Mrs Halpin’s Tea Brack

Mrs Halpin's Tea Brack (3)

Mrs Halpin’s Tea Brack is made with fruit that has been soaked over-night in freshly-made sweet tea, and then has eggs, flour and spice folded in. I have great memories of this brack. I think perhaps the taste was enhanced by the sound advice and good humour that accompanied it!

‘Nana Máire’  – for those who may wonder how to pronounce Máire, it’s the Irish spelling of Maura, and is pronounced the same way – is my best friend’s Mother. Of course, she wasn’t called Nana Maire when we were young; that came later with the arrival of her first 3 grandchildren :)  She would produce a cup of tea (two sugars, whole milk) along with a slice of generously-buttered tea-brack, as you sat at her kitchen table and told  her all your worries.

tea brack 2

I wrote to her after I’d left home, to ask her for the recipe. I still treasure her hand-written letter, which came by return of post. It’s dated November 1985, and contains advice about the gas pressure being better at night, and how it might affect the cooking times!

We should  all have a Nana Máire in our lives; I’m very grateful that she was a part of mine :) x


  • An 8in/23cm round baking tin, lined with two layers of baking parchment.
  • medium-sized bowl
  • If you have a mixer with dough hooks, then this is the day to get it out. This mixture gets very stiff when all the flour has been mixed in.


  • 450g sultanas or mixed fruit – I used mostly sultanas, a few currants, and some cranberries.
  • 200ml of hot tea – ‘strained’, because proper people didn’t use teabags, back in the day :)
  • 125g of light Muscavado sugar
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 450g Self-raising flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon Almond extract (I used Vanilla)
  • 1 teaspoon of mixed spice – I put in some ginger and cinnamon for a change (Ok, truth – I couldn’t find the mixed spice, but the ginger and cinnamon is a good addition)
  • 1/2 a level teaspoon of baking powder
  • Buttermilk or whole milk – about 2 tablespoons (optional)


  • Put the sugar, vanilla extract and fruit into a large bowl, add the hot tea and stir until sugar is dissolved. Cover, and leave it all to soak overnight.

This what the fruit looks like after soaking – it has absorbed most of the tea.

  • Next day, Heat the oven to Gas 2/130 fan
  • Line the cake tin.

lined tin

  • Move the soaked fruit to a large mixing bowl.
  • Add the lightly beaten eggs to the fruit, and fold in.
  • Sift the baking powder, spice and the flour together.


  • Then fold in the flour in batches.
  • It will get really, really stiff by the time that you’ve folded in all the flour, so add one or two tablespoons of buttermilk to ease it a little. You may not need it if you’re using an electric mixer. I usually make this by hand, for no reason at all, other that I feel I’m honouring the spirit of this tea brack!

sifting flour

  • Turn the mixture into the prepared tin, and level it out, then make a slight dip in the middle to allow for rising.


  • Bake for 1 and a half hours, then test it – mine took 1 hour 45mins last night – a big change from the 2 to 2 1/2 hours in Mrs Halpin’s recipe.
tea brack

Just out of the oven – smells divine!

  • Allow to cool completely before cutting.
  • Keeps well, wrapped in baking paper and in a sealed container. And yes, you need proper butter on this..
  • She signed her letter –  ‘And good luck, Beck.’  Máire Halpin


  • I’ve mentioned a lot of the notes as I went through this. I mixed it by hand, and it was hard work towards the end, but definitely worth it!
  • My good friend Catherine texted me to make sure that the 130Fan oven temperature was correct – it is – this is a long and slow bake, so don’t be tempted to speed it up!
  • I set cooking the time for 1 hour, then I turn the cake tin around to allow even browning – but that’s my oven for you- then I give it 30 minutes more, then start testing..
  • The top is knobbly-looking when it comes out of the oven, and I thought to myself that I’d smooth it down next time, but it turns out that the top is lovely and crunchy when it’s cold, so it’s definitely staying the way it is.
  • I texted my friend last night to tell her what I was baking, and she said that Nana Maire also called it her ‘cut and come again’ brack. This is because it keeps so well in a cool spot.

Mrs Halpin's Tea Brack (2)


I started writing down recipes in an old copybook when I was about 16. With 6 children at home, my Mother was always glad of a hand in the kitchen, and really allowed us to experiment - as long as we washed up afterwards, and left the kitchen immaculate! Having a tidy kitchen has followed me through my life, as has the habit of writing down my favourite recipes; except that these days I write them for my website, and add photographs when I can. The website really started when it occurred to me that my daughter might like to have these recipes when I've forgotten them. In my early days of cooking for family and friends, I used to phone my Mum all the time to ask her for the recipe for some of our favourite family dinners. She rarely had a recipe to hand - I think, like me, she made a lot of it up as she went along.. So welcome to Eating for Ireland - these are the recipes that my friends and family having been eating these past 40 years.. yes, I truly am ancient! They are tried and tested, and have worked for me for all that time - I have updated them as new ingredients became available - I really hope you'll find something that you can make into a family favourite of your own. You don't have to tell anyone where you found these great new dishes that you're serving up - it can be our little secret, but I'd really love it if you could give me a sneaky 'follow' on Facebook and Instagram.. So off you go - have a good rummage around, you're bound to find something new! My sincere thanks to all of you who have found a recipe that you liked and dropped me a line to tell me - I really do love to hear from you! Happy Cooking! Becks xx

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