The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Exhibiting hot cross buns

Breadandwine's picture

Exhibiting hot cross buns

Hi folks

I discovered many years ago that the cross on a hot  cross bun pre-dated the Christian era. I mentioned this at our local Humanist group meeting which was discussing mountng an exhibition in the local library.

Knowing I'm a home bread maker, the organiser said, "Ah, we have our first exhibit!"

I thought of making a batch of, say, a dozen (maybe a baker's dozen?), buns, closely packed together, rather like with the Chelsea buns:

...and then, when they've cooled,  giving them a coat of varnish - clear, of course! Unless I'm to replace them every couple of days - the exhibition is on for a week.

And, unless I hear differently from you guys, I don't intend putting a pastry cross on top. Rather I shall cut a cross in the buns with the back of a knife - much as I did when I was a lad in my dad's baker's shop over 60 years ago.

Looking forward to your thoughts!

Regards, Paul


PaddyL's picture

....I simply cut the cross into the tops.  Now I pipe on the flour, water, sugar mix after slashing the tops.

dabrownman's picture

varnished exhibit is out of the reach of folks who will see your buns and be tempted by you know who to pinch one for a tasty treat :-)  I learned that the cross on buns predates Christ from you today.  Now to find out its origin.....

gmabaking's picture

I would think just with an egg wash, after a week on display, the buns will be hard as rocks but not dangerous to eat just in case some one would try.

waltgray's picture


In many historically Christian countries, buns are traditionally eaten hot or toasted on Good Friday, with the cross standing as a symbol of the Crucifixion. They are believed by some to pre-date Christianity, although the first recorded use of the term "hot cross bun" was not until 1733.

It is believed that buns marked with a cross were eaten by Saxons in honour of the goddess Eostre (the cross is thought to have symbolised the four quarters of the moon);[2] "Eostre" is probably the origin of the name "Easter". Others claim that the Greeks marked cakes with a cross, much earlier.[3]

In the times of Elizabeth I of England (1592), the London Clerk of Markets issued a decree forbidding the sale of hot cross buns and other spiced breads, except at burials, on Good Friday, or at Christmas. The punishment for violation of the decree was forfeiture of all the forbidden product to the poor. As a result of this decree, hot cross buns at the time were primarily made in home kitchens. Further attempts to suppress the sale of these items took place during the reign of James I (1603-1625).[4]

EvaB's picture

who said an egg wash should be sufficient as the buns will go hard. I haven't ever had a problem with the spiced hot cross buns getting mouldy in my house even after two or three weeks, when one has gotten stuck away someplace and forgotten.  But then again I use two or three times the spices called for in most recipes because I like the taste of them.

If you do a decent bake so they are well done, not half done like most commercial buns are these days with pale crusts and soggy middles, they should manage just fine, unless of course your display area is soggy with humidity which a library shouldn't be, I think they would be safe for display for the week.

I learned something new in that I didn't realize that the buns had predated the Christian era but of course should have known something of that, because I do know that most of the traditions in the church are taken from a lot of so called Pagan rituals and practices. Interesting. And to think it was not just the pagans who did it, but the amazing and sofisticated Greeks. LOL

Breadandwine's picture

Especially your Wiki extract, waltgray! Very useful.

As it happened, events conspired against me in that I came down with a high temperature on the Saturday before the exhibition began - and spent the next 5 days in bed! So I never did get to show my buns off.

However, I was up and about by the last day, the Saturday - and bought half a dozen commercial buns in a cellophane wrapper, which was shown, along with the Wiki extract, for most of the day.

Sad to report (though not unexpected!), when we came to dismantle the exhibition, I split the buns between us - and what a disappointment! The dough was soft pap - and the fruit was almost non-existent! When the buns were broken open, only one or two currants were visible!

This reminded me of a baker friend of mine, who used to lend me his ovens on a Thursday after the bakers had gone home, so that I could make bread to sell in the local market. I've always used a rule of thumb when it comes to fruit buns, etc. - half of the amount of flour, at least, should be fruit. But the buns my friend used to make were as I've described above.

I had this conversation with him once:

"Derek, you're selling me sultanas at 45p/pound (this was back in the 90s). If you add an extra pound of sultanas to your hot cross bun mix, you'll make another 5 or so buns which you can sell for 30p each  - so you'll make another £1 or so profit for every extra pound of fruit"

His response? "You mustn't spoil the customer!" I could never get him beyond this point.

Happy baking, folks!