Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Buns are an old English Easter tradition, and a recipe that has been on my to-make list for some time now (somehow it didn’t end up on my Top 100 though?!). Given the upcoming holiday and my yearning to bake something with yeast (I really need to start making home-baked bread a regular practice!), this seemed like a perfect time to tackle the spiced rolls. I waded through all of my cookbooks and found that, surprisingly, only a few had a recipe for these traditional rolls. I wasn’t sold on what I found, so I turned to some trusted food blogs and found the recipe that called out to me over at Simply Recipes. The dough was simple and straightforward, with tons of spice and a hint of citrus. Perfect!

The buns are traditionally made (and eaten) on Good Friday, and adorned with an icing cross to symbolize the crucifixion. The history of the buns goes back to the 18th century, when it was believed that the buns were eaten by Saxons in honor of the goddess Eostre, which is thought to be the origin of the name “Easter”. There are many current superstitions about the buns: that they will not go moldy if baked on Good Friday, that a piece of a hot cross bun will help someone who is ill recover, and sharing a hot cross bun will ensure friendship for the next year. They are also said to guard against shipwrecks, and if hung in the kitchen, to prevent fires and ensure perfectly baked bread.

It seems that this little bun has the weight of the world on its shoulders! So much to take care of! I’m happy enough to just eat it and enjoy how fluffy and moist the crumb is, how deliciously spicy and oozing of a fresh orange scent. These very much remind me of the Greek Celebration Bread that I made a couple of years ago. It’s likely that the two may be related if we trace the family tree back a few centuries!

One year ago: Soft and Chewy Sugar Cookies

Hot Cross Buns

Yield: 16 buns

Prep Time: 3 hours (includes inactive rise time)

Cook Time: 10 to 12 minutes per baking sheet

Total Time: 3 hours 15 minutes


1¼-ounce package active dry yeast (about 2½ teaspoons)
¾ cup warm milk, divided
3¼ to 3½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, divided
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 eggs, at room temperature
¾ cup currants
2 teaspoons grated orange zest

For the Glaze:
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk

For the Icing:
2 teaspoons milk
6 tablespoons powdered sugar


1. In a small bowl, stir together ¼ cup of the warmed milk and one teaspoon of the sugar. Sprinkle the yeast over the milk and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes until foamy.

2. In a large bowl or the mixing bowl of an electric mixer, vigorougly whisk together 3 cups of the flour (reserving additional flour for Step #4), the salt, spices, and the remaining ¼ cup of sugar.

3. Create a well in the flour and add the foamy yeast, butter, eggs and the remaining ½ cup of milk. Using a wooden spoon or the paddle attachment of your mixer, mix the ingredients on low speed until well incorporated. The mixture should be shaggy and quite sticky. Add in the currants and orange zest.

4. If you are using a stand mixer, switch to the dough hook attachment and start to knead on low speed. (If not using a mixer, use your hands to knead.) Slowly sprinkle in additional flour, a tablespoon at a time, kneading to incorporate after each addition, until the flour is still slightly tacky, but is no longer completely sticking to your fingers when you work with it.

5. Form a ball of dough in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. let sit, covered, at room temperature (or in a warm, draft-free spot) for about 2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in size.

6. Press down on the dough to gently compress it. Divide the dough into 16 equal pieces. Take the individual pieces and form them into rolls, placing them 1½ inches apart from each other baking sheets. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature (or a warm, draft-free spot) to rise again, until the rolls have doubled in volume, about 30 to 40 minutes.

7. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare the egg wash by whisking together one egg and a tablespoon of milk. Using a pastry brush, brush on the egg wash over the dough.

8. Place in the middle rack of the oven and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, until the buns are lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool on the pan for a few minutes, then transfer the buns to a wire rack to cool.

9. Wait until the rolls have cooled completely before painting the cross on top. Whisk together the milk and the powdered sugar. Place in a plastic sandwich bag and snip off a small piece from the corner of the bag (or use a pastry bag and decorating tip - I did this and used a #7 tip). Pipe two lines of frosting across each bun to make a cross.

(Recipe adapted from Simply Recipes)


31 Responses to “Hot Cross Buns”

  1. Jess Wakasugi on April 22, 2011 at 12:22 am

    I’ve never had Hot Cross Buns, don’t know how this is possible since I love any and all bread! But these look wonderful and definitely make my to-do list!


  2. Katrina on April 22, 2011 at 2:13 am

    Thanks so much for giving the background to these buns! I guess I could have looked it up, but I enjoyed reading your post 🙂


  3. Gwenevere on April 22, 2011 at 4:47 am

    OK so when I started reading this post I wasn’t so interested in hot cross buns, “meh” I thought. but then I got to the history part and I’m like, “wow that is so cool!” and now I want one? What is that called? – the Power of suggestion, persuasion? Or does it mean that I’m weak minded and will do anything that you tell me to? 🙂


  4. Mercedes on April 22, 2011 at 7:30 am

    I’ve always wanted to make hot cross buns, but have never really taken the time… Maybe I’ll find some time this weekend. They really do look delicious!


