The Alban Bun
In the 21st century a new lease of life has been given to the story of St Albans Abbey as the birthplace of the Hot Cross Bun, first served to the poor by Brother Thomas Rocliffe in 1361.
The original source of the Alban Bun is still being researched, however an article in the Herts Advertiser of 1862 reports it as follows:
"It is said that in a copy of Ye Booke of Saint Albans it was reported that "In the year of Our Lord 1361 Thomas Rocliffe, a monk attached to the refectory at St Albans Monastery, caused a quantity of small sweet spiced cakes, marked with a cross, to be made; then he directed them to be given away to persons who applied at the door of the refectory on Good Friday in addition to the customary basin of sack (wine). These cakes so pleased the palates of the people who were the recipients that they became talked about, and various were the attempts to imitate the cakes of Father Rocliffe all over the country, but the recipe of which was kept within the walls of the Abbey." The time honoured custom has therefore been observed over the centuries, and will undoubtedly continue into posterity, bearing with it the religious remembrance it is intended to convey.
The original full recipe is a closely guarded secret but ingredients include: flour, eggs, fresh yeast, currants and grains of paradise or cardamom. The baker today stays faithful to the original 14th century recipe, with only a slight addition of some extra fruit. The Buns are hand-formed, so they are a less regular shape than ordinary hot cross buns and there is no piped cross on top – rather it is formed with two slices of a knife. The bun has a distinctive, spicy taste.
Unsurprisingly, the bun and its wonderful story generate lots of public interest, with enquiries about its origins coming from as far afield as New Zealand! In 2016 it was featured on the BBC's Mary Berry's Easter Feast, with Mary Berry herself making a visit to the Cathedral to try it.
For nearly 700 years, the Alban Bun has remained an important part of the Easter tradition at St Albans Cathedral, with the Abbot's Kitchen Café selling the freshly baked buns from Lent through to Easter. Be sure to pick yours up this Easter.
In 2018 the Alban Bun will be on sale from Thursday 15th February until Monday 2nd April in the Abbot's Kitchen.