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Hot Cross Buns is such a timeless classic that speaks to the soul. Soft, pillowy dough infused with spices and studded with sweet raisins. And that cross on top, a symbol of tradition and faith. It’s a treat that’s truly irresistible.
What Are Hot Cross Buns?
Hot cross buns are a treat that have been a part of Easter and springtime celebrations for centuries. Soft, warm, and spicy, they have a unique flavor that is hard to resist. The dough is rich and buttery, with just a hint of sweetness, and it’s studded with juicy raisins or currants that add a burst of flavor in every bite.
The cross on top of the bun is a symbol of the religious significance of Easter, but it also adds a touch of elegance and tradition to the pastry. It’s a signature element that sets hot cross buns apart from other baked goods.
I love these buns, they are so soft, flaky and sweet, they melt in your mouth. This dough is perfect in every way. To enjoy hot cross buns at their best, they should be eaten warm from the oven, with a generous slather of butter on top. The butter melts into the warm bun, creating a delicious contrast of textures and flavors. Whether you enjoy them for breakfast, as an afternoon snack, or for dessert, hot cross buns are a true delight that can brighten any day.
Why You’ll Love These Hot Cross Buns
- Traditional Easter treat: Hot cross buns are a classic Easter tradition that have been enjoyed for centuries. Making them from scratch is a great way to connect with the past and create new memories with your family and friends.
- Unique flavor and texture: Hot cross buns have a soft, pillowy texture that is unlike any other baked good. They’re also infused with warm spices like nutmeg, and studded with sweet raisins.
- Perfect for sharing and giving: Hot cross buns make a wonderful gift or offering for friends and family during the Easter season.
- Salt – You need a little bit of salt in these buns to bring all the flavors together. You can use less or more if you prefer.
- Milk – I used 2% milk, but you can use skim, 1% or homogenized.
- Granulated sugar – You can add a little more or less sugar if you’d like.
- Active dry yeast – this needs to be activated in the milk and sugar. If you’re using instant yeast you do not need to activate it.
- All-purpose flour – If you use whole wheat instead, use only 3 1/2 cups. If you use gluten-free flour, use xanthan gum to replace the gluten or your buns will turn out dry.
- Nutmeg – You can adjust how much nutmeg you use, but if you have nutmeg seeds, I strongly recommend freshly grating some. It makes a whole world of difference to your buns.
- Eggs – I used large eggs for this recipe.
- Butter – I always cook with unsalted butter. This will give you full control over the amount of sodium.
- Raisins – You can use any raisins, you have.
- Rum – this is optional but I use it to soak my raisins in it. I use the leftover rum to make the glaze.
- Water – You can use more or less water depending on the consistency you’re looking for. Since it’s a glaze, I’d suggest keeping it thin. However, I used the rum from the raisins to make the glaze. Up to you.
- Granulated sugar – You can substitute an equal amount of honey or agave.
- Icing sugar – This is also known as confectioners’ sugar or powdered sugar depending where you’re from.
- Cream cheese – You can use low fat, full fat, or vegan cream cheese.
- Butter – Make sure your butter is unsalted and room temperature so it’s easy to mix in.
- Vanilla – You can use vanilla extract or vanilla paste.
- Water – I used a bit of water to thin it out so it was easier to pipe onto the buns. You can also use milk or leave it out if you like a thicker icing.
Making hot cross buns is surprisingly easy and can be done with just a few basic ingredients. Simply mix the dough, knead in raisins, shape into buns, bake until golden, glaze them and pipe crosses on top with flour and water paste.
To begin, you have to bloom the yeast. In a small bowl combine the lukewarm milk, sugar and yeast. Stir and let it rest for about 10 minutes until the yeast activates, you will notice bubbles forming. Lukewarm milk is milk that has been warmed to a temperature between 98°F (36.5°C) and 110°F (43.3°C).
This step is optional, but I love to soak my raisins in a little bit of rum, this way they’ll get nice and plump and have a great flavor.
Once the yeast has been activated, we can start making the dough. Add the eggs and butter to the yeast mixture and stir. Pour the yeast mixture over the flour, and using the dough hook attachment mix for about 5 minutes.
Add raisins and continue mixing for another minute. If the dough is too wet add more flour as needed. The dough should be quite soft and elastic. You will know when it’s done when it doesn’t stick to the sides of the bowl anymore.
Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with a towel or plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size. You can also do my trick where I turn the oven on for about 1 to 2 minutes just until it’s warm, place the bowl in the oven, close the door, make sure you turned off the oven and in about half an hour the dough would have doubled in size.
Start by lining a 16×12 inch baking pan with parchment paper. After the dough has risen, punch it down and divide it into 15 equal pieces.
To make the buns, you’ll want to roll each piece into a ball by cupping your hand around the dough and rolling it in a circular motion on a flat surface. Apply gentle pressure as you roll to create a smooth, round shape.
Place each ball on the prepared baking sheet, leaving some space between them to allow for expansion. Cover the buns with a towel and let them rise for another 30 minutes.
While the buns are rising, you can make your glaze. Mix the water (or rum) with the sugar in a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer. Simmer until the sugar has dissolved. Remove the glaze from the heat and let it cool.
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). One the buns have risen again, transfer the baking pan to the preheated oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown and fully cooked. Once cool, brush the rolls immediately with the glaze after they come out of the oven.
First, make the cross mixture, by combining all the ingredients together until smooth. Allow the rolls to cool, then use a piping bag or ziploc bag, to pipe crosses onto your rolls.
Frequently Asked Questions
I don’t have a mixer, can I still make these?
Great news! Try my No Knead Hot Cross Buns recipe, no mixer or any equipment necessary. They’re super easy to make and pretty much fool proof.
Can I use instant yeast instead of active dry yeast in my hot cross buns?
Yes, you can use instant yeast instead of active dry yeast in your hot cross buns. However, since instant yeast is more potent than active dry yeast, you’ll need to use about 25% less of it. You can also add it directly to the dry ingredients without needing to activate it in warm water first.
How long should I knead the dough for hot cross buns?
You should knead the dough for hot cross buns for about 10-15 minutes until it becomes smooth and elastic. This helps to develop the gluten in the dough, which gives the buns their characteristic chewy texture. The great news is, your mixer will do all the work.
What can I use instead of raisins or currants in my hot cross buns?
If you don’t like raisins or currants, you can substitute them with other dried fruit like cranberries, chopped apricots, or chopped dates. You can also leave them out entirely and add more spices or other flavorings like orange zest or candied ginger.
How do I know when my hot cross buns are fully cooked?
You can tell when your hot cross buns are fully cooked by tapping the bottom of the bun – it should sound hollow. You can also use a kitchen thermometer to check the internal temperature of the buns, which should be around 190°F (87°C).
- Proofing the yeast before you get into the rest of the dough is key. If your yeast doesn’t foam up, no matter what the expiry date on your yeast say, the buns won’t turn out. Store your yeast in the freezer and it will last longer. However, if you’re using instant yeast, the difference between instant yeast and active dry yeast is that you don’t need to activate instant yeast. I still prefer to do this because it tells me if my yeast is good.
- Dough rises best in a draft-free, warm environment. You can preheat your oven to the lowest setting, then turn it off. That will create a wonderful environment for your dough.
- Soak the raisins in hot water or rum for more flavor, before adding it to the dough: Soaking the dried fruit in hot water for about 10-15 minutes before adding it to the dough will help to plump them up and make it more tender. This will also prevent the raisins from drying out during baking and give your hot cross buns a more even texture.
- Let the buns cool completely before piping the crosses on top: If you try to pipe crosses on top of hot buns, the icing will melt and slide off.
How To Store Hot Cross Buns
To store hot cross buns, follow these steps:
- Allow the buns to cool completely to room temperature.
- Wrap the buns tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil to prevent them from drying out.
- Store the wrapped buns in an airtight container or resealable plastic bag.
- Keep the container or bag in a cool, dry place, like a pantry or cupboard.
Properly stored hot cross buns will keep for up to 3-4 days at room temperature.
How To Freeze Hot Cross Buns
To Freeze Unbaked Rolls
- After shaping the rolls, place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
- Cover the rolls loosely with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel.
- Place the baking sheet in the freezer and freeze the rolls until they are firm, about 1-2 hours.
- Once the rolls are firm, transfer them to a resealable plastic bag or an airtight container, and store them in the freezer for up to 3 months.
