Hot Cross Buns

Learn how to make our rendition of hot cross buns using this deliciously spiced yeast dough. Brown sugar, raisins or currants, butter, and vanilla add exceptional flavor and each dense bun is marked with a traditional cross. Orange icing is a tasty finishing touch to this Easter recipe!

Hot cross buns in baking pan

What are Hot Cross Buns?

A nursery rhyme, of course! And the first song we usually learn on the recorder. But what are the hot cross buns we eat? Hot cross buns are rich with history dating back to the 12th century. They’re yeasted sweet buns filled with spices and various fruits such as currants, raisins, and/or candied citrus. They’re decorated with a white cross representing the crucifix, either marked right into the dough or etched on top with icing. Hot cross buns are a traditional Easter food, typically eaten on Good Friday.

We’ve been making these for years and I would love to share our family’s version here today. If you’re looking for a more traditional hot cross bun recipe using a little less sugar, candied peel, and lemon, we’ve always loved Mary Berry’s hot cross bun recipe.


What Do These Hot Cross Buns Taste Like?

These hot cross buns are a cross between a dinner roll and cinnamon roll. They’re soft, yet dense with a deliciously spiced flavor from cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. You can play with the spices, even adding a little cardamom too. The buns are sweetened mostly with brown sugar, then topped with a glossy orange icing. For extra flavor, sometimes we throw a little orange zest or candied orange peel into the dough. This recipe uses raisins. We always enjoyed hot cross buns with currants, a type of raisin, but I couldn’t find them anywhere this year.

You’ll love these hot cross buns if you enjoy:

  • sweet orange icing
  • raisins
  • cinnamon spices
  • brown sugar
  • buttery bread

Hot cross buns

Hot cross buns

Video Tutorial: How to Make Hot Cross Buns

This recipe begins just like dinner rolls. Hot cross buns require basic baking ingredients like flour, yeast, butter, eggs, sugar, and milk. Less milk, more butter and more eggs produces a slightly denser roll compared to the dinner rolls. These are more of a dessert/breakfast roll. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Make the bread dough.
  2. Knead the dough for 2 minutes.
  3. Cover the dough and let it rise. The dough rises in about 1-2 hours.
  4. Punch down the dough to release the air, then shape into rolls.
  5. Let the rolls rise for about 1 hour.
  6. Pipe the crosses on top.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.
  8. Top with orange icing.

2 images of plumped raisins for hot cross buns and hot cross bun dough with raisins

For extra plump and moist raisins, soak them in hot water for 5-10 minutes before using. You could also use dried cranberries.

Hot cross bun dough in a glass bowl
After the dough rises in the bowl (above), punch it down to release the air. Divide into 15 portions, then roll into balls as shown in the video above. Take a piece and stretch the top of the dough while pinching and sealing the bottom. Make sure the rolls are smooth on top and sealed on the bottom.

Cover the shaped rolls, then let them rise for 1 more hour.

2 images of hot cross bun dough cut into pieces and rolled into dough balls on baking sheet before baking

Crosses on Hot Cross Buns

There’s a couple ways to make crosses on hot cross buns:

  1. Flour Cross: Pipe a “paste” of flour and water on top of each bun BEFORE baking. This is the most traditional application of the cross and the method I usually choose. It gets a *little* hard after baking, but it’s still perfectly chewy.
  2. Icing Cross: Pipe a thick cross made from icing on each bun AFTER baking.

Use a piping bag– no piping tip needed– or a zipped-top bag. Snip the corner off. If making the flour cross, make sure the corner opening is small because you want a thin line.

2 images of hot cross bun cross mixture and mixture in a piping bag

Unbaked hot cross buns in baking pan

Golden brown hot cross buns with glaze on top

Orange Icing

The lush orange icing is the best finishing touch and it’s even better if you brush it on the buns right out of the oven. It’s sticky, sweet, and warm– orange and cinnamon spices are just meant to be.


