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Vegan Saffron Buns and The Great Cornish Bake Off

Liskeard Bun

Bread & Buns, Cornish, Vegan | 19th August 2015 | By

Once upon a time, many years ago, back in the 1960s in fact, or possibly the 1970s, reports are a bit vague, the Mayor stopped handing out the Liskeard Bun. This was an annual event when the newly invested mayor of Liskeard would hand out buns wrapped in brown paper bags to the local children. What a lovely tradition. Read on to find out about the Great Cornish Bake Off and how it was rediscovered along with a vegan recipe for Cornish saffron buns.

The Liskeard Bun

Earlier on in the year, rumours were alive that the hunt for the Liskeard Bun was on. The rumours were correct. Two intrepid Liskeard residents did a bit of sleuthing . The baker who used to make it was found, but the recipe remained shrouded in mystery. A number of people remembered receiving them and described them as a round fruity yeasted bun that may or may not have had saffron in it. A recipe was found in Cousin Jennie’s Cook Book by local author Pamela Pascoe, written in 1976. This may or may not have been the original Liskeard Bun.

Our intrepid sleuths thought it was time to resurrect the Liskeard Bun, or better still create a new one. The challenge was issued and a new Liskeard Bun would be announced on the day of Liskeard’s annual Ploughman’s Fair.  I had the fun and responsibility of being one of the three judges. I got to eat a lot of bun. I was also asked if I would make the saffron buns, Tesen Safron, from Cousin Jennie’s Cook Book for the event.

Liskeard Bun Judges

Some tough decisions to be made. Photo courtesy of John Heskyth.

Vegan Cornish Saffron Buns

I have made Cornish saffron buns before, but these were a little different – no chocolate for a start. The ingredients contained both lard and marg, neither of which I like to use, the former because I’m vegetarian and the latter because marg is a particularly unhealthy fat. So not only did I scale down the recipe and translate it into grams rather than ounces but I used sunflower oil as the fat. This had the added advantage of making the buns vegan which meant more people can enjoy them. I used my own candied peel, which has a nicer taste and texture than the peel sold in tubs. Annoyingly, I didn’t quite get my act together to soak the saffron overnight, so the colour of these buns is rather pallid.

Liskeard Buns

Bun remnants after the judging was finalised. Photo courtesy of Lorna Shrubsole.

The Great Cornish Bake Off

The day dawned fair, the town was alive with music and food stalls and three judges stood in the Mayor’s Parlour gazing at the array of fine looking buns wondering how they were ever going to choose a winner. Judging the new Liskeard Bun was a serious affair and we didn’t take our duties lightly. We looked, we prodded, we poked, we tasted, we scored, we discussed; one hour later we had come to a decision. Well, several decisions; there was an adult category, an under sixteens and a professional one and we had to choose a first, second and third with an optional commended. I may not be Mary Berry, but I had a lot of fun.

If I had not been judging I might have submitted my Liskeardy Cakes – maybe next year. Guess which one drew accolades from the judges.? Here’s a clue, Liskeard Bun.

The buns were brought out onto a stall by Liskeard’s Fountain for everyone to taste; pictures were taken and the winners were announced with much fanfare. Pamela Pascoe, author of the saffron bun recipe I adapted was there to award the top prize of an engraved glass cake stand. That really put the cherry on the cake.

Winners, Sleuths, Judges and Mrs Pascoe.

Winners, Sleuths, Judges and Mrs Pascoe. Photo courtesy of Lorna Shrubsole

Thanks to our two entrepreneurial sleuths, we now have a new Liskeard bun and the next stage in the story awaits. Watch this space.

Vegan Cornish Saffron Buns – The Recipe

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5 from 1 vote

Cornish Saffron Buns - Tesen Safron

A fruity yeasted bun, lightly spiced with saffron. Delicious with butter, either warm from the oven, cold or toasted.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Soaking Time8 hrs
Total Time40 mins
Course: Afternoon Tea, Snack
Cuisine: British, Cornish
Keyword: baking, buns, liskeard, saffron, vegan, yeast
Servings: 16 buns
Author: Choclette


  • a large pinch of saffron
  • 15 g fresh yeast
  • 200 ml warm water
  • 200 g wholemeal flour
  • 260 g plain flour
  • 50 g golden caster sugar I used cardamom sugar
  • a good pinch of salt
  • 100 ml sunflower oil
  • 50 g candied peel I used homemade
  • 200 g sultanas or mixed dried fruit


