Traditional Hot Cross Buns Recipe

Traditional Hot Cross Buns are an Easter classic but they are so good, I could eat them all year round! These buns are spiced bread speckled with dried fruit, brushed with a sweet citrus glaze!

As soon as a slight Spring air is present and tiny bits of green emerge in my yard, I start to think about traditional Spring baking recipes like these Traditional Hot Cross Buns that I can pull out and make again.

I think that Hot Cross Buns would be welcome any time of year because they are simply delicious. These spiced buns are studded with dried fruit and topped with a signature ‘x’ or cross on top

These traditional Hot Cross Buns are easier than you think to make!

Traditional Hot Cross Buns

Traditional Hot Cross Buns go back as far as 12th century England. The story goes that an Anglican monk baked the spiced and fruited buns and marked them with a cross in honor of Good Friday. The spices are said to represent the spices that were used to embalm Jesus after his death.

An Easter Treat - Hot Cross Buns

Proofing Hot Cross Buns

Traditional Hot Cross Buns are made with an enriched dough. Adding eggs, butter, spices, and dried fruits will all slow down the yeast and cause the buns to rise more slowly.

Please be patient with these little babies. They will be well worth the wait so don’t rush them! The flavor is amazing but takes time to develop.

You can use whatever dried fruit that you have on hand. I used chopped dried figs and apricots. Feel free to use raisins, dried currants, or dried cranberries.

If you don’t have candied citrus peel, just leave it out or replace it with citrus zest. Either one really brightens up the flavor of the dough.

Also, I have used a citrus glaze on top of these buns. Traditional Hot Cross Buns are brushed with warmed and strained apricot jam. I wanted to make these a bit sweeter and almost dessert worthy so I opted for a sweeter glaze. Feel free to just brush with jam if you don’t want to approach dessert domain! But please do brush them with something.

How to Make Traditional Hot Cross Buns

Step 1. Make the Dough

You can make the dough by hand if you do not have a stand mixer. This is a wet and sticky dough so I recommend using a bench scrapper to help move the dough around and lift it off the counter as you knead.

I prefer to use a stand mixer to save time and mess. If you have one, now if the time to use it!

Step 2. Proof the Dough

Make sure to coat your bowl with some cooking spray or a little oil before putting your dough in it to proof. This step can take any where from 1 to 2 hours, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.

If it is really chilly in your house, proof the dough in the oven with the light on but the oven OFF! This is a warm place with no drafts so it is perfect for proofing!

Step 3. Shape the Hot Cross Buns

Punch the dough down to knock out the air. Then divide it into fifteen equal pieces. I use a scale to make sure that they are exactly the same size but you can also eyeball it!

Form a ball by pulling the edges under to the bottom. Pinch the bottom closed and roll on the counter with a cupped hand to create some tension on the top. Place in the pan that you will bake in.

Step 4. Let them Rise!

Yeasted dough usually requires a second rise at room temperature before being baked. The time of this rise will again depend on the temperature in your house. It should take about an hour. Make sure they are covered when rising to prevent a dry skin from forming on the top which will hinder the rise!

Step 5. Preheat your Oven and Make the Paste for the Cross

Make sure the oven is at baking temperature prior to putting your rolls in the oven. It is best to preheat it to the desired temperature for at least 30 minutes before baking.

Mix up the ingredients for the paste and put the paste into a piping bag or a siploc bag with a smal bit of the corner snipped off.

Step 6. Pipe on the Cross

You can pipe one line of the cross all the way across and then a line in the other direction. There is no need to cross each bun individually!

Step 7. BAKE!

Keep an eye on the buns after about 20 minutes. Every oven is different and baking times vary.

Step 8. Brush with Glaze

Traditional Hot Cross Buns are brushed with a warm apricot glaze while the buns are still warm. I have made a citrus glaze for this recipe and I think it is divine! Use whichever one you prefer or have on hand!

Overnight Instructions:

Prepare the recipe through step 6. Cover the shaped buns tightly and refrigerate for up to about 15 hours. At least 3 hours before you need them the next day, remove the buns from the refrigerator, keep covered, and allow to rise on the counter for about 1-2 hours before baking. Alternatively, you can let the dough have its 1st rise in the refrigerator overnight. Cover the dough tightly and place in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours. Remove from the refrigerator and allow the dough to fully rise for 2 more hours. Continue with step 5.

Freezing Hot Cross Buns

The beautiful thing about these Hot Cross Buns is that you can make the whole batch and freeze some prior to baking.

