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Hi Bold Bakers!
WHY YOU’LL LOVE THIS RECIPE: My Homemade Hot Cross Buns recipe has everything you want in an airy, sweet bread. It’s packed with aromatic spices and raisins and topped with a touch of vanilla icing that makes these buns irresistible.
IMPORTANT NOTE: This recipe was updated and improved on 3/23/23 to include ingredient notes, additional step-by-step photography, answers to the most frequently asked questions (GF, Egg-Free), Pro-Chef Tips and VIDEO!
When I was growing up, I used to bake these Hot Cross Buns at Easter time using my Mum’s recipe. They are a traditional treat here in Ireland and in the UK. As April approaches, why not get some practice in?
These Hot Cross Buns are traditional spiced, sticky glazed fruit buns with pastry crosses, but we’ve added a twist by using sweet icing instead – and for all of you dried fruit lovers, this recipe includes raisins!
Typically served during Easter, it’s the ultimate Good Friday treat, but it’s just as delicious any time of year. Pull up your sleeves and gather your tools and ingredients – Let’s get baking!
Table Of Contents
- What Are Hot Cross Buns?
- Tools You Need
- Ingredients You Need To Make Hot Cross Buns
- How To Make Hot Cross Buns
- Gluten-Free Hot Cross Buns
- Egg-Free Hot Cross Buns
- Can I Make Hot Cross Buns In Advance?
- How To Store Hot Cross Buns
- Gemma’s Pro Chef Tips
- More Sweet Buns Recipes
What Are Hot Cross Buns?
Hot Cross Buns are a popular spiced sweet bun traditionally eaten on Good Friday in the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, India, Pakistan, and the US. It’s mainly composed of flour, raisins or currants, and spices. These buns are well known for their classic white cross on the top of the bun and can be made by using shortcrust pastry, flour and water paste, or white icing.
As these buns are baked and eaten around a Christian holiday, parts of the bread symbolize important events surrounding Jesus Christ. The cross on top of the bread represents the crucifixion of Jesus, the spices refer to the spices used to embalm him, the orange zest signifies the bitterness and suffering while he was on the cross, the raisins stand for Jesus’ entombed body, and the sweetness and risen yeast symbolize the resurrection. In this recipe, we substitute the orange for a lemon peel.
Tools You Need To Make Hot Cross Buns:
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Mixing bowls
- Silicone spatula or spoon
- Whisk or fork
- Plastic wrap
- Bench scraper or knife
- Baking sheet
- Pastry brush
- Wire cooling rack
- Piping bag and tips
Ingredients You Need To Make Hot Cross Buns
- Bread flour: High in protein, this is the perfect flour for making airy and chewy bread.
- Ground mixed spice: A combo of cinnamon, coriander seed, caraway, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, allspice, and mace will elevate the warmth and spice in your buns. Here’s how to make it at yourself: Homemade Mixed Spice
- Salt: Just a pinch will bring out the flavors of your ingredients.
- Butter: Feel free to use salted or unsalted butter, just make sure to keep it cold and cut it into cubes. Save some on the side for greasing your baking sheet.
- Granulated sugar: Granulated sugar, or white sugar, will give the perfect amount of sweetness.
- Lemon zest: Lemon zest can add slight acidity and tanginess to balance out the sweetness and spice.
- Instant dried yeast: I always use instant yeast because it’s easier to use and the results are identical to active dry yeast without extra steps.
- Egg: Use one large, good-quality egg.
- Egg wash: To make egg wash, beat one large egg and a tablespoon of milk until well combined. Egg-washing your pastry will create a nice, shiny finish.
- Milk: I like to use full-fat milk for my recipes. Heat it up to a lukewarm temperature before using it.
- Raisins: Raisins or sultanas are a traditional dried fruit in Hot Cross Buns. They’re also just a tasty addition, but feel free to add different dried fruit and nuts to your liking.
- Honey: Brush some warmed-up honey to add some sweet warmth to your buns. You can also make my Homemade Golden Syrup recipe if you don’t have honey on hand!
- Powdered sugar: Powdered sugar, AKA confectioners’ sugar, is white sugar ground into a fine powder and will dissolve without heat. Try making your own Powdered Sugar!
