Since I first wrote about the McDonnell’s Good Food Cookbooks I have had several emails asking for recipes that people remember from their childhood or enjoyed years ago but have since lost. The latest request, from Renee who wants to make the cake for a family occasion, is for the Tea Brack recipe from the first cookbook. This is one of our family favourites, a much used recipe, but – as I well remember from frustrated occasions searching for it – annoyingly filed under the name Irish Tea Brack in the Irish Tea Time Favourites chapter, just across the page from Gingerbread.
It is a very simple cake to make. Just soak your fruit the night before you want to bake it – you could always replace some of the tea with whiskey for added interest – and it multiplies up very well. I well remember soaking vast bowls of dried fruit to make four or six loaves at a time as it keeps very well in the old biscuit tin that was always filled with some kind of fruitcake for the after school cup of tea. It is particularly good, cut into thin slices and spread with lots of salty butter. Back in the days when I didn’t like fruitcake, I did love this and Boiled Fruit Cake from the same book as the liquid used in both recipes ensured that the dried fruit was properly re-hydrated, the slices crammed full of plump and luscious sultanas, raisins and currants, with maybe the occasional cherry thrown in for good measure.
Along with substituting butter for the marg used in the original recipe, I will give both the imperial and metric measurements as they appear in the cookbook. I haven’t cooked this in a fan oven so would be interested to know what kind of temperature/cooking times other people use.
Irish Tea Brack
Strong black tea – 12 tablespoons/180ml
Mixed dried fruit – 1lb/450g
Brown sugar – 6oz/175g
Egg – 1, lightly beaten
Butter – 1oz/25g, melted
Plain flour – 10oz/275g
Bread soda – ½ level teaspoon
Mix the black tea, dried fruit and brown sugar in a large bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to soak overnight.
The next day, preheat the oven to 350˚F/180˚C. Butter and line a 2lb/800g loaf tin.
Stir the egg and melted butter into the soaked fruit mixture. Sieve the plain flour and bread soda together and fold in to the rest of the ingredients. Scrape the cake mixture into the prepared tin and bake for approximately 90 minutes.
Cool in tin for 10 minutes before turning out. Cool on a wire rack.
Makes 1 loaf.