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Hot cross buns in baking pan

Hot Cross Buns

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 3 hours, 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 22 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours, 45 minutes
  • Yield: 14-16 buns
  • Category: Bread
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: English

Description

Learn how to make flavorful hot cross buns using this deliciously spiced yeast dough. Each bun is marked with a traditional cross, baked until golden, then topped with orange icing. See recipe notes for icing cross alternative, as well as freezing and make-ahead instructions.


Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup (180ml) whole milk, warmed to about 110°F
  • 2 and 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast or instant yeast (1 standard packet)
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (100g) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 5 Tablespoons (70g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature and cut into 5 pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon (see note)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 3 and 1/2 cups (438g) all-purpose flour or bread flour (spoon & leveled)*
  • 1 cup (140g) raisins or currants*

Flour Cross

  • 1/2 cup (63g) all-purpose flour or bread flour
  • 68 Tablespoons (90-120ml) water

Orange Icing

  • 1 cup (120gconfectioners’ sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons (45ml) fresh or bottled orange juice (or use milk and a splash of vanilla extract for plain icing)

Instructions

  1. Prepare the dough: Whisk the milk, yeast, and granulated sugar together in the bowl of your stand mixer. Cover and allow mixture to sit for about 5 minutes or until foamy on top. *If you do not own a mixer, you can do this in a large mixing bowl and in the next step, mix the dough together with a large wooden spoon or rubber spatula. It will take a bit of arm muscle. A hand mixer works, but the sticky dough repeatedly gets stuck in the beaters. Mixing by hand with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula is a better choice.*
  2. Add the brown sugar, butter, vanilla extract, eggs, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and 1 cup (125g) flour. Using the dough hook or paddle attachment, mix on low speed for 30 seconds, scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, then add the remaining flour and the raisins. Beat on low speed until the dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 2 minutes. Dough should be a little sticky and soft. If it’s too sticky and not pulling away from the sides of the bowl, mix in additional flour 1 Tablespoon at a time.
  3. Knead the dough: Keep the dough in the mixer and beat for an additional 3 minutes or knead by hand on a lightly floured surface for 3 minutes.
  4. 1st Rise: Lightly grease a large bowl with oil or nonstick spray. Place the dough in the bowl, turning it to coat all sides in the oil. Cover the bowl with aluminum foil, plastic wrap, or a clean kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rise in a relatively warm environment for 1-2 hours or until double in size. (I always let it rise on the counter. Takes about 2 hours. For a tiny reduction in rise time, see my answer to Where Should Dough Rise? in my Baking with Yeast Guide.)
  5. Grease a 9×13 inch baking pan or two 9-inch square or round baking pans. You can also bake the rolls in a cast iron skillet or on a lined baking sheet.
  6. Shape the rolls: When the dough is ready, punch it down to release the air. Divide the dough into 14-16 equal pieces. (Just eyeball it– doesn’t need to be perfect!) Shape each piece into a smooth ball, pinching it on the bottom to seal. I do this entirely in my hands and you can watch in the video above. Arrange in prepared baking pan.
  7. 2nd Rise: Cover shaped rolls with aluminum foil, plastic wrap, or a clean kitchen towel. Allow to rise until puffy, about 1 hour.
  8. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C).
  9. Add the cross: Whisk the cross ingredients together, starting with 6 Tablespoons of water. You want a thick paste that will pipe easily. Add remaining water if needed. Spoon paste into a piping bag or zipped-top bag. (No need to use a piping tip if using a piping bag.) Snip off a small piece at the corner. Pipe a line down the center of each row of buns, then repeat in the other direction to create crosses.
  10. Bake the rolls: Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on top, rotating the pan halfway through. If you notice the tops browning too quickly, loosely tent the pan with aluminum foil. Remove from the oven and allow rolls to cool for a few minutes as you prepare the icing.
  11. Make the icing: Whisk the icing ingredients together, then drizzle or brush on warm rolls. Serve immediately.
  12. Cover leftover rolls tightly and store at room temperature for 1-2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Notes

