Bakes for All Seasons

with Gerard Baker


Have you ever wondered ...




What the link between food & modern-day celebrations is?

Why consumers choose to celebrate with baked products?

Why certain flavours are popular at different times of the year?





Easter is all about regeneration and new life and the traditional foods consumed at this time of year often reflect this.  However, there is a lot of diversity and in countries with multinational populations such as the UK and USA, we often witness the mixing of food traditions.

Rich baked goods appear in many food cultures. The Hot Crossed Bun combining a spiced yeast dough enriched with butter and eggs is perhaps the best known in the UK, while Easter traditions across Europe and North America tend to include a wider variety of flavours.

Easter Bunny Butt Donuts


You may well ask ‘why are fruited cakes and breads associated specifically with Easter and Christmas?’

Well, this is because their production and sale was banned during the rest of the year from the early 17th Century in Britain as they were produced in sizes that did not confirm to ordinary breads whose weight was specified by the bread laws.

The yeasted Hot Crossed Bun has survived from an age, pre baking powder (mid 19th Century invention), when most cakes would be leavened with yeast, rather like a Scottish Black Bun or Selkirk Bannock. The many diverse recipes for fruited cakes across Europe have in many senses being absorbed into just one here in the UK, the Simnel Cake, which has its origins slightly earlier in the year. 



Modern spice mixtures for Hot Crossed Buns are plainer than they would have been traditionally.

The Countess of Kent, writing in 1653, uses a much wider palette of flavours for buns, including white pepper, allspice, ginger, rosewater, mace, cinnamon, as well as nutmeg to augment citrus peel and dried fruits.  Pepper was used as a sweet spice well into the middle of the 20th Century.

The months between Christmas and Easter would traditionally have been lean – with rich foods being thin on the ground in the cold months – even chickens tend to stop laying eggs when day length drops below 14 hours.




Orange Bakewell Tart
Easter Bunny Cupcakes

However, as Easter approaches, new life appears in nature, and this is symbolically used to connect to rebirth which is what Easter is all about. Pagan ceremonies are similar and modern celebrations find their roots in these.

Why then the rabbit? Rabbits appear simply because they give birth to large litters in the spring, symbolizing rebirth and, of course a source of food after the ‘hungry gap’ post Christmas.

Arguably more interesting from a bakery point of view are the traditions of Easter baskets that originate in Eastern Europe and which have spread to the USA.

The tradition of making Easter Baskets dates from Poland and began around the 7th Century. Baskets would be filled with special foods that would be given on Good Friday and kept until Easter Sunday for use.



Suggested product. Creating new life – breathing life into traditional products is one way of looking at this. By combining the flavours and traditions of the UK and Europe, my suggestion would be a mixed basket of specially designed Hot Crossed Bun flavours, combining a traditional spice mix, a citrusy lemon drizzle inspired bun, a chocolate chip bun and one combining ginger and sultanas – a sticky toffee ginger hot cross bun. All of these flavours can be found or drawn from traditional Easter cakes and recipes.


Copyright J G Baker, 2019