These Hot Cross Buns are a traditional recipe for celebrating Easter weekend. These soft, spiced, sweet yeast rolls are made with instant yeast and flavored with cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and orange zest. Recipe includes a how-to video where I’ll show you step-by-step how to make these in your own kitchen!
Hot Cross Buns
I’m sure you’re familiar with Hot Cross Buns, thanks to the popular children’s nursery rhyme or their popularity in grocery stores and bakeries around Easter. These sweet sticky rolls are traditionally made and sold during Lent (though I’m yet to see them as cheap as “one a penny, two a penny”).
Aside from being delicious, they also are an important part of Good Friday and Easter traditions, and you can read more about their origins, traditions, and superstitions here.
Soft, fluffy (though a bit denser than my dinner rolls), and lightly sweetened yeast rolls, this recipe is traditionally flavored with spices (and optional orange zest) and in this case topped with simple icing crosses.
They deserve a spot at your table next to the homemade peanut butter eggs, coconut cream pie, and old-fashioned Easter candy.
What You Need
- All-Purpose Flour. I use all-purpose because it’s what I have on hand, but bread flour can be used instead for a chewier hot cross bun.
- Granulated Sugar. This adds sweetness and flavor.
- Instant Yeast. You can use active dry yeast instead of instant, but you will have to wait longer for the dough to rise. (see the recipe notes)
- Salt. Adds flavor and balances the taste.
- Spices. We’re using cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. These spices are part of what give hot cross buns their spiced flavor.
- Whole Milk. I use whole milk to bring the dough together and gives the buns their rich flavor. You can try another milk, such as 2%, but the buns will lose some of their richness and be a bit more dry.
- Butter. I use unsalted. This makes for tender, flavorful hot cross buns.
- Eggs. For best results use room temperature eggs (they’ll combine into the dough better) and lightly beat them before adding (ditto).
- Orange zest (optional). Adds to the flavor of the buns, but it is not necessary.
- Currants or Raisins…
I know I’ve mentioned in my Oatmeal Cookie and Carrot Cake recipe that I kind of really hate raisins. You can leave them out if you also have good taste 😉without causing any problems or issues with the recipe. Even though I don’t love them, they are a traditional ingredient in hot cross buns so I felt I had to include them.
And in case you’re wondering, yes I definitely did pick around the currants like a 5 year old when I ate mine.
How to Make Hot Cross Buns
Yes, there’s yeast involved, but this recipe really isn’t that difficult to make. I’ll walk you through all the steps below, and don’t forget to check out my video if you’re nervous about baking with yeast.
- Combine sugar, yeast, salt, spices, and some of the flour in the bowl of a stand mixer (I include notes to make by hand if you don’t have one).
- Melt together milk and butter and add to the ingredients in your bowl. Be sure that you stay within the temperature range indicated in the recipe, otherwise you may kill your yeast. You may notice the temperature for this recipe is a tiny bit higher than the temperature for the proofing liquid that I use in some of my other recipes (like pizza dough or sticky buns), this is purposeful for this recipe to make sure the yeast is activated despite being mixed with a number of other ingredients.
- Stir in raisins or currants and the orange zest (if using).
- Add more flour as needed. Yeast recipes can be fussy, how much flour you will need may vary depending on a number of factors, so make sure that you pay attention to the consistency of your dough. It should be smooth and clinging to itself while pulling away from the sides of the bowl. It should be tacky when you touch it, but it shouldn’t stick to your fingers.
- Place the dough in an oiled bowl and turn to coat with oil (this helps to keep the bread from drying out and developing a dry outer crust and makes it easy to remove when it’s finished rising). let rise until doubled.
- Divide the dough into 12 evenly sized pieces, evenly space in a lightly buttered 13×9 baking dish and allow to rise again for another 30 minutes. After the buns have risen, brush with the egg wash and bake until golden brown.
- Wait until the hot cross buns have cooled (cooled cross buns?) and then pipe icing crosses on top of each. Serve and enjoy!
Frequently Asked Questions
This is usually a result of either using yeast that is already dead (could it have been expired?) or using a liquid that is much too hot or too cold. This will kill your yeast or fail to activate it as needed (respectively).
Raisins are a popular choice in hot cross buns, but you could substitute chocolate chips instead!
Yes. Personally my taste testers all preferred the icing which is why I went this route, but you can make pastry crosses instead.
Simply mix together ½ cup all-purpose flour (65g), 1 ½ Tablespoons granulated sugar, and ¼ cup water (60ml). The mixture should be thick enough to pipe, add more flour if needed. Then, pipe crosses over the buns before baking (use a piping bag or a ziploc bag with a corner snipped off), brush with egg wash if desired, and bake.
After baking you can brush with some melted apricot jam for added sweetness, if desired.
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Let’s bake together! Make sure to check out the how-to VIDEO in the recipe card!
Hot Cross Buns
- 5 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour plus additional as needed (665g)
- ⅔ cup granulated sugar (140g)
- 5 teaspoons instant yeast¹
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 ⅓ cups whole milk (315ml)
- 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter cut into 12 pieces
- 2 large eggs lightly beaten, room temperature preferred
- 1 Tablespoon orange zest optional
- ⅔ cups dried currants or raisins
- 1 large egg
- 2 teaspoons water
ICING (Please see notes if you would like to make traditional pastry crosses instead).
