Learn how to make homemade traditional hot cross buns for Easter weekend, flavoured with raisins, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves! These sweet buns are perfect sliced in half, toasted, served with lots of salted butter and a big cup of tea. This dough is kneaded in the mixer making this hot cross buns recipe easy because you don't have to knead the dough by hand.
What are hot cross buns?
Hot cross buns are a sweet, spiced bread made from an enriched yeast dough, meaning a bread dough that is enhanced with rich ingredients like eggs, milk, sugar, and butter (just like brioche, maple brioche buns, stollen bread, stollen buns, chocolate babka bread, chocolate babka buns, and even Turkish coffee cardamom buns).
A typical hot cross buns has a few characteristics:
- dried fruit, and/or candied citrus peel, like sultana raisins, golden raisins, currants, candied orange peel, candied lemon peel, or citron peel. These add-ins are mixed into the dough before the first rise
- sweet spices, like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. Hot cross buns would taste great with cardamom too!
- a cross, which can be piped on at two different stages:
- to add the cross before baking, make a simple flour and water paste and pipe it on BEFORE baking the hot cross buns. Personally, I tend to pipe on a flour paste mark before baking because I like to toast my hot cross buns and I don't think toasters and icing sugar paste go well together.
- to add the cross after baking, make a sweet white glaze from icing sugar and water and pipe on AFTER baking the hot cross buns, when they have cooled.
Why do they call them hot cross buns?
I always spend Easter week-end with my family, and we always have hot cross buns and tea in the afternoons. Usually, we buy the buns from Pâtisserie de Gascogne, but some years, I make hot cross buns from scratch (using a recipe that I tweaked from Donna Hay). As they bake, the scent of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves fills the house.
The combination of candied citrus peel and raisins, alongside the mixture of spices, are what make hot cross buns so special. I truly believe that these are better than any bun that you buy in a store. Trust me. Apparently hot cross buns are an old Anglican tradition. The buns have a cross piped onto them in reference to Good Friday. Hot cross buns are served to mark the end of Lent, specifically on Good Friday, though these days, they are enjoyed Easter weekend.
Use your stand mixer to make hot cross buns more easily
The secret to stress-free bread baking is to use the dough hook of your electric mixer. This hot cross buns recipe is easy because I made the dough with a KitchenAid mixer (the big 6 quart model from Amazon, but the smaller one from Amazon works too—I've tested this recipe in both!). Sure, you could knead hot cross buns dough by hand. Works like a charm! I guess I'm a little lazy, but I've had a lot of success kneading doughs with a mixer, so I don't do that by hand any more.
I tweaked the spice mixture, and used less flour than was called for in the original recipe (proof that I am getting better at making bread dough, I think!) but the amount of flour probably is dependent on the temperature, humidity, and the wheat used for the flour...
I baked the buns at 350ºF, as recommended by the original recipe, but I think next year, I might try 325ºF because some of the raisins were a little overdone at that high a temperature. Donna Hay used a gelatin glaze, but I took the opportunity to glaze with maple syrup which gives these hot cross buns a gorgeous shiny finish and a little sweet coating.
How to store hot cross buns
This recipe makes 12 hot cross buns which can seem like a lot or even too much for some families. Personally, I live alone, so I use my freezer to store these when I make this recipe and if I don't have the opportunity to share them with others:
- slice open half the buns they have cooled
- freeze them in a single layer on a parchment-lined sheet pan
- transfer to a freezer bag to store long-term
If you follow these steps, you should be able to store your hot cross buns for several months. When you want to have a bun, take one out of the freezer and toast it in a toaster, a toaster oven, or in a preheated oven. Slathered with lots of salted butter, nobody will realize the buns were frozen!
Substitutions & making this recipe without raisins
Hot cross buns are a must every year for Easter weekend. They are also a great way to use up the leftover raisins and candied peel from Christmas past so that you can start fresh around the holiday season. That being said, if you don't like raisins, make this recipe without them, and replace the raisins with the same volume of dried cranberries or dried cherries!
If you don't have any candied citrus peel, feel free to skip it and replace it with the same volume of raisins (if you like raisins) or use something else, like chopped crystallized ginger.
Another great idea: replace the raisins with dark chocolate chips for chocolate hot cross buns.
Frequently asked questions about hot cross buns
Add more flour and knead it in. Add up to 30 grams (¼ cup) at a time to avoid adding too much flour. Too much flour will lead to dense, tough buns.
Your best bet for determining if your buns are properly baked is to use a digital instant read thermometer. For buns made with eggs, milk, and butter, meaning enriched breads, the internal temperature should be 180–190°F (82–88°C) when baked.
The buns will be golden brown, but not dark when baked. The glaze is brushed on when the buns come out of the oven and it will make the colour pop and make the buns shine.
Easter hot cross buns
- 11.25 mL (2 ¼ tsp) instant yeast 1 packet
- 50 grams (¼ cup) granulated sugar
- 375 mL (1½ cups) milk (2 % fat) warmed to ~95°F
- 530 grams (4¼ cups) all-purpose flour
- 13.75 mL (2 ¾ tsp) ground cinnamon
- 2.5 mL (½ tsp) ground nutmeg
- 2.5 mL (½ tsp) ground ginger
- 1.25 mL (¼ tsp) ground cloves
- 58 grams (¼ cup) unsalted butter melted
- 1 (1 ) large egg room temperature
- 50 grams (¼ cup) granulated sugar
- 240 grams (1⅔ cups) sultana raisins I like to use a mixture of golden raisins and sultanas (or whatever I have in the cupboard)
- 55 grams (⅓ cup) candied citrus peel mix of orange and lemon
- 65 grams (½ cup) all-purpose flour
- 80 mL (⅓ cup) water
- 60 mL (¼ cup) pure maple syrup
- In a 2 cup measurer (or a small bowl), stir together the first three ingredients (yeast, sugar, and milk). Set aside to “bubble and grow” as you measure out the other ingredients.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, add the flour, spices, butter, egg, sugar, raisins, and candied peel. Mix on low for a minute, then add in the yeast mixture and mix on medium for 8 to 10 minutes (this is essential to get a good bun texture). The dough should not stick to the sides, but should feel slightly tacky when you press it with your fingers. If it’s too dry, sprinkle some water, and continue beating. If it’s too wet, add a couple teaspoons of flour (a little at a time) and beat.
- Form the dough into a ball and place it in a greased, large bowl (rolling it in the bowl to grease the dough). Cover the bowl with saran wrap.
- Let rise until the dough has doubled in size, in a warm, draft-free location, like in the oven with just the light turned on.
- Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Punch the dough down slightly, form a log. Divide the log into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and place on the prepared pans.
- Cover the pans with saran wrap and let the buns rise until they have doubled.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Prepare the cross dough: To form the crosses, mix the flour and the water, and pipe thinly onto the top of each bun just before baking. The dough should be thin enough to pipe, but thick enough not to spread.
- Bake the buns on the middle racks for 25 minutes, or until the buns are deep golden colour. If you are unsure, use a thermometer to check the middle: for buns made with eggs, milk, and butter, meaning enriched breads, the internal temperature should be 180–190°F (82–88°C) when baked.
- Remove the buns from the oven and brush with maple syrup a couple times as they cool (note that as the buns cool, the maple syrup will form a sweet sticky glaze on the buns). Serve the buns when they are slightly warm, with salted butter. You can reheat them in the oven the next day.