When you’re ready to bake the rolls, remove them from the freezer and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Let them thaw at room temperature for about 1-2 hours, until they’re fully thawed and puffy. Then, bake them according to the recipe instructions, adding a few minutes to the baking time to account for the frozen dough.
To Freeze Baked Rolls
- Allow the baked rolls to cool completely to room temperature.
- Wrap the rolls tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil to prevent freezer burn and moisture from entering the bread.
- Place the wrapped rolls in a resealable plastic freezer bag or an airtight container.
- Label the bag or container with the date and contents and store them in the freezer for up to 2-3 months.
When you’re ready to eat the rolls, remove them from the freezer and let them thaw at room temperature for about an hour or until they are fully thawed. To refresh the rolls, you can warm them up in the oven or microwave before serving. If you prefer a crispy crust, you can also toast the rolls in a toaster or toaster oven.
Other Delicious Easter Recipes You’ll Enjoy
- Carrot Cake
- Deviled Egg Macaroni Salad
- Loaded Scalloped Potatoes
- Potatoes Au Gratin
- Prime Rib Roast
- Deviled Eggs
- Spinach Ricotta Brunch Bake
For hot cross buns
For syrup glaze
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ cup sugar
- In a small bowl combine the lukewarm milk, sugar and yeast. Stir and let it rest for about 10 minutes until the yeast activates, you will notice bubbles forming.
- Soak the raisins in rum. This step is completely optional. If you're soaking them in rum, you'll need about ¼ cup of rum.
- In the bowl of your mixer add 4 cups of flour, salt and nutmeg. Mix until combined. Add the eggs and butter to the yeast mixture and stir. Pour the yeast mixture over the flour, and using the dough hook attachment mix for about 5 minutes.
- Add raisins (drained if soaked in rum) and continue mixing for another minute. If the dough is too wet add more flour as needed. The dough should be quite soft and elastic. You will know when it's done when it doesn't stick to the sides of the bowl anymore.
- In a large bowl add a bit of oil, about a tablespoon and place the dough in the bowl, rolling it around so that it gets oil all over, this way it won’t get dry. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. You need to let the dough rise for a couple hours until doubled in size. You can also do my trick where I turn the oven on for about 1 to 2 minutes just until it’s warm in there, and place the bowl in the oven, close the door, make sure you turned off the oven and in about half an hour the dough would have doubled in size.
- Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. I used a roasting pan that's 16×12 inches.
- Clean and flour your work surface. Usually I don't add any flour to my work surface because I find it easier to roll the buns on a clean surface, but it's totally up to you. Punch down the dough, and cut it into 15 equal pieces.
- Roll each piece into a ball by cupping your hand around the dough and rolling it in a circular motion on a flat surface. Apply gentle pressure as you roll to create a smooth, round shape.
- Place each ball onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving some space between them to allow for expansion. Cover the buns with a towel and let them rise for another 30 minutes.
- While the rolls are rising, make the syrup by mixing the sugar with the water in a sauce pan and bring to a boil over low heat. Continue boiling for another minute or until syrup thickens a bit. Let it cool.
- Transfer the baking pan to the oven and bake for about 20 or until golden brown. Mine were actually done after 17 minutes so keep an eye on them. As soon as you take the rolls out of the oven, brush them with the glaze.
- To make the cross icing, whisk all the ingredients together and pour in a piping bag and refrigerate until ready to use. If the icing is too thin add more icing sugar, if it's too thick add more water until desired consistency.
- Allow the rolls to cool, then pipe crosses onto your rolls.
- Crosses: Traditionally the crosses on hot cross buns are made with a flour and water mixture, not icing. If you want to do this, whisk together about ½ cup of flour and 5 tablespoons water until a paste forms. Transfer this to a piping bag and pipe crosses on the buns before baking.
- You can prepare these the day before up until step 4, cover the pan with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge overnight. The rolls should continue to rise in the fridge but if by morning they have not doubled in size, turn your oven on to 200 F degrees until it warms up, then turn it off. Place the pan in the oven for about 30 to 45 minutes until the rolls double in size. Then you can bake them as instructed.
- If after dissolving the yeast in the warm milk, the yeast didn’t start to froth up, do not continue with the rolls, your dough will not rise.
Notice: Nutrition is auto-calculated for your convenience. Where relevant, we recommend using your own nutrition calculations.