Scottish Black Bun for Hogmanay

Ever hear of Hogmanay? Ever hear of wrapping a cake inside a pastry and calling it Black Bun?

If you answered yes to either of those questions, you are way ahead of me. Despite my Scottish ancestry, I did not know that while we are celebrating New Year’s Eve by singing Auld Lang Syne by the Scot’s favorite poet, Robert Burns, the Scots are celebrating Hogmanay. What’s more, an important ingredient for Hogmanay is a rich dessert called Black Bun.

While you’re celebrating Hogmanay–a tradition that grew out of Viking end-of-winter celebrations–don’t forget about first footing.  Send a dark-haired man outside to enter your house just after midnight bearing gifts of coal, salt, bread and, of course, whiskey.  Maybe he could bring a nice big Black Bun also.

According to Wikipedia, the Black Bun was originally made for Twelfth Night, but has shifted to the Hogmanay celebration.

I couldn’t let an enticing recipe like that go untested.  So here’s the recipe for Black Bun.  It yields a fruit-rich, overall very rich cake–its heaviness set off by the flaky pastry wrapped around the outside. Fortunately, my recipe for Perfect Pastry once again proves its perfection in this recipe.

The richness encouraged me to attack it in small bites.  Here’s a view of a cut end of the Black Bun and you can see the niche where I have cut out TWO day’s portions.

Black Bun

Black Bun with piece cut out.

It wasn’t really difficult to make, once I figured out how to measure my pan and cut the pastry to fit. The original is loaf-shaped.

Black Bun

Freshly Baked Black Bun, cooling on the rack

I attempted a bow on top, but I think it turned out looking more like either a cross or a “K”.  I would say it is a K for Kenneth, my husband, however he does not like raisins.  If you have an anti-raisin person in your house, forget trying to get them to eat Black Bun. It is all about raisins and currants.

I adapted this recipe from the BBC web page, a really good source of authentic recipes from Great Britain.   Other recipes include nuts or double up on the spices, so once you’ve tried the basic recipe, you can adjust it to suit your own tastes.

Scottish Recipe: Black Bun

Serves 20-24
Prep time 30 minutes
Cook time 2 hours
Total time 2 hours, 30 minutes
Allergy Egg, Wheat
Meal type Dessert
Misc Child Friendly, Pre-preparable, Serve Cold
Occasion New Year
Website BBC
The Scottish celebrate New Year's Eve with a holiday called Hogmanay. They also bake a fruitcake inside a pastry wrapper for the occasion. This is a recipe for the Scottish Black Bun.

Ingredients

  • pastry sufficient for a two-crust pie plus about 1/2 crust. (See note)
  • 7oz white flour (=1 3/4 cup)
  • 10 1/2oz raisins (= 2 cups)
  • 10 1/2oz currents (=2 cups)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger, ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon mixed spice (A British mixed spice combines several spices (See Note). Or use pumpkin pie spice.)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, ground
  • 3 1/2oz dark muscovado sugar (=1 Cup. Can substitute dark brown sugar)
  • 3 1/2oz mixed candied peel, chopped (=1/2 Cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons whisky (The alcohol will bake off, but you can substitute another liquid, such as apple juice or water.)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons Buttermilk

Directions

1. Make soft pastry, wrap in plastic wrap and leave in refrigerator while preparing the filling.
2. Preat oven to 350 degrees
3. Mix spices and pepper in small dish, then mix all the ingredients, including the spice mixture in large bowl.
4. Line a bread pan with parchment paper.
5. Roll out 2/3 of the pastry), and line the loaf pan. (I found it best to make one long strip going from one long end of the pan across and up the other end; then make two pieces about 3" x 3" to fit in the two ends. Be sure to wet the dough seams to be sure they stick together.)
6. Spoon the filling into the pastry and press it down with a spoon.
7. Black Bun unbaked
Roll out the remaining dough and cut to fit the top. Wet the inner edges of the pastry in the pan and the edges of this "lid" pastry and seal the top. Press the edges with a fork. Cut slashes in the pastry. Use leftover strips of pastry to decorate the top with a bow or whatever design you wish.
8. Beat an egg and brush the top of the pastry with the egg.
9. Bake for two hours at 350 degrees, or until top is evenly browned. You can lay a piece of aluminum foil loosely over the top for the last hour of baking if it seems to brown too fast.
10. Black Bun out of pan
Let pan cool completely on a wire rack before turning out and peeling off the parchment.

Note

The BBC site from which I adapted the recipe for Black Bun used grams and ounces. I add the equivalents in cups, although your most accurate measure is still by weighing ingredients.

I used my Perfect Pastry recipe to make this pastry to wrap the Black Bun and it worked like a charm, although I did not get it sealed perfectly on one side. I used the equivalent of 3 single crust pie pastries. That left me with quite a bit of dough, which I made into pie cookies.

Here is the recipe for British spice for desserts like Black Bun from the BBC site:

  • Here is a typical blend of spices used to make mixed spice:
  • 1 Tbs ground allspice
  • 1 Tbs ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbs ground nutmeg
  • 2 tsp ground mace
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground Ginger
  • Blend all spices together, and store in a sealed jar away from light.

4 thoughts on “Scottish Black Bun for Hogmanay

  1. Janice Brown

    I loved your story on the Scottish new year events. I have to wonder about the Hogmanay tradition of wading into cold water, and how far back that tradition goes, and whether our “Brownies” are connected in any way. As for the Scottish Black bun, can you give any clue as to the taste, besides it being rich. Does it taste at all like fruit cake? or rather like something else? Is it moist or dry? soft or firm?
    Janice Brown would like you to read..Blog Caroling: This Time of YearMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Vera Marie BadertscherVera Marie Badertscher Post author

      It does taste a bit like a fruitcake however without all that gelatinous fruit that so many storebought ones have. The cake part is firm, a little crumbly, and the crisp pastry is a nice contrast. Mostly it tastes like raisins an currants.

      Reply
  2. Kerry Dexter


    Twitter:
    I am glad you tried this out and shared the recipe, but surprised that it was new to you.

    In Ireland there used to be a tradition of baking three cakes — cakes with raisins, usually — one of which was eaten on Christmas, one at midnight on New Year’s Eve, and one on Epiphany, or Little Christmas, on 6 January. We didn’t do the three cakes when I was growing up, but we did follow the Christmas eve tradition of having a light in the window to guide the Holy Family and setting out food and drink for them — wonder if that might be where milk and cookies for Santa go its start?

    In any case, all the best to you and Ken for the holiday and in the New Year.
    Kerry Dexter would like you to read..Music for the heart of winter: Cathie RyanMy Profile

    Reply
  3. Bro

    A bite of Black Bun should be washed down with a slug of good scotch: preferably one of the sturdy Islay distillations. Happy Hogmanay, “Scots wha hae…”!

    Reply

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