Wholesome, fruity, and lightly sweet, Hot Cross Buns are a traditional yeast bun flavored with cinnamon, cloves, orange zest, rum, and more. Enjoy these timeless treats at Easter, or anytime!
The Perfect Hot Cross Buns Recipe
Have you ever made homemade hot cross buns? If you’d like to try baking some this year, this is the recipe for you. It is super easy to make, and the buns turn out beautifully fluffy, sweet, and shiny. They’re a classic Easter baked good, and I have found that when this time of year rolls around, everyone looks forward to them – even people who don’t necessarily like raisins!
In this recipe, rum-soaked raisins become tart-yet-sweet little morsels studded throughout buttery, fluffy yeast rolls. These rolls are lightly sweetened, but not too sweet, and are fragrant with a Christmas-like blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and other warming spices. Orange zest and vanilla round out the flavor profile, while white crosses and a shiny glaze give the hot cross buns that traditional look.
So let’s make some old-fashioned hot cross buns! Super tasty, and so wholesome. I’m sure you’re going to love this recipe just as much as I do (and that’s saying something because I really love this recipe).
What Is the Significance of Hot Cross Buns?
These fluffy, fragrant buns are usually served around Good Friday, as part of the Easter holiday. The cross on top symbolizes the cross on which Jesus died, while the spices symbolize the myrrh and other fragrant spices associated with Jesus’ burial. The “hidden” raisins in the dough represent Jesus’ body, hidden in the tomb. And the sweetness represents the resurrection. Lots of symbolism in one little baked treat!
Hot cross buns have been an Easter tradition since the middle ages! But although they are often made as part of an Easter celebration, they are also a cozy, classic treat that you can enjoy anytime.
The Ingredients You’ll Need
Let’s talk ingredients! You’ll notice that I use rum to soak my raisins, but if you’d prefer not to use alcohol, that is totally fine. Juice, hot tea, or just plain water are all perfectly good substitutions. Here’s the complete list, in detail:
For the Dough
- Rum: Soaking the raisins before baking makes them extra plump and tasty! As I mentioned, I like rum for this, but you can use whatever you like.
- Raisins: Golden raisins look beautiful and taste great, but regular raisins are also fine.
- Instant Yeast: You can substitute active dry yeast, if you prefer, but it may need a slightly longer rising time.
- Sugar: Using brown sugar and granulated sugar together gives these rolls a warm, honeyed flavor and pleasing texture.
- Milk: Warm the milk to just above body temperature – not hot, and not cold.
- Flour: All-purpose flour is best for making hot cross buns. If you use gluten-free flour, make sure it is designed to work with yeast!
- Spices: Ground cinnamon, allspice, and cloves, as well as freshly grated nutmeg, give this recipe a special holiday taste.
- Orange Zest: Make sure not to get any of the white pith from the inner orange peel in your zest. Pith is very bitter!
- Butter: Soften the butter to room temperature.
- Eggs: Use room temperature, large, whole eggs, plus one extra egg yolk. Save the egg white for making the egg wash.
For the Egg Wash
- Egg: The leftover egg white from making the dough.
- Milk or Water: Use whichever you like.
For the Piped Crosses
- Flour: While some recipes use frosting to make the crosses, I do a traditional flour paste, but slightly sweetened with sugar and vanilla.
- Sugar: Granulated white sugar is fine.
- Water: To thin the paste to the right consistency.
- Vanilla: Pure vanilla extract gives the best flavor.
For the Sweet Glaze
- Sugar: Sifted confectioners’ sugar creates a smooth, creamy glaze.
- Milk: Just a little, to get the right consistency.
How to Make Hot Cross Buns, Step by Step
I wasn’t kidding when I said that making hot cross buns is easy, especially if you’re already used to working with yeast. Even if you are new to yeast dough, no worries. With just a few simple, straightforward steps, you’ll be on your way to baking up this delightful recipe.
- Prep the Raisins and the Yeast. Place the rum and raisins together in a bowl or mug, and heat in the microwave until piping hot. Then let them rest for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, mix the yeast, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and warm milk together in a bowl. Stir it well, and let it sit for five minutes or so. It should become frothy. If it doesn’t, your yeast is no longer active, and you will need to start over with new yeast.
- Mix the Dough. Pour the yeast mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer, along with the all-purpose flour, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, salt, and orange zest. Stir to combine. Add the butter and eggs to the mixer, use the paddle attachment to mix until combined. At this point, add the raisins and the rum, and mix again.
- Knead the Dough. Switch to the dough hook attachment. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes at speed 2. The dough is ready when it is stretchy and smooth.
- First Rise. Take the dough out of the mixer, form it into a ball, and then return it to the bowl. Cover with a clean tea towel, or a piece of plastic wrap. Place the bowl in a warm place, and let it rise until it is doubled in size. Depending on how warm your kitchen is, this should take about an hour.
- Shape the Hot Cross Buns. Once the dough has risen, spray a baking pan with cooking spray, or lightly grease it with oil. Divide the dough into two equal pieces, and then divide each of those piece into 6 equal pieces, making 12 small pieces total. Roll each piece of dough into a ball, and place them on the pan.
