Cross about Buns

Launcestron Advertiser 23 Mar
Advertising (1837, March 23). Launceston Advertiser (Tas. : 1829 – 1846), , p. 2. Retrieved March 24, 2016, from

I try to be non-judgmental. I try to live and let live. But on the issue of hot cross buns I can’t hold back any longer.

A hot cross bun is made with a yeast dough and raisins, and is decorated with a cross. That’s right, raisins and yeast. Not choc-chips, as is particularly popular with the chain Baker’s Delight here in Australia. Not self-raising flour, which makes a scone, not a bun. And most certainly not craisins. Never craisins.

Sydney Gazette 26 Mar 1842 p3
Insolvency Court. (1842, March 26). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), , p. 3. Retrieved March 24, 2016, from


Then there is this year’s trend for the Franken-buns. My Facebook feed is currently overrun with loaf/bun hybrids. Supermarket chain Coles posted a recipe for Hot Cross Bun-ana Bread and were subsequently overwhelmed by requests to stock the darn stuff. Then there is the monstrous Bun and Butter Skillet Pudding. Am I insane to think that a hot cross bun should, at the very least, be a bun?

If you want a loaf with raisins and spice then what you’re searching for is a Seed Cake, the most popular sweet loaf in the Victorian Era. Here is a link to Mrs Beeton’s Recipe for Seed Cake. You’re welcome.

Don’t even get me started on hot cross buns in February. Hot Cross buns are for good Friday. If you’re confused about how the whole custom works, allow this 1836 edition of The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser to explain:

Yesterday being Good Friday, Banks, Public Offices, and Shops, were closed, and the various Churches and Chapels opened for sacred Worship. Hot cross buns were not forgotten, and as in merry England aforetime, the well known cry, “One a penny buns, two a penny buns – one a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns, all hot,” was to be heard at an early hour.

PORT PHILIP. (1836, April 2). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), , p. 2. Retrieved March 24, 2016, from

There is a meme going around that says simply: “Words mean things”. Seasonal dishes are a language unto themselves. If we use then out of place, we erode that language until the dishes just become novelty items or marketing tools.

Hot Cross buns, on Good Friday, mean things. Regardless of your religious faith, making or eating these little yeast buns on a Friday in March or April transforms you into part of a living tradition that goes back at least to 1733. Isn’t that worth finding another sweet treat to eat on the other 364 days of the year?

One thought on “Cross about Buns

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