A Hogmanay Tradition: Black Bun Recipe

  21 Dec '20   |  Posted by: Birlinn

Black bun, sometimes also known as Scotch bun, is a pastry-enrobed fruit cake which was originally a treat eaten on Twelfth Night, but is now much more commonly enjoyed at Hogmanay. The rather ominously dark cake was clearly offputting to Robert Louis Stevenson, who called is a ‘dense black substance inimical to life.’ If you are also a little hesitant to try your hand at making black bun yourself, Scotland’s foremost chef Sue Lawrence has a delightful recipe in her book Scottish Baking. Here are her memories of black bun through the years:

In our house at Hogmanay there were some things that never
changed. The home-made blackcurrant cordial might have been replaced
by advocaat and lemonade as we became older, but there was always the
tall dark man (my father) at the door at midnight with a piece of coal as
the ‘first-foot’ of the year; and there was always black bun. Alongside the plate of shortbread with wedges of Cheddar cheese and sultana or cherry

cake there was black bun – rich, heavy and dense – perfect to soak up

the copious amounts of whisky proffered in every household. (‘Just one

more dram before you go…’). Black bun and ‘shortie’ were de rigueur

everywhere, as we did the rounds of neighbours’ houses, first-footing until

the wee small hours.

Sue Lawrence, Scottish Baking

Black Bun

Serves 12-16

280 g/10oz plain flour, sifted
½ tsp baking powder
150 g/5½oz butter, diced
grated zest and juice of 1
beaten egg, to glaze

450 g/1lb raisins
600 g/1¼lb currants
100 g/3½oz whole almonds,
roughly chopped
50g /1¾oz walnuts, roughly
150/5½oz plain flour, sifted
75g/2¾oz demerara or
caster sugar
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp cream of tartar
½ tsp baking powder
2 tbsp whisky
approx. 4 tbsp milk


For the pastry, sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl, stir in the lemon zest. Rub
in the butter, then add the lemon juice and 3–4 tbsp cold water, enough to bind to a stiff
dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and roll out thinly. Use two-thirds of the
pastry to line a buttered, square 23cm/9in cake tin. Roll out the remaining pastry to fit as
a lid, cover and chill both the lid and the case for half an hour or so.

For the filling, mix everything together, except the whisky and milk. (I do this with
my hands – it is easier.) Then add the whisky – and enough milk to moisten the mixture.

Turn into the pastry case and press down well.

Dampen the edges of the pastry all round with a little water and place the rolled-out
pastry lid on top. Press together the edges to seal, then cut off any remaining pastry. Prick
all over with a fork. Using a very thin skewer, prick right through to the base of the tin:
6–8 pricks altogether. Brush the surface with beaten egg. (Retain a little egg.)

Bake at 140C/275F/Gas 1 for 2–2½ hours until golden-brown on top, reglazing
with the remaining beaten egg after 1 hour of baking.

Cool in the tin for at least 2 hours, then carefully decant onto a wire rack to cool
completely. Wrap in foil and store in an airtight container for at least 1 month – and for
anything up to 3–4 months.

Click for more info about Scottish Baking

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