Ireland’s deep-dark secret: tea brack

I know, I know, this looks like – gulp – fruitcake.

Not only that, it has – double-gulp – DATES in it.

Are you still with me?

Thank you! You wouldn’t believe the moaning and groaning and eye-rolling that goes on around here whenever I make something with dates or raisins or currants or any of those other “icky dried fruits.”

Like prunes – which this bread includes as well.

Are you STILL with me?

Then you’re in for a treat. Irish Tea Brack is reminiscent of banana bread in its moist, dense texture. But its taste (and deep mahogany color) relies heavily on its fruits: the aforementioned raisins, currants, dates, and prunes.

And whiskey, if you’re so inclined. Hey, you have to soften the fruits in SOMETHING, right? The original recipe calls for a thorough soak in hot brewed tea; but a few tablespoons of harder stuff is never amiss.

Wednesday is St. Patrick’s Day; it’s time to throw off winter’s cold shackles and celebrate warmer weather ahead. But while we’re waiting for spring to arrive, there’s still time to cozy up in an overstuffed armchair with a cup of tea, a good book, and a slice of brack.

And where does the “brack” in this recipe name come from? It’s an Anglicized version of Breac, the Gaelic word for “speckled” – which perfectly describes the look of this fruit-filled bread.


Traditional Irish-style wholemeal flour (left) is coarsely milled from red whole wheat. White whole wheat flour (right) is more finely ground, though it still retains a gently speckled appearance from the bran. I decided to try both types of flour in this recipe, to see the difference in the final product.


Between the whole wheat flour and the various fruits, the color theme here is definitely BROWN. Measure out the following:

1 cup raisins, packed
1/2 cup currants, packed
1 cup pitted prunes, snipped into small pieces
1 cup chopped dates


Place the fruit in a heatproof bowl.

Brew 1 cup of strong, hot tea. Irish breakfast tea is a good choice; but of course, use whatever type of tea you like. You absolutely have my permission to use green tea, white tea, jasmine, Celestial Seasonings Sleepy Time… whatever’s your favorite. Mind you, anything beyond black tea is untraditional for this bread, but as I always say – the Baking Police have left the building.


Pour the tea over the fruit, stirring to combine. Set the mixture aside to cool to lukewarm, uncovered; it’ll take about 1 hour to cool.


Here it is, an hour later; notice how the fruit has softened, and the mixture has thickened.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease an 8” round cake pan. The pan must be at least 2” deep; measure to be sure.


Stir together the following:

1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 cups Irish-Style Wholemeal Flour or King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt


Add the dried fruit, and any remaining liquid.


Stir till thoroughly combined; the batter will be thick and stiff.

Add 1 large egg.


Mix till thoroughly combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and mix again.


Spread the mixture into the prepared pan, patting it right to the edges. Do as I say, not as I do!


So I thought I’d make two of these breads side by side: Irish-style flour on the left, white whole wheat on the right. You can see that the white wheat is just slightly lighter in color.


Sprinkle the top of the loaf heavily with coarse white sparkling sugar. For those of you uncomfortable with throwing all caution to the winds, I actually measured how much I used: 2 1/2 tablespoons.


See? Be generous. This coarse sparkling sugar is both tasty, and pretty.


We’ve got about 1/2” clearance here; that should be sufficient to accommodate the rising loaf.


Bake the bread for 60 to 70 minutes, till a cake tester inserted in the center comes out moist, but without clinging crumbs.


This is why you need a pan that’s at least 2” deep!


Remove the bread from the oven, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool. Don’t slice till it’s lukewarm, at least; and it’s actually better to wait till it’s cool, to prevent gumminess.


Irish wholemeal flour on the left; white whole wheat on the right. The white wheat loaf is slightly lighter in color, and rose slightly higher.


But it’s all good, eh?

Brew a pot of tea; pick James Joyce’s “Ulysses” off the shelf; snuggle into your comfiest chair, and settle in for a virtual trip to Ireland, ca. 1904. Smackwarm, indeed!

