Hot cross buns, a traditional Easter treat, are easy to make with this recipe.  Each bun is filled with raisins, mixed peel, and spices and topped with a simple icing cross.  Hot cross buns are the perfect breakfast treat for kids on Good Friday or Easter!

Prep Time: 1 hour
plate of hot cross buns
Bread, Easter, Holiday Bread, Sweet Bread

How to Make Hot Cross Buns

We handpicked the products and tools linked in this post. If you buy from one of these affiliate links, we may earn a small commission. Thanks for supporting Savor the Flavour!

This post was originally published on March 14, 2018.

One of my favorite Easter treats are hot cross buns.  I love these soft, fragrant buns filled with raisins and citrus peel!  The glossy finish of sieved marmalade and the simple icing cross really adds another level to the flavor of these classic springtime treats.

hot cross buns on a cooling rack

What are hot cross buns?

Hot cross buns are soft, sweet rolls enriched with dried fruit and marked with a cross on top.  They are similar to the British teacake.

When are hot cross buns eaten?

Most people eat hot cross buns on Good Friday or Easter to mark the end of Lent.

hot cross bun on a plate

What is the significance of hot cross buns?

The cross on top of the buns represents Jesus’ death on the cross, while the spices inside the bun are a symbol of the embalming spices used at His burial.  The sweetness of the bun proclaims the end of the Lent fast of sweet foods.

Which country has the tradition of eating hot cross buns at Easter?

Traditionally, hot cross buns are predominately eaten in Great Britain, Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and some parts of the United States.

holding half of a hot cross bun

Do hot cross buns contain alcohol?

Nope!  The buns do not contain any alcohol.  Like any yeasted bread, the yeast naturally produces alcohol, but that is baked out of the bread.

How do you make the cross on top?

There are a multitude of different ways to make the festive cross on top of these hot cross buns.  Here’s some popular ideas.

  • Old Fashioned: use a knife to cut a cross on top of the buns.
  • Traditional: use strips of shortcrust pastry or a flour and water paste.
  • American: use a water icing (sifted icing sugar and water mixed together).
  • Modern: anything you want–from stripes of mixed peel to lines of chia seeds.

holding one of the hot cross buns

What goes with hot cross buns?

The best thing to serve with hot cross buns is just salted butter.  Split the bun in half, toast it if you like, then spread it generously with butter.

Should hot cross buns be toasted?

Yes, they can be split in half and toasted; it’s up to you.  Personally, I like to eat fresh hot cross buns as they are, then toast leftover ones.

Can hot cross buns be frozen?

Yes, you can freeze hot cross buns.  Let the baked buns cool completely, then seal them tightly in a zip-top freezer bag and freeze for up to 1 month.

How to Make Hot Cross Buns

Gather the ingredients for the hot cross buns.

ingredients for hot cross buns

Pour the milk into a small saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer on medium heat.  Remove from the heat and let it cool to 115 F.

cooling the milk for hot cross buns

Add the flour to the bowl of a stand mixer, pouring the salt and yeast on opposite sides of the bowl.  Stir each one in with your finger.

flour, salt, and yeast for hot cross buns

Mix in the sugar, mixed spice, orange zest, and butter until blended.

mixing the flour, butter, orange zest, and spices for hot cross buns

Add the egg and milk until a sticky dough forms.

mixing dough for hot cross buns

Knead by hand on a floured surface until the dough is smooth and no longer sticky.  Make sure the dough passes the windowpane test.  (See the recipe card to learn this technique.)

kneaded dough for hot cross buns

Shape the dough into a ball, place in a buttered bowl, and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

risen dough for hot cross buns

Dump the dough back into the bowl of the stand mixer and knead in the cubed apple, raisins, and mixed peel.

mixing the fruit into the dough for hot cross buns

Divide into 12 balls, using a kitchen scale for accuracy, then place in a buttered 9×13-inch pan.

shaping the hot cross buns into balls

Cover with a clean garbage bag or buttered plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until the buns have nearly doubled in size and their sides are touching.

hot cross buns before baking

While the buns are proving, gather the ingredients for the glaze and icing.  You’ll need orange marmalade, icing sugar, and water.

topping ingredients for hot cross buns

Sift the icing sugar into a bowl, then stir in enough water to make a thick icing.

icing for hot cross buns

Briefly heat the marmalade with a small splash of water in a small saucepan, then use a spoon to press it through a sieve.  This removes the orange peel, leaving a smooth orange glaze for us to use on the buns.

sieving the marmalade for hot cross buns

Bake the risen buns at 400 F for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350 F and bake for another 10-15 minutes.  The rolls should have an internal temperature of 190 F.  Brush the sieved marmalade on the hot buns.

brushing the glaze on hot cross buns

Let the buns cool completely, then pipe an icing cross on each one.  Enjoy with family and friends!

piping the icing cross on hot cross buns

While your buns are rising, you can sing this little nursery rhyme with your kids or grandkids:

Hot-cross buns!
Hot-cross buns!
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot-cross buns!
If you have no daughters,
Give them to your sons;
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot-cross buns!

