Sally Lunn Bread

English: Sally Lunn's Reputed to be the oldest...

English: Sally Lunn’s Reputed to be the oldest house in Bath circa 1680. The young Huguenot baker Sally Lunn brought with her from France the recipe for brioche.Georgian Bath to create the first Bath bun – an authentic regional speciality now known the world over. There is a very small interesting museum below. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This recipe is a transplant from England to the Mid – Atlantic region.  Legend has it that the recipe was invented in Bath, England about 1680 and a woman named Solange Luyon who made and sold these cakes and buns for over 30 years.  A museum in England bears her name and produces these buns and breads for tourists. 

                The recipe was carried over with the colonists to the new world and became a staple of early colonial life and later as a tradition in southern cuisine. The recipe has seen many modifications over the years including the incorporation of spices as well as the changes in baking technology with the invention of chemical leavening. 

                The recipe started out as a sweet variation on Brioche, and has now become a staple in the western tea tradition served with butter or jam.   The shape of the cake has changed over time incorporating many of the modern convenience baking wares available and the new baking technology such as precision baking ovens.

                Some people claim the recipe was originated in France and is a corrupted name which was originally “Soleil et Lune” or roughly translated meaning sun and moon for the golden crust and the pure white interior. 

                To early English settlers it was a familiar piece of home that gave them a connection to what they once knew.  It has been modified in the new world to incorporate corn meal as well as the traditional wheat flours.

                For complete history of Flour milling in the United States see:


Sally Lunn with Black Walnuts

Christopher Gobbett



1 Cup Warm Water                                                                                        

1 Package Instant Yeast

4 ½ Cups Bread Flour                                                                                     

3 Large Eggs

1 Tbsp. Salt                                                                                                        

1 stick Unsalted Butter

¼ Cup Packed Brown Sugar                                                                        

1 Cup Black Walnut Pieces


                Mix the water and yeast together and allow to bloom.  About 5 Minutes.  Combine brown sugar and butter in a mixer and cream until light.  Add salt and then add 1 cup flour and alternate with yeasted water mixing and scraping down the bowl between additions.  Fold in black walnuts at the end and allow to rise for one hour.   Place in greased bread pans and preheat oven to 350.  Allow to rise covered with plastic wrap for 30 minutes and then place in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes.  Smaller pans and muffin tins can be used as well, but baking times must be adjusted. 

                In this recipe, I incorporate a local ingredient into a traditional English recipe.  The flavor of the black walnuts has a moldy taste to me that is complimented by the yeasty flavor of the bread; the addition of sweetness is common in the flavor profile of the black walnuts. 

                Like most baking recipes, this dish has changed very little over the years.  When dealing with a formula that requires a specific ratio, you have to be careful how you modify the recipe.  The addition of black walnuts will not make much of a difference, but if you added a different flour or more sugar or eggs you will change the outcome of the final product.  Ingredients such as chocolate or cheese will affect the final outcome as well, so be careful when experimenting with this dish, you must keep the ratio in proper proportion. 

                This recipe shows the English Heritage of the Mid Atlantic region.   Most of the colonists that first settled in Maryland were brought over from England on the Ark and the Dove.  Due to a great deal of research by Lord Baltimore before the settling of the colony, the English in Maryland faired far better than their predecessors in Virginia. 


The Evolution:


French Rolls[1]



                Sift a quart of flour, add a little salt, a spoonful of yeast, two eggs well beaten, and half a pint of milk, knead it and set it to rise; next morning, work in an ounce of butter, make the dough into small rolls, and bake them.  The top crust should not be hard.

                This recipe, although not called sally Lunn is in essence the same thing without the addition of sugar, this is accounted for by the longer blooming time given to the yeast.  It is allowed to rise overnight rather than accelerating the process with the addition of sugar and reducing the rising time to one hour. 


Sally Lunn[2]



                Warm a quart of milk with a quarter of a pound of butter, and a heaped spoonful of sugar; beat up three eggs, and put in, with a little salt, and flour enough to make it stiffer then pound cake; beat it well; put it well; put in a tea – cup of yeast, and let it rise; butter a fluted pan and pour it in; bake it in a quick oven, slice and butter it.   If you wish tea at six o’clock, set it to rise at ten in the morning.  Bake for an hour. 

                This recipe while British in origin were adapted by the Quaker cooks as their own despite their German origin.


