Hot Cross Buns

A hot cross bun is a spiced sweet bread that is so enticing and satisfying that it's a shame we only see them around Easter time. If you want to make them all year round, I won't hold it against you!

Jump to Recipe (or scroll for photos and riveting information...)
Advertisement - Continue Below
A single hot cross bun on a white plate with butter with a basket of hot cross buns beside it.

What are hot cross buns?

Hot Cross Buns are spiced sweet bread rolls that are traditionally eaten on Good Friday, marking the end of the Christian season of Lent. There is symbolism in many different aspects of the buns, but the most obvious is the cross on top, representing the crucifixion of Jesus. The stories of folklore around Hot Cross Buns are a little more lighthearted. One states that a Hot Cross Bun made and eaten on Good Friday will not spoil or go moldy for a year! …a Year! Others say that a Hot Cross Bun hanging in your kitchen and replaced every year protects your kitchen from fire and ensures that all your bread turns out well. I’m not sure I’m going to fact-check either story, but what I do know, for certain, is that enjoying a Hot Cross Bun around Easter is delightful and something to look forward to.

Ingredients on a wooden table with a stand mixer in the background.

What do Hot Cross Buns taste like?

There are two qualities to a hot cross bun that I love. One is the soft, tender texture of the bread. I love how the dough feels when I’m shaping the rolls and I love tearing apart and biting into the soft roll. The other quality is its flavor. It is sweet and spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice, but gently. It’s not an overpowering flavor, but more subtle and it’s not sweet like a pastry, but more like brioche. 

A hand pulling at dough in a kitchen aid stand mixer.

Dough for Hot Cross Buns

Indeed the dough for Hot Cross Buns is very much like brioche dough – it includes butter, milk and eggs, but in smaller quantities than brioche. Brioche is a very rich dough. Hot Cross Bun dough is less so, but still delicious. Mix the dough together, adding just enough flour for the dough to clean the bowl, and then knead it for 5 minutes (or 15 minutes by hand) until you can stretch a piece of the dough easily without it tearing.

Two images showing hot cross bun dough in a bowl before and then after its first rise.

How Long Do Hot Cross Buns Take?

How long it will take you to make these Hot Cross Buns depends on the temperature of your room. The dough does need to rise twice – once in whole form and a second time once it has been shaped into balls. The first rise could take 1 to 2 hours (1 hour if your room is relatively warm, 2 if it is cooler), but those hours are unattended time. The second rise will take 30 to 60 minutes, but again, it is time that you can do other things. All in all, plan for at least 4 hours to make these rolls. 

Portions of dough on a counter top - two large chunks, three small chunks and three shaped balls.

Shaping the Hot Cross Buns

When it comes to shaping the buns, it’s nice if they are all the same size. To do that perfectly, you’ll need a scale and should measure each piece you cut off. If you’re not worried about being that precise, just divide the dough in four and then divide each quarter into three pieces. Do your best to make them the same size. Then fold the cut edges underneath, cup your hand over the dough ball and circle it on the table to shape it into a perfect round. 

4 images showing hot cross buns shaped into rounds before their second rise, after their second rise, piping the crosses onto the top and a pan of hot cross buns with crosses, ready for the oven.

How to Make the Cross on Hot Cross Buns

Many think the cross on Hot Cross Buns is made of icing, but it’s actually a basic flour paste made of just flour and water. Think of it as a loose bread dough without all the spices, eggs and dairy that give the main dough its color. This paste bakes into the Hot Cross Bun and remains pale against the rest of the bun. 

A hand brushing glaze onto cooked hot cross buns.

Glaze for Hot Cross Buns

There are a number of different ways to glaze the Hot Cross Buns. In this recipe I just take some apricot preserves, dilute them with some hot water and then strain away any chunks of apricot with a fine strainer. Brush this on the buns when they come out of the oven and are still warm. Then, let them cool and glaze them again but only if you want added flavor – this glaze keeps its shine on the buns.

A hand brushing butter onto half of a hot cross bun with more in the background.

