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Black Bun for Hogmanay

Updated on December 31, 2014

No celebration of a Scottish Hogmanay and days of First Footin' would be complete without a Black Bun.

Black Bun is a rich and delicious fruit cake with origins being the same as the Christmas Pudding, Yule Pudding, Plum Pudding and Hakin combined with the origins of the Mince Pie. All of these going way back to Norse and through Saxon traditions.

Like the Hakins and earliest Plum Puddings ,...

Black Bun commenced as a food for the Twelfth Night, Epiphany, feasting,

but the Kirk, the Church, and eventually Queen Victoria, put a stop to the celebration.

Today, we know Black Bun as part of feasting on after midnight into January 1st.

Black Bun is an important ingredient of Hogmanay and a delight of First Footers.

It is served to First Footers through to Epiphany, the Old Christmas, of January 6th.

Black Bun should be prepared well ahead of Hogmanay

so as you are a bit late now for making a Black Bun for Ne'er into 2012

I will kick off this feature with Hogmanay traditions followed by recipes

origins of the Scottish Ne'er

It may surprise many of our readers to to learn that before 1600 the New Year Hogmanay was on March 25, on our calendars of today. In 1599, James V1, King of Scots, and his Privy Council changed that to bring the Scottish calendar in line with other countries in Europe

From the Register of the Privy Council,

17 December 1599

"The Kingis majestie and Lordis of his Secreit Counsall undirstanding that in all utheris weill governit commouns welthis and cuntreyis the first day of the yeir begynis yeirlie upoun the first day of Januare, commounlie callit new yeiris day, and that this realme onlie is different fra all utheris in the compt and reckning of the yeiris .... his Majestie with the advise of the Lordis of his Secreit Counsall statutis and ordanis that in all tyme cuming the first day of the yeir sal begin yeirlie upoun the first day of Januare ..."

Interestingly, the English did not make this calendar change and conversion until 1752,

153 years later than the Scots !!!

what is Hogmanay?

What does Hogmanay mean?

There are many theories about this.

There's an old Scandinavian word for the feast of the eve of mid-winter Solstice called "Hoggo-nott". People of the Hebridean Isles talk of the Hogmanay word arriving through their Scandinavian ancestors who slaughtered wild boar or farmed pigs for the Yule feast. The night before Yule was called "Hogenat" by the Hebrideans and eventually "Hog night" when more of the people spoke more English.

Hagg in Hebridean and old Norse means to kill or cut, which is an interesting twist on the meaning of "Hag" in Irish and Gaelic mythology today. Calling a wild pig or boar a "hog" would have come from this word.

Also many mythology tales of goddess hags have alternate versions where

the main character is a pig or boar rather than goddess or wise woman.

There is an old Flemish saying, "hoog min dag" means "great day for love".

Anglo-Saxons celebrated, "Haleg monath", Holy Month.

Gaelic people used to say "Oge maidne", good new morning.

The most likely Hogmanay origin is surprisingly French.

"Homme est né" meaning "a man is born"

On the last day of the year, which used to be March 24th, the Normans of Normany used to exchange gifts known as "hoguignetes". It was common for the poor to take to the streets to receive gifts to the shout of "Au gui l'an neuf".

There has always been a strong connection between Scotland and France dating back to the Auld Alliance when they shared a common Queen, Mary Queen of Scots, who was also the Queen of France for a brief period. When she returned to Scotland she introduced French customs and traditions into Scotland.

The "hoguignetes" tradition was picked up by the Scots, a tradition highly disapproved of by the Prebyterian Church but somehow the tradition moved to January 1st.

It is also worth pondering over how this Norman "hoguignetes" tradition was descended from a Viking tradition that stayed with their descendants into Normandy. It is likely the Hogmanay traditions of today are a blend of traditions that arrived and spread through Scotland through its adaption of Viking culture and traditions along with the Norman traditions that were later brought to Scotland by Queen Mary, that probably revived an ailing Hogmanay celebration at the time, due to church pressure.

Unfortunately after 100 years of discomfort of the Hogmanay traditions by the Church, the Presbyterian Church finally outlawed Hogmanay celebrations and traditions by 1699.

