Traditional Hot Cross Buns with a cream cheese icing, brushed with a sweet syrup and filled with juicy raisins. Soft, fluffy, sweet and sticky, a must have for Easter brunch.
Hot Cross Buns
It that time of year again where my oven is getting a workout. I’m starting off with my easy recipe for hot cross buns which I’ve been making for years. It’s a favorite in my family. These buns are sweet and sticky and topped with the best cream cheese icing there is! A few other highlights to look for in this recipe are the rum soaked raisins and the rum glaze!
What Are Hot Cross Buns?
These delicious glazed little buns are traditionally served on Easter. The cross is, of course, representative of a cross, and the bun represents the end of lent. Whether you celebrate Easter or not, these buns are so fantastic and can be enjoyed by everyone!
I love these buns, they are so soft, flaky and sweet, they melt in your mouth. This dough is perfect in every way. You may think I’m weird but I get very excited by dough. Dough to me is like gold, especially this kind of dough that makes these wonderful flaky rolls.
They would even be perfect for a bread pudding with leftover buns the next day. Oh and how great they are with a hot cup of milk, or a hot cup of tea. These here, simple perfection. I really think in my other life I was a baker!
Ingredients In Hot Cross Buns
Here’s what you’ll need to make these buns. Keep scrolling down to get the complete printable recipe:
FOR THE BUNS:
- 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.
FOR 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.
FOR THE CROSS:
- 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.
I love my hot cross buns on the sweeter side so I always like to make the crosses with icing rather than the more traditional way of using a flour and water paste. Totally up to you how you do it, be sure to check out the recipe notes for using flour/water paste.
How To Make Hot Cross Buns
- Activate 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.
- Prepare the raisins: This step is optional but you can soak the raisins in rum, preferred.
- Make 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.
- Rise the dough: In a large bowl add a bit of oil, about a tbsp 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, 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.
- Form your buns: Use a 16.5 x 11 inch baking sheet and line it with parchment paper. Sprinkle flour over the top of the dough, over your work surface, and on your hands. Shape the dough into a log and cut it into 15 pieces. Flatten each piece, pinch the sides all together, then flip the ball and roll it to smooth out the top. Place each bun on the baking sheet and cover it with kitchen towels and let the buns rise until they are about 50-70% bigger. Bake at 375F for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Glaze the rolls: While the bread is baking, make your glaze. Mix the rum (or water) 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. Brush the rolls with the glaze right after they come out of the oven.
- Ice the rolls: Let the rolls cool fully. Whisk all the icing ingredients together until smooth. Using a piping bag or ziploc bag, pipe the crosses onto your rolls.
Tips For Making The Best Hot Cross Buns
- 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.
- This dough is meant to be sticky!
- 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.
- I prefer to use parchment paper over cooking spray to avoid unnecessary grease on the bottom of my buns.
- Yeast needs sugar to thrive and grow. You can reduce the amount of sugar in the dough, but don’t leave it out entirely.
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.
How To Store Hot Cross Buns
If you have leftovers, store these in an airtight container or a large ziploc back. Because of the cream cheese icing I would keep these in the fridge.
They will last about a week refrigerated. You can also keep some of them un-iced and keep them on the counter in an airtight container or bag so they don’t dry out as much. They will last 2-3 days at room temperature.
How To Freeze Hot Cross Buns
TO FREEZE UNBAKED ROLLS:
Form them into rolls immediately after making the dough- don’t let it rise. Let them freeze on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and then topped with plastic wrap. Once they are frozen solid, you can transfer them to a freezer bag. They will last about 2 weeks.
To bake them, place however many rolls you need on a baking sheet. Cover the rolls and let them thaw and rise. You can place them in a warm oven to speed this process up. Once they have doubled in size, bake them as instructed.
TO FREEZE BAKED ROLLS:
Once they have fully cooled, wrap them well with foil and store in an airtight container. They will last about 1 month before freezer burn starts to become an issue. Let them thaw fully at room temperature.
You Might Like These Recipes:
- No Knead Hot Cross Buns
- Carrot Cake
- Deviled Egg Macaroni Salad
- Loaded Scalloped Potatoes
- Prime Rib Roast
- Deviled Eggs
- Spinach Ricotta Brunch Bake
Hot Cross Buns
For hot cross buns
For syrup glaze
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup sugar
For cream cheese icing
- 1/2 cup icing sugar
- 2 tbsp cream cheese
- 1 tbsp butter unsalted, at room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tbsp water
- 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 1/4 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 tbsp 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 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. I used a roasting pan that's 16x12 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 and roll each one. Place the rolls in the pan and cover with a clean damp towel and let them rest for another 30 minutes until doubled in size.
- Bake for about 20 or until golden brown. Mine were actually done after 17 minutes so keep an eye on them.
- While baking 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. Set aside.
- To make the 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.
- When the buns are out of the oven, brush with the sugar syrup. Let cool completely before piping the icing over the buns to form a cross.