Read, rate, and review (please) our recipe for Tea Brack.

PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!


  1. christina

    It’s in the oven now. I have no idea what possessed me except an overwhelming desire to use up some prunes I had from another recipe. I’ll let you know how it comes out and thanks for the sudden baking inspiration!

  2. sugar plum

    Oh dear this sounds jus like a recipe im looking for…oh i love the idea of dates…am all with u sweets…
    cheers and happy sunday and st.Patricks day too….

  3. cindy leigh

    Looks great! And I love all those dried fruits. If using white whole wheat, maybe a couple to Tbsps of bran could be added to make it more like the original Irish whole-meal flour ? (or what else- I’ve got wheat bran, wheat germ, cracked wheat, etc)
    Am I missing something, or is the yolk the only fat?
    Earl Grey is my favorite tea, I wonder how that distinctive taste might work out.
    This seems like something I could use on my Healthy Eating Plan (hate the D word!)- whole grains, fruit, low fat, not too much sugar. You are right the egg yolk is the only fat. The wonderful dark fruits are what gives it it’s “fat” mouth feel. I think Earl Gray would work well. You could add a bit more bran if you wished, but may need to increase the liquid slightly. Play with it . Have fun! Mary@ KAF

  4. cindy leigh

    On second reading, it kind of reminds me of a recipe I have for Boston Brown Bread- baked in a large vegetable can. B&M makes the (canned) original. My recipe uses whole wheat, non fat yogurt, raisins, and molasses. Delicious and healthy. Great with low fat cream cheese.

  5. Nora

    Looks great! I love fruitcake, and I’m on a mission to convert all the naysayers. I’ll definitely give this a try this week. By the way, I made the pistachio pound cake from the most recent Baking Sheet..delicious! I can’t believe I’ve survived this long without pistachio paste. I could eat it straight from the can!

  6. AJ

    Faith and begorra! This looks and sounds tops…give me a
    choice between a date and a chocolate chip…I’ll pick the date every time!

    Aye, and I can see by your name, AJ, that you’ve a touch of the Emerald Isle in you – Happy St. Pat’s, from someone whose grandfather came from Donegal- 🙂 PJH

  7. HMB

    No eye-rolling in this house! I love the icky-sticky stuff myself. This tea brack looks scrumptious. And with all the dried fruit and whole grain this has got to be loaded with fiber — so there are some health benefits to this indulgence!

  8. Lish

    Dates and prunes are among my children’s favorites foods. I think I will have to make this so we can have it for dessert on Wednesday. I bought the wholemeal flour recently to make Irish brown bread, to go with the corned beef and cabbage, and I loved it, so I will be using that. Thanks for a great idea, and so well timed with the holiday. I am thinking a little smear of cream cheese on this would be a great breakfast treat!

  9. Julie

    Yum! I’ll definitely make this soon with whiskey and walnuts added. And substitute Yeats for the Joyce. 😉 Thanks for a great-looking recipe! Happy St. Paddy’s!

  10. JuliaJ

    I have some of KA’s Favorite Fruit Blend leftover from the holidays. This recipe is a perfect opportunity to finish it up. Looks like about 18 ounces of “add-ins”?? Maybe I’ll supplement with some nuts…

  11. Marianna

    I am a big fan of date nut bread. How does this compare in taste and texture other than the obvious lack of nuts? I will be cooking up a storm this week to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and since I have most of these ingredients in the house already, I will give it a try and let you know what we think. Erin Go Bragh!

    Erin go bragh indeed, Marianna. I’d say it’s not as sweet as date-nut bread, with more complex flavor from the tea and variety of fruits. And every bit as moist. Enjoy – PJH

  12. Allan

    No frosting, no bright colors, no stuck on sugar decorations. Its a real adult dessert. Not sure I’d use the whiskey soak but it looks like the kind of cake we used to have with a hot whiskey on a cold night. This gets made this week as soon as I get the dried fruits. Happy St. Pats day to all.

