Originally Black Bun was eaten on the Twelfth Night of Christmas, which is also known as the Day of Epiphany. The eating of a festive cake on Twelfth Night was an ancient European custom. In France, still to this day the Galette des Rois is eaten on the Twelfth Night and is the equivalent of the Scottish Black Bun.
The origin dates back to the Auld Alliance in the 14th Century, when Mary Queen of Scots brought back recipes from France and made them a part of Scottish culture. Queen Mary spent much time in Falkland Palace, Fife. The palace is near to where I grew up and I have fond memories of visiting with my family as a young boy.
I am hoping to revive the tradition of the Black Bun. My version is a tribute to the Auld Alliance. I soaked the fruits in fine Scotch Whisky and used a Basque pastry recipe from South-West France.
Black Bun Recipe
Recipes: Basque Pastry, Fruit Filling, Egg Wash (1 whole egg, beaten with a pinch of salt and sugar)
Other Ingredients: Dried Fruits to decorate (apricot, prune, fig, cranberries, raisins, sultanas, confit orange), Fruit glaze, Almonds
You will also need:
250g plain flour sifted
2.5g baking powder
105g ground almonds
200g unsalted butter
¼ vanilla pod (bean) split lengthways
180g caster sugar
80g whole eggs
- Put the butter in a mixing bowl and beat until soft and smooth.
- Add the icing (powdered) sugar and vanilla seeds. Beat together until smooth.
- Gradually incorporate the eggs, until they become fully mixed and emulsified.
- Put the dry ingredients directly on the work surface. Make a well in the centre and use a spatula to spoon the butter mix into the middle of the flour.
- Use your hands or a pastry scraper to gradually work the flour and butter mixture together.
- Use your fingers to mix the wet and dry ingredients together to form a smooth, homogenous dough.
- Make the dough into a block and wrap it in cling film (plastic wrap). Put it in the fridge to rest for 2–3 hours.
For the Marinated Fruit
75g Confit Orange (roughly chopped)
40g Dried Apricots (roughly chopped)
40g Dried Figs (roughly chopped)
40g Prunes (roughly chopped)
30g Dried Cranberries
75g Blanched Almonds (roughly chopped)
200g plain flour (sifted)
2g ground cinnamon
2g ground ginger
2g ground nutmeg
1g black pepper
100g muscavado sugar
3g bicarbonate of soda
50g egg (beaten)
- The whisky marinated fruit should be prepared in advance, at least the night before but ideally longer. To prepare, bring a saucepan of water to the boil and add the raisins, sultanas and currants. Simmer for 2-3 minutes and strain. Place into a large bowl with the rest of the fruits and pour the whisky over them. Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for up to 1 month.
- Prepare the Basque pastry and leave to rest for 2-3 hours.
- When the pastry is rested, remove from the fridge. Cut off 1/3rd from the block of pastry and set aside. Roll out the remaining larger piece of the pastry dough to 5mm thick and use this to line the mould. Take the smaller piece of pastry dough and roll out to 5mm thick, cut into a disc slightly larger than the size of the tin, this will be the lid. Place the lined tart and the rolled pastry dough for the lid, each onto a tray lined with a non-stick baking mat, and into the fridge to rest for 30 minutes.
- Next, prepare the fruit filling. Sieve together the flour, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and bicarbonate of soda and mix well. In a separate mixing bowl, combine the marinated fruit with the muscavado sugar. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the fruit mixture and fully combine. Add the black pepper, then lastly the beaten egg to bind the mixture together.
- Preheat the oven 160’C.
- When rested, remove the lined tart case and lid from the fridge. Fill the tart case 4/5ths full and level the top. Lightly brush egg wash onto the top edge of the pastry of the lined tart. Use a rolling pin to lift and lay the pastry lid on to the top of the tart. Press down gently to seal the lid, trim the edges and egg wash the top.
- Bake in the oven for 1 hour. When top of the tart becomes golden in colour, place some tin foil over it to prevent it from becoming too dark. Remove from the oven and allow to cool fully before demoulding from the tart case.
- Decorate with glazed fruits and almonds to finish.