Whitby Lemon Buns, North Yorkshire
It is rare that a traditional and nationally famed delicacy should be so closely associated with just one supplier. Others may make Whitby Lemon Buns - Ainsleys of Leeds certainly do - but it is Botham's bakery and cafe at the top of Skinner Street in Whitby which appears to have originated the bun, and certainly is famous for making them.
Whitby has other sources of fame of course: an appearance in Dracula for its ancient Abbey , reached by 199 steps; kippers made in the town; the beautiful coastline. The lemon bun though is a source of affection as well as fame. Botham's is a substantial operation, still run by descendants of Elizabeth Botham who began the business in 1865. With waitresses in lacy pinnies it appeals to our wish for the comfortable past, and so does its most famous product, the Whitby Lemon Bun.
The bun is batch cooked, the edges touching and melding as they expand in the oven, meaning they have to be pulled apart when baked. It is composed of a lightish bread dough, sweetened, with sultanas worked in. The top of the bun is given a thick layer of lemon glace icing once cool enough. All very ordinary when put like that. But the care and craftsmanship that goes into making them, and perhaps the sea air that gives visitors and locals alike a healthy appetite, turns what could be a nondescript product into a pleasure, and the foundation of many holiday memories, the ideal accompaniment to a good cup of tea.
There is no known reason for lemon buns to have been made especially in Whitby: no tales of a shipwreck dumping tons of citrus fruit on the shore in past times; no link to the Mediterranean lemon trade for the old port there. It would appear that Elizabeth Botham just made good lemon buns, and people liked them. Nearly 150 years on and the company still makes the buns, and people still love them. Simple really, like the lemon bun itself.
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