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
- 2-3 Tablespoons whole milk
- ¾ teaspoon lemon juice
- In the bowl of a stand mixer (see note if you do not have a stand mixer), combine 2 cups (250g) flour, sugar, yeast, salt, and spices.
- In a small saucepan, heat milk and butter until butter is melted and mixture reaches 120-125F (48-52C) (if the mixture becomes too hot, let it cool back down to the correct temperature range, otherwise you run the risk of killing your yeast).
- Turn mixer to low speed and gradually pour liquid ingredients into dry. Once just combined, add eggs and stir until combined.
- Stir in currants or raisins and orange zest, if using.
- With mixer on low speed, gradually add remaining flour (415g) as needed (it’s possible you will not need to use all of the flour) until dough attains a smooth elastic texture that’s tacky to the touch but not too sticky. The dough should be clinging to itself and pulling away from the sides of the bowl. Add additional flour if needed.
- Form the dough into a ball and place into a lightly oiled bowl. Roll dough through oil and cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Place in a warm, draft-free spot and allow to rise until doubled in size (usually 30-60 minutes). I usually preheat my oven at this point and place my dough on the top of my preheating oven, as that’s the warmest spot in my house.
- Preheat oven to 350F (175C) and lightly butter a 9×13 baking dish. Set aside.
- Once dough has risen, punch down and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Form into a log that’s 12” long and cut into 12 even slices. Form each slice into a round ball/roll and place rolls almost touching in prepared plan. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise again for 20-30 minutes. If making pastry crosses (rather than the recommended icing), please see notes section below.
- Once rolls have finished their rise, combine large egg and 2 teaspoons of water in a small dish. Use a whisk or fork to beat until well-combined. Remove plastic wrap from rolls and use a pastry brush to brush the top of each roll with egg wash mixture.
- Transfer to 350F (175C) oven and bake for 30-32 minutes or until rolls are golden brown and are firm and sound hollow when tapped on top. Allow to cool before adding icing.
- Prepare icing by whisking together powdered sugar, milk, and lemon juice. It should have a thick consistency that holds its shape for piping, if it’s too thin then add more sugar, if too thick then add more milk.
- Spoon icing into a small piping bag or into a ziploc bag and snip one corner. Pipe crosses over buns.
¹YeastI have successfully made this recipe by substituting an equal amount of active dry yeast. To do this, heat the milk to only 115F (46C) then add the yeast with a generous pinch of sugar, stir, and let sit for 5 minutes until a foamy cap forms. Then add melted butter, flour, sugar, salt, and spices and proceed with the recipe as indicated. It will need to rise longer (approximately 1-2 hours or longer).
Making without a stand mixerTo make by hand, simply combine the ingredient using a wooden spoon through step 5. Once the dough is dry enough to do so (but still a bit tacky to the touch), turn it out onto a clean, lightly floured surface and knead by hand until smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes). Add more flour as needed by sprinkling over the surface of the dough and working it in as you knead.
Pastry crossesThis recipe can be made with traditional pastry crosses instead, though it is not my preference for taste. To do so: Stir together ½ cup all-purpose flour (65g), 1 ½ Tablespoons granulated sugar, and ¼ cup water (60ml). The mixture should be thick enough to pipe and hold its shape, add more flour if needed. Pipe crosses over the buns before baking (use a piping bag or a ziploc bag with a corner snipped off), brush with egg wash if desired, and bake. After baking you can brush with some melted apricot jam over the buns for added sweetness, if desired.
StoringStore in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3-4 days. For best results, warm slightly before enjoying.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.
These are SO good! Super excited to have made hot cross buns from scratch. Thank you so much for the recipe Sam!
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
We’re so happy you enjoyed the recipe, Barbra! Thanks for the review 😊
As a novice baker I was hesitant to use lactose free milk and plant based butter alternative but your hot cross buns turned out perfectly. 5 stars from us all.
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
That’s great to hear, Ed! Thanks so much for letting us know how they turned out for you 🙂
can I make these a couple of weeks before and freeze them until needed?
Hi Marina! That should work just fine. 🙂
I am a vegetarian and don’t eat eggs. What can I replace them with.
Sugar Spun Run
Hi, Sonal! Unfortunately, I don’t know of any good egg substitute that would work with this recipe. Sorry that I can’t be more helpful.
So delicious! First time making them and worked out great!
Can these be made ahead? We are going out of town on Friday and would like them to be fresh for Sunday.
Hi Adelle! They will be fine for two days at room temperature in an air tight container. I do recommend warming them for a few seconds in the microwave before serving. 🙂
When I was younger I made Hot Cross buns and used mixed candied fruit in place of the raisins.
I have never tried that, but it sounds delicious! I’m not a huge raisin fan. I will have to try it! 🙂
Can these be refrigerated after forming the rolls and baked the next day?
Hi Karen! I think that would be fine. 🙂
Thanks for this recipe. A suggestion for replacing raisins/currants in this recipe is to substitute chopped or diced Dates. The appearance is the same but the taste and texture is somewhat different. Enjoy and Happy Easter.
Thank you for this tip, Charlene! I appreciate it! Happy Easter to you, too.