Just before this outlawing, the Scottish National Dictionary in 1696 and the English Dialect Dictionary, also in 1696, describe women going door to door singing a "hog ma nae" song and calling out what sounded like "hagmana". At the time it was thought to be corrupted from a Greek word "hagia mana" which translates to Holy Month, similar to the Anglo Saxon word, "haleg monath", mentioned above.

Unlike England that got its Plum Pudding back on the tables before the 19th century, Scotland had to wait until the 1950s to get the Black Bun back on it's tables.

Christmas was actually illegal in Scotland from 1699 until 1951. The Protestant Kirk continued to portrayed Christmas as a Catholic feast and therefore it was banned, though still quietly celebrated in Catholic outposts such as the Isle of Barra. The enthusiasm for Christmas and its traditions has never really revived again in Scotland, except as something for the children, but it is a very different story for Hogmanay.

Hogmanay traditions in Scotland include giving the home a thorough cleaning before midnight of 31st December, especially taking out the ashes from the fires and cleaning around them as best as possible.

Most important is to clear all your debts before "the bells" at midnight, especially anything owed to friends and neighbours close by.

The overall tradition is to clear out the clutter, concerns and challenges of the old year, have a clean break and welcome in a fresh born New Year on a happy note, much like the Erin Samhain though in Erin the concern is to batten down for the winter and make sure everyone is provided for to do so.

clean the Home and Hearth

During the days of December 30th and 31st every household would be thoroughly cleaned so that the New Year could be welcomed into a tidy and neat house. It is considered that a dirty uncleaned house into Ne'er is inviting bad luck and ill health into the home.

Cleaning the house is known as "redding", getting ready for the New Year.

Attention to Fireplaces would be the most important with them being swept out thoroughly and polished where possible, and all done as quick as possible on a freezing day. Some people would read the ashes of the very last fire of the year before clearing as a vision of what the next year would bring.

For final touches, pieces of Rowan tree branches would be placed above outside doors to attract good luck. In the home mistletoe should hang, not for kissing under like at Christmas, but to attract good health for all those who live in the home. Holly, previously hung for Yule, should remain hanging to keep out mischievous fairies.

Pieces of hazel and yew branches are also hung inside to add greater protection for the home and the people who live there. Juniper can be burned throughout the house to cleanse it, then all of the doors of the home opened for awhile to bring in fresh air and let out bad air and evil spirits.

After all of this, the home was then considered ready to bring in the Ne'er.

Ne'er Bells

By auld tradition, Ne'er does start until the Ne'er Bells sound. Nobody who is not resident in the home should not enter before these bells ring. Residents of the home can qualify guests who have stayed overnight for at least one night previously.

So, the arrival of people into a home during December 31st is a tricky one.

The modern celebration is to gather people on December 31st, maybe share a last meal of the year together but certainly gather to count down the last few seconds together as we link arms, fumble through Auld Lang Syne, shake hands and kiss.

The old way, and still a strong way on Scottish islands, is to let absolutely nobody enter, who does not live in the home, after the "redding", the cleaning and polishing, so they do not contaminate the New Year coming.

Nobody else is allowed into the home until the New Year bells chime.

When the Bells ring at midnight the man of the house would open the back door to let the old year out and then open the front door of the house to let in the new year, but still shoo away blonde and red heaired people until a dark haired person has entered.

When the back door is opened, in some homes the residents shout and shriek to scare out the old evil spirits.

In addition to Bells, in some harbours fishermen and boat owners sound their horns and some farmers group together to fire their shotguns together.

After the Bells have rung, the appointed bottle of whisky is opened, though in modern celebrations this has been replaced with champagne ... but not in my home :-) .

Toasts are then commenced for those present, before the First Footin' ...

Hogmanay Toasts

Toasts are shared after the Ne'er Bells are rung and with all First Footin' visitors.

The most common toast is ... "a guid year tae ye" which is saying ..."a Good Year to you" or simply it's a way to say "Happy New Year".

A common New Year toast said by Scottish people is: "a guid Ne'er to ane an' a' and mony may ye see" which is saying ... "a good New Year to one and all, and many may you see".