A lot of people are not baking right now because they simply can’t (or shouldn’t!) eat a whole cake or a whole batch of rolls before they go bad.

That’s why I opt for smaller batches or large batches that can be saved for later.

I also love that I can essentially do all the work once and then have fresh rolls a couple of times. Once you make this dough through step 6, just follow the directions below to freeze half the batch (or more). You’ll be able to have fresh Hot Cross Buns whenever you get a craving or need a pre-made option!

Freezing Instructions: 

Prepare recipe through step 6. Place shaped buns in a greased baking pan, cover tightly, and freeze for up to 3 months. Once frozen, the dough balls won’t stick together anymore and you can place them in a freezer bag if needed. On the day you serve them, arrange the dough balls in a greased baking pan, cover tightly, then let them thaw and rise for about 4-5 hours. Continue with step 8. You can also freeze the baked hot cross buns. Allow them to cool completely, then freeze without icing for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature, then reheat as desired and add icing.

Hot Cross Buns

If you like my Traditional Hot Cross Buns, then you will love these recipes!

Peach and Ginger Courrone

Cinnamon Star Bread

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Hot Cross Buns

Recipe by Tanya Ott


Prep time


Cooking time



Hot Cross Buns are a traditional bake for Easter! There is about 20 minutes of active time but 2 to 3 hours of inactive time for proving the dough.


  • For the Buns
  • 180 mL (3/4 cup) milk, any kind, warmed to 110 degrees F

  • 1 tsp granulated sugar

  • 2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast

  • 100 grams (1/2 cup) light brown sugar

  • 2 Tablespoons greek yogurt, at room temperature

  • 70 grams (5 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 2 eggs, at room temperature

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom

  • 1/4 ground nutmeg

  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice

  • 460 grams (2 2/3 cups) all-purpose flour, divided

  • 140 grams (1 cup) dried fruit such as raisins, figs, apricots, finely chopped

  • 20 grams (3 Tablespoons) candied citrus peel, chopped, optional

  • For the Flour Cross
  • 60 grams (1/2 cup) all-purpose flour

  • 7 to 8 Tablespoons water

  • For the Icing Glaze
  • 120 grams (1 cup) powdered sugar

  • About 3 Tablespoons orange juice of milk, depending on your preference


  • Make the Buns
  • Whisk together the warm milk, yeast, and granulated sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a dough hook or in a large bowl if you will make this by hand. Allow to sit for 5 minutes until yeast becomes frothy.
  • In a medium bowl, mix together the brown sugar, butter, yogurt, eggs, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom, and 125 grams (1 cup) of the flour. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds or stir by hand. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, then add the remaining flour and the dried fruit. Beat on medium speed until the dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 2 minutes. The dough should be a little sticky and soft. If it’s too sticky and not pulling away from the sides of the bowl, mix in additional flour 1 Tablespoon at a time just until it comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
  • Beat for 2 minutes or knead by hand on a lightly floured surface for 4 minutes.
  • Lightly grease a large bowl with oil or nonstick spray. Place the dough in the bowl, turning it to coat all sides in the oil. Cover the bowl and allow the dough to rise in a warm environment for 1-2 hours or until double in size. 
  • Grease a 9×13 inch baking pan. You can also bake the rolls in a cast-iron skillet or on a lined baking sheet.
  • When the dough is ready, punch it down to release the air. Divide the dough into 15 roughly equal pieces. Shape each piece into a smooth ball, pinching it on the bottom to seal. Arrange in prepared baking pan.
  • Cover shaped rolls and allow to rise until puffed up and almost doubled in size again, about 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C).
  • Whisk the cross ingredients together, starting with 6 Tablespoons of water. You want a thick paste that will pipe easily. Add remaining water if needed. Spoon the paste into a piping bag or zipped-top bag. Snip off a small piece at the corner. Pipe a line down the center of each row of buns, then repeat in the other direction to create crosses.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on top, rotating the pan halfway through. If you notice the tops browning too quickly, loosely tent the pan with aluminum foil. Remove from the oven and allow rolls to cool for a few minutes as you prepare the icing.
  • Whisk the icing ingredients together, then drizzle or brush on warm rolls. Serve immediately.
  • Cover leftover rolls tightly and store them at room temperature for 1-2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
  • To soften or reheat, place on a paper towel and microwave for 15 to 20 seconds.

One Comment

  1. Awesome post, Tanya! (I am still giggling with the hot cross buns crossing your mind… he he he…

    I am trying to figure out the best way to approach them for Friday… will keep you posted – I think I’ll leave the cinnamon out just for the fun of it.

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