‘Original’ hot cross bun returns to St Albans Cathedral for Easter

The Alban Bun and grains of paradise

The Alban Bun and grains of paradise - Credit: Supplied by St Albans Cathedral

The Alban Bun – the ‘original’ hot cross bun – will return to St Albans Cathedral for Lent.


The first batch of Alban Buns for 2018 will be delivered to the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban on Thursday, February 15 – the day after the beginning of Lent.

It is said that the Alban Bun, the precursor to the hot cross bun, originates in St Albans where Brother Thomas Rocliffe, a 14th century monk at St Albans Abbey, developed an original recipe.

From 1361, Brother Thomas would distribute these buns to feed the poor on Good Friday.

The original recipe remains a closely guarded secret, but ingredients include flour, eggs, fresh yeast, currants and grains of paradise or cardamom.

St Albans Cathedral

St Albans Cathedral - Credit: Archant

The baker today stays faithful to the original 14th century recipe, with only a slight addition of some extra fruit.

The buns are distinctive in their appearance due to their lack of a piped cross.

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Instead, the baker cuts the cross into the top of the bun with a knife.

Though the original source of the Alban Bun 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).

A report on the Alban Bun from the Herts Advertiser newspaper on April 26, 1862

A report on the Alban Bun from the Herts Advertiser newspaper on April 26, 1862 - Credit: Herts Ad / Supplied by St Albans Cathedral

“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 fascinating story of the Alban Bun continues to attract significant interest with enquiries about its origins coming from as far as New Zealand.

It was also featured on BBC’s Mary Berry’s Easter Feast during Lent 2016.

• The Alban Bun will be available from the Abbot’s Kitchen from Thursday , February 15, until Saturday, March 31.

For more information, visit www.stalbanscathedral.org