  • Place saffron in a small bowl. Cover with boiling water and leave to steep overnight.
  • Stir the yeast into the water until dissolved.
  • Place the dry ingredients into a bowl, make a well in the centre and pour in the water and oil, mixing as you go until it comes together as a dough.
  • Turn out onto a work surface and knead for a good ten minutes, adding the fruit in towards the end.
  • Alternatively, chuck everything into a stand mixer and let it do the work for you.
  • Cover the bowl with a tea towel, plate or plastic bag and leave in a warm place to rise until doubled in size.
  • Knead again for another five minutes or so.
  • Divide the dough into 16 pieces and form into rolls.
  • Place on a baking tray or in a silicone mould (I used a 23cm (9") sq silicone cake mould).
  • Leave in a warm place to rise until doubled in size.
  • Bake in the middle of the oven at 200C for 15-20 minutes, when the buns should be brown on top and the bases sound hollow when tapped.
  • Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.


For best results with both flavour and colour, be sure to soak the saffron overnight.
Contains no egg or dairy, so suitable for vegans.
Adapted from Saffron Cake by Pamela Pascoe in Cousin Jennie's Cook Book


The fresh yeast was bought from my local baker, just a two minute walk away. The wholemeal flour comes from Cotehele Mill, not far away in the Tamar Valley. So, I’m entering these vegan Cornish saffron buns into Shop Local over at Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary.

As this was our very own Liskeard Bake Off, I’m going to be cheeky and enter my Liskeard Bun into Treat Petite which is all about The Great British Bake Off, this month. I’m hoping Kat at The Baking Explorer and CakeyBoi will allow it.

Thirdly, my vegan saffron buns go towards the ever groaning table at Tea Time Treats which this month is all about Summer Baking.

Whilst not strictly a cake, saffron buns are also called saffron cakes down here in Cornwall. They’re ideal portable picnic fare, so I’m hoping they’ll be eligible for Love Cake over at JibberJabberUK where the theme is Pack me a Picnic.

Other recipes for yeasted fruit buns you might like

Vegan Cornish Saffron Buns. PIN IT.

Recipe for vegan Cornish Saffron Buns, the Great Cornish Bake Off & The Liskeard Bun. #vegan #recipe #saffronbuns #Cornwall #Liskeard


  1. Jo of Jo's Kitchen

    19th August 2015 at 1:16 pm

    What an amazing story. Your buns sound delicious

    • Choclette

      19th August 2015 at 10:56 pm

      Thanks Jo, they were pretty good, but not as good as the winning bun 😉

  2. Emily

    19th August 2015 at 1:57 pm

    What a lovely tradition. I love foodie stories like that. Sound yummy x

    • Choclette

      19th August 2015 at 10:58 pm

      Yes me too, uncovering the story of the Liskeard bun has been interesting.

  3. lisa

    19th August 2015 at 2:01 pm

    Ahhhh I used to live near Liskeard for two years. Agreed your Liskeard buns look much nicer than the Safron buns I used to get from Barnecutts Bakery (now that brings back fond memories). Fab looking recipe, I will have to give them a go x

    • Choclette

      19th August 2015 at 2:37 pm

      Gosh finding out so much about you today Lisa. Where did you live? It’s always been Blakes for me as I still think of Barnecutts as a newcomer 😉

  4. Angie@Angie's Recipes

    19th August 2015 at 2:04 pm

    What a great event! I love your healthy take on those saffron buns as I am not a fan of margarine either.

    • Choclette

      19th August 2015 at 10:59 pm

      Thanks Angie, I’d be very surprised to find you were a margarine fan 😉

  5. laurie

    19th August 2015 at 2:05 pm

    lovely buns and I loved the background story, beautiful photos, yummy!!!

    • Choclette

      19th August 2015 at 10:57 pm

      Thank you Laurie, it was a good day 🙂

  6. Helen @ Fuss Free Flavours

    19th August 2015 at 3:25 pm

    A lovely recipe. I had a Cornish cream tea last time I was in Cornwall that had one scone and one saffron bun!

    • Choclette

      19th August 2015 at 11:00 pm

      Traditionally saffron buns are eaten with clotted cream, but no jam needed as they are sweet enough.

