What Is a Baker’s Dozen? Here’s Why 13 Is the Magic Number

Nope, this isn't a miscount. The term "baker's dozen" can be traced all the way back to 13th century England!

You’ve probably come across the phrase “baker’s dozen” once or twice in conversation or on The Great British Baking Show. We all know how important numbers are in the baking processexact measurements are key—but what’s so special about the baker’s dozen?

What Exactly Is a Baker’s Dozen?

Now, there’s your regular “dozen,” which amounts to 12. Then add one and you’ll have a baker’s dozen—simple math, right?

If you’re ordering from a bakery and request a baker’s dozen of a certain item, you’ll get 13 scones, dinner rolls, doughnuts, whatever. So even though you’re requesting a baker’s dozen of something, you’ll actually receive an extra baked good. No complaints here!

It’s harder to make a baker’s dozen, though, if you’re in the kitchen at home. Think about the muffin tins you have, with six, 12 or 24-count spaces for batter. Not ideal for making the odd number that is a baker’s dozen.

The History of a Baker’s Dozen

This plus-one to the normal amount in a dozen didn’t show up for fun. The term “bakers dozen” goes all the way back to medieval England, where bakers were making 13 instead of the standard 12 loaves of bread to avoid jail time.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica and Mental Floss, some bakers in 13th century England were notorious for skimping on the size of their baked goods, while customers were still paying full price. This “cheating” provoked King Henry III to pass a strict law—selling bread below the standard weight and size and overcharging for it got you roughed up or tossed in a jail cell. Many bakers didn’t want to risk it, so to reduce any margin of error, they often included an additional loaf of bread in their normal dozen, just to be safe.

We'd Eat a Baker's Dozen of Doughnuts
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Hannah Twietmeyer
Hannah is a writer and content creator based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with a passion for all things food, health, community and lifestyle. She is a journalism graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a previous dining and drink contributor for Madison Magazine.