It’s not Easter without a batch of homemade Hot Cross Buns. They’re so soft, sweet, and delicious filled with fruit and spices, butter and vanilla and they really are impossible to resist. My recipe will show you how to make hot cross buns from scratch and not only are they super easy but they are so much more delicious than anything you can buy. Trust me, when you try this homemade version you’ll be hooked. They’re piped with a traditional cross to symbolize the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and brushed with a delicious apricot glaze. These buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday and are the perfect way to celebrate Easter.
What you need to make this recipe
Flour – regular all-purpose flour is fine there’s no need to use any special bread flour. You also use flour to make the cross on the top (more on that below).
Sugar – I use a mix of white and brown sugar for flavor.
Butter – use unsalted butter, there’s no need to soften it as it’s heated.
Milk – use whole milk for best results, lower-fat milk will work but won’t give you dough with as much richness and flavor.
Egg – an egg is not only used to make a rich dough but it’s used to brush the buns before baking.
Yeast – yeast is super important, make sure your yeast hasn’t expired!
Spices – cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg create that warming and classic hot cross bun flavor.
Raisins – raisins or currants are always used in traditional hot cross buns. You can steep them in a little orange juice to plump them up and make them more juicy before using.
Orange zest and vanilla – although the orange zest is optional I highly recommend using it because it adds so much flavor. make sure to use real vanilla extract and not essence.
Apricot jam – that shiny glaze on top is apricot jam, super easy and delicious!
How to make Hot Cross Buns
1. Add the butter and milk to a bowl then microwave in bursts mixing in between.
2. Zest an orange into the bowl and whisk in then set aside.
3. Dried fruit is ALWAYS better when you soak it; you can do this with the juice of half an orange or 1/4 cup dark rum. Heat for about 45 seconds in the microwave then set aside.
4. Add the flour, salt, sugars, yeast, and spices to the bowl of your stand mixer. I always grate nutmeg but you can use the powdered variety instead. Whisk together and place on your stand mixer. Mix together.
5. Attach a dough hook to your stand mixer then pour the wet mixture into the dry and mix on low.
6. While mixing pour in the beaten egg and increase speed to medium-low.
7. Once the dough starts coming together drain the raisins, or dried fruit, then sprinkle into the dough and mix on medium-low.
8. Continue mixing until the dough is tacky but does not stick to your fingers.
9. Knead the bread for about 5 minutes on a floured surface. When done the dough will spring back when pressed and have a smooth surface.
10. Place in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic then place in a warm spot to rise.
11. To make the rolls you’ll portion out pieces of dough a bit larger than a golf ball. Pinch the corners together so one side is smooth and rounded then turn upside down so the smooth side is facing up.
12. Cup the ball with your hands and move in a tight circular motion.
13. Place the buns on a baking sheet spaced apart.
14. Cover the buns with plastic, foil, or a slightly damp cloth and place in a warm area for an hour or so until they puff up and expand. After the buns have risen brush with the egg wash.
15. Add the water to a bowl then whisk in the flour. You’re looking to make a smooth pipe-able paste so add more flour or water as needed to achieve the correct consistency.
16. Transfer the flour paste to a piping bag with the tip snipped off or fitted with a smaller round tip. Pipe Crosses onto each roll; it’s easiest to do this if you pipe a stripe down the middle of each roll then turn the pan and pipe a perpendicular line. Go Slow so the paste hugs the roll. Bake until golden brown then brush with the apricot glaze.
Pro tips for making this recipe
- Measure your flour correctly! Adding too much flour to the recipe is the most common mistake. The best and easiest way to measure flour is by using a digital kitchen scale. If you don’t have one then fluff your flour with a spoon, sprinkle it into your measuring cup, and use a knife to level it off.
- It’s really important to make sure your yeast hasn’t expired, you might it’s the case of you don’t bake much and your hot cross buns won’t rise if it has.
- You can use instant yeast or dry active yeast. Check your packet instructions before using as some need to be activated in a little warm liquid first. If that’s the case, use a little of the warm milk (about 1/4 cup) to activate the yeast.
- Since the dough is quite enriched I suggest setting your oven to 100F and then letting it rise in a nice cozy environment for a while. Don’t panic if your dough doesn’t start rising right away, you’ll have to wait a bit longer because of all the delicious things we added to the dough.
- You have two choices for the bake. Space the rolls out almost 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet OR you can bake in a baking dish and space them a bit closer together. If you got the baking dish route then you’ll get slightly taller rolls that are stuck together meaning they’ll have soft sides like a pull-apart roll.
- I used a more traditional flour paste for the cross but you can skip that step and pipe a cross with a sugar glaze after the rolls have baked and cooled. Just whisk powdered sugar and any liquid (citrus juice, water, rum) together to make the pipe-able glaze.
- If the tops of the buns are browning too much you can cover them loosely with foil.
- Citrus zest is optional you can choose to add lemon or orange zest or omit it altogether. I recommend added it though for extra flavor.
- Make sure to give the rolls enough room to expand if you’re baking in a pan, don’t crowd them together.
- Instead of raisins or currants, you can use other dried fruit such as cranberries or candied fruit, you can also add nuts such as pecan or walnuts.
