Make deliciously spiced and fruity Hot Cross Buns this Easter! This traditional hot cross buns recipe is irresistibly fluffy and topped with a glossy peach glaze for the ultimate Easter side dish.
Fluffy Homemade Hot Cross Buns for Easter
You don’t need to hit up your local bakery this Easter weekend in order to serve up some fresh and fragrant hot cross buns. All you need are a few basic baking ingredients and some rising time!
This recipe for fluffy homemade hot cross buns is a real keeper. You’ll see why – every bite is soft, perfectly spiced, and irresistibly buttery. Glossed over with a delectable peach glaze and drizzled with sweet sugar icing, you’re going to be blown away by how flavorful these homemade buns are.
What Is a Hot Cross Bun?
Hot cross buns are a type of sweet and spiced bun marked with a white cross, traditionally eaten around Easter. They’re usually filled with dried cranberries or raisins, and shaped a bit like a dinner roll with the sweetness of a pastry.
Why Do We Eat Hot Cross Buns on Easter?
These sweet buns date back to the 12th century when a monk baked the first hot cross buns in honor of Good Friday. The signature white cross is a symbol of the crucifixion, and the buns gained popularity to eventually become the Easter staple they are today!
What You’ll Need
Below is everything you’ll need to make fluffy hot cross buns from scratch, as well as the glaze and sweet icing. Don’t forget to refer to the recipe card further on for the full quantities and recipe details:
- Flour – The bun dough calls for bread flour, but feel free to use regular all-purpose flour if that’s what you have on hand. You’ll need additional flour to combine with water to make the “cross” on top of your buns.
- Instant Yeast – Any instant dry yeast will work. Make sure to check the expiration date on the packet.
- Light Brown Sugar – Brown sugar goes perfectly with the spices in this recipe, and also adds extra moisture to the dough.
- Spices – Ground cinnamon and allspice make these traditional buns irresistibly fragrant, while a pinch of salt balances the flavors.
- Butter and Egg – Use unsalted butter, otherwise skip any added salt if you’re using salted butter. A single egg helps give the dough structure and richness.
- Vanilla – For the best flavor, use pure vanilla extract.
- Orange Zest – Fresh citrus zest compliments the vanilla and warm spices perfectly.
- Milk and Cream – This bun recipe calls for whole-fat milk as well as heavy whipping cream. You can lighten things up with low-fat milk and half-and-half if you prefer.
- Dried Cranberries and Raisins – Many hot cross bun recipes include dried fruit like craisins or raisins. This recipe uses both! Feel free to use one or the other, or leave out the dried fruit if you’d prefer your buns without.
- Peach Jam – Thinning out peach jam with a bit of water makes an easy, sweet and glossy glaze to brush over the tops of these hot cross buns. Apricot jam also works.
- Confectioner’s Sugar – Also called powdered sugar, you’ll use it to make the icing.
How to Make Hot Cross Buns
You’ll begin by preparing the dough for your hot cross buns. This takes only a few minutes, followed by the first of two rises:
- Mix the dry ingredients. First, get out a large bowl and whisk together the dry yeast, flour, sugar, spices, and salt.
- Add the wet ingredients. Next, add in the butter, vanilla, orange zest, milk, heavy whipping cream, and egg, then fold in the cranberries and raisins.
- Knead the dough. Use your hands to combine everything into a loose dough. Afterward, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and continue to knead until you have a soft, smooth ball.
- First rise. Once your dough has come together, cover the bowl with a layer of plastic wrap and leave it somewhere to rest. This first rise takes about one hour, after which the dough should be doubled in size.
Shaping the Buns
While the dough completes its first rise, line a large baking tray with parchment paper. You’ll portion and shape your hot cross buns to arrange on the baking sheet before leaving them for another rise:
- Shape the buns. Punch down the dough, roll it into a ball, and then portion the dough into 14 equal-sized balls. Arrange the dough balls on your prepared baking sheet. Remember to leave a couple of inches in between each ball, to give the dough enough space to rise a second time.
- Second rise. With your buns assembled in the pan, give them a spritz with baking spray. Cover the buns with a kitchen towel and leave them to rise for another 40 minutes.
Baking and Finishing the Buns
Towards the end of the second rise, set your oven to preheat to 350ºF while you mix up the flour and water for the crosses:
- Make the crosses. Create a thickish paste by combining flour with water, then scoop the mixture into a piping bag. You can also use a Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off. Afterward, uncover the buns and pipe the paste in a “cross” across each top (see photo).
- Bake. Transfer the hot cross buns to the preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. The tops of the buns should be golden brown.
- Prepare the glaze and icing. To make the glaze, microwave peach jam with water and give it a mix. Next, whisk together the confectioner’s sugar with milk for a simple, sweet icing.
