St Albans’ historic Easter bun soon on sale

The Alban Bun. Picture: St Albans Cathedral

The Alban Bun. Picture: St Albans Cathedral - Credit: Archant

The historic Alban Bun will soon be on sale once again at the St Albans Cathedral café for Easter.

In 1361, a monk at the then St Albans Abbey developed a recipe for a sweet cake-like item to give to the poor on Good Friday.

It used flour, eggs, fresh yeast, currants, and cardamom, and in time Brother Thomas Rocliffe’s creation became the popular Hot Cross Bun which is sold in supermarkets and bakeries at Easter time around the country.

But at St Albans Cathedral’s Abbot’s Kitchen, the chef stays true to the original recipe - except using additional fruit.

Commercial Hot Cross Buns are a uniform size and shape with a distinctive piped cross. The Alban Bun is handmade, and therefore less regular in shape, and the cross topping is cut with a knife.

A Herts Ad article of 1862, which printed an extract of the ‘Ye Booke of Saint Albans, reads: “‘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’.”

It continues: “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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St Albans Cathedral report that the Alban Bun still attracts significant interest.

For example, enquiries about its origins have come from as far away as New Zealand and it was featured on the BBC’s Mary Berry’s Easter Feast during Lent 2016.

In 2009, The Telegraph reported that St Albans Cathedral were campaigning for the revival of the Alban bun, which they described as a “denser, and more cakey” product.

The Very Rev Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans Cathedral, was quoted: “Recently we’ve lost touch with the significance of the bun, and its link to Holy Week and the Cross.

“These days it’s possible to buy Hot Cross Buns throughout the year. Whilst any reminder of the importance of Easter is welcomed, we’ve come to the conclusion that the Alban Bun might be a way of reaffirming the significance of the bun as a symbol of Christ’s death and resurrection.”

The Alban Bun will be available from Abbot’s Kitchen from March 7 until April 22.