  1. Freezing Instructions: Prepare recipe through step 6. Place shaped buns in a greased baking pan, cover tightly, and freeze for up to 3 months. Once frozen, the dough balls won’t stick together anymore and you can place them in a freezer bag if needed. On the day you serve them, arrange the dough balls in a greased baking pan, cover tightly, then let them thaw and rise at room temperature for about 4-5 hours. Continue with step 8. You can also freeze the baked hot cross buns. Allow them to cool completely, then freeze without icing for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature, then reheat as desired and add icing.
  2. Overnight Instructions: Prepare the recipe through step 6. Cover the shaped buns tightly and refrigerate for up to about 15 hours. At least 3 hours before you need them the next day, remove the buns from the refrigerator, keep covered, and allow to rise on the counter for about 1-2 hours before baking. (Skip step 7.) Alternatively, you can let the dough have its 1st rise in the refrigerator overnight. Cover the dough tightly and place in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours. Remove from the refrigerator and allow the dough to fully rise for 2 more hours. Continue with step 5.
  3. Optional Add-Ins: Instead of (or in addition to) raisins, try using dried cranberries, chopped pecans or walnuts, chopped candied citrus, or chopped dried apricots. Keep total add ins to about 1 and 3/4 cups total. Feel free to add the zest from 1 lemon or orange to the dough when you add the butter. Add 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves or cardamom, if desired. Feel free to adjust the spices to your liking. You can plump up the raisins, currants, or dried cranberries if desired. Soak in hot water for 5-10 minutes, drain, then pat dry before adding to dough.
  4. Whole Milk: Lower fat or nondairy milks work in a pinch. The rolls will lose a little flavor and richness. I highly recommend whole milk or even buttermilk.
  5. Cinnamon: Cinnamon can prohibit doughs from rising. We use 1 and 1/4 teaspoons in this dough to produce dense buns. If you want a fluffier roll-type hot cross bun, feel free to reduce the cinnamon down to 1/2 teaspoon or leave it out completely.
  6. Yeast: Use instant yeast or active dry yeast. Rise times will be slightly longer using active dry yeast. Reference my Baking with Yeast Guide for answers to common yeast FAQs.
  7. Flour: You can use all-purpose flour or bread flour. All-purpose flour is convenient for most, but bread flour produces chewier hot cross buns. Either flour is fine and there are no other changes to the recipe if you use one or the other.
  8. Icing Cross: If you prefer to make a cross from icing and pipe it onto the buns after baking, skip step 9 and skip the orange icing glaze on top. However, you can use the orange icing recipe to make the icing cross. Reduce orange juice to 1 Tablespoon to yield a very thick icing. Replace with milk and add a splash of vanilla extract, if desired. Feel free to also make the orange glaze for topping if you want double icing– a cross and glaze all over.

Keywords: hot cross buns

Hot cross buns with cross on top

213 Comments

  1. The Best Cross buns Ever!!! My husband and daughters couldn’t have enough of them. WOW!!

  2. Hi. May I know your pan size used here? Mine is a square pan 20x20cm i think it won’t fit 12 buns. Thank you!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Rouline, this recipe calls for a 9×13 inch (23×33 cm) pan.

  3. I followed this recipe exactly and it resulted in the fluffiest, most delicious buns! This was my first time trying hot cross buns and I will definitely be using this recipe in the future.

  4. Another wonderful recipe! Absolutely delicious. Thank you so much. Yours is my go to site for any baking recipe I need. Thank you again.

  5. Hello! Silly question about the freezing of the unbaked buns. So, when you say thaw for 4-5 hours and allow to rise, do you mean thaw in the fridge, or thaw at room temp? I see that thawing the baked ones happens in the fridge, but does thawing the unbaked ones also mean the fridge?

    1. Hi Madeline, I’m happy to clarify. Let them thaw and rise on the counter at room temperature in that step.

  6. Hi Sally,

    Sadly I am also experiencing issues with the rising of the dough. I have just used the yeast to make bagels a few days ago so I know my yeast is still good. Not sure what I can do to help it. I am almost at the 2 hr mark with the first rise and the dough hasn’t grown in size at all. Not sure if I should move onto forming the buns and do the second rise? I did try the dinner rolls recipe and it was a success. Any tips would be great. Thanks!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Danielle, See the “What if My Dough Isn’t Rising?” section of this post for some tips!

