Easter is approaching, which means it’s time to bring out a traditional hot cross buns recipe! You’ll combine cinnamon, sugar, raisins, glaze, and icing to bake this delicious, crowd-pleasing springtime treat. They’ll disappear out of the tray before you know it!

Hot Cross Buns in a wicker tray.

Hot Cross Buns

What are Hot Cross Buns? I’m sure you’ve heard that old “Hot Cross Buns” song (or played it on the recorder as a kid) and never really sat to think about what hot cross buns actually are. 

If you haven’t tried them, they’re essentially sweet, lightly spiced buns marked with a cross on their tops. Everyone who loves these buns seems to have their own recipe for them, so you’ll sometimes see hot crossed buns with icing and/or glaze, or with raisins and other goodies baked in. They’re perfect treats for just about anyone!

Traditionally, one bakes hot cross buns at Easter, which is why I’m introducing you all to this recipe right now. However, you may find yourself baking hot cross buns all year round, because honestly? These buns are that good, and pretty simple, too. 

(Also, there’s an old superstition that states if you make hot cross buns on Good Friday, they won’t go bad for a whole year. I don’t recommend that, but it’s fun to think about…)

Hot Cross buns in a wicker tray with a bowl of frosting and two mugs of coffee.

How To Make Traditional Hot Cross Buns

I know a lot of us are busy and don’t always have the time to go through the whole rigamarole to make bread-based foods. I promise, though, that this recipe is easy and fuss-free, even if you’re not the greatest at working with yeast products. And either way, it’s worth it to whip up a traditional treat on Easter!

To make traditional hot cross buns, you’ll first mix the dough. This means combining milk, sugar, and yeast, and then letting it sit for about five minutes until it becomes foamy. Then, in a separate bowl, you’ll combine flour, cinnamon, allspice, and salt. Pour the yeast mixture into the flour mixture, add butter, eggs, and raisins, and combine it well. 

Next, you’ll work the dough. You’ll want to knead the dough on a flour-covered surface, then turn it into a ball and put it back into a covered bowl. Kids love helping out with this part, I’ve discovered.

Then you’ll wait about an hour for it to rise. The dough will have doubled in size.

When the dough has risen, divide it into evenly shaped balls and place it on a 13 by 9 baking dish coated with butter. Once again, you’ll cover up this dough to let it rise further. (I know this is a bit slower than most my recipes, but it’s worth it, as I said. Trust me!)

Hot Cross Buns dough in a baking dish with a bowl of melted butter on the side.

When the dough has risen, divide it into evenly shaped balls and place it on a 13 by 9 baking dish coated with butter. Once again, you’ll cover up this dough to let it rise further. (I know this is a bit slower than most my recipes, but it’s worth it, as I said. Trust me!)

After this final bit of rising, you’ll actually bake the dough in the oven. You can optionally slice a cross into the tops of the dough balls with a knife. This isn’t required, however!

While the dough bakes, you’ll create your icing and glaze. Then, after the buns finish baking (about 20 minutes or so) you’ll add that icing and glaze to the top of the buns. And there you have it: hot cross buns!

Remember to read the full set of instructions down below in the recipe card. This is just a summary to help you envision what you need to do.

Hot Cross Buns baked in a white baking dish.

FAQs about Hot Cross Buns

There’s a lot of kneading and waiting involved with this recipe, as well as a lot of family variations on it, so I decided to answer a few common questions down here.

Can I use different add-ins besides raisins?

Absolutely. Hot cross buns taste good not just with raisins but with pecans, walnuts, dried fruit, etc. (I’m sure this is good news for people out there who dislike raisins.) There’s no wrong way to make hot cross buns.

Can I use different spices in this recipe?

Yes! This is another place where you can experiment, or just go ahead and add spices you know you’ll love. Ground cloves are lovely in hot cross buns, for instance, as is nutmeg.

Should I use a specific kind of milk?

Whole milk and buttermilk are the best to use here. You can use other kinds of milk if you don’t have those available, but be aware that the buns may lose a bit of flavor. (Nothing you can’t fix with a little more icing, though.)

Hot Cross buns in a wicker tray with a cup of coffee in the background.

Looking for more bread and bun recipes?

I really enjoy making savory and sweetbreads alike here on the blog! 

If you’re looking for savory dinnertime bread, try my homemade white bread recipe or my easy, no-knead sourdough bread recipe. Both will become your new favorites, guaranteed.

And if you’re looking for dessert-like bread, I recommend my double chocolate banana bread recipe or my chocolate chip pumpkin bread recipe. There’s nothing quite like fresh bread of any kind…don’t you agree? 

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Hot Cross Buns in a wicker tray.

Get the Recipe: Hot Cross Buns

Easy to make Hot Cross Buns are the perfect bread basket filler for Easter!
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Ingredients

  • 1 packet, 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
  • ¾ cup warm milk, 105-110 degrees F
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 3-3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup ½ stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup raisins, plumped in hot water and drained
  • Glaze
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • Icing
  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • 4-5 teaspoons milk

Instructions 

  • In a small bowl, add milk and sugar, sprinkle yeast over
  • Let set until foamy, about 5 minutes
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together 3 cups flour, cinnamon, allspice and salt
  • Create a well in the center and add yeast mixture, butter and eggs
  • Mix using a stand mixer or wooden spoon until well combined
  • Stir in raisins until well incorporated
  • Turn dough onto floured surface to knead or use the dough hook on stand mixer
  • Add more flour if needed a little at a time
  • Form a ball and place back into mixing bowl
  • Cover with plastic wrap and place in warm area to rise until doubled, about 1 hour
  • Punch down dough and turn onto floured surface
  • Coat 13×9 baking dish with butter
  • Divide dough evenly and shape into balls
  • Place balls on baking sheet, cover with towel and let rise until doubled, about 30-45 minutes
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
  • Optional: score the top of the rolls using a knife with a cross pattern
  • In a small bowl, whisk together glaze ingredients
  • Brush over buns
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned
  • Remove from oven and let cool slightly, transfer to wire rack to cool completely
Calories: 232kcal, Carbohydrates: 49g, Protein: 5g, Fat: 2g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 37mg, Sodium: 190mg, Potassium: 155mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 17g, Vitamin A: 78IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 34mg, Iron: 2mg