Pumpkin and Ginger Brack – an Irish Tea Cake
by eat in my kitchen
When we moved to England a few years ago to live in Whitby in North Yorkshire, it didn’t take me too long to fall in love with the locals, the food, the little harbour and its long pier right next to the endless beach. It’s a dreamy village, cut off the world – I have a weak spot for these places! I felt great from day one and when I discovered the famous local bakery (it must have been the day after my arrival) with its beautiful name, Botham’s written in big letters over the shop on Skinner street I found my second home! You can send me to any village or town in the world and I will find the best bakery or confectionery within 10 minutes, I find my way intuitively and it has never let me down. Through the eyes of a bakery you learn so much about a place and its people. The bread, cookies and cakes, the local delicacies, the whole presentation but also the service tells you many secrets and gives you an insight into a new world. That’s one of the many reasons why it’s so important to keep up this tradition and support those small local businesses!
At Botham’s, I discovered thin Shah tea biscuits, eccles cakes, English muffins, Sally Lunn loaves, millionaire’s shortbread, flapjacks, Maids of Honour and fruit breads. I tried so many different kinds of loaves of this famous English tea time cake, that I lost track at one point. I love the simplicity of this sweet and cakey bread paired with the richness of dried fruits soaked in tea mixed with ginger, spices, citrus zest or nuts. Botham’s Stem Ginger Brack was my favourite, an Irish fruit cake made without any fat but with lots of raisins, sultanas, stem ginger and orange zest. It’s so juicy and it tastes divine with butter spread on top (the fat had to come in at one point!).
Years later, back in my own kitchen, I started to bake my own bracks. The first loaf was inspired by the one I got to love in Whitby but then I got a bit more experimental. Here’s one made with puréed pumpkin in addition to the tea soaked raisins, grated fresh ginger and stem ginger. I also added a nice spice composition of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves. The result is aromatic and moist, but still structured. The pumpkin makes the loaf more juicy and smooth than the one I bake without the puréed vegetable. It would be a perfect Halloween cake although it’s still a month ahead. In Ireland, bracks are traditionally made for this festive season, but at Botham’s (and in my oven) you can find them all year round!
This recipe has been featured on Food52 Halfway To Dinner!
Pumpkin and Ginger Brack
You need to prepare 2 steps in advance for this cake:
1. If you don’t buy canned pumpkin purée, the pumpkin has to cook in the oven for 30 minutes before you can turn it into a purée.
2. The dried fruits have to soak in tea overnight.
For a 24.5 x 10cm / 10 x 4″ loaf pan you need
pumpkin purée 400g / 14 ounces
or pumpkin, without the fibres and seeds, cut into cubes, 500g / 17.5 ounces
(Hokkaido with skin or peeled butternut or Musquée de Provence pumpkin)
strong black English tea 150ml / 5 ounces
raisins and/ or sultanas 250g / 9 ounces
stem ginger, finely chopped, 60g / 2 ounces
fresh ginger, grated, a 3.5cm / 1.5″ piece
Demerara sugar 140g / 5 ounces
organic eggs, beaten, 2
plain flour 220g / 8 ounces
baking powder 2 teaspoons
a pinch of salt
ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon
ground nutmeg or mace 1/4 teaspoon
ground allspice 1/8 teaspoon
ground cloves 1/8 teaspoon
For the pumpkin purée
Set the oven to 200°C / 390°F (fan assisted oven).
Put the pumpkin into a baking dish. Cover the bottom of the dish with about 100ml / 3.5 ounces of water. Wet a piece of parchment paper under water, scrunch it a little and cover the pumpkin in the baking dish, tucking the sides in. Cook for 30 minutes in the oven or until the pumpkin is soft. Purée the pumpkin in a blender or with a stick mixer and set aside (you could keep it in the fridge for a day).
For the brack
In a large bowl, mix the tea, raisins, stem ginger, grated ginger and sugar and soak overnight.
Set the oven to 175°C / 350°F (fan assisted oven).
Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and dry spices.
Mix the eggs into the raisin tea mixture with an electric mixer, add 400g (14 ounces) of pumpkin purée and mix until well combined. With a wooden spoon, stir in the flour spice mixture until combined and fill into the loaf pan lined with parchment paper. Bake the brack for 50 minutes, turn the temperature down to 160°C / 320°F and bake for another 30-35 minutes or until the cake is golden brown on top. Check with a skewer, it won’t come out clean, there will be a few moist pieces but there shouldn’t be any liquid dough left on it. Take the cake out of the pan after 10 minutes and let it cool for at least 10 minutes before you cut off your first slice. The cake is best after 1-3 days, wrapped in parchment paper after it cools down completely. The outside will be soft by then.