    And I have to add… pistachio pound cake…pistachio paste…wow that sounds good.

  13. Cathy in MD

    This looks like just the thing to bake Tuesday night to take into work for St. Patrick’s Day. It should be great with coffee. We’ll see how many people complain about the dried fruit. 🙂

  14. Jennifer

    Of course you put up this recipe after I have ordered AND received my goodies from you. I guess I’m going to have to start a new shopping list for next month. I figure I’ll need a new bag of cocoa powder by then. But I will try it with the Whole White Wheat flour first. And I have friends over on Weds.

  15. KathiD

    This looks GOOD! The only fruitcake I ever liked was the one my mom made, and this reminds me of it. She used raisins and nuts and I’m not sure what else, but it’s more about what she didn’t use–those yukky cherries and pineapple and mystery fruit. It was more like a nutty, fruity, spice cake than the wet, gloppy, heavy ones I’ve seen.

  16. Luanne

    What about a gluten-free version?
    We haven’t developed one for this recipe. You’ll have to experiment but try using our gluten free baking blend plus a scant ½ teaspoon of xanthan gum per cup of GF flour. Xanthan gum is the “glue” that steps in for gluten, holding baked goods together. Use a mixer to thoroughly beat the dough, which adds air to the batter, producing a lighter-textured baked good. Let us know how it comes out. Molly @ KAF

  17. Beth

    Thanks, PJ. I tried to post a comment yesterday afternoon, but it must not have gone through. I made 2 different kinds of tea brack last week; the first I soaked a combo of dried peaches, apricots and plums (we Southern belles are too delicate to have the word “prunes” pass our lips), soaked almost 24 hours in Irish Breakfast Tea. Yummy. The other recipe called to soak the dried fruits in an almost equal mixture of Irish tea and Irish whiskey, also at least 12 hours. Both recipes came out great, were very moist, and probably taste like a great fruitcake ought to taste. I was amazed at how all that liquid could be absorbed. Everyone ought to try tea brack.

  18. Tonia

    Oooh! I have all the ingredients for this; think will make this tuesday night to have on wednesday while I work at the bookstore listening to Celtic music drinking my Irish breakfast tea!

  19. Suzanna

    Out of my best dates so haven’t tried it yet but what is wrong (icky) about sticky sweet things like dates and raisins?

    You got me, Suzanna, I love them – but many people don’t. I tried sticky toffee pudding once, and people were just giving me the big EWWWWW…. PJH

  20. EmpressQueenB

    This came out great. So great in fact, my dog got into it last night and finished it off! It was sooo disappointing to come down this morning, happily thinking about toasting a slice to have with tea only to find it gone.

  21. Pogria

    What a terrific recipe. I’m going to make it with Earl Grey tea.

    Are you going to give the yeast version, Barm Brack, a try?

    It is gorgeous.

    No barm brack this year, Pogria – thought I’d start with an easier version and move up! PJH

  22. Bridget Molinari

    Ireland’s deep dark secret: tea brack ~ just caugt my eye! play by play pictorials & receipe are great. I have King Arthur Flour, just need a few other ingredients and our Indiana family will be enjoying this new receipe on St. Paddy’s Day. First time on King Arthur website, this is now on my favorites. Enjoyed Nat’l Maple Syrup Festival and Sweet Victory Challenge sponsored by King Arthur ~ I will no longer use any other brand, there is a difference. I recently used King Arthur Flour to make a dessert using King Arthur Flour and pure maple syrup …there is a difference. The sweet victory challenge was grand to watch with all the celebrity chef’s and guest judges!

  23. Maureen

    Oh, my, but it smells good in the house now! I added a couple of splashes of Kentucky bourbon (lacking any Irish whiskey in the cupboard) along with the black tea. If the batter is any indication (the baker has to lick the spoon, right?!), this will be the hit of the Saint Patrick’s festivities.

    My Irish grandmother would be proud; I haven’t made anything other than scones and soda bread for ages, and this looks much more authentic. Those sticky fruits are favorites in our family. Thanks for a delicious and traditional Irish treat!

