Tag Archives: Scottish recipe

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According to Wikipedia, the Black Bun was originally made for Twelfth Night, but has shifted to the Hogmanay celebration.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


  • 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


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.


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.

Ancestors of Oatmeal Cookies: Oatcakes

Scottish old house

My Scottish ancestors would have lived in this kind of house before immigrating to the United States. A sod-roofed stone house from old Scotland at Highlands Village, Nova Scotia

Visiting Nova Scotia, I was immersed in the Scottish culture of my ancestors, and of course that included FOOD.  In Pictou, at the McCulloch Heritage Center, I picked up a cookbook that shows recipes in both English and Gaelic.

I couldn’t wait to get home to try the most typical cookie/biscuit of Scotland–Oatcakes.  When we attended a ceilidh–a musical gathering–in Baddeck, there was a break during which audience members could buy a cup of tea and an oatcake.

tea cups and oatcakes

Baddeck Gathering Ceilidh intermission–tea cups and oatcakes

One of the musicians remarked that the Baddeck Gathering is the only place he knows of where the audience members are served tea in real cups rather than cardboard or Styrofoam! That makes it memorable, but it is the music and the oatcakes that I remember. I suspect that I will never again have an oatcake without thinking of the joyful, friendly weekly musical event in Baddeck on Cape Breton.

Baddeck Ceilidh

Baddeck Ceilidh

Have you seen the Gaelic language?  As I mentioned in my article about making a kilt, we tried a short class, just enough to convince us we would never have MacBeth’s ghost of a chance to speak the musical language! But we certainly enjoyed listening to the music that comes from that language.

By the way, the Gaelic cookbook from Pictou County, Nova Scotia, categorizes this recipe as “Bread”, but I think of it more as a cookie, or the ancestor of oatOatmeal Cookies.

Here’s what the oatcake recipe looks like in Gaelic:

Oatcake recipe in Gaelic.

Oatcake recipe in Gaelic. From Ás an Abhainn Mhóir: English-Gaelic Recipes from Pictou County

Have fun baking an oatcake using that recipe.

No? Okay, here’s the English version from the from the same cookbook, Ás an Abhainn Mhóir: English-Gaelic Recipes from Pictou County.

Scottish Oatcakes

Serves 18-24
Prep time 1 hour, 25 minutes
Cook time 12 minutes
Total time 1 hour, 37 minutes
Allergy Wheat
Meal type Bread
Misc Child Friendly, Freezable, Pre-preparable, Serve Cold
From book English-Gaelic Recipes from Pictou County


  • 2 cups oatmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup butter (softened)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup boiling water


1. Combine all dry ingredients and add butter.
2. Cut butter into dry ingredients.
3. Dissolve baking soda in boiling water and mix and cut in with knife, adding more water if needed.
4. Mold with hands and roll into long wedge.
5. Chill dough.
6. Slice chilled dough about 1/2 inch thick
7. Place cakes on ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes.


Preparation time includes an hour in refrigerator to cool.

I cheated and added 1/2 tsp vanilla for additional flavor.

I shaped the dough before chilling into a log approximately eight inches long and two inches high.  It flattened on the bottom as it cooled, and I did not try to make it round.  I don't know what size cookie the cookbook writers had in mind, but that made a fairly large cookie, so you could easily make the log longer and narrower for more cookies.

I placed the cookies a little too close together, because they did spread a little bit.

(As you see, I'm calling it a cookie, even though they call it a bread.  Anything with a cup of brown sugar is a cookie in my book!)

Did you know that other than the Scots and some other far-northern peoples, oats were not regularly used for food until the 19th century? The oatmeal cookie, that seems so traditional, is actually a newcomer in the United States. Unless you count oatcakes, which were surely baked by early Scottish settlers like my Anderson and Fife and McCabe ancestors. Read about how recently oatmeal cookies emerged as a favorite in the U.S., and get a couple more recipes at Revolutionary Pie.

oats for oatcakes

Oats drying by a stone house in Highland Village, Nova Scotia


All photos used here are my own. Please ask before reusing.