  7. Henk Kooiman

    19th August 2015 at 6:21 pm

    Great story ! And a lovely dress Choclette; you really do look like a local celebrity in it :))
    Unfortunately, sunflower oil in baking somehow doesn’t agree with me (same problem with carrot cake). Would you mind mentioning the original quantities of lard/butter/egg as in the original recipe ? I’d love to try these buns !

    • Choclette

      19th August 2015 at 9:46 pm

      Hi Henk, thank you. You could always use a different type of oil, but here are the original quantities: 3 lb plain flour, 1 lb lard and marg – mixed, 6 oz sugar, 1 1/2 lb dried fruit, 4-6 oz mixed candied peel, 1 tsp salt, 1 dram saffron, 1 oz yeast, warm milk and water to mix. Make of that what you will 😉

  8. Sarah

    19th August 2015 at 6:56 pm

    Really enjoyed reading this, sounds like you had a lot of fun. Cute picture with all the wee kids. 😀

    • Choclette

      21st August 2015 at 11:18 am

      Thanks Sarah, I really enjoyed the morning and all the excitement leading up to it too. It was great to have some kids entering. Hopefully more next year 🙂

  9. Bintu | Recipes From A Pantry

    19th August 2015 at 10:03 pm

    Sounds like you had fun – and now you are tempting my to get my bake off on.

    • Choclette

      21st August 2015 at 11:19 am

      It really was fun and great to see people getting into the spirit of it all. Hoping it will become an annual event.

  10. Sarah James

    20th August 2015 at 8:55 am

    Looks like you had a lovely day Choclette & such a privilege to be a judge. Looking forward to baking your Liskeard Buns 🙂

    • Choclette

      21st August 2015 at 11:21 am

      It was indeed a privilege and a responsibility Sarah, but it was great fun and I hope it will run again next year. I’m sure you will do a far better job than I did on the bun front 🙂

  11. Camilla

    20th August 2015 at 11:07 am

    I’ve never had a one of these buns and have always wanted to try one so thanks for sharing the recipe and also for linking to my Apple Hot Cross Buns:-)

    • Choclette

      21st August 2015 at 11:23 am

      Saffron buns are a Cornish classic Camilla, but these are not nearly as sweet as the commercial varieties I’ve tried, so preferable.

  12. Kath

    20th August 2015 at 4:36 pm

    Oh I love it. The sleuthing and the judging. I am going to they your saffron buns. They do look very tempting. x

    • Choclette

      21st August 2015 at 11:25 am

      Ooh yes, do give them a go Kath. If you like them, you could spread the Cornish saffron bun love on your baking course 😉

  13. Sina @ Vegan Heaven

    20th August 2015 at 4:54 pm

    What a great tradition, Choclette! Your saffron buns look so delicious! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    • Choclette

      21st August 2015 at 11:26 am

      Thanks Sina. I’m rather hoping this bake off will itself become a tradition in Liskeard – time will tell 🙂

  14. jenna @ butter loves company

    20th August 2015 at 4:54 pm

    I am so fascinated by the addition of saffron into this bun! I have some on hand and and now feeling inspired to use them in a baked good. Thanks so much for sharing this story!

    • Choclette

      21st August 2015 at 11:28 am

      Thanks Jenna. Saffron buns are a traditional bake in Cornwall, but they should be a bit yellower than mine. They taste great though.

  15. Sylvia @ Happiness is homemade

    20th August 2015 at 5:39 pm

    Cornish tea is on my “foodie bucket list” so I hope one day I’ll be able to try those lovely buns! Yours look absolutely scrumptious 😉

    • Choclette

      21st August 2015 at 11:29 am

      Well Cornwall isn’t so very far away Sylvia and a Cornish cream tea just has to be tried 🙂

  16. Heidi Roberts

    20th August 2015 at 11:37 pm

    What great fun judging a bun competition. Hope there was loads of tea to drink to wash it all down in style!

    • Choclette

      21st August 2015 at 11:31 am

      We were a bit let down on the tea front Heidi, but we had water to cleanse our palates between buns.

  17. Michelle

    21st August 2015 at 1:45 am

    These are lovely! What a great post!

    • Choclette

      21st August 2015 at 11:32 am

      Thank you Michelle. I hope you enjoyed seeing a little bit of Cornwall 🙂

  18. Piyali Mutha

    21st August 2015 at 3:52 am

    What an enthralling story that was. You wove such magic with your words and pictures, that it actually teleported me to the event. The gorgeous table of buns look so good that I can well imagine your difficulty at deciding which was the best. The Cornish saffron buns which you baked look so perfectly delightful and delicious. No wonder everyone applauded such lovely creation from you. A very interesting recipe which surely, I would love to try.