Sally Lunn[3]



                Two eggs, two small cups of cream, two cups of loaf sugar, one pint of flour, half a pound of butter, one teaspoonful of mace; and well melted, to be poured into the eggs and sugar, which must be well beaten together; sift the flour in gradually, add as tea-spoonful of soda; the soda must be dissolved in warm water, and mixed in well.  Have the pans buttered and put into the oven immediately, before the effervescence ceases. 


This recipe shows the popularity of this dish in the South, where sweets are a more common dietary staple then in other regions.  Sally Lunn became sort of a wheat based version of the southern cornbread, which is also sweet, but paired with savory dishes.   The sweet and savory flavor combination is common in Mid – Atlantic as well as Southern cuisine. 


Sally Lunns[4]



                A pint of the best, new milk lukewarm, add to it one quarter of a pound of butter, a little salt, a teacupful of yeast, one and a half pound of fine flour; mix them together, and let it stand three quarters of an hour.  Bake them on tins nearly an hour.

Sally Lunn was a young woman who cried her wares through the streets of Bath in England around 1790.  Her wares included a variant of this cake, and they were so popular that her business was bought up by a baker and musician named Dalmer.  He supposedly made up a song about her and her famous “bun.”  Sally Lunn is still popular cake, especially in the South.  The original Sally Lunn was baked in a pan with a tube center (the original Turk’s head.)

By the time of the civil war this would have been a great luxury for the southerners on the battlefields, but would still have been a common staple in the cities and farms of the south.  At this point it was still a yeast based recipe and still has the old malted taste that comes with the addition of yeast that was lost in the later chemical influence versions. 

Another Recipe for Sally Lunn[5]



1 Quart of Flour

1 Tablespoonful of Yeast

4 eggs Well Beaten

2 Oz. Butter or Lard

1 Pint of Milk


                Set it to rise in the pan in which it is to be baked.

                Yeast is an important factor in the production of baked goods.  It is a fungi or mol which feeds on the sugars in food products and releases a byproduct of ethanol and carbon dioxide.  The alcohol is burned off in the baking process, but the carbon dioxide is trapped within the layers of gluten causing a leavening effect and adding lightness to a baked product.  Yeast is about 50% protean and is rich in B vitamins, niacin and folic acid. 

                Around this time “Yeast powder”, a term used colloquially in this region was a reference to cream of tartar mixed with saleratus or baking soda.  This was a common leavening method used before the development of baking powder.  Yeast is now used in a powdered or cake form in which the yeast id bred in vats molasses, mineral salt and ammonia and then removed and compressed into cakes or powdered after being mixed with starches such as cornmeal. 

Quick Sally Lunn[6]



1 Quart of Flour

Half cup of Butter

2 Eggs

2 Cups of Milk

Two Teaspoonfuls of Cream of Tartar

1 Tablespoonful of Soda

2 Tablespoonfuls of Sugar

1 Saltspoonful of Salt


Bake 15 minutes. 


                This last recipe shows the inclusion of baking soda and tartaric Acid which would later be combined to produce baking powder.  The Leavening properties in baking soda require the addition of an acid to activate the effervescence.  At this point, the salt no longer needed to be carefully incorporated since it did not pose a threat to killing the yeast cultures.  The taste of the bread would be milder and more refined and became more cake like then its original concept.


Sally Lund[7]



                One quart of flour, quarter pound of butter, perfectly rubbed into the flour while dry, one teaspoonful of salt, five eggs beat very light, half tea cup of milk to quarter tea – cup of yeast; add all the flour, and stir the whole together as you would pound cake, and put to rise at 10 o’clock at night; next morning beat over until light as cake and put in a warm place to rise a second time, after which bake as carefully as baking pound cake.  Bake in the pan it raises in the second time.  Just grease the pan before putting to rise a second time.

This is another book that claims to be the first cookbook written by an African American.  Since Abby Fisher could neither read or write, this book was transcribed to a committee of nine people in San Francisco late in her life.  Due to her strong accent many words and terms are misrepresented such as the recipe above.

The first edition of this book was printed in San Francisco by the women’s cooperative printing office, it was an unusual publication since it was not only a book written by a women, but also by an African American woman, and coauthored by several prominent and affluent people within the community.  This shows the high regard in which she was held within the community.

This cookbook represents a style of cooking unique to South Carolina and the African American influence in particular.  It is believed that she was born a slave to a black mother and a French father making her a mulatto.  This was more common in slaveholders since it would be unspeakable for an interracial relationship to exist in South Carolina in 1832.

Mrs. Fisher married another mulatto, Alexander C. Fisher of North Carolina,  as was common since neither white or black people would have regarded her as an equal, she bore a double stigma  of being biracial at a time when tolerance to specific races was at an all time low in this region.  Her book highlights the use of African ingredients and the influence of them in the Mid – Atlantic cuisine.

Sally Lunn[8]



                One and a half pints flour, one quarter of a pound of butter, one teacupful of sugar, one pint milk, three eggs, and three teaspoonful of Royal Baking Powder to be put in the last thing.  Bake one hour and a half in a slow oven.  


                This recipe shows the first use of commercial baking powder, which was the outgrowth of the chemical leavening revolution.  At this point it was no longer necessary to prepare the bread hours in advance in order to have it ready for tea time.  It also became independent of changing weather conditions.  As was seen in earlier recipes. 

Sally Lunn Without Yeast[9]



                Beat three eggs separately; two pints of flour, a lump of butter the size of an egg, one teaspoonful soda, and two teaspoonful of cream of tartar.  Make it up with sweet milk to a batter and bake quickly.  Instead of cream tartar and soda, use two tablespoonful of royal Baking Powder.


Here we see the transition being made between the original and the new technology.  At this point a distinction is still made between the original and the new concepts.  There would be a marked difference in taste at this point that would still be noticeable since most people who made this bread would be aware of the original and what it tasted like.  It would take a generation to remove the original concept from public recollection. 

Irish Lunn[10]



                Take one pint of milk (made milk warm), Add quarter of a pound of butter, six eggs beaten light, one teaspoonful of sugar, a wineglass of rose water, and half a cup of yeast, or one quarter cake compressed yeast.  Then add flour enough to make a stiff batter, put it to rise, grease the pans, and bake in a hot oven.

                This Variation calls for the inclusion of rose water and attributes it to Irish origin.  Why this would be is beyond anyone’s guess other then perhaps the author of this particular contribution to Mrs. Gibson’s book was of Irish decent. 


Eleanor Calvert’s Sally Lunn[11]



1 ¼ cups butter (or ½ butter and ½ lard), 1 ½ cups sugar, 4 eggs, 4 cups sifted flour, 2 heaping teaspoons baking powder, pinch of salt, 1 ½ cups milk.


                Cream butter and half of sugar until very light.  Beat eggs and remaining sugar, also very light.  Combine with creamed butter and sugar.  Sift flour, baking powder and salt together, then add to butter and eggs mixture, alternately with milk as you would in mixing a cake.  Bake in greased tube cake pan for an hour in 375 degree oven.  Eaten hot for lunch or supper with butter.  Half this amount may be baked in a 10 by 10 oven dish for 35 minutes or until brown and cut into squares making 9 large servings.

This recipe was contributed to this collection by Reverend Daniel Randell Magruder, he is the great, great grandson of Eleanor Calvert, who was herself descended from the Lord’s Baltimore who are the titled aristocracy who commissioned the first voyage and settlement of Maryland as a colony to England.

Sally Lunn[12]


To make one 10 – inch loaf


¼ Cup Lukewarm water (110 – 115 degrees)                       

¾ Cup Lukewarm Milk (110 – 115 degrees)

1 Package Active Dry Yeast                                                         

3 Eggs

1 Tablespoon Plus ¼ Cup Sugar                                                

4 to 4 1/2 Cups Flour

12 Tablespoons Butter, softened and Cut into ½ – inch Bits, Plus 2 Tablespoons Butter, Softened

2 Teaspoons Salt


                Pour the lukewarm water into a small bowl and sprinkle the yeast and 1 tablespoon of the sugar over it.  Let the mixture rest for 3 minutes, then mix.  Set the bowl in a warm, draft free place (such as an unlighted oven) for 10 minutes, or until mixture almost always doubles in volume.

                Combine 4 cups of the flour, the remaining ¼ cup of sugar and the salt and sift them together into a deep bowl.  Make a well in the center and into it pour the yeast, lukewarm milk and eggs.  With a wooden spoon, gradually incorporate the dry ingredients into the liquid ones and stir until smooth.  Beat in the 12 tablespoons of butter bits, a little at a time, and beat until the dough can be gathered into a compact ball.  Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead by pushing it down with the heels of your hands, pressing it forward and folding it back on itself.  As you knead, work in up to ½ cup more flour, sprinkling it over the dough.  Knead for 15 minutes, or until dough is smooth, shiny and elastic. 

                With a pastry brush, spread 1 tablespoon of softened butter over the inside of a large bowl.  Drop in the dough and turn it about to butter the entire surface.  Drape the bowl with the kitchen towel and place it in the draft – free place for about 30 minutes, or until it doubles in volume.