  5. Alexandra Owens on April 22, 2011 at 7:36 am

    Cannot tell you how excited I am to make these today! Besides all the other amazing things these little buns do – I wonder if they bring on Spring? Here in Calgary AB we still have a ton of snow so I’m hoping besides ensuring future bread don’t burn, these buns will bring on the sun and while we are at it could we add “help a toddler sleep past 5:30am” to the list………..oh well at least they will taste good! Thanks for posting – super excited!!!


  6. Paula on April 22, 2011 at 8:01 am

    We had these every Easter Sunday morning when I was growing up and for some reason I stopped the tradition. This post makes me want to start it up again. Happy Easter!


  7. Gastronome Tart on April 22, 2011 at 10:11 am

    I love Hot Cross Buns! Yours look scrumptious!


  8. Adora's Box on April 22, 2011 at 10:13 am

    Thank you for the history and story about the superstitious beliefs surrounding the hot cross buns. I’ll never look at a hot cross bun in the same way. You’ve made perfect ones. How lovely your kitchen must have smelled while you were baking them.


  9. Kelly on April 22, 2011 at 10:44 am

    These look fantastic! As always, you never disappoint! 🙂


  10. Amanda on April 22, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    Love hot cross buns, these are gorgeous!


  11. Laura on April 22, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    I’ve never heard of hot cross buns before. They look delicious! Thanks for the sharing the history behind these cute little buns. 🙂


  12. Wendy Faber on April 22, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    Hello to the Brown Eyed Baker! A friend of mine found you and turned me on to your site. Just a quick note to let you know how much I enjoy not just your recipes, but the little stories that go with the food. Thanks.


  13. Tracy on April 22, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    How fun; I never knew all the superstitions related to these little buns! I’ve never made them myself either so I’m bookmarking your recipe. They look delicious!


  14. Steph@stephsbitebybite on April 22, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    These look delish!! I’ve actually never had a hot crossed bun, but I want to put one of these in a bowl and pour some coffee over it!


  15. The Farmers Wife on April 22, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    Your Hot Cross Buns turned out gorgeous! I haven’t had one of these for years, but I do remember my grandmother made them every single Easter when I was a kid!


  16. Michelle on April 22, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    I used your recipe, and just baked these wonderful buns. I used dried cranberries, because they were the only fruit I had available, and they were fabulous! Thank you for posting this just when I went searching for a recipe!


  17. Meagan @ Scarletta Bakes on April 22, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    I was wondering why I kept coming across all of these hot cross buns – I never realized that they were an Easter tradition.

    I love the savory and sweet combination here, and especially your use of cardamom.

    Thanks for sharing!


  18. Jamie on April 22, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    Thanks for sharimg the recipe. It looks delicious. I think you maybe made a mistake above in that the Saxons would have been in the 8th century, not the 18th.


  19. Cookin' Canuck on April 22, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    Hot cross buns are a “must” for us on Easter weekend. I have eaten them ever since I was a kid and can’t imagine Easter brunch without them.


  20. sab on April 23, 2011 at 2:13 am

    think about baking thelm every year, but I dont


  21. Leslie on April 23, 2011 at 11:37 am

    Hot cross buns..Hot Cross Buns..Hot cross Buns.. I always sing the song!
    Happy Easter


  22. yasmeen on April 23, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    hello! first time here.

    hot cross buns are everywhere @ easter time here in australia. i recently made them for the first time with chocolate chips and chocolate crosses, and they were to die for!

    this recipe looks really yummy as well. i’ve gotten lots of inspiration from Simply Recipes as well 🙂

    -yasmeen @ wandering spice


  23. Sandra's Easy Cooking on April 24, 2011 at 1:05 am

    Those look lovely..Congrats on top 9!!!


  24. Peggy on April 24, 2011 at 8:55 am

    I’ve never made hot cross buns either! Good to know I have a great resource to turn to when I’m ready! These look fantastic!


  25. Tiffany on April 24, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    Picture perfect!


  26. Kathy on April 24, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    I made these today, they were delicious. They were a little too sticky to roll into balls so I ended up dropping them onto the cookie sheets. Perhaps a little more flour in the kneading stage would have prevented that. But they still turned out great. Thank you.


  27. Lindsey on April 26, 2011 at 9:51 am

    When I was younger my mom would make these, although I never was really a fan (don’t like raisins or currants too much in my baked goods), but they remind me of my childhood so very much.

    Speaking of bread baking, I have gotten back into it, and if you’re looking for a great book I highly recommend Peter Reinhart’s “Artisan Breads Everyday.” I have his much more involved “Bread Baker’s Apprentice” but the everyday book is so much easier and you can get some amazing bread recipes from it. My personal favorite right now is his 100% Whole Wheat Hearth Bread…..yum!


  28. Olivia on February 22, 2015 at 2:49 am

    Why do they go so brown? Pls reply I need it for an assignment !


  29. Jackie on March 15, 2016 at 10:49 am

    I was wondering if the bowl the dough rises in and the baking sheets need to be greased. I have been looking for a Hot Cross Bun recipe and these sound delicious. Thanks for your help


    • Michelle on March 15th, 2016 at 9:53 pm

      Hi Jackie, The bowl does not need to be greased; for the baking sheets, I would use parchment paper.


  30. SD on March 23, 2016 at 11:34 am

    I made these today and they turned out great! I’ve tried several hot cross bun recipes before and this one is definitely my favorite! Thank you!


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