How to Eat Hot Cross Buns

There are two ways I like to enjoy Hot Cross Buns. The first is when they are fresh out of the oven and still warm – warm enough to melt the butter I spread on them. The second way is a day or so after the buns have been baked. Then, slice them open, butter the cut sides and toast the buns in a skillet. This gives the cut surface a nice crispness and warms the rest of the bun through. It’s delicious! Oh, and it’s not only delicious at Easter time, but all year long!

A basket of hot cross buns in a napkin-lined basket with one on a plate in the background.

Featured Recipe Techniques

More about the skills used in this recipe.

Cooking School
How To Measure Ingredients Properly

Measuring properly can make or break a recipe and there is a right way and a wrong way to measure....View Technique

Advertisement - Continue Below

Hot Cross Buns

  • Prep Time: 20 m
  • Cook Time: 25 m
  • Rising Time: 3 h
  • Total Time: 3 h 45 m
  • Servings:
    12

Ingredients

  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoons rum or apple juice
  • cups milk
  • ½ cup sugar
  • teaspoons active dry yeast (or 2 teaspoons instant yeast)
  • cups bread flour
  • teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • cup all-purpose or bread flour
  • 3 tablespoons water
Glaze:
  • 2 tablespoons apricot preserves
  • Hot water

Instructions

  1. Combine the raisins, golden raisins and rum in a small bowl. Toss to coat the raisins and set aside to soak.
  2. Warm the milk to 100° to 110°F. Combine the sugar, yeast and warm milk in a large bowl or the bowl of your electric stand mixer, Proof the yeast (let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes until foamy). If the yeast is active, it should foam in the bowl. If the yeast does not foam, discard and start again with new yeast.
  3. Combine the bread flour, spices and salt in a separate bowl.
  4. Once the yeast has proofed, add the eggs and melted butter to the yeast and milk mixture and stir to combine. Add the dry ingredients, and once the dry ingredients have been incorporated, stir in the soaked raisins and orange zest. Mix on low speed until the dough begins to come together. The dough should be soft and elastic, but not sticky. Add a little more flour, just a touch at a time, until the dough starts to pull away from, and clean the bowl. Knead the dough with an electric mixer for 5 minutes or by hand for 15 minutes until the dough stretches easily when you pull it.
  5. Grease the inside of a large bowl with oil and transfer the dough to the bowl, turning it over a few times to lightly coat the dough ball in oil. Cover the bowl with a clean damp towel and place it in a warm place to rise for 1 to 2 hours, until the dough has doubled in size.
  6. Grease a 9 x 13 baking pan with butter.
  7. Punch down the dough and divide it into 4 equal portions. Cut each portion into 3 pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a smooth ball and place them in 4 evenly spaced rows in the buttered pan. Cover the pan with the damp towel and let the dough balls rise for 30 to 60 minutes. The dough balls should be touching at this point.
  8. While the dough balls are rising, pre-heat the oven to 375°F.
  9. Combine the ⅓ cup flour and water and stir into a paste. Place the mixture into a zipper sealable plastic bag and cut off the tip (or use a pastry bag). Once the buns have risen, pipe a cross on top of each bun.
  10. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake the buns for 20 to 25 minutes until they are golden brown on top.
  11. To make the glaze whisk the apricot preserves with just enough very hot water to thin it and make it easily spreadable. Pass the glaze through a fine strainer to remove any apricot pieces if necessary.
  12. Brush the glaze on the hot cross buns when they come out of the oven and transfer the pan to a cooling rack for 5 minutes. Remove the buns from the pan and serve warm or at room temperature.
Advertisement - Continue Below
Advertisement - Continue Below
Advertisement - Continue Below

Comments (5)Post a Reply

  1. Is it possible to convert the recipe to Lbs and Ozs, or metric please. I’d love to follow your recipes but need a scale measurement. Denise

    1. Sure. Just leave it out. If your raisins are very dry, soften them with warm water and drain the raisins before adding them to the bread.

  2. 5 stars
    Lovely recipe, they were light and fluffy. I used quick-rise instant yeast instead which bypassed the first rise and allowed the dough to rest ten minutes before shaping. Very tender and moist. I think next time, I’d add a bit more raisins and spice, but that’s personal preference. Thanks for posting this recipe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *