Hot cross buns are sweet rolls flavored with cinnamon, all spice, nutmeg and orange zest. They are decorated with a cross for Easter Sunday.

hot cross buns with orange zest in a glass baking dish

Hot cross buns are simple and delicious sweet rolls that are popular for Easter. They are flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg and all spice and have raisins scattered throughout. What makes these buns popular around Easter is the signature cross on top of the buns.

Why you should make this recipe: The buns are spiced and lightly sweetened for plenty of flavor. They also have orange zest, which nicely complements the spices. The buns can also be made ahead of time for easy holiday prep.

hot cross buns ingredients in bowls

How to make hot cross buns

  1. Make the dough: Whisk together dry ingredients, then add wet ingredients. Knead with a stand mixer for 5 minutes, then knead by hand a couple times until dough is soft and not sticky.
  2. First rise: Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover and let dough rise for 1 1/2 hours until doubled in size. Punch dough down and transfer to a lightly floured surface.
  3. Shape buns: Cut dough into quarters, then cut each quarter into thirds. Shape each dough piece into a bun by pinching the edges underneath the dough.
  4. Second rise: Place rolls in a 13×9 baking pan. Cover and let rolls rise for 30 minutes.
  5. Make crosses: Whisk together flour and water. Transfer to a ziplock bag and snip the corner. Pipe crosses on top of risen rolls.
  6. Bake buns: Bake at 350 F for 22 to 24 minutes or until golden.
  7. Make glaze: Whisk together water and confectioners’ sugar. Use a pastry brush to add glaze to the rolls.
photo collage demonstrating how to make dough for hot cross buns in a stand mixer
photo collage demonstrating how to shape dough into hot cross buns

Helpful tips

Yeast: Instant yeast or active dry yeast may be used in this recipe. If using active dry yeast, whisk it together with the warm milk and sugar and let it rest for 5 minutes until foamy. If the mixture does not foam up, then the yeast is expired. If using instant yeast, this test is not necessary and the yeast may be immediately added to the dry ingredients.

Dough consistency: The dough should be soft and not sticky. If the dough is sticky, add more flour one tablespoon at a time until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Too much flour will result in a tough dough and the buns won’t rise.

Weather: Humidity affects yeasted doughs significantly. In the winter, this recipe won’t need extra flour. If you are baking hot cross buns in a warmer, more humid climate, then you probably need up to 1/4 cup more flour to achieve a non-sticky dough.

Make ahead tips

Hot cross buns may be made the day before and stored in the refrigerator before baking. After shaping the dough into rolls and arranging them in the baking pan, cover the pan and store it in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours. When ready to bake, remove the rolls from the refrigerator and allow them to come to room temperature and rise (about 2 hours). Add crosses and bake according to instructions.

Hot cross buns can also be frozen and stored in the freezer for up to 1 month. Shape the dough into buns, place in the pan, cover and freeze for up to 1 month. When ready to bake, allow rolls to defrost and rise at room temperature (about 4 hours). Add crosse and bake according to instructions.

butter knife spreading butter on hot cross bun

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the crosses on hot cross buns? They are simply a mixture of flour and water piped on top of the rolls to look like a cross.

Can I use active dry yeast instead of instant yeast? Yes, but make sure the yeast isn’t expired by doing a text. Whisk active dry yeast with warm water. If the mixture foams up then it is alive, if not, the yeast is dead and the recipe won’t work.

Can I use all-purpose flour instead of bread flour? Yes, all purpose flour works in this recipe as well. However, the rolls will be softer and fluffier when bread flour is used.

Can I knead this dough by hand? Yes, but it will take some arm strength and about 10 minutes total kneading time.

More Easter recipes

Hot cross buns are a popular recipe for Easter. If you are planning a holiday menu, consider adding carrot cake to the dessert table. The spiced cake is complemented by the rich cream cheese frosting. Another popular dessert are Easter blondies (a great use for Cadbury mini eggs!)

hot cross bun on a small round plate next to baking dish with more buns

I love hot cross buns for Easter, but they are also a good recipe for the fall and winter. They have the seasonal spices that make you think of the holidays and pair well with most comfort foods. What occasion will you make hot cross buns for? Let me know in the comments and tag @ifyougiveablondeakitchen on social media!

hot cross buns with glossy glaze and orange zest on top

Hot Cross Buns

Hot cross buns are sweet rolls flavored with cinnamon, all spice, nutmeg and orange zest. They are decorated with a cross for Easter Sunday.

