These hot cross buns are sweet, lightly spiced and sooo fluffy! While it is traditional to make them for Good Friday, they are great all year round, whenever you are craving a nice treat. And if you believe in superstitions, share them with friends to strengthen your friendship for a whole year!

There’s nothing like fresh bread out of the oven! If you love baking bread, you will also like my Easter Dove Bread, Brioche Buns and Panettone.

A batch of hot cross buns on a wood board.

Hot cross buns!
Hot cross buns!
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot cross buns!
If you have no daughters,
Give them to your sons;
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot cross buns!

This sticky nursery rhyme inspired me to post this recipe for hot cross buns!

I’ve been perfecting them for the past year, and my kids gobble them down every time. But I finally got them perfect! Just the right amount of sweetness and spiced-ness, and also extra soft and fluffy.

A batch of hot cross buns fresh out of the oven with butter is what I call perfection!

I hope you enjoy them. Happy Good Friday!

An overhead photo of a batch of hot cross buns.

What Are Hot Cross Buns?

Hot cross buns are lightly spiced sweet buns, usually studded with dried fruit, marked with a cross on top. While nowadays they can be found and enjoyed year round, they were traditionally eaten on Good Friday in the United Kingdom, as well as Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, India, South Africa and even some parts of the United States and Canada.

They date back to the 12th century, when an Anglican monk marked buns with a cross in honor of Good Friday. The buns soon gained popularity around England as a symbol of Easter.

Towards the end of the 16th century, in England, Queen Elizabeth I issued a decree forbidding the sale of hot cross buns and other spiced breads, except for funerals, Good Friday or Christmas.

The English believed the buns were not only medicinal, but also magical, supposedly protecting those who ate it from evil spirits, preventing kitchen fires when hung in the kitchen, and even protecting ships from shipwreck if the voyagers took them at sea. So they started baking them clandestinely at home, as a way to get around the law!

My favorite Hot Cross Bun tale is an Irish one that says if you share a hot cross bun with someone, you will remain good friends with them for the next year. The old rhyme goes: “Half for you and half for me, between us two, good luck shall be.” ♥️

A photo of all the ingredients.

Ingredients

To make Hot Cross Buns, you will need:

  • Flour – You can use bread flour or all-purpose flour in this recipe. Since this is an enriched dough, I like using bread flour to make sure they withstand all the fat and add-ins, but it is personal preference!
  • Milk – For the softest buns, use whole milk. Yes, the recipe works with water, dairy free milk or low fat milk, but the texture just doesn’t compare.
  • Sugar – The sugar here acts not only as a flavor enhancer, but feeds the yeast and tenderizes the dough. It also gives the buns their beautiful golden color!
  • Yeast – This recipe calls for active dry yeast. You can use instant yeast – which wouldn’t have to be dissolved in the milk and proofed – but I personally prefer using active dry yeast, as proofing it guarantees that it is still alive!
  • Spices – I use ground cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.
  • Orange Zest and Vanilla Extract – For flavor!
  • Salt – Acts as a flavor enhancer and balances the sweetness.
  • Eggs – Provide flavor and structure.
  • Butter – For flavor and texture! Make sure your butter is softened, or it won’t mix into the dough.
  • Currants – Or raisins/cranberries/whatever dried fruit you prefer!
  • Apricot Jam – For the glaze.
The inside of a hot cross bun.

How to Make Hot Cross Buns

You will notice that my recipe calls for a stand mixer. You can absolutely mix and knead by hand, but I like the convenience of letting technology do it for me, especially with sticky doughs.

And on that note, this dough is a little sticky! Don’t be tempted to add more flour just because the dough is sticking a bit to your hands.

However, if your dough is soggy and not releasing from the bowl, then go ahead and add a little more flour until it comes together.

Recommended tools and equipment: saucepan, stand mixer, proofing container, baking sheet, parchment paper, piping bag, brush.

Here’s how I make these hot cross buns. As always, you will find the printable (and more complete) version of the recipe at the end of this post!

Step 1: Proof the yeast.

  • Heat the milk with 20 grams of sugar until the sugar has dissolved and the milk is beginning to steam. Remove from heat and let it cool to lukewarm (between 100ºF and 110ºF).
  • Stir in the active dry yeast, cover and let it proof for 10 minutes. After those 10 minutes, you should see the yeast foaming up. That means it is alive and ready to go!

Step 2: Mix the dry ingredients.

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the flour, remaining sugar, spices, salt and orange zest.

Step 3: Mix, Proof and Shape the Dough.

  • Using your stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment, combine the dry ingredients with the activated yeast and milk, vanilla extract and eggs. Let the machine knead on low until a dough forms.
  • When that happens, start adding the butter, a tablespoon at a time. After all the butter is incorporated, knead the dough on medium-high for 3 minutes. The dough will be soft and sticky but shouldn’t be soggy. If that’s the case, go ahead and add some more flour, just until the dough pulls from the sides of the bowl.
  • Cover the bowl with a towel and let the dough rest for 15 minutes.
  • Add the currants and knead for another 3 minutes.
  • Transfer the dough to a proofing bucket (or bowl) and let it rise for 1-2 hours, or until doubled in size.
  • Punch dough to deflate and divide into 15 equal parts, forming each into a smooth ball. Place the balls in a large baking sheet, lined with parchment paper. Cover and let them rise for 30 minutes to 1 hour, or until they look puffed. They might not double in size.

Step 4: Pipe the crosses.

  • In a bowl, combine flour and water to create a paste. The paste should be the right consistency to be pipeable. If too liquidy, it will slide off the buns; and if too stiff, it will be hard to pipe and can get hard after baked.
  • Pipe the crosses on the buns.

