The History Behind the Humble Hot Cross Bun

Here's a chocolaty variation for all you chocoholics out there!

Hot cross buns come in all kinds of different varieties, here we have some shop bought chocolate ones, great for a light snack or a good breakfast.

The humble hot cross bun is something you either loathe or love, but believe it or not this little, spiced, bun is steeped in history and superstitious folklore.

Hot cross buns are usually eaten in historically Christian countries, where the cross is put on the buns as a symbol of the crucifixion. They are usually eaten during the period of Lent, beginning with the evening of Shrove Tuesday to midday on Good Friday.

English folklore states that if you share a hot cross bun with someone it is supposed to ensure friendship throughout the coming year, and so the following phrase was coined: “Half for you and half for me, between us two shall goodwill be.” Many Victorians believed in keeping hot cross buns for medicinal purposes as well, believing that it would help them fight illnesses they had.

Hot cross buns have become a baked hallmark of Easter and each year they are sold in and around the UK. So next time you dig into your toasted, buttery, bun just remember that you’re eating something that is steeped in history.

Why not have a go baking you’re very own hot cross buns.  Below is quick simple guide taken from:


For the buns

  • 300ml full-fat milk, plus 2 tbsp more
  • 50g butter
  • 500g strong bread flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 7g sachet fast-action or easy-blend yeast
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 75g sultanas
  • 50g mixed peel
  • zest 1 orange
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

For the cross

  • 75g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

For the glaze

  • 3 tbsp apricot jam


  1. Bring the milk to the boil, then remove from the heat and add the butter. Leave to cool until it reaches hand temperature. Put the flour, salt, sugar and yeast (see Tip, below) into a bowl. Make a well in the centre. Pour in the warm milk and butter mixture, then add the egg. Using a wooden spoon, mix well, then bring everything together with your hands until you have a sticky dough.
  2. Tip on to a lightly floured surface and knead by holding the dough with one hand and stretching it with the heal of the other hand, then folding it back on itself. Repeat for 5 mins until smooth and elastic. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with oiled cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 hr or until doubled in size and a finger pressed into it leaves a dent.
  3. With the dough still in the bowl, tip in the sultanas, mixed peel, orange zest, apple and cinnamon. Knead into the dough, making sure everything is well distributed. Leave to rise for 1 hr more, or until doubled in size, again covered by some well-oiled cling film to stop the dough getting a crust.
  4. Divide the dough into 15 even pieces (about 75g per piece – see Tip below). Roll each piece into a smooth ball on a lightly floured work surface. Arrange the buns on one or two baking trays lined with parchment, leaving enough space for the dough to expand. Cover (but don’t wrap) with more oiled cling film, or a clean tea towel, then set aside to prove for 1 hr more.
  5. Heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Mix the flour with about 5 tbsp water to make the paste for the cross – add the water 1 tbsp at a time, so you add just enough for a thick paste. Spoon into a piping bag with a small nozzle. Pipe a line along each row of buns, then repeat in the other direction to create crosses (see Tip below). Bake for 20 mins on the middle shelf of the oven, until golden brown.
  6. Gently heat the apricot jam to melt, then sieve to get rid of any chunks. While the jam is still warm, brush over the top of the warm buns and leave to cool.

By James Busby

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THE IMPOSSIBLE MADE POSSIBLE! How you too can make your Impossible Pie.

Last week, I went around Heysham Village absorbing the history and culture, but also enjoyed a slice of Impossible Pie at Tracey’s Cafe. (If you haven’t read my post already, here’s a quick reminder: Heysham Village: History, Scenery and a slice of Impossible Pie) The concept intrigued and excited me: why is this pie called the Impossible Pie when I was looking at it right there in front of me? Like an Egg Custard Tart with a coconut topping, I decided this pie was well worth trying out myself as I am partial to an Egg Custard Tart.

You will need:

2 cups of semi-skimmed milk

2 cups of plain flour

1 cup of caster sugar

2 cups of margarine

4 eggs

1 cup of coconut

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

10′ Pie Dish of Flan Dish

Impossible Pie ingredients

Impossible Pie ingredients. Yes I am aware there is only one egg here, I’d cracked the other three before taking this photograph.