Ingredients

Buns

  • 4 ½ cups (562 g) bread flour,, plus more for dusting
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast, (see notes for active dry yeast)
  • ½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar, (caster sugar is better if you can find it)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoon all spice
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups (360 ml) warm milk (whole or low-fat),, about 110° F
  • ¼ cup (56 g) unsalted butter,, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1 large egg,, lightly beaten
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh orange zest
  • 1 ¼ cup (175 g) raisins or dried currants

Crosses

  • ½ cup (62 g) flour, (any kind of flour works)
  • 5 Tbs (75 ml) warm water

Glaze

  • ¼ cup (60 ml) warm water
  • ¼ cup (30 g) confectioners' sugar

Instructions 

Buns

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together flour, instant yeast, cinnamon, all spice, nutmeg and salt. Whisk until combined. Add the warm milk, melted butter, egg, orange zest and raisins. Use the dough hook to knead the dough until it pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 5 minutes. The dough should be soft and not sticky. If necessary, add more flour one Tablespoon at a time until a soft texture is reached. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead a couple times until dough forms a soft ball.
  • Transfer dough to a lightly greased bowl. Cover and allow dough to rise for 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size. Punch the dough down and transfer to a floured surface.
  • Use a pastry cutter to split dough into quarters and then cut each quarter into thirds (for a total of 12 rolls). Shape each piece of dough into a ball by pinching the edges of the dough underneath itself and using your hands to cup the dough into a ball.
  • Place rolls in a 13×9 baking pan lined with parchment paper. Cover and allow rolls to rise for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350° F.

Crosses

  • While the rolls rise, make the flour mixture for the crosses. Whisk together flour and water until it is smooth and runny. Transfer mixture to a plastic bag and snip the corner. Pipe mixture on top of risen rolls.
  • Bake rolls at 350° F for 22 to 24 minutes or until golden on top. Allow buns to cool in the dish for at least 15 minutes before adding glaze.

Glaze

  • Whisk warm water and confectioners' sugar together. Use a pastry brush to add glaze to the hot cross buns. Garnish with orange zest and serve.

Notes

Store hot cross buns in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Buns are best when eaten the day they are baked.
Yeast: Active dry yeast may be used instead of instant yeast. Combine warm milk, sugar and 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast. Let mixture sit for 5 minutes until foamy (if it doesn’t become foamy it means the yeast is dead). Add mixture to the dry ingredients as directed in step 1.
Flour: Bread flour works best in this recipe and yields soft buns. However, all-purpose flour may be used in its place if necessary.
Kneading: A stand mixer works best to save time and the arm work. However, hot cross bun dough can also be kneaded by hand for 10 minutes.
Overnight instructions: Prepare dough and follow steps 1-4. After shaping the rolls, cover the dish with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours. Bring to room temperature and allow rolls to rise (this will take around 2 hours). Add crosses and follow remaining instructions.
Freezing instructions: Prepare dough and follow steps 1-4. After shaping the rolls, cover the dish with plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Store in the freezer for up to 1 month. Bring to room temperature and allow rolls to rise (this will take around 4 hours). Add crosses and follow remaining instructions.
High altitude instructions (Denver, CO; altitude: 5,280 ft): It’s necessary to use bread flour because of the high protein content, which is preferred at high altitude. Use 4 1/4 cups flour and add more as necessary until dough is soft and pulls away from the bowl. Reduce sugar by 1 Tablespoon. The first rise will be quicker (about an hour) make sure the dough is doubled in size. Baking time remains the same.
Serving: 1bun, Calories: 342kcal, Carbohydrates: 64g, Protein: 9g, Fat: 6g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 27mg, Sodium: 123mg, Potassium: 250mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 13g, Vitamin A: 194IU, Vitamin C: 2mg, Calcium: 57mg, Iron: 1mg

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