Scottish Black Bun is a rich and spicy fruit cake baked in shortcrust pastry. This unusual fruit cake is traditionally served in Scotland on Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) when family, friends and neighbours visit to bring in the New Year.
I make a Christmas Fruit Cake every year, but it’s only when I know I will have a lot of visitors over New Year that I make Black Bun, the most traditional of Scottish New Year offerings.
When I do make a Scottish Black Bun it reminds me just how good it is and I really should make it more often!
What is Scottish Black Bun?
There is a long list of ingredients in a Black Bun. But don’t be put off, it is really very simple to make.
Black Bun is a simple fruit cake mixture that is low on flour and high on currants as well as raisins. The currants are a dark colour making the fruit cake look black. The term ‘bun’ is a generic term for any kind of bread or cake
What is Hogmanay?
Hogmanay is the Scottish name for New Year’s Eve. When I was growing up, no self-respecting home would be without slices of Black Bun and shortbread fingers to offer ‘First Footers’ along with a dram of whisky or a schooner of sherry.
What is a First Footer?
A First Footer is the first person to step over the threshold on New Year’s Day usually just after midnight. If the first footer is tall, dark, and handsome then you will have good luck for the rest of the year!
What fruit do you use in Black Bun?
Currants are dried grapes from a specific small variety. They are not as sweet as other dried fruits but have a great flavour and they give Scottish Black Bun its distinctive dark colour.
Raisins come from green grapes and darken as they dry. They add sweetness and moisture to the Black Bun.
Candied Mixed Peel
This is the peel of oranges and lemons which has been softened by cooking and then candied in sugar syrup. Not all recipes for Black Bun use peel, but I like the fresh fruity flavour that it brings to the cake.
I prefer to use whole candied peel which I chop myself because it has a better flavour and texture. But I have also used ready chopped mixed peel that you can buy in tubs in the supermarket.
What spices do you use in Black Bun?
- Black Pepper
Can you freeze Black Bun?
You can freeze Black Bun but you can also make it up to 6 weeks in advance and leave it to mature. As long as it is well wrapped and in a cool dark place, it will taste even better.
If you plan to freeze your Black Bun I recommend that you cut it into slices and open freeze before storing in a rigid container.
This Black Bun is baked in a loaf tin, but you can make it in a cake tin, usually square or rectangular but a round tin would do just as well if you don’t have anything else.
Keeping the oven temperature low, 325F/160C is vital to ensure that the pastry doesn’t burn while the cake inside bakes. I also covered the top with some foil towards the end of the baking.
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Scottish Black Bun Fruit Cake
For the pastry
- 225 g plain flour (all-purpose)
- 50 g butter
- 60 g solid vegetable fat (shortening)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 tbsp cold water (approximately)
For the cake
- 500 g raisins
- 600 g currants
- 75 g mixed peel chopped
- 115 g almonds chopped
- 175 g plain flour (all purpose)
- 115 g light brown sugar
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp cream of tartar
- 1 tbsp brandy
- 1 large egg beaten
- 75 ml milk
For the pastry
- Make the shortcrust pastry by putting the fats, flour and baking powder in a food processor and processing until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
- Add the cold water and pulse to bring the mixture together. Add a little more cold water if the pastry mixture still seems dry.
- Remove from the food processor. Knead only very lightly, then wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes.
- Remove from the fridge and divide the dough. You will need 3/4 of the dough fto line the tin and a 1/4 to make the lid.
- Roll out the larger piece of dough into a large rectangle, big enough to line the loaf tin and leave a 3-4 cm of pastry around the rim.
- Grease the loaf tin and line with the pastry.
For the cake
- Preheat the oven to 160C (325F.)
- Put all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix them together to evenly combine.
- Stir in the brandy, most of the beaten egg (keep a little back for glazing), and enough milk to moisten the mixture. It should be moist but not very wet and sloppy
- Put the mixture into the pastry-lined loaf tin. Roll out the remaining pastry and cover the cake mixture. Crimp the edges and prick the lid with a fork.
- Brush the top with the remaining egg mixed with a little water.
- Bake for approximately 2 hours 45 minutes. I recommend checking after 2 hours 30 minutes because all ovens are slightly different. Check by inserting a skewer which should come out clean if the cake is baked. If not then return it to the oven and check again after 15 minutes.
- If the pastry begins to brown too much, cover the top loosely with foil.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 30 minutes in the loaf tin. Then remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack.
- When completely cool. Wrap in baking parchment and foil and store in a cool dark place for up to 6 weeks to allow the cake to mature.