Step 5: Bake and glaze the hot cross buns!

  • Bake at 375ºF for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
  • Mix the apricot jam with water and heat in the microwave to liquify. If your jam is the chunky kind, strain the hot mixture to get rid of the solid bits.
  • Brush the glaze on the buns while they are still hot.
  • Let the buns cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Olivia’s Tips

  • I highly recommend using a scale for accuracy! Measuring cups vary in volume, so your best bet is to use the metric measurements.
  • Don’t skip proofing the active dry yeast! If your yeast is expired, your buns will not rise.
  • The rising of the dough will depend on how warm your kitchen is. Since this is an enriched dough, it can take up to 2 hours in a colder climate to double in size!
  • You can do the first rising overnight in the fridge, if desired.
  • These buns are best eaten the day their were baked, preferably fresh out of the oven! If eating the next day I recommend toasting them or reheating in the oven.
Hot cross buns on a wood board and a buttered bun on the side.

Serving Hot Cross Buns

I like to serve them warm, with butter! A nice cup of coffee or latte on the side is also a great call.

Variations

There are so many ways you can customize your hot cross buns!

Here are some suggestions:

  • Add mini chocolate chips! 😋
  • Add diced apples, like Paul Hollywood.
  • Substitute or add more spices, like cardamon or ginger.
  • Make savory hot cross buns, with cheese, bacon or prosciutto.
  • Switch the dried fruits for nuts. Or add both!
  • Make a hot cross loaf instead.
An overhead photo of some hot cross buns on a wire rack, some on a wood board and a kitchen towel.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long will the buns last?

Despite the tale that says that hot cross buns baked on Good Friday never go stale, they certainly do, after 3-4 days. You can keep them in an airtight container at room temperature.

Can I freeze them?

Yes, you can freeze them for up to 2 months. Just make sure to cool them completely and wrap with both plastic and foil, to prevent freezer burns.

When ready to eat, thaw overnight in the fridge or on the counter, and reheat.

How do I reheat the buns?

Reheat in a toaster oven, regular oven or microwave.

More Easter Recipes:

Did you make this recipe? I love hearing from you! Please comment and leave a 5-star rating below. You can also take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #oliviascuisine.

Hot Cross Buns

These hot cross buns are sweet, lightly spiced and sooo fluffy! While it is traditional to make them for Good Friday, they are great all year round, whenever you are craving a nice treat.
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Ingredients  

For the buns:

  • 300 ml (about 1 ¼ cups + 1 tablespoon) whole milk
  • 80 grams (about ½ cup) sugar
  • 7 grams (about 1 ½ teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 500 grams (about 3 ¾ cups) bread flour or all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 70 grams (about 5 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 140 grams (about 1 cup) dried currants or raisins

For the crosses:

  • 75 grams (about ½ cup + 1 tablespoon) flour
  • 5 to 6 tablespoons water

For the glaze:

  • 3 tablespoons apricot jam
  • 1 tablespoon water

Equipment

  • Stand Mixer
  • Saucepan
  • Baking Sheet
  • Pastry brush

Instructions 

  • In a saucepan, heat the milk with 20 grams of sugar (about 2 tablespoons) until the sugar has dissolved and the milk is starting to steam. Remove from heat and let it cool to lukewarm (100ºF – 110ºF).
  • Stir the active dry yeast into the lukewarm milk. Cover with a towel and let it bloom for 10 minutes, or until it is foamy.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, remaining sugar, salt, spices and orange zest.
  • With the mixer running on low, pour the milk and yeast, vanilla extract and add the eggs. Let the machine knead this mixture until a dough starts forming, then start adding the butter, one tablespoon at a time.
  • Once the butter is completely incorporated, knead the dough on medium-high for 3 minutes. After 3 minutes, turn the mixer off, cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let it rest for 15 minutes.
  • Sprinkle the currants over the dough and knead again, on medium-high, for 3 more minutes.
  • Transfer the dough to a proofing container or a bowl covered with a towel. Let it rise for 1 to 2 hours, or until doubled in size.
  • Punch the inflated dough down and divide it into 15 equal parts. Form each part into a smooth ball and place them in a paper towel lined baking sheet, leaving 1 ½ to 2 inches in between them so they can expand. Cover with a towel and let them rise for 30 minutes to 1 hour, or until almost doubled in size.
  • Preheat oven to 375ºF with a rack in the middle.
  • Once the buns are done rising for the second time, make the flour paste by mixing the 75 grams of flour with the water. Add the water one tablespoon at a time, until you achieve a thick but runny consistency that can be piped.
  • Transfer the paste to a piping bag and cut the tip off with scissors. Pipe the crosses onto the buns.
  • Bake the buns for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Remove from the heat and let them cool slightly.
  • While the buns are baking, heat the jam with water in the microwave for 15 seconds. Strain into a bowl and them brush on the warm buns.
  • Let the buns sit for 10-15 minutes so the glaze can set, then serve!

Notes

Make Ahead
You can mix the dough and do the first rise in the fridge overnight. The next day, shape the balls, proof for the second time and bake.
Storage
Store the baked buns in an airtight container, at room temperature, for up to 4 days.
Freezing
Freeze the buns after they have cooled completely, tightly wrapped with plastic and foil. They will keep for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge or on the counter before reheating.
Reheating
Reheat in a toaster, toaster oven, regular oven or microwave.

Nutrition

Calories: 254kcal, Carbohydrates: 44g, Protein: 7g, Fat: 6g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 37mg, Sodium: 177mg, Potassium: 169mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 15g, Vitamin A: 203IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 45mg, Iron: 1mg