                Brush the remaining tablespoon of softened butter over the bottom and sides of a 10 inch Turk’s head mold.  Punch the dough down with a single blow of your fist.  Then shape it into a ball and place it into a buttered mold.  Drape with a towel and set aside in a draft free place for about 1 hour, or until the loaf doubles in bulk. 

                Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Bake in the middle of the oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown.  Turn the bread out of the mold and rap the bottom with your fingertips.  If it dose not sound hollow, return it to the mold and bake 5 to 10 minutes longer.  Turn the bread out on a wire rack and serve warm or at room temperature. 

                NOTE: If you prefer, Sally Lunn may be baked in muffin tins.  Prepare the dough as described above and let it rise once.  Brush 1 tablespoon of butter evenly over the inside surfaces of 16 three – inch muffin tin cups.  Then punch the dough down, divide it into 16 equal portions and shape each into a small ball.  Place the balls in the buttered muffin cups, drape with a towel and set them aside in a draft free place for about 45 minutes, or until they double in bulk.  Bake in the middle of a preheated 350 degree oven for 40 – 45 minutes, or until golden brown.  Turn the buns out on a wire rack and serve warm or at room temperature. 

                This recipe shows the impact science has had on the baking industry in the 20th century.  What was once an uncomplicated recipe has now been subdivided and measured to insure precise temperature logs as well as uniform results?  This is the era in which many people feel cooking lost its “soul” The modern science food movement seemed to distill and dehumanize the very substances which we consume to live.  This was also the time of the beginnings of the slow food movement which would later come back as a revolutionary movement trying to recapture the original concepts and rediscover the roots of these dishes, much as this very book hopes to do.  This is when commercial baking became more about mass production then unique quality.  It was the era of the “Twinkie” generation.

Sally Lunn[13]



1 Cup Milk                                                                                         

1/3 Cup Sugar

½ Cup Shortening                                                                           

2 Teaspoons Salt

4 Cups Sifted All – Purpose Flour, Divided                          

2 Packages Active Dry Yeast

3 Eggs


  1. First.                     Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  10 minutes before the Sally Lunn bread is ready to bake.
  2. Second.            Grease a 10 – inch tube cake pan or a Bundt pan.            
  3. Third.                  Heat the milk, shortening, and ¼ cup of water until very warm – about 120 degrees.  The shortening does not need to melt.
  4. Fourth.              Blend 1 1/3 cups of flour with the sugar, salt, and dry yeast in a small mixing bowl. 
  5. Fifth.                    Blend the warm liquids into the flour mixture.  Beat with an electric mixer at medium high speed for about 2 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. 
  6. Sixth.                   Gradually add 2/3 cup of the remaining flour and the eggs are beaten on high speed for 2 minutes. 
  7. Seventh.         Add the remaining flour and mix well.  The batter will be stiff and not thick.
  8. Eighth.               Cover and let the dough rise in a warm, draft free place (about 85 degrees) until it doubles in bulk – about 1 hour and 15 minutes. 
  9. Ninth.                 Beat the dough down with a spatula or on the lowest speed on an electric mixer and turn into a prepared pan. 
  10. Tenth.                Cover and let rise in a warm, draft free place until it has increased in bulk 1/3 to ½  – about 30 minutes.
  11. Eleventh.       Bake for 40 – 50 minutes at 350 degrees.
  12. Twelfth.          Run a knife around the center and outer edges of the bread and turn it onto a plate to cool. 

According to tradition, sally Lunn is named after a young girl who in the eighteenth century “cried” the sweet yeast bread that bears her name in the streets of England’s fashionable spa, Bath.  Some now doubt whether Sally Lunn really existed and suggest other sources of the name.  Who knows?  But Sally Lunn dose have a place in the Oxford English Dictionary, and hers was a household name in the Southern colonies as it was in England. 


Sally Lunn[14]



Sift into a pan a good qt. flour, make a hole in the middle & put in 2 oz. of butter warmed in a pint of milk a spoonful of salt 3 well beaten eggs, 2 tablespoons of good yeast mix all well & put in a tin pan that has been greased.  Cover set in a warm place & when quite light bake in a moderate oven.


¼ c. (1/2 Stick) Butter plus more for greasing pan and top

4 c. sifted flour

1 T. Salt

2 C. Whole Milk or (better) Half and half

3 Eggs

2 T. homemade yeast (or see “yeast updates,” page 105)

                Melt butter in milk.  Add salt, cool to lukewarm, and add yeast and beaten eggs.  Stir in flour.  Butter should resemble a thick pancake batter and will double in about 2 hours.  Bake in a greased angel food cake pan in bottom third of oven preheated to 350 degrees about 30 – 40 minutes.  Makes one loaf.  Do not serve cold. 

