One a Penny, Two a Penny, Hot Cross Buns!

Ever wondered what hot cross buns are? Or why we eat them at Easter time? Then look no further…

Traditional hot cross buns are lightly spiced and studded with raisins or currents and then marked on their tops with crosses that are either piped in icing or cut into the dough. Traditionally they are reserved for Good Friday, but they’re so delicious they’re now sold all year long! There isn’t a single explanation for their appearance on our tables at Easter, but here are a couple of the stories that seek to explain their origins …

It’s certainly possible that hot cross buns were baked as long ago as the 12th century. According to tradition, an Anglican monk baked the buns and marked them with a cross in honour of Good Friday. Over time they gained popularity, and eventually became a symbol of Easter weekend.

Towards the end of the 16th century, Queen Elizabeth I passed a law limiting the sale of sweet buns to funerals, Christmas, and the Friday before Easter. Her superstitious subjects came to believe that these buns had medicinal or magical properties, and were fearful of those powers being abused. Some even believed that buns baked on Good Friday would never go stale. As a way to get around the law, more and more people began baking their sweet buns at home. Not only did they become increasingly popular but this also meant that the law became too difficult to enforce and was eventually repealed.

There are also more than a few stories that indicate hot cross buns were baked on Good Friday for superstitious reasons. One superstitious belief is that buns baked on this day and hung from the rafters of a home would ward off evil spirits in the coming year. Another tells that such buns will protect sailors from ship wreck whilst a third tells us that sharing your hot cross bun with a loved one guarantees friendship in the coming year.

Whatever the reason for eating hot cross buns at Easter might be, we’re jolly glad as we love them here at Bustle & Sew HQ! If you fancy making your own you can find our recipe here – we’d love to see pictures of your bakes.

*Article originally featured in Bustle & Sew Magazine. Find out more here.


Julie Caisey

When we lived in a town in Devon in the eighties the boys used to queue for a a goody-bag every Good Friday. A long tradition of under twelves getting a hot cross bun. In the bag they had a hot cross bun, an orange and a creme egg. This tradition was borne out of a bakers strike in the town a century or so ago. Some residents not wanting the children to go without a traditional hot cross bun went to Exeter to get some buns and handed them out to the under twelves. They are still handing out the buns today to the children of the town.


Hot Cross Buns bring to mind my Grandma, she lived with us, both parents worked so the six children spent lots of time with Grandma. We were delighted with her cooking and baking skills, fresh bread popping out of the oven, had the six of us lined up for a fresh hot slice of bread with butter. Come Good Friday, was Hot Cross Buns, Grandma had the six of us sitting around the kitchen table, while she prepared the dough. Grandma required us to be silent from Noon until 3:00 pm as she said this was the time frame that Christ died on the cross. Believe or not, all six of us were so quiet as Grandma made those Hot Cross Buns keeping an eye on the six of us.


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