  24. Veggie Virginia

    I have some Graham flour, would that be similar to the wholemeal flour?
    HI VV,
    Unfortunately the Graham flour is low in protein so it won’t add much to the structure. It’s best to stick with the wholemeal for this one. ~ MaryJane

  25. Carol

    Baked this yesterday for St. Paddy’s. I baked in 2 small bake-and-give pans and 2 mini loaf pans. To Veggie Virginia: The recipe in KA Baker’s Companion lists graham flour as the first option followed by a combination of white whole wheat and whole wheat pastry, so I think it would work fine.

  26. kathy

    I baked a gluten free version of this today. First let me caution you to not use too much liquid. As always, if the batter is too wet, it makes the final product sticky (which is what I did today). I also think that baking it in two smaller pans would help the center-stickiness issue.
    The flour mix that I used is based on the KAF mix, but I did not want to wait for it by ordering it for this. I used sorghum flour in place of 1/3 of the brown rice flour and used 1 Tablespoon of flaxseed in place of the mix when measuring the total amount for the cake. I also added 2 Tablespoons of xanthan gum.
    The taste is very good, even if the texture is not perfect. I will make it again with the modifications that I mentioned.

  27. Lish

    This was absolutely delicious. My near 2 year old and near 3 year old have eaten most of the loaf. They keep asking for the fruity tea bread. A treat I don’t feel bad about giving them is wonderful. I think I will be making this frequently. The fruits are so sweet tasty and tender. I even used brown sugar splenda blend and it was fantastic. Don’t hesitate to try this!

  28. Marianne

    I baked this in 2 loaf pans, thinking to give one away. Instead, I decided to horde it all for myself and just pulled the second one out of the freezer today. I soaked my fruits in spicy orange herbal tea.

  29. sugar plum

    I tried this one and KAF ,u rock guys….i has to sub a few ingredients and tried it with fruity green teas….way way way good….
    My pics are here:-)))

    infact tried the chocolate beer cake too,both the cakes were super and even with a mistake they were real good…thats how super ur recipes are and totally fool proof….

    And with absolutely no fat…i doubled the dates coz no prunes and this was delicious n moist….guess its the soaked fruits that make it so so good-like a really good fruit cake …thank u MARY JANe

  30. carole

    hi is the flour you use bread flour or self raising.i live in england and am not familiar with american flours.thankyou,carole

    Neither, Carole – I think our all-purpose is what you call “plain flour.” No leavening, and lower protein than bread flour. Thanks for connecting here. 🙂 PJH

  31. AF

    Hey, as an Irish girl, I can tell you a few things about Brack. We always have it at Halloween and it’s tradition to put a ring in the mixture and there’s always great competition to find it. It’s perfect with some proper butter on a slice. Yum.

  32. Lauren

    These kinds of recipes usually lend themselves splendidly to gluten-free adaptations. My husband is Celiac so I think I might try it as this looks SOOOO yummy. The substitution would work well (i think) with 1 cup brown rice flour, half a cup of tapioca starch, half a cup of soy flour and 2 tsp of guar gum/xanthan gum. A couple of tablespoons of flax meal would give it that whole-wheatiness. Of course, i’m not sure if it’ll turn out but i’m going to give it try.
    Let us know how this works for you. We are still new in the gluten free area of baking so it is wonderful for those of you who have been baking gluten free to share with us. JMD @KAF

  33. Mary

    Happy to see the folks at KA drink fair trade tea from Equal Exchange!

    Indeed, Mary – we try to “do the right thing” on multiple levels… Thanks for noticing! PJH

  34. Blessed Herbs

    Thanks for sharing your recipe! I would really try this at home. Pretty excited to make this one and share it with the family. Maybe add some brandy and nuts to add to the taste.

    This indeed is a healthy food and is a good treat for everyone on Christmas. I would also share this recipe to my friends and ask them to give their comments or even visit your page to know more.

