Monday 25 March 2013

Chelsea Buns

It was back in the 1980s when I began visiting friends in Cambridge that I was treated to Chelsea buns from Fitzbillie's. The then family owned business was famous for it's cakes and in particular the Chelsea buns. These days the business has changed hands at least once and despite the claim that the old family recipes where sold on with the business, the buns don't taste quite as delicious as I remember them. My lasting memory is that they were mahogany brown, rich with fruit and as sticky as you could just about manage.
My version of Chelsea buns are I hope delicious but I could never claim they're as good as the Fitzbille's buns, they are certainly tender, light, moist and the flavour reminds me of the treacle toffee my grandmother made every winter, convinced that it would help us children avoid colds, it didn't.

For this recipe you will need,
500g of strong white flour
175g of unsalted butter
40g of caster sugar
50g of light muscovado sugar
10g of fast action yeast
3 eggs
125g of milk
80g of water
10g of salt
200g of golden raisins
200g of Lexia raisins
80g of candied orange peel
3 tablespoons of DiSaronno amaretto liquer
4 tablespoons of date syrup
1 teaspoon of mixed spice.

Begin by making the dough. Combine the flour, eggs, milk, water, yeast. salt and sugar to form a soft dough. With the mixer on high speed, beat in 125g of softened butter and set the dough aside for a couple of hours to rise. Knock the dough back and place covered in the fridge to firm up for at least 4 hours. This rest allows the flavour to develop and also helps the dough to firm up making it easier to handle.
Meanwhile combine the fruit, candied peel, (I use my own recipe for candied peel click here for the recipe I store the peel in a jar topped up with DiSaronno, it keeps the peel soft and imparts a wonderful almond flavour) 2 tablespoons of the date syrup, the amaretto liquer and the mixed spice. I heat up the mixture in my microwave for 2 minutes just to plump up the fruit and get the whole soaking process underway. Leave to cool while the dough is resting.
Prepare a 20 x 30 x 5 centimeter tin by lining with baking parchment. Melt the remaining butter and brush almost all of it onto the bottom, keeping a little back for brushing on the outside of the rolled up dough. Sprinkle on the muscovado sugar.
Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it out into a rectangle measuring 30cm by 50cm and distribute the soaked sticky fruit over the surface then roll up along the long edge. Having rolled the dough up I find I need to even the roll out a little and by the time this has been accomplished it's also grown in length a bit to around 65cm. Brush the outside with a little melted butter, this allows each bun to pull apart easily when baked. Cut the roll up into 12 pieces and place cut side down on the base of the tin which has been spread with the melted butter and sugar. Leaving a little room for them expand sideways, leave to rise until at least doubled in size. Bake in a moderately hot oven, 200C for 25 to 30 minutes, reduce the heat if you think they are browning a little too quickly. When the buns are baked and are taken out of the oven, brush with the remaining 2 tablespoons of date syrup to glaze.

When it comes to spreading the fruit that has been soaking up all the syrup onto the dough, I find nothing works better than using my fingers, it's sticky but it works.


  1. It works to spread the sticky fruit with your fingers AND you get to lick them with impunity ;). I was checking out chelsea buns yesterday as an alternative to hot cross buns... think chelsea buns with a cross on the top ;). I am trying to think of a way to make the product last because Steve doesn't eat heaps and I don't want them to go stale aside from freezing. I might end up making a rich fruit loaf with a cross on the top to be used as toast when it goes over the hill (which these rich fruit breads do on a whim regularly ;) ). Cheers for this wonderful looking recipe, the fruit mix might go into a swirl in the middle of my bread :)

  2. This is a response to a comment from The Road to Serendipity which for some reason has again failed to appear on the post: These freeze really well and with great strength of mind, a rare thing for me, I managed to freeze all of the remaining ones of this batch having had two! Best wishes Tôbi

  3. Delicious buns soooo sticky and yummy ( yes another tea break with Tobes)


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