St Alban Bun – the Original Hot Cross Bun

27th March 2024

“Hot cross buns, hot cross buns, one a penny two a penny, hot cross buns”

It’s that time of year when hot cross buns become part of the celebration of Easter – but there’s only one place where it is possible to buy the closest recipe to the original bun that started the tradition over 900 years ago.

The Alban bun was first produced on the site of St Albans Cathedral by a medieval monk. According to Ye Book of St Albans, in 1361 the monk – Thomas Rocliffe – “caused a quantity of small sweet spiced cakes, marked with a cross, to be made”.

The cakes, which were given away on Good Friday, “so pleased the palates of the people who were the recipients that they became talked about, and various were the attempts to imitate the cakes of Father Rocliffe all over the country, but the recipe of which was kept within the walls of the Abbey”.

This story, reported in the local newspaper in 1862, was rediscovered about thirty years ago and people began to try and reproduce the bun based on a recipe found in the archives.

Kate Klevitt, part of the marketing and communications team at St Albans said:

“About 20 years ago, our in-house refectory cook Anne Hunt produced the best modern-day version she could. These were made for Easter week only in very limited numbers, for about three years.”

As demand grew, the cathedral commissioned various local bakeries to produce the buns before eventually taking production back in-house.

Thousands of Alban buns are produced every year between Ash Wednesday and Easter Monday and sold only from St Albans Cathedral refectory with demand frequently outstripping supply, as people flock from around the region to buy the buns.

The exact recipe remains a closely guarded secret.

“People journey to the cathedral to taste a bit of history in the place where it all started,” said Kate. “On top of that – they taste good!”