- Glaze and ice the buns. While the buns are hot from the oven, brush over a generous layer of peach glaze to give your buns a glossy finish. Leave your glazed hot cross buns aside to cool completely before drizzling the tops with icing, following the mark of the cross.
Can I Make the Dough Ahead?
Absolutely, and making the dough a day ahead actually encourages the flavors to develop. To get a headstart on your hot cross buns, prepare the dough right up until the second rise. Instead of letting the buns rise in the baking pan, place them into the fridge overnight.
The following day, take the buns out of the fridge and leave them to complete the second rise. This will take a bit longer when the dough is chilled from the fridge. Once the buns have risen, finish and bake them as directed.
Tips for Success
Here are some additional baking tips for turning out the absolute best hot cross buns:
- Check the expiry date on your yeast. Expired yeast, and also yeast that isn’t stored properly will yield a dough that doesn’t rise. Make sure the yeast you’re using is fresh by doing a quick test: combine a couple of spoonfuls of warm water with ¼ tsp yeast and a pinch of sugar. Leave the mixture to sit somewhere warm. After 5-10 minutes, the mixture should be foamy, which indicates the yeast is alive and kickin’.
- Measure the flour correctly. Too much flour will impact how the dough rises and will result in hard, dense buns. Use a kitchen scale, or your next best bet is the spoon and level method. Spoon the flour into the measuring cup, and level it off with a knife.
- Let the buns cool before icing. If you’re adding icing to your hot cross buns, make sure you budget enough time for them to cool to room temperature. Icing the buns while they’re still warm will cause the icing to melt off.
- Swap the raisins for chocolate chips. Not a fan of raisins? Or craving something more indulgent? Trade the raisins in this recipe for equal parts semi-sweet chocolate chips instead.
What to Serve With Hot Cross Buns
Homemade hot cross buns are the perfect traditional sweet treat to enjoy for breakfast, brunch, or dessert on Easter weekend (or any other time of the year). Slice the buns in half and slather them with butter to enjoy with your morning coffee or tea.
Or, serve hot cross buns next to more Easter brunch ideas like Baked Ham or Gluten Free Eggs Benedict, with a side of Roasted Artichoke Salad, Roasted Pepper and Gouda Quiche, or Cheesy Hashbrown Casserole.
How to Store Hot Cross Buns
These soft hot cross buns are best when served the day they’re baked. However, you can store leftovers for a day or two afterward. Store the baked buns airtight at room temperature, or in the fridge if you prefer. If your hot cross buns aren’t iced, you can warm them in the microwave slightly.
Can I Freeze Homemade Buns?
Hot cross buns freeze well, just store them airtight or tightly wrapped and pop them into the freezer for up to 1-2 months. Defrost the buns at room temperature.
Hot Cross Buns
For the buns:
- 5 cups bread flour
- 3.5 tsp instant dry yeast
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp allspice
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup milk
- 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 egg
- Zest from 1 orange
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 3/4 cup dried raisins
For the cross:
- 2/3 cup bread flour
- 6 tbsp water
For the glaze:
- 2 tbsp peach jam or preserves
- 5 tsp water
For the icing:
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 2 tbsp water
- Mix the dry ingredients. In a large bowl, combine the yeast, sugar, flour, cinnamon, allspice, and salt.
- Add the wet ingredients. Add the butter, vanilla extract, zest, milk, heavy whipping cream, egg, and cranberries.
- Knead the dough. Use your hands to mix the wet ingredients into the dry ones until a loose dough comes together. Transfer it to a clean surface and begin to knead it for 8-12 minutes. It should be soft and smooth.
- First rise. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set it aside to rest (away from the heat and sunlight). Let it rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
- Prepare the tray. Line a 9×13" baking sheet with parchment paper, leaving 2” of excess out the sides.
- Shape the buns. Punch the dough and remove all the air. Roll it into a ball again and divide it into 14 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a small ball.
- Arrange the tray. Place the balls of dough in the lined baking tray, leaving about 2-4" in between each one.
- Second rise. Lightly spray the buns with non-stick baking spray. Place a clean kitchen towel over them and let them rest again. Let them rise for 40 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Make the crosses. Mix the flour and water for the crosses until you form a thick paste. Transfer it to a piping bag or large Ziplock bag and snip the tip off. Use the mixture to draw one big cross across each bun.
- Bake. Pop the tray in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on the outside.
- Make the glaze. Place the jam and water in the microwave for 20 seconds. Mix well and set it aside.
- Make the icing. Mix the confectioners' sugar and milk until nice and smooth. Set it aside.
- Let the buns cool. Remove the buns from the oven and immediately brush the glaze over them. Set them on a wire rack to finish cooling completely.
- Add icing. Once fully cooled, drizzle icing over the buns in a cross-like fashion. Serve and enjoy.
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