How To Make Traditional Cornish Saffron Buns

The traditional saffron bun has become a native delicacy in Cornwall. However, saffron is a luxury spice and is not grown locally so many are puzzled by how the Cornish used this particular ingredient in their fruity buns for hundreds of years!

Saffron was brought to Cornwall when travelling merchants came to trade it in exchange for tin mined locally. This was not unusual practice as tin was swapped for many similar items like food and spices back in those days. Some evidence of tin trading can be dated back to 400BC and Cornish tin has been found in ancient Egyptian ruins.

After it was introduced to the Cornish, Saffron was grown in the Southwest for a few hundred years; records show that the last saffron farm in Penryn closed around the 19th century.

What is a Saffron Bun?

A saffron bun is similar to a scone but is more bread-like and dense. Dried currents are added to the dough for a sweet and fruity taste. The saffron is what originally gave them their stunning yellow colour.

Saffron bun fun fact: During World War II, saffron - like many other food items - was very scarce so they used yellow food colouring to give the buns their recognisable look. A tradition which still continues to this day.

What do I serve with a Saffron Bun with?

A saffron bun is a fairly low maintenance snack which can be enjoyed alongside a cup of tea or coffee. It can be eaten fresh or toasted and you can add butter or some traditional Cornish Clotted Cream.

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How to make Saffron Buns

Ingredients - for approximately 12 buns

  • 300 ml milk
  • 1 tsp saffron strands
  • 50 g light muscovado sugar
  • 3 tsp active dried yeast or 15g fresh yeast
  • 150 g unsalted butter
  • 500 g flour (250g strong wholemeal and 250g strong white)
  • 100 g dried fruit (such as orange peel, currants, sultanas, raisins, cranberries)


  • Bring the milk to a near boil and stir in the saffron strands. Cover and leave in a warm place to infuse for a few hours. Overnight is ideal.
  • When you’re ready to start making the buns, reheat the milk so that it’s tepid. Stir in the yeast and sugar and leave for 10 to 15 minutes to froth up.
  • Meanwhile, rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Stir in the yeasted milk.
  • Knead for 8 to 10 minutes until the dough is nicely elastic. Add the dried fruit and knead it in.
  • Divide into 12 equal pieces and shape into balls.
  • Place in a 9″ (23 cm) sq silicone baking mould or greased tin. Cover with a plastic bag and leave to rise for one to three hours until doubled in size. tip: a warmer place would produce a much faster rise place in a cool place for a slower rise.
  • Bake in a preheated oven at 200℃ (400℉, Gas 6) for about 20 minutes, by which time the tops should be brown and the bottoms sound hollow when tapped.
  • Leave to cool on a wire rack.


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You might also like this: Making a Proper Cornish Cream Tea

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