  7. Hi Sally,

    May I make the dough overnight and let to rise in fridge overnight (rise 1), shape the dough 18 hours later and leave out to rise over 6-8hours in the open before baking? My room temperature is about 27 deg.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Aldine! We fear that would be too long for both rises. The dough could over-proof and collapse if left to rise for too long. For best results, follow the overnight instructions detailed in the recipe notes. Hope you love these!

  8. Hi Sally
    Could you substitute oil for the butter as I am dairy free but also don’t want I use a vegan butter?
    Thank you!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kiara, You really need softened butter here. The best alternative would be solid (but room temperature) coconut oil. However, we haven’t tested the recipe with it. Let us know if you try!

  9. Hi Sally,
    When I read through the recipe, I was surprised by the 2 minute kneading time for an enriched dough. But, I always try the recipe as written first time around. I had the same issue that some others had with the dough not rising as much as it should. (I use my yeast often, so that’s not the issue). The end product was just okay for me – not as light & fluffy as I like and I definitely did not like the texture of the “pastey” cross. If I have enough ambition, I will try the recipe with a 5-10 minute knead and possibly with some bread flour. I feel like it may even benefit from some baking powder – will have to see. I fed them to friends and they liked them, so not a total loss.

  10. Best hot cross bun recipe I have ever tried. The brown sugar is a great idea. They were light, moist and fluffy.

  11. Delicious! I made a few modifications and the buns came out awesome. I didn’t have milk, so I substituted 3/4 cup of half n half and 1/4 cup water. The extra 1/4 cup of liquid was a mistake but I just eyeballed enough extra flour to get the dough to pull away from the bowl and it was fine. I let the mixer knead the dough for 1 minute then kneaded it by hand about 5 minutes until it was smooth and sprung back when I pushed a finger into it. I brushed the rolls with an egg wash before making the cross. I added a couple drops of stevia to the flour slurry for the cross to sweeten things up a bit more. I baked the buns on a parchment-lined half-sheet. Next time I make them I want to add a bit more raisins and some pecans, and I may halve the amount of glaze. I had a lot of glaze left over even after generously glazing the buns. I made these hot cross buns for my family to enjoy throughout Easter week but I doubt they’ll last all week!

  12. Hi Sally, they really came out good. Thanks for inspiring us.

  13. Hiya sally.
    If I want to make the buns with chocolate chips instead of raisins, would I omit all the spices or still keep them in?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Princess, we’d recommend keep the spices in so you still get the signature spiced dough taste of hot cross buns. Let us know how it turns out for you!

  14. Jennifer Clark says:

    I really love the texture and flavor of this recipe. I’ve made it multiple times and I get inconsistent results on the rise. I’m a very experienced baker. I frequently make breads, both yeast and sourdough. My yeast is fresh and proofs well. I’ve even tried adding additional yeast. I’m not overworking or underworking the dough. I’ve shared the recipe with a few of my experienced friends and they have had the same inconsistent results with the rise. (One lives in a humid environment and the other in a dry environment.) I’m not ready to give up on the recipe, but I’m really hoping someone might have figured out why so many people have struggled with the rise in these rolls.

    1. Hi Jennifer! These certainly aren’t as puffy as other bread and roll recipes, but you could definitely make a couple adjustments to get there. What could help for next time is reducing down to 1 egg and switching from brown sugar to white granulated sugar in the dough.

  15. Ima Notimpressed says:

    This recipe needs an overhaul. I bake all the time and this was a complete fail! Did not rise was like a hard biscuit nothing like a bun what a waste of ingredients. Trust me I know how to bake and this recipe was just a waste of time

  16. Hi,
    I am trying to figure out how to have these ready for breakfast on Easter morning? It sounds like I would just need to prepare them the day before? I mean…otherwise, I would have to wake up at like 4 AM to pull them from the fridge? If so, how best to store them?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Vera, you can follow the make ahead instructions in the recipe notes, pulling them out of the fridge early in the morning as you mention — or, you can make them fully the evening before. Cover them tightly at room temperature and then top with the icing right before serving. Hope you enjoy these!

