This Bara Brith recipe is an authentic recipe from Wales which is more like a ‘cake’ than the more traditional ‘bread’ Bara Brith. This cake-like Bara Brith is made without yeast, using commercially available (from the late 1800s) baking soda as a quick raising agent alternative. The main recipe given below is a wonderful traditional one, handed down in the family from a farmer’s wife living in Harlech, North Wales, in 1951. It is an incredibly moist and well balanced Bara Brith in terms of taste using black treacle (molasses). If you would like to make the older, more traditional type of Bara Brith, which is a yeast bread made with fruit, then see Bara Brith | Traditional Recipe – this bread-type of Bara Brith is often eaten, toasted with butter, on Christmas Morning for breakfast. Bara Brith translated means ‘Speckled Bread’, see also Bara Brith | Regional Recipes for regional differences and several different recipes.
Bara Brith Recipe
Makes two cakes in two large loaf tins
- 640g plain flour
- 250g soft brown sugar
- 250g butter or lard (softened and diced)
- 200ml butter-milk
- 340g currants (or raisins / sultanas)
- 50g candied peel
- 3 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 3 tsp cream tartar
- 2 eggs
- 2 tbsp black treacle
- 1 tsp lemon juice (or white wine vinegar)
- 200ml of tea to soak the currants in for 2 hours (optional – traditional in many recipes)
- 1 tsp ground mixed spice (optional – traditional in many recipes)
Soak the currants (or dried fruit) in 200ml of tea for two hours or overnight.
Grease two large loaf tins with butter. Pre-heat the oven to 160C
Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Using your fingers rub into the flour the softened and diced lard (or butter) until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Sprinkle in the bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar and sugar (and the ground mixed spice if adding). Stir, then add in the currants (including any tea if soaked) and the candied peel.
Beat the eggs with a little lemon juice (or white wine vinegar) and add to the mixing bowl, stir everything in and then add in the buttermilk (or milk and melted butter). Finally add and stir in the black treacle.
Once everything is thoroughly mixed, and the batter is slightly on the wet side of a ‘dropping’ consistency, (add in a little more milk if the batter is stiff) pour it into the prepared loaf tins (large sized ones, if not use cake tins). Only pour in up to two-thirds full in the tins, allowing for the Bara Brith’s expansion and rise. Use a spoon and stir the batter mixture in the loaf tins to get rid of any air pockets and to bring the dried fruit off the bottom, so it is mixed evenly throughout the Bara Brith.
Put the loaf tins into the preheated oven to bake for 90 minutes (1 1/2 hours) at 160C.
If at any point it looks like the tops of the Bara Brith’s are browning too quickly, cover them loosely in a piece of foil or baking paper. After 90 minutes check to see if the cakes have risen and are fully cooked in the centre by pushing in a skewer, if it comes out clean and hot the cake is ready, if not leave for another 15 minutes.
Once baked pull the Bara Brith’s out of the oven and leave to cool for twenty minutes. After twenty minutes turn out the cakes from the loaf tins and leave to cool on a wire rack. Serve slices of this Harlech Bara Brith warm or cold, and either sliced with a little butter and jam, brushed over with some honey, or plain and on its own.
The Original Bara Brith Recipe From Harlech in 1951
Mrs. A. Parry, Cilybronrhydd Farm, Harlech, Merionethshire, North Wales.
Ingredients: 8oz brown sugar, 8oz dripping or lard, 2 eggs, 1 1/2lb plain flour, 12oz of currants or other fruit, 3 heaped teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda, 3 heaped teaspoons of cream of tartar, 1oz chopped candied peel, teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice, butter-milk, a little browning or dark treacle.
Method: Rub the fat into flour. Add fruit, sugar, soda, cream of tartar and peel. Beat up the eggs and add. Finally mix in the buttermilk or milk, and treacle or browning to darken the cake. Bake in a well greased tin in a hot oven for 2 to 2 1/2 hours.