- Let the buns cool before cutting and serving. If they are hot straight out of the oven they will seem too doughy inside, they need to dry out a little as they cool.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the significance of hot cross buns?
The cross on top of the buns represents the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the warming spices signify the embalming at his funeral. The yeast signifies his resurrection, eaten after Lent on Good Friday these are a special tradition for anyone practicing the Christian faith..
Where do they originate?
These buns are a British tradition popularized in Elizabethan England which spread to many colonies like Australia, New Zealand, and America. They’ve been made since the 6th century AD, with Greek examples being known of among other places.
What is the cross made from?
Traditionally the cross is piped on with a simple mix of flour and water. If you want you can use icing and pipe it on after they are baked and cooled. To make the icing mix powdered sugar with water or citrus juice until it’s the consistency of a thick paste and pipe it over the buns.
Can you make this without a stand mixer?
Of course, you don’t need to use a stand mixer although it will make the process quicker. You can knead the dough by hand instead for about 10 minutes.
Can I prepare these in advance?
Yes, you store the dough in the fridge (covered with plastic wrap). When you’re ready to use it, shape it into balls and let it rise for a second time. It may take longer to rise because the dough will be cold. If you are not going to bake the buns after 1 day I recommend freezing them. Once shaped into balls you can freeze them until hard on a baking tray then you can place them in bags for up to 3 months. Place them on a baking tray and allow to rise before baking.
How long do they last, can they be frozen?
The hot cross buns will last for about 4-5 days at room temperature. They are better covered to stop them from drying out. You can freeze raw or baked buns (see instructions above for raw). Baked buns can be frozen for up to 3 months, thaw completely before serving or reheating.
If you’ve tried this traditional Hot Cross Buns recipe then don’t forget to leave a rating and let me know how you got on in the comments below, I love hearing from you!
Hot Cross Buns
- Stand mixer
- Mixing Bowls
- 9x13 baking dish
For the Dough:
- ⅔ cup raisins or dried currants (80g)
- 1 cup warm milk (240mL)
- ½ cup granulated sugar plus ½ teaspoon (50g)
- 1 (.25oz/7g) package active dry yeast (2¼ teaspoons)
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter melted (85g)
- 2 large eggs room temperature (divided)
- 3¾ cups bread flour or all-purpose flour (450g)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
For the Crosses:
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour (40g)
- 3 tablespoons water
For the Glaze:
- ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar (30g)
- 1 tablespoon warm water
- Place the currants or raisins in a bowl and cover with 1 cup of boiling water. Let soak for 10 minutes, then drain well and set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, Stir together the milk, ½ teaspoon sugar and the yeast. Let the mixture sit until it’s very foamy on top, about 10 minutes.
- To the yeast mixture, add the remaining ½ cup of sugar, 1 egg and the melted butter. Then add the flour, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. Attach the dough hook and mix on low speed to start combining. Once the ingredients are mostly incorporated, increase the speed to medium-low and continue mixing until a tacky and elastic dough has formed and is making a “slapping” sound against the sides of the bowl, about 6 minutes. (The dough may still cling to the very bottom of the bowl and should feel tacky but not stick to you when you touch it.)
- Mix in the drained raisins and knead for 30 more seconds. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, and turn to coat the dough in oil. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 1½ hours.
- Lightly grease a 9x13-inch baking pan with baking spray or butter.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and divide it into 12 equal pieces. To shape each piece into a ball, gather the edges into the center and pinch them together. Flip the ball over, cup your hand around it, and move your hand in a circular motion. This will create tight smooth dough balls.
- Place the dough balls in the prepared pan spacing them equally apart. Cover and let rise again until they are almost doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- After 45 minutes of rise time, preheat the oven to 375°F.
- When the buns have risen, beat the remaining egg with 1 teaspoon of water or milk and brush the tops lightly with egg wash.
For the Cross Topping:
- In a small bowl, stir together the flour and water until a thick paste forms. Transfer it to a piping bag or a ziptop bag with one corner cut off.
- Pipe the a straight line through the center of each bun. Repeat making the second set of line perpendicular to the first set, forming a cross on top of each bun.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown on top. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes.
For the Glaze:
- In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar and water until smooth. Brush the glaze over the warm rolls before serving.
- Use fresh ingredients. If your yeast has expired, the buns won’t rise well. Always check the date before starting a yeasted bread recipe. If the yeast doesn’t get very foamy after 15 minutes in the warm milk, start over with fresh yeast.
- For additional flavor: Add orange zest (the zest of 1 orange) to the dough when adding the drained currants or raisins. You can also add other spices like ½ teaspoon of ground cardamom or cloves.
- Raisins substitute: Instead of raisins or currants, you can use other dried fruits such as cranberries, blueberries, diced apricots, or diced candied fruit like orange peel. You could also add ½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts.
- For a glaze cross instead of a flour paste cross, brush the buns with egg wash as directed in the recipe and bake, skipping the flour paste. Once the buns are baked and cool, make a thick glaze that you can pipe by whisking together 1 to 2 tablespoons of milk or water and about 1 cup of powdered sugar. Transfer the glaze to a piping bag and pipe crosses on the top of each bun.