Halloween Treat: Bairin Breac

Bairin Breac
Bairin Breac

Bairin Breac (or Barney Brack as it was called in my house) is the Irish version of the crystal ball. At Halloween this innocent mixture of fruit, flour and alcohol is transformed into a cake with mystical powers that can see into the future (or at least that is what we tell the kids to get them to eat it).

In reality this rich bread (I think ‘cake’ is generous) has a focused on a niche market in the fortune telling biz; much like ‘Yes To The Dress’ it has specialised in matrimony and left the broader spectrum of predictions to colcannon.

Unfortunately in our family, where we are more a stir-fry and curry sort of household, it’s going to be hard to find a companion for a big plate of cabbage and mash, because there is no way I am cooking (or worse eating) boiled ham just so an uppity lump of cabbage can predict my future. Instead I insist our bairin breac works a little harder and diversifies into the financial sector as well.

Bairin Breac Ingredients
Bairin Breac Ingredients

The Charms

  • Coin – this means you are going to have wealth in the coming year
  • Rag – this means you will be poor for the coming year
  • Ring – this means you will marry in the coming year
  • Button and Thread – these traditionally are the symbol of the bachelor and the spinster and mean you will not be married in the coming year.

 I use a modified Darina Allen recipe


  • 250g raisins/ sultanas
  • 50g glace cherries
  • 50g mixed peel
  • Zest 1 orange
  • Zest 1 lemon
  • 100ml of whiskey (DA only calls for 50ml but to her I say this is a festival of all things evil and corrupt; the dead walk amongst the living, ghouls from the other world return, we are going to need more than 50ml of whiskey)
  • 200ml of hot strong black tea
  • 1 egg lightly beaten
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 200g light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice (or if you forgot to get that in the shop and you need to improvise a quarter teaspoon of cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin, coriander, and chilli)

For glaze

  • 2 teaspoons of sugar dissolved in 3 teaspoons of boiling water


  1. Put the fruit and zest into a big bowl with whiskey and tea. Leave soak overnight if you can (or if you are doing this last minute as I am for at least an hour)
  2. Preheat oven to 180 degrees and line round tin with parchment
  3. Add to fruit egg, flour, sugar and spices. Mix gently
  4. Add charms wrapped in parchment (and clean the coin thoroughly – those things are disgusting dirt magnets). Cover charms completely with mixture.
  5. Bake for 1 hour 15 min.
  6. When cooling glaze with glazing

Serving suggestion

With a big mug of tea and a generous spread of real butter.

About Cathy Clarke

Cathy lives with her husband, offspring and so many animals that her household often feels like a small petting zoo. She is one half of the team behind AHomeMadeByCommittee.com (an Irish Lifestyle blog) where she discusses motherhood, weddings, DIY, GIY, and everything in between. And she is one third of the team behind IrishWritersPodcast.com, a podcast which discusses topics interesting to writers. Follow her on twitter at @CathyCClarke.
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