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Honey and apricot brack

Sat, 26 February, 2022

When you’ve had enough of the ‘when is bread a cake?’ discussion, bake brack. It is as good as a cake but you can slice and butter it, and have it with cheese.

honey and apricot brack

What is brack?

Brack, or barmbrack (from Gaelic bairín breac meaning ‘speckled loaf’) is a loaf cake albeit not very sweet, with more dried fruit in it than there is crumb. ’Speckled’ is a serious understatement.

It is also the one and only teacake. Ignore the yeast-leavened raisin buns that the English call ‘teacakes’, disregard the weird marshmallow confections coated in chocolate that are the Scottish version of the thing, and even forget Yotam Ottolenghi’s interpretation. Brack is the true teacake. It’s made with tea.

I found Nigel Slater’s recipe in The Guardian and I was not quite sure what to expect. A cake with no fat in it whatsoever which isn’t a continental sponge is very rare. The amount of apricots and sultanas trumped even my dear late mother-in-law’s generous hand with fruit in a fruitcake and I wasn’t too sure about the tea.

honey apricot loaf

Versions of brack

More research showed me that there is also a yeasted version of brack, thus making it more like a proper loaf of bread. Many recipes instruct to soak the dried fruit in the tea for several hours.

Others use cider or whisky instead of tea, but who in their right mind would waste good whisky by putting it into a cake? Certainly not anyone Irish, so I decided to stick with tea, and I liked Nigel’s bish-bash-no-soaking approach.

I’ve seen brack being called ‘Irish panettone’ when made with yeast but that is taking it a little too far in my view. Panettone is light, fluffy, sourdough-raised and laboriously fashioned. Brack, however delightful, is to it like homebrew to champagne, with no disrespect to dedicated and skilful amateur beer-makers.

irish barmbrack with apricots

What does brack taste like?

Apart from being one and only true teacake, brack also genuinely deserves to be called ‘bread’ instead of cake, as it can be happily sliced, buttered and eaten with a chunk of cheese. Eat your heart out, banana bread!

It is dense, obviously, what with all those apricots and raisins, but not stodgy as there is no fat in it. It is the perfect article for breakfast, even for people who shudder when hearing about cake for breakfast.

It is even more gorgeous lightly toasted, should you let it sit and get dry for long enough.

honey and apricot irish brack


I’ve expressed my opinion above regarding the choice of liquid used in brack, but feel free to experiment with whisky for a boozy bread, Earl Grey for a posh one or just water if you prefer things plain.

Nigel certainly likes his apricots and I do too, but if raisins and currants are more your thing (or it’s what you have in the cupboard), replace apricots and raisins with those or something else again: figs, prunes, apples. As long as the loaf is stuffed with the 300g of fruit, you can’t go wrong.

Walnuts can be swapped for different nuts or almonds. And if you like, add some glace cherries and/or candied citrus peel, for a spot of indulgence.

barmbrack with apricots and sultanas

More cake-or-bread recipes

The classic example already mentioned is banana bread, come into its own during the first lockdowns when everyone was baking it.

Pumpkin bread, spiced with cinnamon and cloves, with walnuts and cranberries, is more cakey than bready in my opinion but I’m happy to have it for breakfast.

Likewise, coconut loaf: super easy, quick to make and very tasty, made with shredded coconut flakes.

More dried fruit recipes

Christmas fruitcake, my version: no heavy icing, no marzipan layer, only delicious sponge batter and lots of mixed chopped fruit.

This cake is chocolate flavoured and it has a topping made from mixed dried fruit salad: midnight cake with fruit salad.

Homemade oatmeal and dried fruit bars are perfect for breakfast or as a mid-morning snack when it's just a bit too early for lunch.

dried apricots

Honey and apricot brack

Servings: 12Time: 1 hour 20 minutes


  • 150g (½ cup) thick honey
  • 100g (½ cup) light muscovado sugar
  • 250g (2 cups plus 1 tbsp.) plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • a pinch salt
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 50g (¾ cups) rolled oats
  • 150g (scant cup) dried apricots
  • 50g (½ cup) walnuts
  • 150g (scant cup) golden sultanas
  • 125ml (½ cup) black tea
  • 2 eggs


1. Butter and line with parchment a pound loaf tin. preheat the oven to 160C no fan/300F/gas 3.

2. Gently warm the honey and sugar in a small saucepan until the sugar dissolves.

melting brack base

3. In a large bowl stir the flour, baking powder, salt, ginger and rolled oats.

4. Finely chop the apricots, roughly chop the walnuts. Stir into the flour mix together with the sultanas.

5. Beat the eggs lightly with a fork in a small bowl.

mixing brack dough

6. Add the honey mixture to the flour, followed by the tea and the eggs. Stir with a spatula until combined.

7. Spoon the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 1 hour – 1 hour 10 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

how to make brack

8. Cool completely in the tin. The cake is better on the following day, thickly sliced and buttered.

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Your comments

Anna @ CuisineFiend
Hi Kat - thank you! Yes I mean set, solid honey so it's easier to weigh it than measure volume.
3 years ago
This sounds lovely! What do you mean by thick honey though? Is solid heather honey too thick?
3 years ago

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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