Cornish Saffron Buns

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Saffron flavoured bun, originating in Cornwall.  They are perfect toasted and buttered, or just filled with cream.

 Cornish Saffron Buns are a traditional bun in the county of Cornwall in England.  They were often served to children in church. They were also served at celebrations and anniversaries.  They are similar to buns which are very popular in some Scandinavian countries. Saffron was, and still is I believe harvested in Cornwall so a ready supply of this very expensive spice was available.

The buns usually have currants in them as well as the saffron to colour them a nice golden yellow.  As well as the colour the saffron imparts a wonderfully floral and earthy flavour to the buns.  

As saffron is very expensive to buy it is possible to substitute some yellow food colouring in the dough.  Turmeric or safflower can also be used as a colouring substitute, but that would also change the flavour profile.

When I made the buns I hadn’t expected the flavour of the saffron to be so noticeable, but was pleasantly surprised at the lovely slightly floral flavour and filled my mouth.  Scalding the milk and then allowing the saffron to infuse in it for about 20 minutes really did release a lot of flavour that might otherwise not have happened.

The recipe is actually quite simple to make and, as I have already intimated, the resultant buns are so tasty.  The texture of the buns resembles that of a Hot Cross Bun and they are ideal buttered and eaten just as they are.  But toasting them first does give an even better taste experience I think.

Clotted cream is often used to fill the buns too.  It is a rich, thick cream which is created by a process of cooking cream in the oven for hours to let the flavour develop.  But if such a cream is not available then whipped double or heavy cream is a great substitute.  Sometimes raisins are used instead of currants, and even chopped mixed peel can be used too if desired.

My buns turned out very well indeed and really enjoyed them very much.

For another regional recipe why not try Staffordshire Oatcakes?

Cornish Saffron Buns
Cornish Saffron Buns – Video


  • 250ml (1 cup + 2 tsp) whole milk
  • 90g(6 tbsp) clotted cream(or double/heavy cream)
  • 50g(3 1/2 tbsp) unsalted butter, cubed
  • 550g(3 2/3 cups, based on scooping packed flour into a 250ml cup) Strong white bread flour
  • 6g(1 tsp) sea salt
  • 50g(1/4 cup) caster sugar
  • 7g(2 1/2 tsp/1 packet) instant yeast
  • 0.4g(two good pinches) saffron(or substitute yellow food colouring or similar)
  • 5g(1 tsp) ground cinnamon(optional)
  • 100g(3/4 cup) currents
  • 50g caster sugar for a syrup
  • 30ml (2 tbsp) water for a syrup


  1. Heat the milk until just about scalding.
  2. Put the saffron into the milk and stir around, then leave it to infuse for 20 minutes.
  3. Place the clotted cream and butter into the milk and gently, stirring, until they have just melted.
  4. The liquid should be lukewarm(not warmer than 42C/110F).
  5. Place the flour, yeast, sugar, cinnamon and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer and stir around.
  6. Add the milk mixture and stir to combine everything.
  7. Knead the mixture with the dough hook(this can all be done by hand)  for 8 minutes until it forms a dough. 
  8. During that 8 minutes, as the dough forms, add the currents too.
  9. When the dough has been kneaded for 8 minutes(about 12 if doing by hand) it should be springy to the touch.
  10. Form the dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
  11. Allow the dough to proof in a warm place for about an hour, until it has doubled in size.
  12. Divide the dough into 10 equally sized pieces and form in all ball, pinching any seams together.
  13. Place the dough balls on a  parchment lined baking tray and cover with a damp towel to rest for 30 minutes.
  14. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/400F.
  15. Bake the buns in the oven for 20 minutes.
  16. Heat the sugar and water allow it to boil for 2 minutes.
  17. Remove the buns from the oven and place on a wire rack.
  18. Brush over the tops of the bun with the syrup and allow to cool completely.
  19. Eat within 2 days for optimum freshness(they can be frozen and then reheated too).

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