Pro Tips for Making Hot Cross Buns

  • Knead the dough by hand.  It’s much easier to gauge the feel of the dough when you’re working it by hand–plus, it’s fun!
  • Don’t have mixed spice?  Make your own instead of leaving it out.  Mixed spice has a unique flavor that can’t be accurately substituted.
  • Use homemade mixed peel for the best flavor.  Store bought peel is overly sweet and doesn’t have a rich citrus flavor.
  • Knead in the fruit after the dough has risen the first time.  Putting the fruit in when you mix up the dough will slow down the first rise.
  • Be careful not to overbake.  Too long in the oven will make the buns dry and unappetizing.
  • Eat these buns within 12 hours or freeze for later.  Homemade hot cross buns don’t contain preservatives and lose their freshness quickly.

Hungry for more spring desserts?  Try these other delicious recipes!

holding a slice of lemon meringue pie on a plate forkful of carrot cake with a slice of cake white plate of glazed lemon scones with lemon curd and pink flowers

The pleasure of a 5-star review of this hot cross bun recipe would be greatly appreciated.

Print
plate of hot cross buns

How to Make Hot Cross Buns


  • Author: Emma
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours 20 minutes (plus cooling)
  • Yield: 12 large buns 1x

Description

Hot cross buns, a traditional Easter treat, are easy to make with this recipe.  Each bun is filled with raisins, mixed peel, and spices and topped with a simple icing cross.  Hot cross buns are the perfect breakfast treat for kids on Good Friday or Easter!


Scale

Ingredients

For the Buns

  • 4 1/8 cups bread flour (500g)
  • 3 teaspoons fast-action yeast (10g)
  • 2 teaspoons fine salt (10g)
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar (100g)
  • 2 teaspoons mixed spice
  • 4 teaspoons finely grated orange zest (from 1 large orange)
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (73g)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (350 ml)
  • 1/2 cup homemade lemon and orange peel, roughly diced (80g)
  • 2/3 cups raisins (100g)
  • 2/3 cup tart baking apple, peeled and finely diced (75g)

For the Decoration

  • 2 tablespoons orange marmalade (50g)
  • 2 1/3 cups icing sugar (300g)
  • 24 tablespoons cool water

Instructions

Making the Dough (25 minutes + 1 hour proving)

  1. Pour the milk into a small saucepan and set over medium heat.  Bring the milk to a boil, stirring occasionally, then pour into a measuring cup with a spout and set aside to cool to 115 F.
  2. Pour the flour into the bowl of a stand mixer, adding the salt and yeast on opposite sides of the bowl.  Stir in each one with your finger, then blend in the caster sugar, mixed spice, orange zest, and butter with the paddle attachment.
  3. Dump the egg and half of the milk into the flour mixture, mixing on low speed.  Gradually add more milk as needed to bring the mixture into a soft, sticky dough; you may not need all the milk.  Keep the mixer going until all the flour is picked up from the bottom of the bowl.
  4. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead for about 10-15 minutes, until the dough is silky smooth, very stretchy, and just barely sticking to your hands and the work surface.
  5. See if the dough is kneaded enough with the windowpane test.  Stretch a small piece of dough between the thumb and forefinger of each hand. The dough should stretch until it’s translucent without tearing.  If not, knead for a minute longer and check again.
  6. Shape the dough into a ball, place in a buttered bowl, and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Let the dough prove in a warm place for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until at least doubled in size.

Preparing the Fruit & Shaping the Buns (20 minutes + 1 hour proving)

  1. While the dough is proving, measure out the candied peel and raisins.  Lightly butter a 9×13-inch cake pan that’s about 2 inches deep.  Just before the dough is ready, peel and finely dice the apple so it doesn’t go brown.
  2. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and punch it down all over to knock out the gas pockets.  Gradually knead in the peel, raisins, and apple until everything is evenly mixed.  (Using the stand mixer fitted with the dough hook makes this step much faster.)
  3. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces, using a kitchen scale for accuracy.  Roll each piece into a taut ball, rolling each ball lightly in flour if sticky.  Evenly space them in four rows of three in the prepared pan.
  4. Place the pan inside a large, clean garbage bag and inflate the bag, tucking the ends under the pan to seal.  Set in a warm place and let the buns prove for about 1 hour, until the buns have doubled in size and their sides are touching.
  5. About 10 minutes before the buns are done proving, preheat the oven to 400 F.

Baking & Decorating the Buns (20 minutes baking + 20 minutes decorating + cooling)

  1. Bake the buns in the middle of the oven at 400 F for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350 F and bake for another 10-15 minutes.  Cover the buns with a sheet of aluminum foil if the tops are getting too dark.  Bake until the buns are well browned and have an internal temperature of 190 F.
  2. While the buns are baking, warm the marmalade in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Push the marmalade through a sieve into a small bowl.
  3. Remove the buns from the pan and let them cool completely on a wire rack.  Brush the tops of the hot buns with the sieved marmalade for a glossy finish.
  4. While the buns are cooling, sift the icing sugar into a medium bowl and gradually stir in just enough water to make a thick but pipeable icing.  Spoon the icing into the corner of a sandwich bag and twist the top of the bag so a skin doesn’t form on the icing.
  5. When the buns are fully cool, snip off the tip of the bag and pipe a cross onto each bun.  Serve the buns hot or at room temperature with salted butter.

Notes

  • The pleasure of a 5-star review of these hot cross buns would be greatly appreciated.
  • Category: Bread
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: British

Keywords: easy, recipe, traditional

Recipe Card powered by

2 thoughts on “How to Make Hot Cross Buns

Leave a Reply

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

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.