too much if it isn’t perfectly smooth). If not put the dough onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Clean the bowl, rub with a bit of groundnut oil and replace the kneaded dough in the bowl. Cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm place (not too warm as it will rise too quickly and effect the texture of the bread) until it has doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

Knock back the dough, shape into a ball and place it in your prepared tin (this will make a nice high 8 inch round brack but you can also use a loaf tin. My tins just need a light oiling and they are ready) and leave to rise until it reaches the top of the tin, about 1 hour. Brush the top with milk.

Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan) and bake for about 35 – 40 minutes. Check it at 30 minutes and if the top is browning too quickly cover with some tin foil until the end of the cooking. The top should be a lovely deep brown and when you tap the bottom it should sound hollow.

Ta da!
Ta da!

This is great eaten on the  same day with lots of butter and a cup of tea or coffee and subsequent days is yummy toasted with, you’re right,  lots of butter!


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Recipe Testing – Espresso Martini Cupcakes

Sorry for the gap in transmission, I have been dealing with website stuff and blogging got left behind in all the technical details. But fear not I have some baking tales to regale you with, some recipe testing.


I am a big fan of an Espresso Martini, the lovely mix of vodka, espresso, kahlua and creme de cacao is a treat for the taste buds. If I see it on a menu I find it very difficult not to order it! So what about a cake version? I had a look on the interweb and found a few recipes (of course) and then I decided to try to devise one myself.

The first thing was what to use? I decided not to use vodka in the is first attempt, not sure that it will add anything to the taste in a baked version. The main things I wanted were the kahlua, espresso and creme de cacao. I decided that the creme de cacao would be good in the icing rather than the cake. At the time of making I couldn’t get my hands on a bottle of Kahlua for love nor money so went for Tia Maria (both are coffee rum-based liqueurs). Next was format, cake or cupcake? Given the flavours this would work better as a smaller cake, a cupcake shot if you will.

Using a basic cupcake recipe (125g flour, butter and sugar, 2 eggs, 1 tsp baking powder) I then added 50mls each of Tia Maria and espresso. I also added some cocoa powder (20g), adding an extra dimension to the taste. I used the creaming method and ended with a fairly liquid batter. They cooked for about 15 minutes at 180C. I used the icing recipe from Nigella’s chocolate Guinness cake (cream cheese, icing sugar and double cream) and added the creme de cacao, it was about 2 tbsp to get the right flavour. I topped each cake with a coffee bean.


Tastewise: it was a lovely moist cake with a good hit of espresso and the cocoa powder added a nice mochaness to the taste. With the creme de cacao icing it worked quite well as an espresso martini. Next time I want to try it with vodka, take out the cocoa and use Kahlua so that it will be closer to the recipe for the cocktail. I think a chocolate covered coffee bean would work better as decoration too. But a good first attempt and I look forward to the next one!

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Posted in Cakes, Recipe

I Think I have My First Product!

This week has been odd, I guess because of the bank holiday weekend. I have managed to do some Cakes & Cardies work but have been distracted by keeping the house and generally having very little time. Not sure how I fitted everything in when I was working full time!

One of the things that I have started is the search for ingredients. This, of course, brings up lots of questions. Do I want to go organic? In fact, that is the only question really, well the only one that matters. Reading a how to start your own business book earlier this week one of the things that I got from it was differentiation, USP if you will. How to make Cakes & Cardies stand out from the crowd (apart from making delicious cakes, that goes without saying!)? One of those ways is to choose ingredients that stand out too, organic, local, handmade, ethical etc. Of course that way lies the expensive, i.e. expensive ingredients mean an expensive cake. Then the question arises are people willing to pay for that quality of ingredient? In the end I am faced with many questions coming from that one question, do I go organic? But more on ingredients later, the name of this post is not Ingredients is it?

While I am coming up with answers to all the above questions I am still baking and thinking about products. Some of the cakes will come from the customer, they may want a specific cake but if I am to tout myself around I will need products. A list of cakes that Cakes & Cardies produces. And as the blog post suggests, I think I have my first one.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog I went around to a friends house last Saturday for lunch. As I like to take every opportunity to bake I offered make something for afters, always selfless! My offer was accepted with the proviso that my friend paid for it (mates rates, natch). A sponge of some sort was requested.

As I know that a lemon cake is my friends favourite I remembered a sponge sandwich I had made a while ago using lemon curd as the flavouring so I decided to use that as a base and tinker with the flavours. I used a basic sponge mix (equal weight butter, sugar, flour and eggs) but to add lemon flavour I added the zest of a lemon when I was creaming the butter and sugar. Adding it at this stage rather than later helps release the lemonyness. As well as getting lemon into the sponge I wanted to get it into the filling too and what better way than adding lemon curd to the cream.

The last time I made this I used shop bought lemon curd but in my new guise as Cakes & Cardies that wasn’t acceptable, I had to make the lemon curd too. I used a Rachel Allen recipe from Rachel’s Favourite Food at Home that I have used before. The scary thing about making lemon curd is to heat it just enough to thicken it but not enough that you get scrambled egg, eggs being the thickening agent here! A lot of stirring and vigilance goes into it but it is worth it in the end, it tastes just like lemon curd should taste! But better because you have made it from scratch.

When the lemon curd had cooled and set I added about four tablespoons to some whipped double cream, tasting all the time to make sure the lemon came through enough. Into a piping bag with a star nozzle and I was ready to assemble. Once the cake had cooled completely I set the bottom layer on a cake board and spread it with a layer of the lemon curd, piped two thirds of the lemon curd cream on top and set the second sponge atop it. I piped lemon creamy swirls on top and dusted it with icing sugar. But there was something missing… it was Easter Saturday I thought I would Easter it up, pimp it, if you will. I happened to have some mini eggs in the cupboard (don’t ask!) so each swirl was topped with a mini egg. Last time I made it I used blueberries but you could also use candied lemon peel or anything else that suits the occasion.

I know that this isn’t innovative but it is a classic and the addition of homemade lemon curd adds that extra dimension of flavour. It went down well at the lunch, people even went back for seconds! I think I will use the zest of two lemons in the sponge the next time as the flavour was a bit too subtle. But I think that’s product number one, barring the odd tweak or two.



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Posted in Recipe