Black Bun

 

Makes 1 bun (at least 16 servings)

Black Bun
  • 1½ cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon mace
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 good twists freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 oz candied orange peel
  • 4 cups currants
  • 1 lb sultanas
  • ½ blanched almond slivers
  • ⅔ cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 6 Tablespoons milk
  • 2 Tablespoons brandy
  • 1 Tablespoon molasses

For the huff pastry

  • 2½ cups flour
  • ½ cup butter
  • enough water to bind (½ - ¾ cup)
  • egg wash

Special equipment

greased 8 inch springform pan

Method

Sift the flour with the leavening agents and spices. Stir in the fruits and almods. Mix in the sugars and liquids and knead with your hands until all the ingredients are evenly mixed. Some prefer to chill and store the fillinf overnight in the refrigerator, but unlike a yeast-based bun, your chemical leaveners will react with one another overnight, leaving you with an unrisen mass when you bake the next day.

While you work on the pastry shell, preheat the oven to 325°. Crumble the butter into the flour until free of lumps. Stir in enough water to make a firm dough. Roll out two thirds of the dough into a large thin disk to line the base and sides of the cakepan. Roll out the last third into an 8" disk to top the cake. Line the cakepan, evening out any folds, and pack with as much of the filling as you can. Don’t be afraid to pack it down with your hands; the filling should be densely packed. Moisten the top edges with water and seal the top. Because the filling will rise, don’t press the pastry cover tightly against the top of the filling. Brush with the eggwash and pierce the cake with a fine skewer to allow steam to vent.

Bake for two hours. Cool for an hour before removing the cake from the tin.

Notes

Black Bun, or Scotch Bun as it is sometimes know, is for celebrating Hogmanay or New Year’s. There are hundreds of different recipes and David has four pages on its history in her chapter on different festival fruit breads of Britain. Originally they were leavened with yeast, and part of the dough went into the fruit filling, but in the last century, home bakers have turned to chemical leaveners, which yield a much more consistent cake.

Writing in 1954, Hartley shows regional variation in the shape of the Black Bun: the strict rectangular cake of Ecclefechan, the fat kidney-shaped cake of Gowrie, Edinburgh’s plump loaf, and the decorated loaf of harris.

Suggestions

Some recipes call for buttermilk or a mix of buttermilk and wholemilk. Some sweeten the huff patry. Some use whisky instead of brandy (still others are devoid of alcohol), and the variation of the spices and their quantities can be infinite.

Like most fruitcakes, this keeps for months. Make it ahead of time and let the flavours mature.