1. Before you start anything, make sure that you have set your oven to preheat at 180°C.

2. Whisk your eggs in a large mixing bowl. It is advised to use an electric whisk but because I am a student I just put some elbow grease in and used a fork.

3. Add your milk and whisk again until it looks like you’ve made a really nice scrambled egg mix. Now, add your cup of sugar! It’s best adding your sugar after the eggs and milk as you can see it dissolving and will know when it is fully mixed in.

4. Sieve your flour into the mixture, mixing as you go along to ensure there aren’t any lumps. No one should have to eat a lumpy pie.

5. Now I tried buying a coconut from Tesco but a) They’re not in season and b) It just seems like an unnecessary bother preparing a coconut. As they also didn’t have any coconut shavings on the bakery isle, I had to buy chunks of fresh coconut from the fridge section which at £1, I didn’t think that was too bad and was just the amount I needed. As they are pretty big chunks, I found it best to dice them into smaller pieces like this:

Roughly dice your chunks of coconut to look something like this

6. Having diced your coconut, just throw it into the mix and give it a little stir.

7. I found it easier to melt my margarine before adding it to the mixture, a lot less hassle to mix. Finally, add your two teaspoons of vanilla extract and it’s all systems go. Gently pour your mixture into your dish and it’s ready to put into the oven for 1 hour. Don’t worry if you think the mixture is too runny, it’s supposed to be like that. It should look something like this:


8. If you’re anything like me, you will look into the oven every five minutes or so just to make sure that it’s working. After an hour of doing this, your pie should be ready!

Fruit isn't just for decoration, it actually does get eaten

Fruit isn’t just for decoration, it actually does get eaten. But look at that pie! Perfect.

I tried a slice myself and can honestly say it tasted delicious. But obviously I’m going to say that because I made the thing. So I didn’t have a biased opinion, I tried it out on my flatmates and friend Kathryn to see if they too enjoyed eating the pie. And they did!

Kathryn eating my Impossible Pie

Kathryn eating my Impossible Pie

As the pie has quite an unusual texture, I would say it is best to eat it on it’s own. Although some strawberries can be quite refreshing as an after bite!

The pie is best on it's own but for extra decoration and a refreshing after bite, I served mine with Strawberries and Banana

The pie is best on it’s own but for extra decoration and a refreshing after bite, I served mine with Strawberries and Banana

Do you think you will try and make the impossible possible and try your hand at making the Impossible Pie? And if not, what other recipes do you find challenging that have a delicious outcome?

Leave your comments below.

And don’t forget, you can like us on Facebook , follow us on Twitter or email us at! Look forward to hearing from you,

John Elsworth

St David’s Day Treat

This piece is for all you Welsh folks out there, and with it being St David’s Day last weekend and having two Welsh flatmates I decided to treat them both.Welsh cakes or Pice ar y maen are a teatime treat passed on through the generations and have been enjoyed for centuries. The cakes are a cross between a cookie, a scone, and a pancake but have a completely unique taste. Wales was renowned for being a huge agricultural country that was heavily reliant on its mining community and it was once the largest coal producing nation on earth.

The cakes were usually made by the lady of the house and given to the miners as they left for the mines; it would provide them with the sugar and energy they would need to carry out the physical feats that lay ahead during their day down the coal mines. Being durable and small meant that miners could safely tuck them away into a coat pocket, keeping them handy for when they grew increasingly hungry from the intensity of their work. They would often be the only sweet, light relief they would get in their otherwise dark, dank, gloomy surroundings. Since then they have become a sweet treat that we can all enjoy, and a Welsh favourite.

Here's what you'll need.

Here’s what you’ll need.

Recipe taken from:


225g plain flour

85g caster sugar

½ tsp mixed spice

½ tsp baking powder

50g butter, cut into small pieces

50g lard, cut into small pieces, plus extra for frying

50g currants

1 egg, beaten

Splash of milk


1. Tip the flour, sugar, mixed spice, baking powder and a pinch of salt into a bowl.


2. Then, with your fingers, rub in the butter and lard until crumbly. Mix in the currants. Work the egg into the mixture until you have soft dough, adding a splash of milk if it seems a little dry – it should be the same consistency as shortcrust pastry.


3. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface to the thickness of your little finger.


4. Cut out rounds using a 6cm cutter, or if you don’t have a cutter simply use a cup. Carry on re-rolling any trimmings until you have used all the pastry. Grease a flat griddle pan or heavy frying pan with lard, and place over a medium heat.


5. Cook the Welsh cakes in batches, for about 3 mins each side, until golden brown, crisp and cooked through. Delicious served warm with butter and jam, or simply sprinkled with caster sugar. Cakes will stay fresh in a tin for 1 week.


Happy St David’s Day!

Wish to share your bakes with us? Did you make anything special on St David’s Day? Let us know.

By James Busby

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Heysham Village: history, scenery and a slice of Impossible Pie.

Heysham Village: scenic, quaint, historical and quite frankly, beautiful. Not to brag, but my second home. When I’m not in Lancaster, there’s nothing I love more than spending a few days with my dad in Heysham, walking the dog and enjoying the rich scenery that Heysham has to offer. Whether it’s a walk along Half Moon Bay, a stroll down the promenade, a venture around St. Peters Church (founded in the 8th Century and acting as a Saxon Church since 1080) or imagining a life that was when visiting the Viking Graves, it’s safe to say that you can’t fall shy of something to do in this quiet little village.


Heysham Village sign post


My Patterdale Terrier Ruby enjoying a dip in the sea.

There are a few cafe’s in Heysham, but we decided to start with the latest edition: Tracy’s Cafe. Formally known as Jim’s Cafe, new management has taken over (in the form of Tracy and her mum) and they have added a selection of homemade cakes to the menu.  I decided to have a slice of Impossible Pie and my dad decided to have a Chocolate & Cinnamon flapjack to go alongside our pot of tea.


Slice of Impossible Pie and a pot of tea for two

At sight, the Impossible Pie looked less impressive than the actual concept behind it. When I asked Tracy’s mum what made it impossible to make, clearly it wasn’t impossible at all. Though not impossible, impressive all the same.  The method behind making this pie is similar to the all in one method. Mixing all of the ingredients together (4 eggs, 1/2 cup of margarine, 2 cups of milk, 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of coconut and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract). However, with the impossible pie, once all of the ingredients have been blended until well mixed, the ingredients separate to form each individual layer.

The flour settles to form the crust, the coconut forms the topping and the centre is of course the egg custard filling. This sounded intriguing and fun to make! Although the textures seemed a bit strange together, after a few mouthfuls you truly began to appreciate the taste of all three layers and the marvel behind making it.

Next week, I will attempt to make the Impossible Pie to see if mine actually works. Also, seeing as how an Egg Custard Tart is one of my favourite deserts, my stomach will be glad of the treat.

Are there any recipes that you didn’t think would turn out as scrumptious as they did? Or any recipes that you use again and again because they’re that good? Leave your comments below.

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By John Elsworth

What happened to baking: Hobby or necessity?

By Hollie Bradbury

Many, many centuries ago, the first evidence of baking occurred when humans took wild grass grains and soaked them in water before mashing them into a broth like paste. The paste was then cooked on a flat, hot rock with the result resembling a bread like substance.

And just like that Baking was born.

Baking holds special significance in a number of culture’s, In Victorian Britain, when the Duchess of Bedford, Anna Russell grew tired of the sinking feeling which afflicted her every afternoon at around 4 o’clock ..she asked for a tray of tea, bread and butter, and freshly baked cakes to be brought to her room. Once she had formed the habit she found she couldn’t break it, so spread the word among her friends instead. As the century progressed, afternoon tea became increasingly elaborate with more adventurous sweet treats added to the tray.


These days a visit to a coffee shop isn’t complete without a slither of cake.

It is fascinating how just knowing the right temperature or the right quantity can create a masterpiece.

