Baked goods have become very complicated these days. Cakes are 7 layered wonders, iced to Sistine Chapel like standards. Cupcakes have wacky flavourings and enough frosting to get lost in. Breads have starters from 500 years ago that require the kind of nurturing of a pet. It gets quite exhausting. Faced with so much choice, I’ve had a yen for something very simple. And nothing gets more simple than the staple of the Belfast bakery when I was a child, the Paris Bun.
Sweet bready cakes the size of your fist, they were little mounds of total simplicity, only jazzed up by a scattering of crisp pearled sugar on top. Some might even say they are a bit dull, but I loved them. Similarly comforting as a Rich Tea biscuit or a malted milk, they go quietly and unobstrusively with a cup of tea mid afternoon. No one outside of Northern Ireland and the west coast of Scotland seems to have known their un-showy charms and it was frankly a devil to get a recipe for them. I’ve ended up cobbling something together from three or four bits and bobs on ex-pat forums, adding my own twist in the shape of malt powder to give them a slight richness and flavour. Despite all that, they were very easy to make.
Paris Buns: makes 12
- 115g butter
- 125g sugar
- 2 tablespoons Horlicks or other malt powder (optional)
- 2 eggs
- 150g plain unsweetened yoghurt or buttermilk
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 250g plain flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- Pearl sugar to scatter
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the Horlicks powder and the baking soda and mix well. Crack the eggs in and pour in the yoghurt. Mix until a batter forms. It will look slightly curdled, but this is fine.
Sift in the flour and the baking powder and mix until the batter becomes a soft dough that pulls away from the sides and forms a lump in the middle of the bowl. Don’t overmix.
Place dessertspoonfuls of the mix on a baking paper covered tray. Paris Buns are traditionally a smooth domed shape with a slight point on the top which looks quite bosom like, so try and make these smooth and slightly more upright as they will spread while cooking. Scatter with pearled sugar and then bake at 220℃ for about 12 minutes. They should be a golden sun kissed colour rather than actually brown. Cool on a wire rack.
I was as pleased as punch with these. Paris buns could be a bit dry in my memory but the yoghurt in these makes them very soft and the malt powder gives them a stickier crumb with a beautiful glossiness. I had one with a cup of Suki Belfast Brew tea and it was the perfect combination. If you like your baked goods simple, do give these a try. They are so quick and delicious, you’ll understand why things that work well in Belfast are described as ‘wee buns’….
PS: I have no idea why they are called Paris buns. I suspect the shape might be supposed to look like the Eiffel tower. If you really squint…
Ah…well you have answered a question for me… there is a line in Van Morrison’s song “We went for lemonade and Paris buns at the shop and broke for tea” I always wondered what a Paris bun was as I’ve never heard of one in London!!! The song is Cleaning Windows BTW! Thanks for the recipe!
Kate: I couldn’t remember which Van song mentioned them. You are much more useful than Google even I’ve got George Formby and Van Morrison mixed up in my head now!
Brilliant! I remember telling my husband about our the treats he had to look forward to when visiting my parents in northern ireland for the first time. I think he expected paris buns to be a delicious fondant macaroon type affair but as you said the shop bought ones are a wee bit dry, especially when you’re expecting so much more! This may just convert him after all…
Rachael: They do sound much fancier than they are, but I love all those slightly plain Norn Iron treats like Marie biscuits so these were a welcome revival. They are very good with a glass of milk I discovered for breakfast this morning!
Love Paris Buns split and spread with butter. I’m an ex pat living in Canada and wondering if you have a recipe or any idea how to make coconut snowballs? Loved those with a cup of tea. Love your blog!
Well I’m now enlightened on what a Paris bun is! Who needs 7 layers when something tasty and simple is all that’s needed?
Ah, I could really go a Paris bun and a cuppa right now… they sound delicious!
I well remember Paris Buns, always popular at bakers shops where I grew up in Methil on the east coast of Fife. I remember baking them too at Kirkcaldy Technical College where I took a pre vocational course in catering and baking ( 1957- 1958 ). I seem to remember we added a small amount of Amonia to the ingredients which gave them their unique flavour. Has anyone else heard of this?
Thank you so much! I’ve been looking for a paris bun recipe for years! You’ve really made my day!
Used to get these from the Co-op Bakery van which came round my granny’s in Blantyre early 60’s. To me and my sister they seemed huge, so we got half each!
Your recipe is better. I am an ardent baker, these buns are wow! I used an all in one method, they were delicious and what great keepers they are.
Morag: so glad you like them and pleased the recipe stands the scrutiny of a seasoned baker! And yes, I was surprised by how well they keep. A nice surprise!
Bout ye wee gurl.
Them buns wur clawssss.
Seriously though. Me an the weans just sat down and made them as wee buns in bun cases and enough was left over for two modest Paris buns.
Both were great but the Paris bun style were getting a very authentic colour and texture. Bit lighter and fluffier but that said we used what we had to hand, flora and self raising and no Horlicks.
My brother in law is from El Salvador and his favourite Norn Iron delicacy is the Paris Bun; I’ll be sending him a link.
Fond memory of these as a kid in Belfast. I was told the name comes from the fact that they were as dry as plaster of Paris! Perfect with a brew.
I tried your Paris Buns just now; they turned out a bit too flat and fluffy! Lovely taste but not the genuine texture. I’ll try them again with more flour, to bring them to a scone-like texture. i think also I’ll try them on a greased tin rather than on the paper; they spread too much on the paper. But thanks for posting the recipe!
excellent, I love paris buns, now is there any chance you’d know how to make Veda bread???? thank you.
Sitting at home eating Soda Bread from Hogan’s Soda Bread Mix sold at Wegmans , Hunt Valley, Maryland.
I remembered buying these buns at a bakery near my high school St Malachys College.
During our next store visit ( every 2 weeks during the pandemic).
We will make them soon, can’t wait.
Love this posting. I’d love to have the recipe for “Veda Bread” made by the Ormeau Bakery!