    All the best!

  35. dixiegrassl

    I made this delicious bread near St Paddy’s day and loved it.
    Cream cheese is a natural spread for it.
    Put it on my “to do ” list for Christmas holiday. Problem being it turned out dry. I used regular flour the second time around. Could that make it seem dry?

    Not sure what you mean by “regular” flour – white flour? If so, that shouldn’t have made the difference in and of itself. But it’s probably that we’re in the heart of winter, and everything is drier – including flour. I’d say add 2 additional tablespoons tea, and be sure you don’t over-bake; that should help. PJH

  36. Eileen

    We grew up on tea brack but always called it mom’s raisin cake, but knowing it was her mother’s recipe (Roscommon). It wasn’t until June when I was in Ireland that I saw it for the first time there and learned its real name. We always made it with coffee, but I started to make it with the brewed Irish tea.
    Everyone loves it!

  37. Lisa

    Not that it’s needed but I made some date jam to go with it and WOW. 1 pkg (8oz) pitted chopped dates, 1/2c water, 2T almond extract or Amaretto. Put into sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Simmer 2 min. Let cool down and puree. Is so good on everything. Even meat.

  38. Lynn

    Oh ny happiness! SOOOO good!
    But how I wish you would put the nutrition info with your recipes (even if we had to click on a link to get it.)

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      We wish that, too, Lynn – we simply haven’t had the personnel to accomplish that, what with all of our proprietary ingredients. That said, we ARE working on a solution. Thanks for your feedback – PJH

  39. Linda

    I won’t use the recipe reviews area to reiterate my wish that you would get back to allowing weights AND measures on the recipe printout at the same time (as is done in The Baking Sheet recipes). It makes me less likely to share the KAF recipes (not to mention for myself too!). Not everyone bakes by weight like I do and sharing any recipe with a measuring baker requires format, copy, format then add the measurement to get a copy that can be handed to any baker. Since The Baking Sheet does this all the time it seems odd that the website cannot do the same. Thanks for listening.

    1. The Baker's Hotline


      We always appreciate hearing from loyal customers and bakers like yourself to help move our company forward. I have passed your feedback forward to the Web Support team who will consider this as they work to improve our website in the future. Thanks for sharing your thought and happy baking to you! –Kye@KAF

  40. Kay

    Just curious – how do you pronounce “brack”? Is the -ack prounounced like the last three letters in “jack” or in “sock”? Seems like a nice Irish name would go with the -ock sound. I want to sound authentic when I bake it and share with friends! Can’t wait to try this – looks like something we’d love!

  41. omaria

    Wonderful recipe ! I made this last week, with dried apples (from my tree) raisins (dried grapes from my vines) dried apricots ( from my tree) and prunes (Store bought .LOL) The flavor was good and became better with age. Just left it out on the counter covered in saran wrap and it lasted the whole week. Will make another one soon to freeze and take with us on a little trip we are planning.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      How wonderful to be able to add so many homegrown ingredients to this recipe. Your Tea Brack must taste extra delicious! Barb@KAF

  42. Dell Everaert

    I just have a question on the bread. How come the sodium content is so high? Would
    like to make it except for that fact.
    Thank you.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      One half teaspoon is in the recipe for balancing the flavors. Reduce or remove as you wish! Happy baking! Laurie@KAF

    2. The Baker's Hotline

      Dell, we’ve looked into this a little further and the 851mg. of sodium as listed in the nutritional information in the recipe is incorrect. We’re working on updating this error; the sodium is approximately 170 mg. of sodium if made according to the recipe. Happy baking! –Kye@KAF

  43. Connie

    Delicious! I had to substitute craisins and figs for the dates and prunes, and I used Turbinado sugar on the top but it was excellent! Will definitely be making this again. Thanks K. A. F. ! It’s too long of a wait for Christmas fruitcake.