- Vanilla extract: This will add a touch of vanilla flavor. Make Homemade Vanilla Extract for a challenge!
- Milk: Milk is an important ingredient in icing to thin it out and make it easy to pipe.
How To Make Hot Cross Buns
Making the Buns:
- In a bowl, sieve the flour, salt, and mixed spice. Then, rub in the butter using your fingertips until the mixture is the texture of fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar, lemon zest, and yeast.
- Beat the egg with warm milk and add to the dry ingredients. Mix together to form a soft, pliable dough.
- Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle over the dried fruit and knead the dough lightly. The dough should be smooth and elastic with dried fruit throughout.
- Grease a bowl with oil. Shape the dough into a ball and place it into the prepared bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to proof. The dough should double in size.
- Turn out the proofed dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it into equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball.
- Grease a baking sheet with butter, and transfer the buns to the tray in rows. Cover with plastic wrap and return to a warm spot to proof for another hour until the rolls are proofed together.
- After the second proof, preheat the oven. Brush the buns with egg wash for a shiny finish.
Baking the Buns:
- Bake until golden brown and shiny.
- As soon as you remove the buns from the oven, brush them with a little warmed honey or golden syrup. Set aside to cool on a wire rack.
- Frosting the Buns:
- Whisk together the icing ingredients until smooth but stiff enough to hold their shape. If it is too stiff, add a splash more milk.
- Scoop icing into a piping bag fitted with a small nozzle. Carefully pipe crosses on the cooled buns. Set aside while the icing sets for 30 minutes.
- Serve the buns with butter and a big cup of tea.
Gluten-Free Hot Cross Buns
Baking is fun when everyone can participate. For those of you who have gluten allergies or want to try a gluten-free recipe, we’ve got you covered.
To preface, this is a yeast recipe that requires gluten to work with the yeast to build up the strands and structure. You can substitute 1/4th of the instant yeast with baking soda or an equal amount of baking powder for instant yeast in the dough. This method will end up with different results, as the dough will be bubbly instead of stretchy.
Once you substitute the yeast, you can incorporate gluten-free all-purpose blend flour (which usually contains xanthan gum as a binding agent) by starting with a 1:1 ratio. A good rule of thumb while altering the recipe: Hold back some liquid by using up to 3/4th in one go and adjust accordingly to get the same dough consistency. In this case, there is no need to proof the dough.
Check out my Guide to Gluten-Free Flours.
Egg-Free Hot Cross Buns
For eggless Hot Cross Buns, I recommend using flax eggs as it is the most similar to eggs in this recipe. Another option is to use buttermilk, but hold back on some and adjust accordingly until you get a smooth and elastic dough. For the egg wash, you can use melted butter, milk, or yogurt.
Take a look at my Egg Substitutes article to experiment with other egg substitutes.
Can I Make Hot Cross Buns In Advance?
Yes, but be sure to plan in advance when you want to bake off your buns. This is because Hot Cross Buns typically require resting time for rising and proofing.
Prepare the dough and arrange the balls on the greased baking sheet as usual. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Take your buns out from the refrigerator and let them rise for about 2 to 3 hours before you plan on baking them.
How To Store Hot Cross Buns
If you have leftover Hot Cross Buns, store them in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months. You can wrap each bun in parchment paper and place them in a resealable bag in the freezer. When you’re ready to eat them, thaw the buns for a few hours at room temperature and reheat them by warming them in an oven or toaster oven.
What are the spices in mixed spice?
The spices in the ground mixed spice are usually a combination of cinnamon, coriander seed, caraway, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, allspice, and mace. If you don’t have it in your local store do not fear because you can easily make it using my recipe for Homemade Mixed Spice. It’s very similar to Pumpkin Spice mix, so go ahead and use that instead either. And good news – I also have a Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix recipe you can make from scratch!
Can I substitute bread flour with all-purpose flour?
You can substitute bread flour with all-purpose flour, but know that the resulting structure and texture may slightly differ. It should still taste amazing nevertheless!
Why are my Hot Cross Buns dry?