                This recipe book shows the original southern recipe as well as the modern translation trying to imitate the original.  The original implies the use of an open hearth oven which required a completely different kind of cooking skill and experience.  It also provided a different taste due to the proximity of open flames. 

                Tradition has it that Bath buns were sold in the streets of Bath as early as 1727 by sally Lunn, carrying her freshly baked wares to her waking customers.  It was the custom to eat “Sally Lunns” covered with scalded milk.  Today they are sliced thin and buttered for afternoon tea.

                This recipe is the modern equivalent of the “original” used at the Sally Lund Museum in Bath, England.  

                This recipe also highlights the importance of tea rooms within the Chesapeake region.  As most of the country abandoned the habit of drinking tea after the Revolutionary war, more than an unusually high amount of people in this region maintained the tradition.  Coffee did not become a common habit until the time of the civil war.  The region still maintains an unusually high amount of tea rooms despite changing urban densities


Sally Lynn[15]



½ Cup Milk                                                                                        

¾ Stick Butter

½ Tsp. Salt                                                                                          

2 Large Eggs

1 Package (2 ¼ Tsp.) Active Dry Yeast                                    

¼ C. Warm Water (105 – 115°F) 

2 Tbsp. Sugar                                                                                    

2 Cups White or Whole Wheat Pastry flour


                In a saucepan, heat milk just to the boiling boint, then remove from heat.  Add butter and salt; stir until butter is melted and combined, then cool to lukewarm.  Put eggs in a food processor; pulse to beat well.  In a small bowl, combine yeast, warm water and sugar; stir to dissolve yeast and let stand until foamy.  Add yeast mixture, lukewarm milk mixture and flour to food processor; pulse to mix well, then cover and let rise until doubled in size.

                Preheat oven to 400°F.  spray a bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Pour batter into pan, cover and let rise until doubled in size.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until toothpick stuck into center comes out clean.  Cool in pan 10 minutes, then remove from pan to cool completely. 

                Despite the many variations on the origins of this dish from Huguenots to Marie Antoine Crème’, this dish has stood the test of time and the many variations and modifications that have come with the advancement of Mid – Atlantic society.  



[1] The Virginia Housewife by Mary Randolph: University of South Carolina Press 1984

[2] A Quaker Women’s Cookbook: The Domestic cookery of Elizabeth Ellicott Lea: William Woys Weaver: Stackpole Books 2004

[3] The Carolina Housewife by Sarah Rutledge: University of South Carolina Press 1979

[4] Civil War Recipes: Receipts from the pages of Godey’s Good Book by Lily May Spaulding & John Spaulding: The University Press of Kentucky 1999

[5] Housekeeping in Old Virginia: Marion Cabell Tyree, John P. Morton and Company Louisville, KY. 1879

[6] Housekeeping in Old Virginia: Marion Cabell Tyree, John P. Morton and Company Louisville, KY. 1879

[7] What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking by Abby Fisher: Women’s Co-operative Printing Office 1891

[8] Maryland and Virginia Cookbook: Charles H. Gibson of Ratcliffe Manor, Easton, Talbot County, Maryland.  John Murphy & Company 1894

[9] Maryland and Virginia Cookbook: Charles H. Gibson of Ratcliffe Manor, Easton, Talbot County, Maryland.  John Murphy & Company 1894

[10] Maryland and Virginia Cookbook: Charles H. Gibson of Ratcliffe Manor, Easton, Talbot County, Maryland.  John Murphy & Company 1894

[11] The Hammond – Harwood House Cookbook: Mrs. Lewis R. Andrews & Mrs. J. Reaney Kelly: The Hammond – Harwood House Association 1963

[12] American Cooking: Southern Style: Foods of the World by Time Life Books: Time Inc. 1971

[13] The Williamsburg Cookbook: Traditional and Contemporary recipes adapted from the taverns and inns of Colonial Williamsburg  by Letha Booth & Joan Perry Dutton: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation 1975

[14] The Robert E. Lee Family Cooking and Housekeeping Book by Anne Carter Zimmer: University of North Carolina Press 1997

[15] Virginia Bed & Breakfast Cookbook by Melissa Craven: 3D Press Inc. 2005


About midatlanticcooking

Chef in the Mid-Atlantic region for over 20 years. Painter, writer and traveler.
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2 Responses to Sally Lunn Bread

  1. Pingback: Favorite Mid – Atlantic Dish | midatlanticcooking

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