Jamaican Easter Spice Bun

For Florida native Shanika Graham-White, a beloved Jamaican recipe is an Easter tradition that connects her past with the present.

Southern Living Jamaican Easter Spice Bun on serving platter

Gabriela Herman

Active Time:
15 mins
Cool Time:
1 hrs 30 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs 55 mins

This deeply aromatic, sweet yet zingy quick bread is filled with assertive warm spices (allspice, cinnamon, and nutmeg) that are punctuated with dried fruit (like raisins and cherries). Its signature dark color typically comes from a combination of ingredients like Guinness stout and browning sauce, a thick and viscous reduction of burnt-sugar essence that’s an indispensable staple in the Caribbean pantry. (You can order many different brands of the product from Amazon.) 

A Jamaican spice bun is a cousin to the British hot cross bun—from which it is believed to have descended. Although it’s enjoyed year-round, it’s most popular during the Lenten season, when many Christians abstain from eating meat. In Jamaica, the spice bun is usually served with a hefty slice of marigold-yellow processed cheese, which is considered an essential pairing. 

This recipe, from Shanika Graham-White, author of the cookbook Orchids & Sweet Tea: Plant-Forward Recipes with Jamaican Flavor & Southern Charm and creator of the popular wellness blog of the same name, is an adaptation that varies slightly from the typical Jamaican version that she grew up eating. She nixes the Guinness stout, instead opting for a combination of molasses and browning sauce to achieve the rich, earthen shade. She also goes with almond milk to reduce some of the dairy. Even with those slight changes, this recipe is a cherished tradition that Graham-White says she is honored to bequeath to the next generation.


  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing loaf pan

  • 3/4 cup dried cherries

  • 3/4 cup raisins

  • Boiling water

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder

  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon

  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg

  • 1 tsp. ground allspice

  • 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt

  • 1 1/2 cups milk (whole milk or dairy-free milk alternative)

  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

  • 1/4 cup cane syrup or pure maple syrup

  • 1 Tbsp. unsulphured molasses

  • 2 tsp. browning sauce (such as Grace Browning, optional)

  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

  • 1 egg, at room temperature

  • Cheese slices (such as American, optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9- x 5-inch loaf pan with butter; line with parchment paper. Set aside.

  2. Place dried cherries and raisins in a medium bowl. Cover with boiling water, and let soak until softened, about 5 minutes. Drain and rinse fruit; set aside.

  3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and salt in a large bowl until combined. Whisk together melted butter, milk, brown sugar, cane syrup, molasses, browning sauce (if desired), and vanilla in a separate large bowl until combined, brown in color, and smooth. Whisk in egg. Add milk mixture to flour mixture, stirring gently until batter is combined. (It should be thick but stirrable with a wooden spoon or spatula.) Fold in reserved cherries and raisins.

  4. Transfer batter to prepared loaf pan, spreading evenly with a spatula. Bake in preheated oven until a wooden pick or knife inserted in middle of bread comes out clean, about 1 hour to 1 hour, 15 minutes.

  5. Remove from oven, and let cool in loaf pan for 10 minutes. Gently remove bread from pan, and let cool completely on a wire rack, about 1 hour, 30 minutes. Slice bread, and serve with cheese, if desired.

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