One a Penny, Two a Penny, Hot Cross Buns

We have a big weekend this weekend. Not only is it Easter weekend, but the new season of Doctor Who starts Saturday, and it’s also the hubster’s birthday on Sunday! It’s definitely gonna be a fun weekend…if I could just get him to settle on what he wants for his birthday cake. He’s been trying to decide for almost three weeks, and still he’s got nothing. I may just have to settle it myself and surprise him!

As for Easter, I can’t wait for the Easter egg hunt. I’m such a big kid…I still make the guys dye eggs with me every single year, and then hide them from me. In all honesty, our kiddo hasn’t enjoyed Easter egg hunts since he was about eight years old, but he loves hiding the eggs from me…and I love hunting for them, so it’s a perfect arrangement! It’ll be even more fun this year, because it’s so warm and beautiful here, that we’ll actually be able to take the hunt outside! Over the last six years in the northeast US we have had very few opportunities to have our Easter egg hunts outside. I can’t wait for Sunday!

In the meantime, I have a treat traditionally made on Easter for you today that I had never had until just a few years ago, and I’m so glad I finally did, because they’re way better than I expected!

If you’ve never had a homemade hot cross bun, you really are missing out. I love them. They’re sweeter than plain yeast bread, but not as sweet as a cinnamon roll. I love how rich the bread is, and I add a little cinnamon and just a touch of cardamom to mine to warm the flavors up. The icing is basic, but delicious, and perfectly compliments the warm, subtle spiciness of the buns.

I had a whole bunch of step-by-step instructional photos for making these, but I got overzealous with the “format memory card” button on my camera and deleted every last one. These are incredibly simple, though, especially for something with so much flavor. The recipe makes two batches of 12 buns (in 9×13 baking dishes), but I’ve included instructions below for dividing the recipe in half. I really like to load the icing onto these, because it’s that good. I just draw the lines right across the buns while they’re in the pan and let excess icing run down the sides and coat the bottoms. Y-U-M. But if you want a more defined cross on top, then remove the buns from the pan and ice them individually. I also decided to add a bit more “spring” to mine by tinting the icing pink and yellow. It’s not exactly traditional, but it sure is pretty. 🙂

These are absolutely wonderful for breakfast on Easter morning, but they’re also perfect as a treat or dessert after a meal. They’re definitely something to share, and it’s said that when you gift them to a friend, your friendship will last a lifetime. So friends, from me to you, enjoy!

Hot Cross Buns
makes 2 dozen

**To halve this recipe, reduce the flour to 2 1/2 cups and the yeast to 1 1/4 teaspoons, but still use 1 whole egg. Divide the remaining ingredients in half normally.**

4 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine, cut into pieces
1 1/2 cups warm milk (3/4 cup hot, 3/4 cup cold)

1/2 cup raisins or currants (optional)
1 egg, whisked with a teaspoon of water for egg wash (optional)

2 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine, at room temperature
2 to 3 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Food coloring (optional)

To make the buns: Combine the flour, sugar, yeast, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt in a large bowl, or the bowl of a standing mixer and stir to combine.

In a 4 cup measuring cup, combine the 3/4 cup hot milk with the butter pieces and stir until the butter is melted. Add the 3/4 cup cold milk, then stir in the lightly beaten egg.

Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until a dough just forms. Cover with a clean dry towel and allow to rest for 15 minutes.

Once rested, add the raisins if using and if mixing by hand, transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. If using a standing mixer, knead on medium speed, with the dough hook attached, until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. The dough should barely stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour 1-2 tablespoons at a time. If it’s too dry, add more milk.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and allow to rise for 1 to 2 hours, or until doubled in size.

Once the dough has risen, Spray two 9×13 inch baking dishes with nonstick cooking spray, or line with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 24 pieces, each weighing 2 ounces. Gently shape each piece into a smooth, tight boule. Cover with a clean, dry towel and allow to rise for an hour, or until doubled in size. Once doubled, brush with the egg wash.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until they reach about 180 degrees inside. Allow the buns to cool completely before icing.

To make the icing: Cream the butter and sugar together until smooth and fluffy, adding splashes of milk until the desired consistency is reached (the icing should be on the thin side, but not as thin as a glaze).

