A Welsh Delicacy – Barabrith


Barabrith is a traditional Welsh fruit loaf and on a recent trip to Wales, the first thing I did was head to a bakery to buy one.

There are many versions of Barabrith. Recipes are handed down from one generation to the next with a few tweaks along the way. Every family has their own method. Traditionally eaten on St David’s Day or Christmas Day, it is delicious sliced thickly and spread with creamy butter. My mother would eat it warm with custard or even toasted for breakfast. Filled with spices and dried fruit, the cake-like mixture has a lovely texture and smells delicious as it bakes in the oven.

village-oven-2In days gone by when villagers did their weekly cook in the collective village oven, any leftover dough would be baked with dried fruit to produce delicious sweet bread. Originally lard was used as a shortening, whey as a liquid and yeast as a rising agent giving a dough-like texture. With rising agents becoming popular and added to flour, Barabrith today is made with self-raising flour making the final offering more like a cake. I like to soak the fruit in Earl Gray tea as the acid in the tea reacts with the fruit and gives a lovely flavour.

Bara brith can be found in many forms all over the world. Wherever Welsh settlers went they took the recipe with them. In Argentina, Welsh teahouses in the Chubut province still serve Torta Negra or Black Cake, as Barabrith is known. In the Welsh language, ‘Bara’ means bread and ‘brith’ translates as speckled.  If one says, ‘I’ve over spiced the bara brith,’ it means you’ve done something to excess. Every cafe in Wales serves the Welsh favourite and it is an easy recipe to adapt to your own taste. I like to add a spoonful of dark marmalade to the raw ingredients for extra flavour.


The Barabrith I bought on my recent trip was disappointing. It was dry and crumbly. Here’s my recipe which I hope is moist and tasty. The Barabrith keeps well in an airtight container and improves after a day or two – if you can keep it that long!





  • 450g mixed dried fruit
  • 1 large egg beaten
  • 250g brown sugar
  • 300ml black tea
  • 2 tsp cinnamon and mixed spice
  • 450g self-raising flour


Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3

Soak the fruit and sugar in strained tea and leave overnight. Next day, line a 900g loaf tin with baking parchment. Mix all the other ingredients into the fruit mixture and beat well. Pour into the loaf tin and bake for approximately one and a half hours.

Store in a tin or airtight container.


Novels by Caroline James
Novels by Caroline James




Beach time in Britain

Britain is basking in the hottest summer for years. Heavy weekend traffic winds to the coast and an early start gets ahead of the queues, where a day out at the beach beckons. Gulls squawk as they wait for the picnics to commence, swooping down on scraps of discarded bread from mum’s bacon butties, prepared as dawn rose and sleepy kids were lifted out of their warm beds.



Wales. The destination for childhood holidays and now a regular pilgrimage as an adult, with family in tow. Colour dots the long beach as stones are pounded on wooden poles into windbreaks braced like soldiers against sudden gusts. Blobs of canvas spring up and with grandparents installed in tepee like structures, children race to the shore, buckets in hand.


The beach café is buzzing. Staff in fraying aprons speed around the kitchen delivering plate after plate to hungry diners. Sausage, fish, scampi, chicken – fried food piled high, moments away from being drenched in vinegar, salt and sauce smeared in dark pulsating veins over fleshy mounds of fat, tasty chips. An ice cream van appears, a tuneful arrival summoning bathers and beach walkers to crisp cornets, dripping with frozen vanilla and milk chocolate Flakes. Give the dog a cone! A sign on the van announces, Frozzie Doggie for the Coolest Canine!


The sun is hot as the tide races in. A quad bike hurtles noisily over the estuary, the modern-day lifeguard warning families to head back to the safety of the shore. A woman, large and perspiring begins to shout. A man, silent and sullen leads a dog away from her squabbling and wanders across bumpy pebbles, gaining distance from the bickering he’s heard a thousand times before. She buys an ice cream, the melting mass eaten in silence as she glares out to sea.

A ball thwacks against a bat as a cricket game starts up. Children laugh and scream, egging each other on under the glare of the delicious summer sun. Adults light a barbeque, sausages sizzle and smoke trails through the heat haze as burgers in soft soggy buns are handed out.

Beaches of Britain. No finer place on a sunny day.

Novels by Caroline James
Novels by Caroline James