Another popular toast is "lang may yer lum reek!" which is saying ... "long may your chimney smoke" because if the chimney was smoking it showed that people in the home were fit enough to gather, or could afford, fuel for the fire and keep warm.

In some Scottish communities, especially on the islands, there is a tradition of "taking a turn" among all those present. A "turn" can be reciting a poem, singing a song, telling a short story or simply sharing a joke. This is common home ceilidh entertainment, anyway, but is more prophetic when shared after midnight on January 1st.

for Auld Lang Syne

"Should auld acquaintance be forgot

and never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot

and auld lang syne

For auld lang syne, my dear,

for auld lang syne,

We'll take a cup o kindness yet,

for auld lang syne."

The song Auld Lang Syne must be as worldwide,

if not more worldwide, than Amazing Grace even

though its usually sung with the lyrics of

"ah um, rrr, um, rah, rah, ah um Old Lang Sine".

Its also credited as a Rabbie Burns, Robert Burns song. However, as with Salley Gardens by W.B. Yeats, it happened to be a learned song that Robert Burns shaped up. In old texts Robert Burns does make this clear too.

The distribution of Auld Lang Syne seems to have become awfully distorted, though. Distorted through the spread of Colonial Britain, including the improvised plum exploding lyrics of "ah, umm etc… " for most of the lines.

This revered song is said to have been written by Rabbie Burns in 1788, but the song can be traced back to a traditional song of the 15th century that was "nicked" by George Bannatyne and inserted into his manuscript of Scottish poetry in 1586 with the title of "Auld kindness Foryett," which still translates today as "auld acquaintances forgot" in the tone of what we understand today as "should our friends be forgotten"

There is also a song called "Old Longsyne" published in the Watson's collection of Scottish poems, published in 1711 that has been credited to Sir Robert Aytoun, a courtier of James the Sixth of England and Sir Robert became private secretary to the Queen. However his authorship has been challenged as its content does not relate to his politics and way he lived. "Old Langsyne" has been credited as being written by a "rebellious" author, and some say this was Francis Sempill of Beltrees from a family of bards who's lands were seized by the Crown.

There's also a song by Allan Ramsay called "Auld Lang Syne" that starts with the lyrics

"Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

Tho' they return with scars?"

published in the first volume "Tea Table Miscellany," in 1724.

The first reference of this song being connected to Robert Burns was a letter he wrote to his friend Mrs Dunlop on December 17th, 1788, saying, "There is an old song and tune which has often thrilled through my soul," and continued with a personal poetic quote "Light lie the turf on the breast of the heaven-inspired poet who composed this glorious fragment!"

In another letter to George Thomson during September, 1793, Robert Burns included Auld Lang Syne with some other Scottish songs and music. He did explain to George that he had collected the song from "olden times" but as far as he knew nobody had transcribed it to notation and print. He also added that the song's music was very mediocre and could be adapted to many other more interesting airs.

At about the same time Robert Burns sent a copy to James Johnson to add to his "Scots Musical Museum" collection of songs. This version was printed and published in December 1796. This was the first time Auld Lang Syne was published in public print, five months after Burns died. It has since been learned that Burns did indeed swap some old lines of this version of the song with lines of his own

In July 1799 a shorter version of the Johnson version of the song was published in Thomson's Select "Songs of Scotland" but this time to the tune that we are most familiar with today.

I feel this is very unfortunate as the Johnson published version, though perhaps too long for midnight Hogmanay mumblings, provides a continuity of the song that makes sense. In the Johnson published lyrics it is assumed that the friends have just met for social enjoyment and a "cup of kindness" is immediately passed round to fire enthusiasm for times to come. The song exudes remembrance of happy days of youth but also reflects sombre reflections on having to part from birthplace during manhood. In this end this song becomes like the Irish Parting Glass song.

In the shorter Thomson's version, friends meet, join hands, return to their pint mugs and discuss drinking more pints. The passion of the Johnson version literally transforms into a celebration of having a fairly meaningless "piss-up". What an awful corruption, and far from the spirit that I am sure Robert Burns intended for the distribution of the song.

