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Celebrate an Irish Halloween with our Barmbrack Recipe

Recently updated on April 30th, 2024 at 05:52 pm

With its pumpkin carving and trick or treating traditions, we all love celebrating Halloween. But few people know the holiday’s true origins. We take a look at the story behind Halloween, and try out a traditional Halloween recipe for Irish Barmbrack.

Barmbrack Recipe

This delightfully ghoulish celebration in fact derives from Ireland, and the Celtic festival Samhain. This was the Celt’s New Year’s Eve, held at the end of October to mark the departure of summer and to see in the long, hard winter. It was on this night that locals believed the souls of the dead roamed the land. So, to ward off these spirits, Druids lit bonfires and wore costumes, while telling people’s fortunes.

In later years, when the Roman Empire conquered Celtic land, Samhain was then combined with the Roman tradition of Feralia – a time for Romans to commemorate the dead – as well as the celebration of the Roman goddess of fruit, Pomona (which some believe could be the origin of apple bobbing). The later influence of Christianity brought All Souls’ Day (also known as All Hallows) and the Celtic tradition together, resulting in Samhain being renamed All Hallows Eve, which eventually went on to become Halloween.

Barmbrack Recipe

The rich fruit loaf Barmbrack was eaten in Ireland at this time, with objects such as coins and small pieces of cloth sometimes hidden inside to tell the fortunes of those who found them. The coin signified good fortune while the piece of cloth meant the person who found it would be poor.

Today, Halloween is a day of vibrant celebration and one that’s evolved significantly over time. But of the few customs still kept alive, we’re thankful that Barmbrack remains a traditional Halloween treat.

Barmbrack Recipe

How to Make Irish Barmbrack


2 ½ cups chopped dried fruit
1 ½ cups hot brewed tea
2 ½ cups plain flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
1 ½ cups castor sugar
¼ cup marmalade
1 teaspoon grated orange zest


Soak the dried fruit in the hot tea for two hours, then drain while squeezing out any excess tea.

Combine the plain flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and baking soda. Then in a separate bowl, combine the egg, sugar, marmalade, orange zest and tea-soaked dried fruit.

Fold the dry flour mixture into the egg and fruit mixture, and then pour it into a nine-inch greased Bundt pan.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit or 175 degrees Celsius for one hour. Before removing the cake from the pan, allow it to cool for two hours.

Barmbrack Recipe

Travel around Ireland with Trafalgar to discover more of this country’s traditions. Join us on the Amazing Ireland trip, or Britain and Ireland Highlights.

Image credits: Cover photo © iStock / Jim Jurica. Pumpkins © iStock / tvirbickis. Ghost Costumes © iStock / kzenon. Barmbrack © iStock / Cogent_Marketing. Ireland’s Dark Hedges © iStock / Dieter Meyrl.

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