This week, in honour of St. Patrick and the Emerald Isle (from whence my mother hails), I've decided to make Irish Barmbrac cupcakes.

Barmbrac is supposed to be a kind of bread with sultanas and raisins in it, but you can also make Barmbrac cake. My mum used to make it when I was little. It's an overnight job - you need to soak the dried fruit in black tea so that the sultanas and raisins and currants get nicely plumped up. If you want, you can hide a coin and a ring in the batter before popping them in the oven. Finding a ring means you'll get married and finding a coin means you're in for a windfall.

You will need:
100g raisins
100g sultanas
100g currants
1/4 litre brewed black tea
 450g plain flour
1 tsp mixed spice
75g brown sugar
1tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 egg
115g melted unsalted butter

What you do:
Put the dried fruit in a big bowl and pour in the tea. Leave the whole lot to soak overnight. Add a nip of brandy if you like.

1. After the fruit has soaked, strain it. Set aside the strained tea juice.

2. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C. Line cupcake trays with paper cases. Alternatively, you can grease the trays with some oil and go without the paper cases.

3. In another bowl, mix the dry ingredients.

4. Get a big bowl and put in the egg and butter. Mix well.

5. Add the fruit to the egg and butter mixture, making sure they are well combined.

6. Fold in the dry mixture. Add a bit of the strained tea juice if the mixture is dry. Knead the mixture so that you get a dough. Resist the urge to eat the dough. Oh what the hell, go on then.

7. Roll the dough into balls and put into the cupcake tray. At this point, you can hide a ring and a coin in the batter if you want.

8. Bake until the cupcakes are a dark golden colour and feel firm. Twenty minutes or so should do it. Let them cool for 5 minutes before removing them from the tray and placing on a rack to further cool.

9. Scoff them down nice and warm with a bit of butter. 
I have an overwhelming urge to Photoshop a cupcake in place of the shamrock, but I won't.
I wonder who will be my random recipient tomorrow? Stay tuned and all will be revealed...

12 hours later...

So it's the next day - St Patrick's Day - and this morning I rose with the birds to get started on baking the cupcakes. The mixed fruit which had been soaking overnight in tea were plump and juicy - lovely!

I started to make the batter, but after a while I noticed it was turning more into a dough. There seemed to be way too much flour for the wet ingredients to absorb. Maybe I had gone wrong with the measurements? My heart started to race and my breathing grew shallow. It was at this stage that I started to worry that perhaps this batch of cupcakes was going to fail.


The word fills me with dread and fear. Normally, when staring in the face of failure, my first thoughts turn to flight. But I've recently decided that that's not a good way to live. Life is no fun if it is played as a zero-sum game. So instead of thinking that I should throw out the batch along with the blog, I took a deep breath and kept going.

Surprisingly, they turned out just fine. Different, but fine. Thank you, St. Patrick.
And now to the important and fun part...the random recipient! I decided that as the recipients for the last two weeks had been female, I should choose a male.

And so it was that I homed in on Prasad, who was standing outside a travel shop in the centre of town.
My 3rd random recipient, Prasad.
I introduced myself, explained my mission and also added that I was not crazy. Prasad listened very patiently, asked some questions and then, once he realised I wasn't scamming him or being a dodgy geezer, he happily accepted my St. Patrick's Day gift.

It turns out that Prasad is from Sri Lanka and he's here on holiday with his family. Prasad, if you're reading this, I very much hope you enjoyed the cupcakes and that you and your family have a wonderful holiday!
15/3/2010 23:30:22

Wow! These sound yummy. And hard work. Good luck with your random recipient (but don't forget your homies).

Vesna Tomic
17/3/2010 01:05:14

I like your new philosophy! Kudos :)

Homie pithacus (Ralph)
18/3/2010 18:05:14

Good you have included males in your random acts of cupcake. Now for the old and very young.


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