Regarding the music

In some ways I find it odd that the old bardic tradition of writing words and supporting it with music developed into separate crafts of poetry and music composition. Poets no longer become responsible for the music that may surround their words. This opens a long debate as we all know of wonderful marriages of words and music compiled by different people that one person alone may not have created.

To me, poets too easily throw their words into the public naked, which can also mean better interpretation at times than with the surround of music. However, I do feel that poetry is no more than words of man and music is the hand of the great spirit, of God itself. When poetry is embraced by music it transcends us into a veil between the two worlds of earth and spirit. Of course, many people listening to a naked poet can, in their own minds, weave their own spirit music into the words and experience passion from the poetry.

Somehow, I blame Queen Elizabeth for the emergence of naked poets. In Ireland, harper bards were forever escaping down "burrows" to avoid the de-capitating addictions of loyalists to Elizabeth, so the bards emerged as poets, with words, no harps but kept their heads.

When we think of Robert Burns once we get beyond haggis, neaps and fine malts, we merely think of poet and somehow forget the passion that Robert Burns has for melodies that were a perfect fit for his words. He was determined that his words were sung, presumably so they were shared with the harmonics of both worlds of man and spirit, though I am sure he translated this different, maybe he described words and music as creating a "marriage of lust and love". That seems to be something like the faith he followed.

So as you may sing a garbled version of Auld Lang Syne when the Ne'er bells toll, please consider that what you are singing may well be purely a personal blessing to attempt to clear your conscience about any doubts of the value of an indulgent "piss up".

However, if you would like to sing this wonderful song in the way that Burns intended, as a passionate tribute to friends you may ne'er see gather again its worth seeking out the few recordings that honour this.

One of them is NOT the Kenneth McKellar version

One authentic and beautiful version I know is by Roy Gullane and the Tannahill Weavers ...

a real full version of Auld Lang Syne

First Footin'

"First Footin' " starting with the "first foot" in the house after midnight into January 1st, is still common in Scotland.

To ensure good luck for the house for the year ahead the actual first footer into a home should be a dark haired male carrying dark fuel, being a dark log, turf peat or coal, or maybe a Black Bun cake.

It is believed that the "dark" symbolism goes back to Viking days when blonde strangers on the doorstep was trouble, so this is not a Norse origin tradition. However, a red haired person on the door step,

as the first visitor of the year, is regarded as the extreme of bad luck.

Some communities do relax this and allow a blonde or red headed first footer to touch the rowan twig hanging on the doorway and openly recite a prayer asking for personal sins to be removed and for the home they are about to enter be blessed for the year.

The communities that do not shoo away a blonde or red heaired first footer usually also carry a superstition that shooing people away rather than expressing hospitality attracts bad luck so the compromise is the prayer and blessing with the rowan.

Other unlucky first footers include visitors not carrying whisky, shortbread, black bun or some other gift, doctors, ministers, priests, grave diggers, disabled people (now regarded as cruelly discriminating, of course), flat footed people and anyone who's eyebrows meet in the middle.

These days, it is more common for the travelling first footer to carry a bottle of whisky and some shortbread. With couples generally the man starts off First Footin' and the woman stays at home to greet visitors, but should the man be blonde or red haired and the woman dark, then perhaps the woman would do the rounds to neighbours and friends.

At the home visited, a slice of black bun, or soup, or both would be offered with a dram of whisky. The visitor then returns the gesture with an offering of a drop of his or her whisky and shortbread.

To go into the symbolism of first footin' exchange further ...

a lump of turf, peat, log or coal - for a year of warmth and health black bun or shortbread - for a year of plenty whisky - for a year of jollity and not melancholy

First Footin', visiting and exchanging can go on day and night right up to Twelfth Night, Epiphany on January 6th, though many are exhausted and hung over by January 2nd or 3rd. Scottish people can engage in this indulgence as for all people in Scotland both January 1st and 2nd are public holidays plus most people employed in factories, on construction, farming, fishing and with other industries usually do not return to work until January 6th or 7th.

Het Pint

Surprisingly, the carrying of whisky and sharing it through First Footin' is a tradition that may only be 100 to 200 years old through much of Scotland. A much older drink tradition carried by the First Footers was the Het Pint.

This was a hot mixture of ale mulled with nutmeg, not cinnamon or cloves surprisingly, but with honey or sugar, some whisky, and maybe a raw egg or two.

