Black buns are considered Scottish not English and I have never seen one in an English supermarket. It is something between an English Christmas pudding and Christmas cake, wrapped up in pastry. According to Mason and Brown (2007)1 , although associated today with Hogmanay (31st December), its origins may have been a cake for Twelfth Night (Epiphany). However, when festivities linked to Christmas were discouraged in Scotland (see Introduction above), it may explain how it got linked to Hogmanay. Nevertheless, in the Highlands and northern Islands of Scotland, where Hogmanay celebrations are most strongly retained, the black bun does not seem to be a significant part of those celebrations. It is a cake for central and southern Scotland 2.
For the filling:
For the pastry
|75 g of plain white flour||200 g of plain white flour|
|500 g of raisins, sultanas and currants||100 g butter or margarine|
|1/2 tablespoon of ground cinnamon||some 75 ml water|
|1/2 tablespoon of powdered ginger||a pinch of salt|
|1/2 tablespoon of ground nutmeg|
|1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves|
|50 g of ground almonds|
|1 tablespoon of black treacle|
|1 large apple, grated|
|some 75 g of blanched almonds|
|Some 200 ml of cooking brandy|
Pour the brandy over all the dried fruit and spices and leave to soak in the brandy over night.
On the following day make the pastry and leave to rest in a cool place. Then, roll out the pastry and with part of it line the base and sides of a loaf tin, leaving enough pastry to cover the top. Leave this again to rest in a cool place for about half an hour, when it will also dry out a bit.
Now, add the grated apple to the fruit, spices and brandy mixture. Then add the almonds, treacle and finally the flour and mix all these ingredients well. Then fill the pastry case in its tin with the filling mixture, and smooth this to a level top. Put the last piece of pastry over the top and seal it well with a little water. Prick in several places with a long skewer, right through to the base, and again leave to rest.
Bake in a moderate oven (about 180◦C) for 2 to 3 hours. After about two thirds of this time, remove the 'bun' from its tin and replace it upside down, and return to the oven.
This cake improves with keeping - so wrap it up, put it in a closed tin and retain for at least a week or two.
1. Mason, L. and Brown, C. (2007) From Petticoat Tails to Arbroath Smokies: Traditional Foods of Scotland, Harper Press, London
2. Sources: Craig, E. (1956) The Scottish Cookery Book, Andre Deutsch, London., and Brown, C. (2004) Classic Scots Cookery, Angels' Share, Glasgow.