Breads & Doughs

Hot Cross Buns Recipe

4.75 from 70 votes
Enjoy my spiced, sweet Hot Cross Buns recipe, which is a lovely sweet bread with mixed fruit perfect for Easter and springtime baking.

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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

Hot cross buns with tea

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:

Ingredients You Need To Make Hot Cross Buns

Bun Dough:

  • 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!

Icing:

  • 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.

Hot Cross Buns Recipe Ingredients

How To Make Hot Cross Buns

Making the Buns:

  1. 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.
  2. Beat the egg with warm milk and add to the dry ingredients. Mix together to form a soft, pliable dough.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.Step by step instructions for how to Make Hot Cross Buns dough
  5. Turn out the proofed dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it into equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball.
  6. 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.
  7. After the second proof, preheat the oven. Brush the buns with egg wash for a shiny finish.

Proofing Hot Cross Buns in prepared tray before baking

Baking the Buns:

  1. Bake until golden brown and shiny.
  2. 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.
  3. Frosting the Buns:
    1. Whisk together the icing ingredients until smooth but stiff enough to hold their shape. If it is too stiff, add a splash more milk.
    2. 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.
    3. Serve the buns with butter and a big cup of tea.

Adding honey and icing

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.

FAQs

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.

And don’t miss more everyday baking recipes in my NEW Bigger Bolder Baking Every Day Cookbook!

 

There are many more Irish desserts on the site including a Traditional Bread & Butter Pudding and Irish Soda Bread so we hope you enjoy!

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!

Hot Cross Buns Recipe

4.75 from 70 votes
Author: Patricia Stafford
Servings: 12 buns
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Proof for 2 hours
Total Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Author: Patricia Stafford
Servings: 12 buns

Ingredients

Bun Dough

  • 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
  • (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

Icing

  • ¾ cup  (3oz/85g) powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

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.
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Leslie McColley
Leslie McColley
4 years ago

What are the specific spices in “mixed spice”?

Samantha Winner
4 years ago

Hi
I’m a Brit living in Houston TX and really miss hot cross buns every year, so was over the moon with this recipe. I made them on Good Friday and they tasted just perfect! Thanks
Samantha

Sue
Sue
5 years ago

I wondered about the ground mixed spice too so will have to look it up on the net to see if there is a guide to follow in how much of each spice to use

Rusnė
Rusnė
6 years ago

Hey, Gemma!
I wanted to ask – how do you do those beautiful crosses on the buns? I’m doing these for Easter and I hope they’ll turn out amazing!

Thank you wishing you a happy Easter!

Sarah
6 years ago

These were sticky, fluffy and delicious !!!
I made these with plain flour as it was what I had on hand and they turned out better than what you buy in the shop. So yummy yet so simple. Will definitely make these again

Dawn Seow
1 year ago

Just made them last weekend and they turned out well! I did make some slight adjustments to the recipe.. by increasing the liquid to 60% hydration and kneading the dough for 5 mins before adding the butter in (to help the gluten get a head start in developing).

The icing to milk ratio for the crosses were too runny for me to pipe initially. I ended up adding twice the amount of icing sugar before I could pipe it.

The buns turned out fluffy and delicious. Thank you for this great recipe!

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Penny
Penny
2 years ago

THE BEST recipe for hot cross buns! So soft and delicious and simple to make. Finally I have a recipe that works.

Sabrina
Sabrina
2 years ago

I tried this recipe and it is a huge hit in my house. I kept to my moms tradition if sniping the tops and using a lemon icing to base. I just wanted to keep her tradition since she just passed away not too long ago. But this recipe is deliciousness non stop.

PATRICIA SCHENCK
PATRICIA SCHENCK
2 years ago

Thank you for answering my first question. Have one other question, do you think these buns I could make in a bread machine using the dough option?

Edua Tw
4 years ago

Thank you for sharing this recipe!
I was feeling lazy so I popped all the ingredients in my bread machine (minus 20g of sugar) in raisin dough mode. They’re my first hot cross buns and they’re perfect!

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About Us

Meet Gemma

About Us

Meet Gemma

Hi Bold Bakers! I’m Gemma Stafford, a professional chef originally from Ireland, a cookbook author, and the creator of Bigger Bolder Baking. I want to help you bake with confidence anytime, anywhere with my trusted and tested recipes and baking tips. You may have seen one of my 500+ videos on YouTube & TikTok or as a guest judge on Nailed It! on Netflix or the Best Baker in America on Food Network. No matter your skills, my Bold Baking Team & I want to be your #1 go-to baking authority.

 

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