Ne'er's Day Feast

Sadly, a lot of people have backtracked this celebration to December 31st, which does compromise the spirit of "redding", cleaning house and hearth to let in the New Year.

Two reasons seem to be the modern incentive to get things done and over with earlier and quickly along with a revival on not holding full recognition for today's calender. More and more people now regard their real New Year as Samhain. Some regard their New Year as the point of mid-winter at Solstice with the time between Samhain and Yule as a still time.

Anyway, for those people who wish to revive January 1st as their Feast Day, rather than the oddball December 31st, then these are the standard food fayre ...

The feast is around lunch-time, two-ish in the afternoon. Steak pie and potatoes is the most common traditional main course to help sober up the First Footin' Scottish men and women ... so they can go back out and do it all again. The pie may be accompanied with neeps and tatties or clapshot or rumbledethumps.

Another popular hearty lunch-dinner at this time is a starter of Scotch Broth Soup followed by Clootie Dumpling dessert.

Actually, after this dinner-lunch its when the men tend to stay at home to attempt to clear up and receive visitors while the women do a bit of First Footin' to their friends.

In Scotland New Year Day is a family occasion with families travelling to a get together. The next few days sees the tradition of first footing continuing when people visit friends and family with shortcake or a gift and a drink.

It is common for employees to be give extra holidays on the 2nd and 3rd of the month, and some give time off up until the 6th or 7th to enable this tradition to continue.

Hogmanay Guising.

Guising in Scotland is ancesterally a Samhain/Halloween tradition that has passed through Celtic/Gaelic traditions though masking rather than straw costumes seems to have come from Saxon, Norse and other tradition influences.

Some guising is performed at Ne'er, possibly through local church influences discouraging the Samhain time celebration plus some more influence from Anglo traditions and Norse Yule traditions.

Like at Hallowe'en the guising tradition is performed by children knocking on doors on January 1st for

sweets, shortbread, an oatcake, a piece of black bun, and spare coins.

Their guising song once was:

Rise up, guid wife, an' shake your feathers,

Dinna think that we are beggars:

We are bairns come out to play,

Get up and gie's our Hogmanay!

Towards the Scottish Borders, into Cumbria, Northumbria, down through Yorkshire and into the Fens, Guisers would perform on New Year's Day and be rewarded with Cake. This tradition changed the name of New Year's Day to Cake Day for awhile.

creaming of the Well

Homes who still have water supply wells should perform "creaming of the well".

The first water drawn from the well on January 1st is regarded as sacred, the creaming of the top of the well water. Whoever drinks this first is said to enjoy the best health and luck, so this tradition does invite a bit of a scurry and even a small spat or two.

Woman are said to donate their "creaming of the well" to a man of their fancy. If he drinks this water during January 1st they will be married within the year.

I have not heard of this tradition regarding a man offering a woman the "creaming of the well".

Up Helly-aa

and other boat burning traditions

In Lerwick, Shetland Islands, the festival of Up Helly-aa is the big New year's celebration there, though this is performed on the last Tuesday in January.

Tuesday is in reverence to Tyr, who's name was the origin of Tuesday, also Mars Day. Tyr is said to be the son of Odin and Freya and symbolic of the lengthening daylight born from the mating of Odin with Freya at Yule.

For Up Helly-aa, local people make a full scale Viking galley boat, complete with oars and shields. The start making it just after mid-summer in late June.

At the celebration and festival, which commences at dusk, the boat is pulled down to the beach by some locals, the boat builders, dressed as Viking Warriors. The other people present carry lit fire torches. When the Viking long boat reaches the beach everyone gives three cheers to the builders, a bugle is then blown, and the boat is set alight by the torches.

This is to celebrate the light of the New Year truly returning and for its fires to take away the evils and curses of the past year, especially the past winter. Evils and curses are more commonly the viruses and illnesses of winter so this is a call for blessing for better health and strength.

Another popular boat burning celebration is a Footdee, a fishing harbour east of Aberdeen city, that locals call "Fittie". Old boats, no specific number, are lined up and when the locals shout, "burn the boats!", they are set alight.

