Halloween Barmbrack

There was always great excitement in our house at Halloween. Dressing up, bobbing for apples, snap apple, colcannon with prizes of coins but the piece de resistance for me was the Barmbrack. Mum always loaded it with coins, a ring and various charms which were used as part of a fortune telling game (I’ll explain their meaning later). It’s really surprising that we didn’t choke at some stage during Halloween dinner! Maybe that would have just added to the horror of Halloween. :O)

Anyway, Barmbrack is an Irish bread or cake made at Halloween (my husband is convinced that it is called Barnbrack!!), traditionally it is made with yeast to give it more of a bread texture however, this is the recipe that Mum made which is more like a cake and it sticks out in my mind as a tradiotional Halloween treat in our house.


  • 45og/1lb mixed fruit
  • Scant cup of tea (that’s a teacup not a mug)
  • 275g/10oz self raising flour
  • 150g/5oz brown sugar
  • 50g/20z butter – melted
  • 1 large egg or 2 small
  • 50g/2oz walnuts, chopped coarsely
  • 50g/2oz cherries (optional, I never put these in, not a lover of the glaced cherry)
  • Button, coin, cloth, ring, matchstick & thimble (optional choking hazard!)
Steep the mixed fruit and sugar in the tea and leave to soak overnight.

The next day prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Firstly, preheat the oven to 180c/350f/Gas 4, line a 20cm/8inch tin with parchment paper, round or square whatever shape you fancy. Melt the butter and stir into the fruit and tea mixture, followed by the chopped nuts. Sift the flour and beat the egg/s. Alternating each, gradually fold into the fruit mixture, ensuring that they are mixed in thoroughly.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared cake tin, if using the charms, wrap each one in a piece of parchment and sporadically insert into the wet cake mixture. Bake in the preheated oven for about 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes. However, check after 1 hour, do the skewer test to ensure that the cake is cooked, which is when the skewer comes out clean or with little moist crumbs attached. If there is any wet mixture on the skewer, the cake will need a few more minutes in the oven.

Now the meaning of the charms:

  • Button – Bachelorhood
  • Coin – Wealth
  • Cloth – Poverty, as in rags
  • Ring – Marriage
  • Matchstick – The husband will beat the wife!!
  • Thimble – Spinsterhood
I’m sure there are other charms but these are the ones that are familiar to me. If you know of any others, please do leave a comment as I would love to know.  My boys love this brack and the excitement around the charms and their meaning. They are already talking about what charms they want to get and the ones they definitely don’t want, i.e. the piece of cloth and the button!!  
This cake is great eaten warm or cold with a little bit of butter. Enjoy Rx
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4 Responses to Halloween Barmbrack

  1. Martina says:

    Looks fantastic. I’m definitely going to give this a go. Euan and Sadhbh will love it. Thanks for sharing the recipe 🙂

  2. Funny… I was just talking about how my irish soda bread recipe I tried last time was dry. Nice to have a new delicious looking recipe to try out!

  3. Pingback: Scary Fairy Cakes | Rhoda Kirwan

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