St Albans Cathedral and the Original Hot Cross Bun

Thu, 11 February 2016

The Alban Bun – the original Hot Cross Bun – has arrived at St Albans Cathedral for the Easter Period.

The Hot Cross Bun is said to originate in St Albans, where Brother Thomas Rocliffe, a 14th Century monk at St Albans Abbey, developed an original recipe and distributed the bun to the local poor on Good Friday, starting in 1361.

For nearly seven hundred years, the Alban Bun has been a part of the Easter tradition at St Albans Cathedral and is available at the Abbot’s Kitchen from the start of Lent through to Easter Monday.

The buns are now produced by Redbournbury Mill, once owned by St Albans Abbey. They are hand-formed, so they are a less regular shape than ordinary hot cross buns. The cross on the top is formed with two slices of a knife – there isn’t a piped cross on top – and the bun has a distinctive, spicy taste.

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 original source of the Alban Bun is still being researched. An article in the Herts Advertiser of 1862 report 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.


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