Alban Bun returns for Lent from Abbot's Kitchen

The legendary Alban Bun.

The legendary Alban Bun. - Credit: St Albans Cathedral

The Alban Bun is back for another year - baked in-house at St Albans Cathedral's Abbot's Kitchen for the first time in over a decade.

The Alban Bun, the precursor to the famous hot cross bun, is believed to have originated in St Albans from an original recipe devised by Brother Thomas Rocliffe, a 14th century monk at the abbey.

Although the original source is still being researched, 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."

From 1361, Brother Thomas would distribute these buns to feed the poor on Good Friday, using an original recipe which remains a closely guarded secret.


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Today's bun stays faithful to the original 14th century mix of flour, eggs, fresh yeast, currants and grains of paradise or cardamom, with only a slight addition of some extra fruit.

The buns are distinctive in their appearance due to their lack of a piped cross. Instead, the baker cuts the cross into the top of the bun with a knife.

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The Alban Bun will be available to pre-order via St Albans Cathedral’s website for click and collect from the Abbot’s Kitchen Café every Saturday during Lent.

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