This happens on January 11th, but if that falls on a Sunday the day is January 10th, again after dusk.

The charcoal from the burned Fittie boats is then delivered from door to door to protect the people from evil spirits for the year ahead, and protections from the witches that sink boats.

At Burghead, near Elgin, in Scotland there is the very strange Burning of The Clavie. The Clavie is half of a coffin filled with lighted tar and mounted on a pole carried by Clavie bearers. This is carried up the Doorie hill to the Douro alter where it is mounted above a bonfire.

This ceremony is also on January 11th, which was January 1st on the old Julian calendar, and much of the ceremony seems like an offshoot of the boat burning ceremonies. Local people gather around the fire to catch lighted or charcoal pieces of the Clavie to kindle their new fires or place up their chimneys to stop evil spirits and witches coming down the chimney into the home.

At Comrie in Perthshire there is a ceremony called the Flambeaux. Torches are made from small trees dipped in paraffin and lit. They are carried through the village followed by carnival type floats, which seem to be an alternative to dragging a boat like in "Up Helly-aa". The precession of torches and floats ends at the village square where the lit Flambeauxs are thrown onto a bonfire. One difference, the Comrie tradition commences after midnight into January 1st.

To me the Combie tradition includes many of the Irish Gaelic traditions of Samhain, especially at Tara. Several Irish mythology stories include the burning of boats and banquetting halls to banish the curses of the past and to begin anew.

These are just a few of several, but waning, boat burning or container burning traditions around Scotland either on the current Gregorian calender date of January 1st, or on the old Julian calendar date of January 1st, which today is January 11th on our Gregorian calendar. A little confusing, I know.

New Year Resolutions

Making "New year Resolutions" seems to be a much more recent tradition, compared to the others. It seems to have commenced at the time of Sir Walter Scott in the early 19th century when his revival of kilts and tartans inspired many other romantic ideas that branded an identity of Scotland, that included making Resolutions on New Year's Day.

Today we make the same resolutions year after year, stop smoking, stop drinking, go on a diet, become vegetarian, and so forth.

Consumer commerce loves this as they can pitch a huge catalogue of products right after Christmas Day dinner onwards to lure us to tools to assist our "Resolutions"

... that usually last a week or two.


Pronounced, "handsling", this was a day of gift giving and exchanging gifts in Scotland and Ulster on the first Monday into the new year, same day as Plough Monday in England. The tradition is the same as at Christmas Day but celebrated during a time of strong Protestant Puritan influence that had banned Christmas traditions and celebrations.

Now that Christmas is legal again in Scotland the "handselling" tradition has mainly died out as it is now practiced on Christmas Day.

so what is a Black Bun?

Before I talk more about Ne'er and Hogmanay I will go right into a recipe and instructions for making a Black Bun, before I really explain what to do with it and how it is part of the Hogmanay tradition.

The reason I am doing this is that you should be reading this and making your Black Bun as early as mid-Summer Solstice, and storing it, before you even think or prepare anything else for Hogmanay. However, few make their Black Bun that early.

Many people make their Black Bun after Harvest thanksgiving and celebration sometime around the equinox of late September.

It is still ok to make your Black Bun through December but after the 17th its cutting it too fine to ensure good marination of the ingredients.

Black Bun is not a bread bun but a fruit-dense cake, enriched with spices and to make it black, molasses or black treacle. All of this is encased is a shortcrust pastry case.

Robert Louis Stevenson clearly wrote in 1879, within his notes on Edinburgh life, "that 'Scottish bun is a dense, black substance, inimical to life".

Towards the Scottish Borders, into Cumbria, Northumbria, down through Yorkshire and into the Fens the Black Bun tradition evolved into a cake tradition that changed the name of New Year's Day to Cake Day for awhile and Cake would be handed to the Guisers that called.

You may think this is large list of ingredients.

Don't let this put you off because Black Bun

is very easy to make.

It has to be as everyone made it and could make it.

Of course every cook and baker has her or his own

variations with ingredients as there is really

no right or wrong way to do this.

If this is your first making of a Black Bun I suggest this recipe is a great place to start ...

