Nancy was given the 189-year-old bun – believed to be the world’s oldest – when her mother died and, amazingly, it shows no trace of mould.
It was made the year Napoleon died, George IV was crowned king and the poet John Keats passed away, and has been kept by generations of her ancestors.
She said: “It’s a relic which has been passed down through the family. My mum said our ancestors worked in a baker’s shop and they believed buns baked on Good Friday didn’t go mouldy.
“It is rock hard and the currants have disintegrated but you can tell it’s a hot cross bun and you can still see the shape of the cross.” The bun, which has March 1821 on its base, was made in the London bakery of Nancy’s great, great, great grandfather William Skinner.
His son was helping in the shop that Easter and made the fruity bun as a present for his mother. But she never ate it and instead preserved it in a box.
It was passed from generation to generation and Nancy, who keeps it in a drawer, says it still smells fresh. “It’s a rather unusual family heirloom but I’m proud of it,” said Nancy, of Deeping St James, Lincs. “We would often get it out and laugh about it – that old bun in the box.” Hot cross buns with their sweet, spicy and fruity flavours first became popular in Tudor times and have long been an Easter tradition, with the pastry cross symbolising the crucifixion.
In the 19th Century many believed those baked on Good Friday would never go mouldy and had special healing powers during complaints such as indigestion.
Nancy plans to pass the hot cross bun to her daughter Anthea and granddaughter Hannah, seven.
The preserved bun has astonished bakers who cannot believe it has survived so long.
George Fuller, from Fuller’s Bakery in Goole, Yorkshire, said: “I’m absolutely gobsmacked as hot cross buns usually go mouldy within about five days.
“I’ve never heard of this before. It may have been treated with varnish or something to preserve it and it would have to have been kept somewhere very warm and dry.”