If the dough is too dry, the buns will end up being tough. You may need to add a little extra liquid depending on the protein content in the flour.
Can I pipe icing on the buns while they are hot?
No! The icing will melt off and make your buns look sloppy. Wait for your buns to cool completely before icing to achieve clean, uniform lines.
Can I make these buns in a bread machine or a stand mixer?
Yes! If you’re in a pinch for time or want to save yourself from some heavy arm workouts, you can dump all of your ingredients into a bread machine or use a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment to make your dough.
For the icing, you can use the whisk attachment on your stand mixer or use an electric hand mixer.
Gemma’s Pro Chef Tips:
- Don’t over-knead your dough. Otherwise, it will result in tough buns. Knead them just enough to make them smooth and elastic.
- Make sure to add your raisins just after you’ve formed a soft, pliable dough. If you try adding them before, they can break down too much when mixing.
- Let your dough rise twice! The second proofing will make your dough more elastic, which is a necessary step for making airy buns.
- Don’t forget to brush your buns with honey or Golden Syrup while they are fresh out of the oven to not only give them a shiny finish but also add a touch more sweetness.
- Prevent runny icing by letting your Hot Cross Buns completely cool. They should not be hot or too warm to the touch.
- Customize your mix-ins with different dried fruit and nut varieties! I recommend dried cranberries and chopped almonds or walnuts. Though be sure not to add too many mix-ins otherwise it may prevent the dough from fully rising.
For More Sweet Buns Recipes, Check Out:
- Best Ever Sticky Buns Recipe (No Machine)
- Swedish Cardamom Buns
- Buttery Morning Buns From Scratch
- Make Cinnabon Cinnamon Rolls Right At Home
And don’t miss more everyday baking recipes in my NEW Bigger Bolder Baking Every Day Cookbook!
IMPORTANT NOTE: This recipe was updated and improved on 3/23/23 to include ingredient notes, additional step-by-step photography, answers to the most frequently asked questions (GF, Egg-Free), Pro-Chef Tips and VIDEO.
Watch The Recipe Video!
- 4 ¼ cups (1lb 6 oz/625 g) bread flour
- 2 teaspoons ground mixed spice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons (1 ½ oz/45 g) cold butter , cut into cubes, plus extra for greasing
- ⅓ (2 ½ oz/71 g) granulated sugar
- Zest 1 medium lemon
- 1 ½ teaspoons instant dried yeast
- 1 large egg
- 1 ¼ cups (10 fl oz/300 ml) lukewarm milk
- 1 cup (5 oz/142 g) raisins or sultanas
- egg wash, to glaze
- 2 tablespoons warmed honey, to glaze
- ¾ cup (3oz/85g) powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 1/4-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Making the Buns
- In a large bowl sieve the flour, salt and mixed spice. Then rub in the butter using your fingertips until the mixture is the texture of fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar, lemon zest and yeast.
- Beat the egg with the warm milk then add to the dry ingredients. Mix together to a form a soft, pliable dough.
- Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle over the mixed dried fruit then knead the dough lightly for about 5 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic with dried fruit throughout.
- Grease a large bowl with oil. Shape the dough into a ball and place it into the prepared bowl. Cover with cling wrap and set aside in a warm place for 60 - 90 minutes to proof. The dough should double in size.
- Turn out the proofed dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it into 12 equal pieces, roughly 3 ½ oz each. Roll each piece into a ball.
- Grease a baking tray with butter and transfer the buns to the tray in rows 4 x 3. Cover with cling wrap and return to a warm spot to proof for another hour, until the rolls proof together.
- After the second proof preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Brush the buns with egg wash for a shiney finish.
Baking the Buns
- Bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden-brown.
- As soon as you remove the buns from the oven, brush them with a little warmed honey or golden syrup then set aside to cool on a wire rack.
Frosting the Buns
- Whisk together the icing ingredients until smooth but stiff enough to hold its shape. If it is to stiff add a splash more milk.
- Scope into a piping bag fitted with a small nozzle. Carefully pipe a cross on the cooled buns. Set aside while the icing sets for 30 minutes.
- Serve the buns with butter and a big cup of tea. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.