Recipe by Darla

Leave a comment


  1. says

    Confession time….I have never had any success baking anything that contains yeast. Don’t know what my problem is. I’m thinking its time to try again and make these buns. Bread with a little bit of icing sounds way too good to pass up. Wish me luck!

    • says

      Good luck!! Once you master it, you’ll be able to do it all the time. It’s much easier than a lot of people believe, but there are subtle things that make a difference. If you have any questions let me know, and check out my FAQ for some info on rising, etc. I’d love to hear how they turn out! 🙂

  2. says

    Ahhhh I have been seeing different versions of hot cross buns all over the internet but these are my favorite so far! I just made biscotti for my Easter guests because I didn’t want to be stuck in the kitchen, do you think these can be made in advance?

  3. says

    Wow!!!How could you make such a things?You are Brilliant indeed.Its so diffrent then the real one.I really love this version.So I can feed my little one who are fussy eater(he doesn’t like piece & bits in his cakes).

    You have such a beautiful space and very single of your posts were totaly mesmerized me.You are my best inspirer:)

  4. kathy says

    OMG I was going to go in search of a recipie to make these at home this week and LO & BEHOLD…….my favorite baking website goes and posts this!!!!! Love when great minds think alike. Heading off to the store for a little more flour then cranking up the oven~perfect day to bake:)
    Thank You.

  5. Zoe says

    Nice! Ive never seen hot cross buns with icing before, is that how they come in America? Here in England they have a cross made from a flour and milk and/or water paste which is drawn on before baking.
    I love your site, it has given me alot of recipes I want to try.

    • Cobalt&Calcium says

      I was wondering what they used here to make the cross, I love to pluck it off before eating the bun 😛
      I think I’ll make these tomorrow with cranberries soaked in orange juice instead of raisins yummy.

  6. says

    your amazing! and you like doctor who too, and harry potter. Oh my, you are my favourite blogger. And you are so creative and everything. Its astounding. In nz we don’t have icing on it. It like what Zoe said, paste thats drawn on before baking. I’ve always wanted to make my own hot-cross buns, maybe I will for easter lunch this year.
    you are such an inspiration. 😀 have a wonderful day

  7. Sarah says

    Oh. My. Gosh. I have heard of hot cross buns, and have been looking for an easy recipe to make, and then I just go over here and BAM! A hot cross bun recipe!

  8. says

    Yummy! I’ve recently tried making my own hot cross buns and I’m never buying again! You get such a sense of achievement and they’re way yummier than store-bought! I’m going to try your icing though -it confuses me that the original recipe has a tasteless cross..

  9. Meagan @ Scarletta Bakes says

    I’m a huge fan of a good bun and these just moved to the top of my list. I love the savory/sweet combination here and, as always, they look beautiful.

    I hope that you enjoy your super fun weekend!!

  10. says

    In Australia, our hot cross buns are more of a spicy fruit bun, with the cross on top being a flour/water paste that is rolled and laid across the bun before baking. After baking the bun is glazed with a spiced syrup. They’re soo good. I notice this year though, that a lot of the bakeries have been doing choc-orange Hot Cross Buns, Raspberry choc ones, as well as fruitless ones too. It’s amazing to see how many different variations there are of the same thing, but with one common factor – they’re all delicious!

  11. says

    I made hot cross buns recently too! I used a different recipe but these look yummy too. I still have the hot cross buns song stuck in my head and reading this post is just wedging it further into my brain. hot cross buuuuuuns 😀

    • says

      They actually dry out quite quickly, so I wouldn’t recommend baking them until the day you serve them, or the day before at the most. You could also prepare them up until the second rise, then refrigerate overnight, before allowing to rise and then baking.

  12. Anita says

    What a wonderful recipe! My parents always raved about the hot cross buns they used to get back home, but can’t seem to find in the states. However, I have a family me ever with an egg allergy, any subs for the egg in the dough and instead of egg wash? Thanks!

  13. Ashley says

    I just wanted to point out a correction. This actually isn’t a traditional Easter food. It’s a traditional Ostara food which is part of the Pagan religion. The cross does not represent the Christian cross but instead represents the 4 elements (Earth, water, fire, and air) or the 4 seasons (spring, summer, winter, fall) however you may choose to look at it.

    • says

      I see your point and appreciate the information, however, they have, in fact, become a traditional Easter treat over time. I gave no history or meaning to these within my post. I only stated that they are traditionally made for Easter, which is, of course, true.