Hot cross buns

Traditionally eaten on Good Friday the Hot Cross bun has become another event based food available all year round.

Made from a special dough containing spices, fruits and dairy products, the small buns were considered a luxury item.

Hot Cross Bun

Hot Cross Bun

It is thought that the eating of rich doughs could go back to Ancient Greece.

During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I,  a law prohibited the eating of spiced buns except on Good Friday, Christmas and burials.

This law came about because hot cross buns were said to have supernatural powers to prevent illnesses. Such was the belief in these powers that buns were dried and sprinkled into wounds or hung on beams to protect households from evil spirits.


Over the years a number of quirky traditions have also been attached to the hot cross bun.

The Widow’s Son public House on Devon’s row, Bow, East London carries out the symbolic hanging up, over the bar, of a freshly cooked bun.

It seems that prior to the public house being built, a private house was on the site. In it lived an old widow whose son had gone off to the navy.

He was due to return on Good Friday and asked, ahead of his arrival home, if his mum could cook some hot cross buns.

Sadly he did not return and every year, in memory of her son she baked another bun.

This strange custom was only discovered after she died when, upon visiting the house, many buns were found hanging from the beams.

Her house was demolished to make way for the pub and the ceremony was continued.  Every year a sailor from the Royal Navy presents a new bun to add to the collection dating back to 1848.


Hot Cross Bun with butter

Hot Cross Bun with butter

What drives people to treasure hot cross buns as family heirlooms above an old vase or locket of hair has lead to a number of claims to have the oldest bun.

One bun, now owned by Mrs Haste of Nacton, Suffolk is said to have been baked in 1899.

Passed from generation to generation, it is said to be in memory of a family member who died aged 13.

This claim to have the oldest bun however is disputed by a bun said to have been made in the year that Napoleon died, 1821. Since then it has been passed down through the generations to the current owner Nancy Titman.

Tradition has it that buns made on Good Friday would not go mouldy.


Across the top of a hot cross bun is a symbol that some think is the sign of the crucifix. This is possibly a modern interpretation, as small loaves bearing a cross, were eaten by the saxons. In this context the cross symbolises the four quarters of the moon.

Further information

Why do the British eat Hot Cross Buns – RAF Lakenheath

Wikipedia – The Hot Cross bun

BBC  – Hot Cross Bun recipe

%d bloggers like this: