History of Hot Cross Buns

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A little sweet, a lot of spice and all things nice; hot cross buns have long been a staple over Easter weekend. But why are hot cross buns eaten over Easter?

It all started way back during Greek and Roman civilisations where they would bake small cakes and mark them with a white cross to symbolise the four seasons. But it wasn’t until early Christian times that the hot cross bun began to take on more religious significance, when the cross atop hot cross buns came to symbolise the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  Fast forward to the 16th century, where the first recorded reference to hot cross buns in England appears. A monk named Father Thomas Rockcliffe distributed them to the poor on Good Friday.

Over time, hot cross buns came to be associated with Easter weekend. The buns were typically made with ingredients that were forbidden during Lent, such as sugar and butter, making them a special treat for the end of the fasting period: Easter weekend. The same century which saw hot cross buns rise, also saw them fall. The Protestant Reformation actually tried to ban hot cross buns, but ultimately failed as people continued to bake them in secret.

Moving right along, the 18th and 19th centuries saw hot cross buns become a popular street food in England, with vendors selling them on Good Friday. In fact, one Mr. Thomas Farrnier sold such delicious hot cross buns he eventually became the official supplier to the royal family!

But hot cross buns aren’t just associated with royalty and religious symbolism, there are also a number of superstitions surrounding them. It was believed they could cure illness and protect against shipwrecks. People also thought eating a hot cross bun on Good Friday would bring good luck and protect against illness for the coming year.

So why do we continue to eat hot cross buns at Easter today? Well, for one, they’re delicious. But they’re also a way to connect with the traditions of the past and honour the religious significance of Easter weekend. Plus, they’re a great excuse to treat yourself to something sweet and spicy. After all, it’s tradition.

While the basic recipe for hot cross buns has remained the same over the centuries, there have been some variations and innovations. Some bakers add spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg, while others use chocolate chips or dried fruit. At Bellbird, we favour a traditional base recipe with a secret blend of spices and, unlike many competitors, our hot cross buns are vegan-friendly.

There you have it, a bit of history behind the delicious hot cross bun. From religion to royalty, these sweet treats really have stood the test of the time. At the end of the day, all that really matters is how delicious they taste! So go ahead, indulge in a hot cross bun or two this Easter.

Craving hot cross buns? You can order our famous hot cross buns here.

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