Post image for Baby Barmbracks with Sherry

Baby Barmbracks with Sherry

by Laura on May 9, 2012

My Honey Girl and I spent the first week of April together in Ireland.  Beneath a cornflower blue sky and tucked into the soft Connemara mountains, celadon in sunlight, black in shadow, we settled into the Cashel House where Mrs. McEvilly and her soft-spoken staff surrounded us with their incomparable care, tucking hot water bottles into our beds on chilly evenings and placing our pajamas on top so they were warm, too, bringing us pots of tea and biscuits, and glasses of champagne, and books to read in comfortable chairs before turf fires, poached rhubarb for our morning porridge, and sandwiches and slices of rhubarb tart when we arrived back too late for dinner.  Without an itinerary we set about a proper vacation, that is, a week to do nothing but what suited us in the moment and focused primarily on total relaxation.  We took out our battered little rental car to wind through Connemara, north and south, east and west, as interest and whim took us, past wooly sheep doused in the pink and blue dyes used in this part of the world since Adam was a boy, past the blooming gorse, brilliant yellow, past men hunched to cut bricks of peat in the ancient bogs, and Irish gardens in bloom: daffodil and tulip, heather and camellia, crocus and rhododendron and azalea, hyacinth, narcissus, agapanthus, vinca and spring gentian.  In fact, I felt all week like a flower myself, with my own personal sunshine, my Honey Girl, beside me, waking from the long, grey dream of winter.  Through the windshield: the savage beauty of the landscape (curtsy here to Oscar Wilde), the barren loveliness of the Burren, its limestone softened by wildflower, the sea with all its shades of blue, its rock, its draped grass, thatched cottages walled with stone, and the odd shaggy cow.  We slept and hiked and lolled and ate and drank until we were so content we couldn’t wish for more—except perhaps that our time together wouldn’t end.

One of our favorite discoveries of the week was a barmbrack we ate at the Burren Perfumery, a charming spot with an herb garden, tea room, still room, and shop where they sell lovely wild-crafted perfumes and body products.  Barmbrack is a fruitcake, a keeping cake, perfect with a cup of strong tea.  The recipe I developed is a one-bowl stir-up.  I soaked raisins and sultanas and currants overnight in black tea and added homemade candied orange peel, big candied cherries, dark muscovado sugar, and sherry the next day.  The cake is dense and moist with pops of cherry and sherry against the earthiness of the tea and spice.  I made a big batch so I could share some with my pantry exchange group and the rest with family.  If you’re not keen on fruitcake, this one might change your mind.  I’m most happy that whenever I bake it or eat it, it will return me to the memory of first sharing it with my Honey Girl in the little oasis of our week together.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Egle May 9, 2012 at 11:18 pm

Laura, those cakes look totally scrumptious!
missed your posts but see you’re doing incredibly well :)

2 Laura May 10, 2012 at 7:41 am

Thank you. That’s so sweet of you.

3 Judy Budreau May 10, 2012 at 9:03 am

Lovely post, Laura. Looking at your photos of Ireland, I think I almost tasted your visit there when I read the recipe.

4 Laura May 10, 2012 at 9:40 am

Thank you, Judy! xx

5 Carolyn May 10, 2012 at 10:43 am

Sigh – I want to go back!!!! We were in that lovely country 20 years ago for our honeymoon. It’s where we discovered Irish tea, the best potatoes I’ve ever tasted, and the warm and welcoming Irish people. I still use the term “soft weather” to this day! Laura, if I want to make regular size loaves, how many would this make, and what would the adjustment be for baking time? I want to give it a try soon, with a delicious cup of Barry’s tea!

6 Imen May 10, 2012 at 10:51 am

This recipe for barmbrack sounds divine Laura! And, your photos are just stunning. It was such a pleasure to meet up with you and your amazing daughter at the Burren Perfumery. I hope we can connect when you move to this side of the pond in the autumn. All best, Imen x

7 Laura May 10, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Thank you, Imen! We loved spending time with you. And, yes, let’s definitely connect this fall. It will be on my carrot list as I transition. xo

8 Laura May 10, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Carolyn, What a lovely phrase. I didn’t hear it while we were there, as we had nearly perfect and sunny weather all week. I’m guessing with the loaves, but this is what I would do: I suspect the yield is three to four standard loaves. The cakes don’t rise too much, so you can fill 3/4 full. Fill as many pans as the recipe will. I’d start with 45 minutes at 350, rotate 180 degrees, and begin checking the cakes at about another 15 to 20 minutes, checking every five minutes or so and keeping a tally for future reference. I suspect they’ll take an hour to an hour and a half. Please do let me know how you get on and the baking time. Thanks!

9 Lizzi May 11, 2012 at 12:37 am

Beautiful photos, beautiful words, and – I imagine – beautiful flavours! Freezing nights are well and truly here now, and I think me + this cake + tea + blankets + books would get along very nicely.

10 Laura May 11, 2012 at 7:37 am

Thank you, Lizzi. Sounds cozy! xo

11 Shin Ae May 17, 2012 at 7:18 pm

Beautiful. Everything. I think I will make these.

12 Laura May 17, 2012 at 9:36 pm

Thank you, Shin Ae. I hope you enjoy them.

13 Bridget May 18, 2012 at 11:40 am

What a wonderful post. I miss Ireland but will be going back soon! I have family in the Burren, Lisdoonvarna and Doolin. Your pictures brought me back! Thank you. I cant wait to make this recipe!

14 Laura May 18, 2012 at 1:07 pm

Thank you, Bridget. How wonderful for you!

15 kris jacobson May 21, 2012 at 2:27 pm

Beautiful writing and glorious photos!
And how luck, I go to taste the Baby Barmbrack.

16 Laura May 21, 2012 at 3:07 pm

Thank you, Kris. xo

17 Eve July 27, 2013 at 9:42 am


I’ve been looking for your posts for 2013, I hope all is well with you and your lovely family!

18 Laura July 27, 2013 at 10:52 am

That is so kind of you. Thank you. We are well, though it has been a hard year. I really should get back to posting soon!

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