  44. Monica

    I didn’t make this bread for St. Patrick’s Day, made the American Irish Soda bread instead, which was delicious, but I thought I’d give this one a try since I love all those sticky fruits. In reading all the blog comments, I noticed the one from Dell Everaert concerning the sodium content of this bread. If you add up the sodium mgs. for all the sodium containing ingredients in this recipe, you will still not come anywhere near the 821mg. per serving that’s listed in the recipe. I calculated approximately 175mg. per serving if a supermarket brand of baking powder like Davis or Calumet is used. If you use Bakewell Cream Baking Powder, which is extremely low in sodium and works fabulously, I calculate the sodium per slice to be about 85mg. Anyway, I’ m looking forward to trying this recipe out, prunes and all!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Monica–you’re right, the 821 mg. of sodium is an error (which will soon be corrected on in the recipe’s nutrition info). This recipe has approximately 170mg. of sodium in it. Made with Bakewell Cream or as is in the recipe, it is a fabulously moist and tasty treat to accompany your afternoon cup of tea. Happy baking!

  45. Monica

    Wow! Thanks for getting right on that! I’m sure some folks who need to be on low sodium diets will feel much better about trying this recipe out. I just love how responsive you guys are!

  46. laura

    After eating and then making sticky toffee pudding, and never having tried dates before that..I’m open to a yummy sounding recipe involving them!!!

  47. dfcootz

    You guys rock!!!
    I have baked since I was knee-high to a grasshopper…with my mother, step-mother, grandmother, and step-grandmother and thought I knew a lot. Hah! KAF has continually increased my knowledge ,
    Every time I read this blog, I am enlightened in a new area.
    Thank you and all of your happy bakers for their wise and helpful comments!

    This brack is a huge hit in our home. I tried it exactly as written…excellent!
    Then I added 1T. grated orange zest
    1/2 t. ground allspice
    1/2c. chopped walnuts
    Oh, my! We loved it
    Thanks again for all you do to teach this old dog some new tricks! You are the best!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thank you also for being a customer and avid baker! We love to share our knowledge with all of you and by doing so, we also learn new techniques and tips (which of course we pass on). So glad that this cake is a hit in your house.JoAnn@KAF

  48. Tom

    Have to tell you..I have to be very careful when making this and make sure I have company here because I want to eat the entire loaf…I added a shot of Small Batch Bourbon and wow…was it ever
    delicious with a little butter…I loved it…was so good…been trying to diet but not working well with this
    loaf on the counter..brewing coffee now to have a piece…


    1. grandma deb

      Yes and it is even better with a splash of bourbon whipped into Kerrygold Irish butter.

  49. Amanda

    Oh my! I had to make a few adjustments to use what I had on-hand. I didn’t have prunes or currants. I used dates and dark raisins with a good black tea. This bread is amazing! Thanks for the great recipe.

  50. Pat Busch

    Unreal my second year baking this and this year bought the 2″ deep pan my Irish husband can’t wait to get into it as it just came out of oven he has to wait it’s certainly a winner just like what we’ve had in Ireland thanks again for a great recipe

  51. joanne nelson powers

    I made this last spring for St Pat’s Day. Was not sure if my husband would like it. It went so fast…we both love this. It’s an amazing dark rich bread/cake. I’m getting ready to make an autumn version with some apples and maybe some figs.

  52. Mary Mursu (Duffy)

    A perfect compliment for afternoon tea……the Dutch have something called tea bread. as my grandfather loved it ……we enjoyed this at home and it is good to see that the receipt survive time…thanks.

  53. Tonia

    I made this pretty much the way it told me to (sub’ed dried apricots for the currents because I had some needed to use) and used a small “bundt” pan that I sprayed very well with pan spray and sprinkled turbinado sugar inside. I also decreased the sugar to about 7 oz. (and I used turbinado sugar, ’cause I had it on hand!). It is really, really good, but I felt was too sweet, so next time I made it I reduced the sugar to 4 1/2 oz. and thought I’d add a couple of tablespoons of brandy (it was on hand!). Oh, boy! Good stuff Maynard!!! 😀


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