I always describe myself as a better taster than a baker so amongst a tray of cucumber sandwiches and freshly baked scones I took five minutes this afternoon to chat with my baking hero my Grandma, who has been whipping up delights in the kitchen for as long as I can remember.

There isn’t anything she hasn’t baked, whether it’s simple jam tarts or elaborate birthday cakes.


Between bites we dig out some old recipe books and talk all things baking from a time gone by.

As we sit around the table I pick up a very fragile recipe book named ‘Naughty but Nice’’, it is backed with a sunny yellow cover and art deco style font, my Grandma smiles: “Ah yes, this is a baking book that myself and a group of other young women collated to raise money for the church. Inside there are all kinds of baking recipes, It was nice to be apart of a baking community, there was a a bit of competition though.”

I ask my Grandma why people aren’t as interested in baking as she was when she was a young girl: “People just don’t bake as much anymore because it can be so time consuming, often it is nowadays cheaper to buy ready made cakes and sweet treats as opposed to forking out for all of the ingredients and equipment to start baking from scratch.”


“Back in my day baking was a necessity, you simply had to work out how to make something tasty from miss matched ingredients, there were these shops called ‘scoop stores’, inside there were barrels and barrels of baking ingredients and you could take a container and fill it as high as you could pack it, I guess now you can just head to the supermarket and buy everything in packets.”

“These days more and more people bake as a hobby, it’s gotten quite fashionable hasn’t it? I like to watch the Great British bake-off, they bake some classics on there, my favourite thing to bake is pineapple upside down cake, or scones because they’re quick and easy.”

My memory’s of baking with Grandma are fond, when I was little I would be her assitant and was always allowed to lick the spoon.

Do you have any memories of baking with your Grandma? Leave a comment below.


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A cake fit for a Queen


Photo:Big Gangsta Photos Taken:

The Victoria Sponge has been around for decades. It is an old favourite that is held close to all British bakers’ hearts and is a national favourite. But before I go onto how you make this classic, I will briefly give you a quick history lesson about this simple but yet  delicious sponge came to be.

Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria

To start off where did the name come from? I guess the clue is in the name of the cake, as the Victoria in question is that of Queen Victoria who reigned over Britain for the best part of the 19th century from 1837 to 1901.

Victoria’s reign was noted by historians as being a ‘golden age for Great Britain’ the industrial revolution was in full swing, and the commonwealth was forever expanding. Some of you historians out there may now that the phrase ‘’the empire on which the sun never sets” was coined as an adage to the nations curiosity to seek and find new resources. Some of the findings have become key ingredients that we now use in our daily lives and no baker could live without the likes of sugar, cocoa, herbs, spices and coffee.

So as a result the sponge was made for the Queen by Anna, the Duchess of Bedford who was one of Queen Victoria’s ladies in waiting. She made small little cakes and named them after Victoria as homage to her successful reign. Soon these cakes where served at the numerous banquets and tea parties Victoria held; it wouldn’t be long till they made their way into the nation’s hearts and homes.

Here’s what you will need!


• 225g/8oz butter or margarine, softened at room temperature
• 225g/8oz caster sugar
• 4 medium eggs
• 2 tsp vanilla extract
• 225g/8oz self-raising flour
• milk, to loosen

Preparation method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.

2. Grease and line 2 x 18cm/7in cake tins with baking paper.
Technique: Greasing and lining cake tins .Greasing and lining cake tins.

3. Cream the butter and the sugar together in a bowl until pale and fluffy.

Technique: Creaming butter by hand .Creaming butter by hand.

4. Beat in the eggs, a little at a time, and stir in the vanilla extract.

5. Fold in the flour using a large metal spoon, adding a little extra milk if necessary, to create a batter with a soft dropping consistency.
6. Divide the mixture between the cake tins and gently spread out with a spatula.

7. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden-brown on top and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

8. Remove from the oven and set aside for 5 minutes, then remove from the tin and peel off the paper. Place onto a wire rack.

9. Sandwich the cakes together with jam, lemon curd or whipped cream and berries or just enjoy on its own.

10. Grab a plate and enjoy!

By James Busby

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