  17. How long would you knead for by hand vs kneading by mixer dough hook? I kneaded with the mixer for over 15min, but still didn’t achieve the window pane consistency. It was stretchy for a little bit, but still tore. Also, when I poked it with my finger, there was some bounce back, but not fast and didn’t bounce back all the way. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Larissa, this dough is on the heavier side and will not stretch a considerable distance like other doughs when performing the windowpane test. That’s why we don’t include that in the recipe instructions. Knead for about 3 minutes by hand or with the dough hook.

  18. This recipe exceeded my expectations! I moved to Texas from Australia years ago and haven’t been able to find even a decent hot cross bun in that time. These were just like I grew up with and easy to make.

  19. Hi!
    I love chocolate chip hot cross buns more than the regular ones. Can I use your basic recipe and omit the spices/ orange glaze and add chocolate chips instead?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sarah, absolutely, although we’d recommend keeping the spices in so you still get the signature spiced dough taste of hot cross buns. Let us know how it turns out for you!

  20. I have never made bread before but so want to try these. Store bought hot cross buns are awful.
    Silly question…do I use my Kitchen aid whisk for the first part and then switch to the dough hook for the two minutes of kneeding?
    Thank you!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lorna! You can use your dough hook the whole time – we usually just whisk the yeast, milk and sugar together in step 1 with a small handheld whisk or fork.

  21. How much does one packet of yeast weigh?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Adrianne! A packet of yeast weights 7g or 0.25oz. Happy baking!

  22. Adrianne Noroian says:

    Hi Sally,
    Just found you, and so happy I did! I made your Hot Cross Buns recipe, and it turned out great! I used bread flour and Instant Yeast. I also used a combo of raisins & cranraisins, along with some Cardamom and dark brown sugar. I used the inside of my gas oven for all of the risings (new for me), and got beautiful results. My flour and water paste was a little too runny, so my crosses came out a bit abstract! Finally, when they came out of the oven, I painted them with a mixture of 2 TBSPs of Apricot Jam and some hot water to make it more spreadable. Finally, I shared them with my neighbors because they are just so delicious. Thank you!!!
    P.S. Would love to share a picture of them, but wasn’t sure if I could.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Adrianne! Thank you so much for your positive feedback. Your hot cross buns sound incredible! We always love to see reader photos — feel free to share with us at [email protected] Thanks again!

  23. Adrianne Noroian says:

    Sorry, just wanted to clarify my comment; I used all the spices included in your recipe, with an addition of Cardamom and the zest of one orange.
    Thank you!

  24. I made these today as a test batch for Good Friday. They turned out AMAZING.
    Light and fluffy, absolutely perfect.

  25. Very little experience baking with yeast….always wanted to make my own Hot Cross Buns. They came out better than I ever expected-soft and fluffy with even texture. For the spices, I substituted Penzey’s Baking Spice (1 1/2 tsp.), and added a few drops of King Arthur’s Fiori Di Sicilia extract plus Orange Oil to the glaze, making the orange flavor bright and clear. Great recipe choice after looking at many….will make again!

  26. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

    Yes, absolutely! You can use buttermilk in place of regular milk in this recipe – same amount. Enjoy!

  27. Very complete descriptions for ingredients and methods, especially additional notes on freezing etc.

    Well done Sally!

  28. These look absolutely amazing Sally! I have been challenged to make these this year and I always go to you for the best yeasted and not yeasted recipes alike for the best and delicious results and careful explanations!
    Would it be possible to use sultanas, or would they break down too much?
    Also could I use the Mary Berry hot cross bun spice mix of 2tsp mixed spice and 1tsp cinnamon? Could I also add lemon zest and mixed peel and brush them with Golden Syrup, have never tried orange glaze. Thanks again!

    1. Hi Lonan, sultanas should be just fine in this dough. Feel free to use another mixture for the crosses or something else for the glaze. We haven’t tested those options, so let me know how yours turn out!

  29. The paste for the crosses was way too runny, even with 6T of water. I will try 4 or even 5T next time.

  30. I made this recipe on Wednesday. I used dried cranberries instead of raisins. So delicious! layers of flavor. Can’t wait to make them again.

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