“Good Friday comes this month, the old woman runs. With one or two a penny hot cross buns”


Not many other foods insert a day into your mind quite like Hot Cross Buns. It should therefore be rather unsurprising to find that Hot Cross Buns have a deeply religious connection. What might surprise you is that the religion is not just Christianity. This bun likely connects to Paganism, specifically in celebration of a Goddess of fertility known by the name ‘Eostre’. It is believed that they made ‘Cross Buns’ for this occasion. In fact, the four quarters of the cross on top of each bun were said to have represented the phases of the moon, while the cross itself symbolised rebirth after winter.


It’s unclear when these celebrations stopped taking place completely but according to Saint Bede (672-735) in his work ‘The Reckoning of Time’, they ended before his time. This was at least the case for Pagan Anglo-Saxons. He notes that the old English month of Eostre was replaced by the Christian Paschal month, as a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.



There are also people who believe that it was created a little later. Brother Thomas Rocliffe, a 14th Century monk at St Albans Abbey, developed a similar recipe called an ‘Alban Bun’. He gave the buns to the locals on Good Friday, starting this tradition in 1361. The recipe for the original Alban Bun remains a well-guarded secret, and those who still use that recipe have only changed it by adding a little more fruit.



Regardless of its origin, it cemented itself as a crucial part of the Easter holiday. Over time, some interesting superstitions grew. One superstition is that the buns stay fresh for an entire year if they hang from kitchen rafters; residents would take them apart for use as part of a medicinal treatment. Another is that they expelled bad spirits if hung up. The belief was that this would also prevent kitchen fires.


Learn to make your own Hot Cross Buns by following the recipe below!


Ingredients (for 12)
  • 225 ml Whole Milk
  • 500 g Strong White Bread Flour
  • 65 g Caster Sugar
  • 8 g Dried Active Yeast
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Ginger
  • 1/2 tsp Nutmeg
  • Zest of 1 Orange
  • 50 g Unsalted Butter 
  • 200 g Raisins
  • 2 Medium Eggs
  • 30 g Flour
  • 30 ml Water
  • 1 tbsp Apricot Jam (optional)
  • Heat the milk in a saucepan until the milk is steaming.
  • In a bowl, add the Flour, Salt, Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg, Sugar, Yeast and Orange Zest – add in the Butter and rub between your fingers until the mixture resembles bread crumbs.
  • To the bowl, add your warmed milk, and the Eggs and Raisins and mix it all together.
  • Knead for 5 to 10 minutes until the mixture is smooth and elastic to touch.
  • Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, and cover the bowl with clingfilm. Leave it to rise. as a result the size should double (This should take between 1 to 2 hours).
  • Once the mixture has risen, remove from the bowl and knead lightly on a floured surface for a minute.
  • Split evenly into 12 balls and add on to a lined tray with about a centremetre gap between the balls.
  • Cover with lightly oiled cling film, and leave to rise for an hour.
  • Preheat to 200C/180C fan. Leave them to stand for 45-60 minutes!
  • Once the oven has reached the right temperature – whisk together the flour and water for the topping then carefully pipe on to form the crosses.
  • Bake in the oven for 20 minutes at 200C/180C Fan. After the buns have come out of the oven, brush them lightly with apricot jam if you like them to look sticky and shiny.

    If you have a recipe which you would like us to talk about, or would like to share your own favourite recipe, please send it to harvey.kay@wsm-tc.gov.uk.

    (Recipe courtesy of https://www.janespatisserie.com/2019/04/10/hot-cross-buns/)