- Second Rise: Lightly beat the egg white and milk, and brush this mixture over the tops of the buns. Cover them again with a clean tea towel or piece of plastic wrap, put them in a warm place, and let them rise until doubled.
- Make the Piped Crosses. Once the hot cross buns have risen, combine the flour, sugar, water, and vanilla together in a small bowl. Mix well and spoon into a piping bag with a small, circular piping tip. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Carefully pipe a small line across the roll, starting close to the bottom on one side, and across to the bottom of the other side. Turn the roll, and pipe another line to make a cross. Repeat with each roll.
- Bake the Hot Cross Buns. Place the pan in the preheated oven, and bake the hot cross buns for about 20 minutes, or until the rolls are golden. Allow them to cool for 10 minutes before glazing.
- Glaze and Serve. Finally, mix together the confectioners’ sugar, milk, and vanilla in a small bowl. Spoon this glaze over the warm rolls, and serve!
Why Are My Hot Cross Buns Heavy?
Hot cross buns are supposed to be on the dense or substantial side, but sometimes they can just turn out heavy. The main reasons for heavy or hard rolls are under- or overmixing. Undermixing doesn’t allow the yeast to fully mix into the dough, and overmixing kills it. It may also be that your yeast already died, or expired. So be careful to mix just until you get the right smooth and elastic texture, and to use fresh, active yeast!
Questions? Here are a few helpful tips that can help you get started better. But seriously, don’t worry over your hot cross buns. You got this!
- Piping: If you don’t have a piping bag, a Ziploc bag works great! Fill it with the icing and cut a small (super small) hole in the corner of it. Pipe the icing mixture through the hole.
- Flour: Spoon the flour into the measuring cup so that it doesn’t get packed. Level off the excess with the back of a butter knife.
- Nutmeg: While this recipe calls for freshly grated nutmeg, you can use ground nutmeg as well.
- Cinnamon: Adjust the cinnamon according to your taste – and note that using less cinnamon may result in a fluffier, less dense texture.
- Optional Add-Ins: From candied citrus peel to dried fruit to chopped nuts, you can add all kinds of goodies to these hot cross buns!
Storing and Reheating Hot Cross Buns
- To easily store your hot cross buns, keep them in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to 5 days.
- To reheat your hot cross buns, heat them in the oven or microwave until warmed through. (Keep in mind that the icing may run a bit after reheating.)
Can I Freeze This?
Sure can! These hot cross buns are best eaten fresh, but if need be, you can freeze them. To do this, cook them down and pack them into an airtight container, or freezer bag. Store in the freezer for up to one month, and thaw before serving or reheating.
Hot Cross Buns
For the Dough
- ¼ cup rum, or apple juice
- 1 ½ cup golden raisins
- 3 teaspoons instant yeast
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 ¼ cups warm milk
- 4 ½ cups all purpose flour, or bread flour
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons orange zest
- 6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
- 2 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk (save the white for the top)
For the Egg Wash
- 1 egg white
- 1 tablespoon milk or water
For the Piped Crosses
- ½ cup all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon granulated white sugar
- ¼ cup water
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Glaze
- ½ cup confectioners sugar, sifted
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon milk
- Combine the rum and raisins together in a bowl and heat in the microwave until very hot. Allow to sit for 15 minutes.
- In a bowl, combine the yeast, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and the warm milk. Stir well and let sit till frothy. (If it doesn’t get frothy, your yeast is dead and you will need to begin again with new yeast.) If your yeast is fresh, you can skip this step altogether and move to step 3.
- Add the yeast mixture along with the flour, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, salt and orange zest to the bowl of a stand mixer and combine.
- Add the butter and eggs to the mixer and mix with the paddle until combined. Add the raisins and rum and combine.
- Using the dough hook attachment, knead the dough for about 5 minutes on 2 speed. The dough is ready when it is stretchy and smooth.
- Gather the dough in your hand and form a ball, then place back in the bowl. Cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap. Place in a warm place and let it rise till doubled in size, about an hour.
- Spray a baking pan with cooking spray. Remove the dough and divided into two equal pieces, divide each piece into 6 equal pieces, or 12 total.
- Take each piece of dough and roll it into a ball, then place in the pan.
- Combine the egg white and milk and brush over the tops of the rolls. Cover with a tea towel and let rise until doubled.
- Mix the flour, sugar, water and vanilla together in a small bowl. Place in a piping bag with a small circle piping tip, or use a ziplock bag instead. Then clip off the very end of the bag to create a very small hole.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Starting near the bottom of one side of a roll, slowly pipe a small line across the roll to the bottom of the other side. Turn the roll to make a cross and pipe another line across the roll making the X in the middle. Repeat piping over each roll.
- Place the pan in the oven and bake for 20 minutes until the rolls are golden. Allow the rolls to cool for 10 minutes.
- In a small bowl, combine the confectioners sugar, milk, and vanilla. Spoon the glaze over the warm rolls and serve.
More Sweet Easter Recipes
- Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies
- Easter Egg Peanut Butter Haystack Nests
- Lemon Bars
- Robin’s Egg Layered Easter Cake
- Cool Whip Easter Eggs
- Easy Ambrosia Salad
- Carrot Cake Cupcakes
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