Cook Time

Prep Time: 30 to 45 mins

Total Time: 3½ to 4 hours

Serves: 10 to 20 people


  • Ingredients for Pastry Case:
  • 12 oz or 340 grams - plain flour
  • 3 oz or 85 grams - lard
  • 3 oz or 85 grams - butter or margarine or veg spread
  • (instead of lard you can increase the butter/margarine/spread by equiv. amount)
  • pinch of salt
  • half teaspoon baking powder
  • quite cold water
  • ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  • Ingredients for Filling:
  • 1 lb or 450 grams - seedless raisins
  • 1 lb or 450 grams - cleaned currants
  • 2 oz or 60 grams - chopped almonds
  • 2 oz or 60 grams - chopped mixed peel
  • 6 oz or 170 grams - plain flour
  • 3 oz or 85 grams - soft brown sugar or honey
  • one level teaspoon - ground allspice
  • half level teaspoon - ground ginger
  • half level teaspoon - ground cinnamon
  • half level teaspoon - baking powder
  • generous pinch - black pepper
  • one tablespoon - brandy
  • one - egg or substitute
  • milk - can be cows; goats; soya; coconut etc.


  1. Grease or oil an 8-inch loaf tin
  2. Place the flour, lard, butter, alternative fats, baking powder and salt in a bowl
  3. Rub all together with your hands so fats bind with dry ingredients
  4. and become crumbly like with a baked crumble mix.
  5. Then mix in the very cold water to make a stiff dough but barely sticky
  6. Roll out the dough to form pastry and decide if this is going to be
  7. pastry on all sides or top and bottom,
  8. look at the two photos of black bun above to make a choice
  9. plus you could use a round tin, pan or dish like baking a round pie, if you wish
  10. Cut your pastry into pieces as decided.
  11. If this is to be a full pastry case remember this is 6 pieces
  12. bottom, top, two long sides, two short ends.
  13. Place the pastry sides of the the tin or dish, except top piece, of course,
  14. and press them all together to join and seal.
  15. Mix the raisins, currants, almonds, peel and sugar or honey together.
  16. Sift in the flour, the spices and baking powder and pepper
  17. and stir clockwise using a wooden spoon, .
  18. Then bind them all together by first slowly adding the brandy
  19. and almost all of the egg, but leave some whiting out for final glazing,
  20. and add enough milk to moisten and give a sticky mixture,
  21. or you may add stout or a mix of stout and milk.
  22. for vegan/vegetarian egg alternatives click here
  23. Some folks make atholl brose,
  24. a mix of liquid run off of porridge with a drop of whisky and honey
  25. all mixed together and use that instead of milk to finish of making the Black Bun filling.
  26. Finally, make a final stir clockwise, adding a wish and a prayer as you do.
  27. Let everyone present with you do the same
  28. Pack the filling into the lined tin or dish
  29. and top with the final the pastry lid,
  30. pinching the edges and using milk or egg to seal the edges really well.
  31. Lightly prick the surface with a fork and
  32. make four holes to the bottom of the tin with a meat skewer
  33. or even a clean steam sterilized screwdriver,
  34. Depress the centre of the pastry top slightly.
  35. it will rise again as it bakes.
  36. Brush the top with milk or the rest of the egg to create a glaze.
  37. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 325F/160C/Gas Mark 3 for 2½ hours.
  38. Test with a skewer or your screwdriver which should come out clean.
  39. if not, continue cooking and test again every 20 minutes.
  40. You will also notice that an uncooked cake sizzles if you listen closely
  41. and is silent when done.
  42. Cool in the tin for about 15 minutes
  43. then turn onto a wire rack, cooling rack or rack pulled from the oven.
  44. Cool thoroughly, then wrap in 2 or 3 layers of greaseproof paper
  45. and one of foil, tie it all together, then store somewhere cool and vermin free,
  46. not in the refrigerator or freezer, until Hogmanay.
Cast your vote for making your own Black Bun

what say ye of Black Bun n' First Footin' ?

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    • Scotties-Rock profile image


      6 years ago from OREFIELD, PA

      Sounds great! I will have to try it. Thanks

    • emmajowebster profile image


      6 years ago

      I love first footin! with a piece of coal and black bun! brilliant!


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