Hot Cross Buns for Easter

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Hot cross buns are made from a spiced yeast dough, raisins, and have an added sweetness from brown sugar.

A pan of hot cross buns with glaze and a white cross on top.

Let me start by saying that Hot Cross Buns are often on my mind.  Why?  My classroom is next to the music room at school and for weeks the beginning band learns how to play the song Hot Cross Buns. 

I will honestly admit that I’ve never had a hot cross bun before.  In fact I didn’t even really know what they were.   I’ve seen photos of them but I haven’t even seen them in a bakery before.

This year I was determined to make a batch of them before the Easter holiday.  The reason they are associated with Easter is due to the cross that is on top of the buns.

I had all the ingredients I needed to make the buns so all I needed to do was find a day when I could allow the dough to rise and get baking.


  • milk (whole milk is preferred but you can use 2% or skim if needed)
  • dry active yeast (make sure it’s in date!)
  • brown sugar (I prefer light brown sugar but you can use dark as well)
  • unsalted butter
  • vanilla extract (you could also use vanilla paste if you prefer)
  • eggs
  • salt
  • cinnamon
  • nutmeg
  • cloves (these are optional and you can use allspice if you prefer)
  • flour (I use all purpose but you can also use bread flour)
  • raisins (regular or golden)
  • craisins (dried cranberries)

How do you make Hot Cross Buns?

While there are many steps and rises in order to make these buns here are the basic steps to making them.

  • Make the dough.
  • Knead the dough for 2-3 minutes.
  • Cover the dough and let it rise for 1-2 hours.
  • Punch down the dough and then divide into pieces.  Shape each piece into a bun.
  • Let the buns rise for 1 hour.
  • Pipe the flour crosses on top of the buns.
  • Bake the buns for 20-25 minutes or until they are golden brown.

Making these Easter rolls is not difficult but it is time consuming.  I find that whenever I make a yeast bread I like to make it on the weekend because I have more time.

A bowl with Hot Cross Bun dough.

What are Hot Cross Buns?

Hot cross buns are a spiced, sweet bun usually made with some type of fruit.  They are marked with a cross on top and often mark the end of the Lenten season and are served at Easter.

What is the cross on top made of?

The cross on top is traditionally made out of a flour paste.  I went the traditional route and made the cross on top of mine with flour.  However, more up to date recipes now put a cross made out of icing on top of the buns.

So I started making the dough.  Everything gets mixed together, except for the fruit, in a large bowl.  Then the dough is kneaded until it is soft and smooth.   Then it’s put in the bowl and rises until it has doubled in size.

Then the dough is punched down and the fruit is gently kneaded into the dough.  Divide the dough into 12-14 pieces and shape them into rolls.

How do I freeze Hot Cross Buns?

After shaping the dough into rolls place the shaped buns in a greased baking pan and freeze for at least 4 hours.   Place the frozen buns in a freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months.  When ready to serve them, arrange the dough in a greased baking pan, cover, and let thaw and rise for 4 hours.  Then preheat the oven and follow the remaining instructions. 

Once the buns have risen for a second time I made the flour paste for the cross.  You can either put the flour mixture in a piping bag or in a zip top baggie and snip off the end.   Pipe the flour mixture in a cross shape on top of the buns.

Bake the buns until they are golden brown on the top.  You will notice that the cross on top will be white while the buns themselves will be a golden color.  Remove from oven and cool completely.  

Pin Image:  A pan of hot cross buns with glaze and a white cross on top, text title, a collection of ingredients to make the buns.

Can I glaze the Hot Cross Buns?

If you want to make a glaze you can..  Wait until they have cooled somewhat then mix a half cup of powdered sugar with a teaspoon of vanilla and 1-2 tablespoons of milk.   Mix well and brush over top of the warm rolls.   You can also substitute orange juice for the milk and make an orange glaze.

These buns are really delicious.  They are soft, sweet, and lightly spiced.  The raisins add a nice bit of sweetness and fruitiness to the mix.  

Hot cross buns can be enjoyed for breakfast like a sweet roll or served after dinner as a dessert.   Have them at Easter or anytime you enjoy a sweet and spiced roll.

More Easter Bread Recipes:

If you’ve tried my Hot Cross Buns or any other recipe on Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks please take a minute to rate the recipe and leave a comment letting me know how you liked it. I love hearing from you! You can FOLLOW ME on:

A pan of hot cross buns with glaze and a white cross on top.

Hot Cross Buns

Yield: 12-14 rolls
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Additional Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 50 minutes

Hot cross buns are made from a spiced yeast dough, raisins, and have an added sweetness from brown sugar.


For the buns:

  • 3/4 c. whole milk (110 degrees)
  • 2 1/4 teaspoon dry active yeast
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1/3 c. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3 1/2 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. raisins
  • 1/2 c. craisins

For the cross:

  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 6-8 Tablespoons water


  1. In a large mixing bowl combine the warm milk and the yeast. Mix and let sit for 5 minutes or until it becomes foamy.
  2. Add the brown sugar, butter, vanilla, eggs, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and 1 cup of flour to the milk mixture.
  3. Use a dough hook or paddle attachment and mix with a stand mixer on low speed for 1 minute or until just combined.
  4. Add the remaining flour, raisins, and craisins, and continue to mix on low speed for 2-3 minutes. Dough should be soft and a little sticky.
  5. Turn the dough onto a flour covered surface and knead for 5 minutes.
  6. Spray a large bowl with cooking spray and place the ball of dough in the bowl. Cover and let rise 1-2 hours or until the dough has almost doubled in size.
  7. Grease a 9 x 13 baking pan or 2 nine inch baking pans. Set aside.
  8. Punch down the dough and divide into 12-14 pieces. Shape each piece of dough into a ball shape and pinch together the seam at the bottom.. Place the rolls, seam side down, in the prepared baking pan.
  9. Cover and let the rolls rise for 1 hour.
  10. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  11. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour and water for the flour cross. You want the paste to be thick enough to pipe and hold its shape. Place the mixture in a piping bag or zip top baggie and pipe a cross on top of each roll.
  12. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the buns are golden brown.
  13. Remove from oven and cool. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
  14. If you'd like to make a glaze combine 1/2 cup of powdered sugar with 1-2 Tablespoons orange juice and mix well. Brush over top of the buns.


Recipe adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction

A pan of hot cross buns in a baking dish.

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