    • Choclette

      21st August 2015 at 11:35 am

      Thank you very much Piyali, you’ve been very kind. It’s made my day reading how you were transported to our part of the world for a while 🙂

  19. Razena |

    21st August 2015 at 4:21 pm

    Loved the story telling 🙂 I’m a sucker for fruity cakes and breads so this is definitely on my to do list.

    • Choclette

      21st August 2015 at 6:07 pm

      Thanks Razena. I’ve inherited a love of bread and buns from my mother. Not very good for me I know, but they are so satisfying.

  20. The Gifted Gabber

    21st August 2015 at 9:46 pm

    I’ve never heard of this type of bread before but it sure sounds tasty! I’m glad you didn’t goof around with your job duties. Sounds like a serious and enviable job! Visiting from FBC — Amy @

    • Choclette

      22nd August 2015 at 8:13 pm

      Thanks Amy. Saffron cakes or buns are very much a Cornish speciality and very nice they are too. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted so many buns in one sitting before 😉

  21. Kat (The Baking Explorer)

    22nd August 2015 at 4:05 pm

    They are so beautifully baked! Thank you for entering into Treat Petite!

    • Choclette

      22nd August 2015 at 6:49 pm

      Thank you Kat for letting me wing this one 😉

  22. Kate - gluten free alchemist

    23rd August 2015 at 10:52 pm

    Sounds like a scream! What fun!!
    There are some amazing local traditions surrounding food and it is always fascinating to learn about them. Lovely post Choclette and lovely looking buns!

    • Choclette

      24th August 2015 at 8:26 am

      Sadly, I think many of the local traditions died out a long time ago, it would be great for places to bring back or invent new ones so we had some real diversity.

  23. Phil in the Kitchen

    25th August 2015 at 9:51 pm

    May I say that I think you did a very fine job there in bringing a lost bun back to life. I’m not sure that I could take the stress of being a judge however much cake and tea was on offer. I wonder why the tradition died out. Perhaps it was regarded as no longer relevant or beneath the dignity of a mayor? Both of which sound like deeply misguided reasons to me.

    • Choclette

      26th August 2015 at 8:39 am

      I expect it came down to money in the end Phil, but I agree with you – a misguided decision. It’s now looking like our local baker is going to start baking the winning bun, so who knows where else it might go.

  24. Ness

    29th August 2015 at 1:03 am

    What a fascinating story. I wonder if there are any other towns left that still do a similar act. I haven’t a saffron bun since I was last in Cornwall. It would seem wrong to have one anywhere else in the country!

    • Choclette

      1st September 2015 at 9:30 am

      Haha Kate, you could always have the saffron bun and think of Cornwall 😉 Yes, it would be interesting to know if any of these old traditions still exist – I suspect not, which is a bit sad.

  25. Karen

    29th August 2015 at 11:50 am

    THANKS so much for this wonderful entry into Tea Time Treats! LOVE the recipe and photos so much! Karen

    • Choclette

      1st September 2015 at 9:31 am

      I thought you’d approve of this post Karen 🙂

  26. Janie

    29th August 2015 at 1:41 pm

    Ah, that’s so cool! I look forward to trying the winning bun soon 🙂
    Janie x

    • Choclette

      1st September 2015 at 9:34 am

      Yes indeed Janie, we’re hoping it will soon be available in our local bakery.

  27. Elizabeth

    3rd September 2015 at 7:15 am

    Oooh these buns are making my mouth water just thinking about them! Gorgeous! Thank you for sharing with the Shop Local Challenge!

    • Choclette

      4th September 2015 at 3:09 pm

      Haha, thank you, that’s just what I like to hear Elizabeth 😉

  28. Irmgard Upmanis

    5th September 2015 at 9:46 pm

    I would love to make these but only have access to yeast granules. How much of this product would I have to use as a substitute for the fresh yeast?

    • Choclette

      6th September 2015 at 9:12 pm

      Hi Irmgard, dried yeasts vary quite a bit, but it should tell you on the packet how much yeast you should use for the quantity of flour. But it should be about 1 tsp of instant yeast and 2 tsp of dried active yeast.


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