Hot Cross Buns | The Cape Grocer

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Hot Cross Buns

Hot cross buns are not only delicious, but they also make for a timeless Easter recipe. The following recipe will teach you how to make them perfectly using spiced yeast dough. Each bun is infused with butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and raisins or currents then topped with the traditional cross. Finishing it off with orange icing makes it even better!


What exactly are hot cross buns?


Aside from being a very catchy nursery rhyme, what are hot cross buns? They are actually buns that you can eat that date all the way back to the 12th century. Hot cross buns are a dessert made from yeast that are sweet and loaded with spices and different fruits such as raisins, currents, or other candied citrus. They are topped off with a white cross that’s either coated on top or marked into the dough with icing. Hot cross buns are a classic Easter food that are typically served on Good Friday but can be enjoyed throughout the year.


What do hot cross buns they taste like?


Hot cross buns are traditionally a cross between a cinnamon roll and a dinner roll. They are soft, yet dense and delightfully spiced with allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon, though you can use whatever spices you prefer such as cardamom. The sweetness of the buns is primarily from brown sugar combined with the delicious orange icing. For even more flavor, feel free to add some candied orange peel or orange zest into the dough.


The recipe we will use today includes raisins, but feel free to substitute with currants or other candied fruits.


If you enjoy buttery bread, raisins, cinnamon, brown sugar, and orange icing, then you will love hot cross buns!


So, how do you make hot cross buns?


The recipe begins much like a recipe for dinner rolls. You will need basic baking ingredients such as yeast, flour, eggs, butter, milk, and sugar for hot cross buns. Adding more butter and more eggs with less milk will produce a denser, not heavy, roll. Hot cross buns are supposed to be more of a breakfast or dessert roll over a dinner roll.


These are the basic steps you’ll follow:


  1. Mix the bread dough.
  2. Knead the bread dough for about 2 minutes.
  3. Cover the dough to let it rise. This process will take roughly 1 to 2 hours.
  4. Punch the dough down to release all the air, begin shaping it into rolls.
  5. Allow rolls to rise for an hour.
  6. Draw the crosses on the top.
  7. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
  8. Decorate with orange icing on top.


If you prefer the raisins to be moist and extra plump you can soak them in a bowl of hot water for 5 to 10 minutes. Another great addition is dried cranberries.


The dough can be combined easily using a mixer, but if you don’t have a mixer you will need to combine it by hand. After the ingredients are combined in the mixing bowl, knead the dough for about 2 minutes. You can also use a mixer for kneading the dough if you prefer not to do it by hand.


After the bread dough has risen above the bowl, begin to punch it down so you can release the trapped air. Once all air has been released, divide the dough into 15 sections and begin to roll into balls. During this step, you will need to take a piece of dough and stretch the top of it while pinching the bottom to seal it. Ensure the rolls are completely smooth on top, yet sealed at the bottom.


You will now cover the rolls and allow them to rise for 1 hour.


Creating the crosses on your hot cross buns


There are a few techniques you can use to create the crosses on your buns:


  1. Creating the cross before baking: This is the most common way to create the cross. You will do so by using a flour and water paste to draw the cross on top of the bun before baking them. While this method will cause the top to get slightly hard after baking, you’ll find that they are still quite chewy.
  2. Adding the cross after baking: To do this you simply draw a thick cross across the top using icing after the buns are baked.


To ensure your crosses turn out nice you can use either a zip-top bag or a piping bag with no tip. If you choose to use a zip-top bag, simply cut the corner off. For those of you who choose a flour cross, be sure the opening on the corner of the bag is small because you still want to produce a thin line.


How to make the orange icing


Now we come to the best part! The rich orange icing is the perfect finishing touch to these delicious rolls! The icing is even better if you brush it on the hot cross buns when they come out of the oven! If you’re a fan of orange sweet rolls then you will love this orange icing recipe! The icing is sweet, warm, and sticky - just as hot cross buns are supposed to be!


The full recipe is below. You should consider it an intermediate recipe as there are a few additional steps with the rolls having to go through 2 rises and creating the crosses on top. Nonetheless, don’t let this scare you from making hot cross buns! They are very similar to dinner rolls, but more for dessert or breakfast. Hot cross buns are great anytime, but they really do add something special during Easter!


Hot Cross Buns Recipe:


Preparation Time: 3 hours, 25 minutes

Cook Time: 22 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours, 45 minutes

Yield: 14-16 buns




  • ¾ cup of whole milk, warmed
  • 2 and ¼ teaspoons instant or active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • ½ cup packed dark or light brown sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and cut into 5 pieces
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and ¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • 3 and ½ cups bread or all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup raisins, currants, or other desired fruit


Flour Cross


  • ½ cup bread or all-purpose flour
  • 6 to 8 teaspoons water


Orange Icing


  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 3 tablespoons bottled or fresh orange juice


Cooking Instructions


  1. Preparing the dough: Whisk the milk, 1 teaspoon of sugar, and yeast together in a large bowl. Cover and allow the dough to sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the butter, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, cinnamon, salt, allspice, nutmeg, and 1 cup of flour. Combine well and add the rest of the flour and the raisins. Mix well until the dough begins to come together, thus pulling away from the sides of the bowl. This should take about 2 minutes, and the dough should be soft and a little sticky. If the dough is too sticky and not beginning to pull away from the bowl, mix in 1 tablespoon of flour at a time.
  3. Knead the dough: Leaving the dough in the same bowl, beat for another 2 minutes with a mixer. If you are kneading by hand, do so for 2 minutes on a lightly floured surface.
  4. Allow dough to rise: Coat a large bowl with nonstick spray or oil. Place the dough in the bowl and turn it on all sides to coat with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, aluminum foil, or a kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rise for 1 to 2 hours at room temperature.
  5. Grease a 9×13 inch baking pan or two 9-inch pans. You can also bake the hot cross buns on a lined baking sheet or cast-iron skillet.
  6. Shape the rolls: After the dough has risen, punch it down to release all the trapped air. Divide the dough into about 15 pieces. Shape each piece into a ball, pinching it at the bottom to seal it. This part is easiest to do by hand. Arrange the balls on the prepared baking pan.
  7. Allow them to rise again: Cover the rolls with plastic wrap, aluminum foil, or a kitchen towel. Allow them to rise for about an hour. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  8. Add the cross on top: Whisk the ingredients for the cross together. Begin with 6 tablespoons of water. You will need a thick paste that will pipe smoothly. Add additional water if needed. Spoon the paste into a zip-top or piping bag. Snip off a bottom corner and begin to draw the cross down the center of each bun.
  9. Bake the buns: Bake the rolls for 20 to 25 minutes or until they are golden brown. Rotate them halfway through baking. If the tops begin to brown too early, tent the pan loosely with aluminum foil. Remove the buns from the oven and allow them to cool while you make the icing.
  10. Make the orange icing: Whisk all ingredients together, and then brush or drizzle it on the warm rolls. They are best served immediately.
  11. Cover any leftover rolls tightly and store them in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or at room temperature for 1 to 2 days




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