These Hot Cross Buns consist of a buttery dough studded with plump raisins, topped with the perfect touch of icing, and they’re so easy to make!
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Do you feel like you’ve tried Hot Cross Buns at all your favorite bakeries and never quite found THE perfect one? Well, it’s your lucky day. These Hot Cross Buns are wonderfully moist, the perfect amount of sweet and – the best part – they’re entirely homemade! Does that intimidate you? It shouldn’t, because even though these buns are a yeasted dough, they’re so easy to make. Use them to round out an Easter brunch of a savory galette and carrot mimosas. Once you make them, you’ll be so glad you did.
Why This Recipe Works
- It’s an easy way to add a super-homemade touch to a spring or Easter brunch menu.
- The dough is wonderfully moist AND topped with the perfect amount of sweet icing.
- The entire family will love these buns – even the pickiest of eaters!
- These Hot Cross Buns are freezer-friendly, so you can make them in advance and reheat them the morning you plan to serve them. Just add the frosting!
Ingredients You’ll Need
Another great thing about this recipe is that all of the ingredients are pantry staples, meaning you can make these buns without a special trip to the store!
Eggs – You’ll want these to be at room temperature to help the dough come together nicely.
Milk – You can use any type of milk, but use whole cow’s milk for the moistest dough.
Melted butter – Let this cool slightly before adding it to the dough as you don’t want it to cook the eggs.
Sugar – Just a touch of sugar adds the perfect amount of sweetness to the dough.
Active Dry Yeast – Find this in the baking section at your grocery store!
Ground cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg – The ultimate spice trifecta!
Fruitcake mix or raisins – Either one will work! The fruitcake mix is the more classic ingredient for Hot Cross Buns, which you can purchase online here, but many people prefer raisins which are just as good.
Flour – All-purpose flour is just fine, but if you want to step up your game a notch you can use bread flour.
That’s all you need for the buns themselves, and here’s all you’ll need for the icing:
Powdered sugar – For best results, sift the powdered sugar before using so there aren’t any clumps.
Butter – You’ll melt this before using. Unsalted butter is preferred here.
Milk – While any type of milk will work, whole cow’s milk will yield the best results.
Fresh lemon juice – This adds the perfect tang to the frosting!
While this recipe takes a little while to complete due to rising times, the steps themselves are super easy to follow. Let’s get started.
First, activate the yeast by sprinkling it over the warm milk in the bowl of a stand mixer. Let sit for about 5 minutes.
Once the yeast has been activated, add in the sugar, butter, eggs and salt and mix to combine using the dough hook and a spatula to scrape the sides as needed.
In a separate mixing bowl, sift together some of the flour, spices and salt.
Add this mixture to the ingredients in the stand mixer along with the raisins or fruitcake. Add remaining flour and mix until a dough forms.
Cover the dough with a damp kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place free from drafts for an hour or until doubled in size.
Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Then, cover it with a damp kitchen towel and let sit for 10 minutes.
Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with the towel and let rise again for another hour.
Once the dough has gone through its second rise, take kitchen shears and gently snip an “X” into the top of each one. Then brush the egg white over the top of each of the buns.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, or until the tops of the buns have taken on a golden hue and they sound fairly hollow when tapped.
While the buns are cooling, make the icing by combining all of the ingredients in a small bowl.
To make classic hot cross buns, scoop the icing into a resealable plastic bag, snipping the bottom tip off and then filling in the “X” that you cut prior to baking. If you’d rather take the easy way out, just spread a dollop of the icing on each of the buns.
Enjoy immediately or let cool and freeze to reheat later. If keeping at room temperature, enjoy these within a day or two.
For best results, if you’re planning on freezing these buns and serving them later, wait on the icing. Simply make the buns and freeze them without icing. When you’re ready to serve them, reheat in a warm oven (250-300 degrees) for 10-15 minutes or until heated through. Let cool slightly and then finish with the icing before serving.
Hot Cross Buns aren’t just a delicious Easter treat, they also have deep religious meaning. The buns themselves represent the end of Lent, while the cross represents the crucifixion of Jesus and the spices (cinnamon, clove and nutmeg) signify the spices used to embalm Jesus at his burial. Whether religious or not, everyone can get on bored with how tasty these buns are!
There are a few things that may have gone wrong during the baking process. The first area where there might be an issue is the temperature of your milk when activating the yeast. You want it to be warm enough to get things going, but not so hot that it will kill the yeast. I always say “bathtub temperature” is best, somewhere between 100-110 degrees Fahrenheit.
The next thing that may have gone wrong is the rising process. Again, you want the environment to be warm enough to nurture the yeast, but not so hot as to kill it off or so cold as to not activate it. Aim for a consistent cozy temperature. For example, our microwave is right on top of our oven, so I’ll often turn the oven on for a little bit to warm up the microwave and then put the dough in the microwave to rise. You could also turn your oven on low heat for about 10 minutes, then turn it off, let it cool for a minute or two and then put your dough in there to rise (just make sure it’s not too hot!)
More Easter Recipes
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Hot Cross Buns
For the buns:
- 1 packet active-dry yeast
- 1/2 cup milk, warmed to "bathtub temperature" (100 – 110 degrees Fahrenheit) (I heated mine up for 30 seconds in the microwave and it turned out perfect)
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 eggs, beaten at room temperature
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 1/3 cups flour, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/3 cup raisins (or fruit cake mix, if you prefer)
- 1 egg white
For the icing:
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon milk
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- Combine the yeast and warm milk in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and let sit for 5 minutes to allow the yeast to activate.
- Add sugar, eggs, butter and salt to the yeast mixture and beat to combine.
- In a small mixing bowl, sift together 1 cup of the flour and the cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Add this to the mixture in the stand mixer along with the raisins and beat on medium-low until flour is well-incorporated.
- Scrape down the sides of the stand mixer and add additional 1 1/3 cups flour. Once again turn the mixer on medium-low and mix until a sticky dough forms. Remove the bowl from the mixer, cover with a damp hand towel, and place in a warm place to rise for about an hour, or until doubled in size.
- Punch down dough and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. You may also need to coat your hands with a bit of flour to keep the dough from sticking to them. Cover the dough once it’s turned out and let it rest for 10 minutes.
- Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Place the balls on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, cover and let rise for another hour.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Using kitchen shears, cut a cross in the center of each bun, then brush with egg white. Place in oven and bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until the tops of the buns have turned golden and bread sounds fairly hollow when tapped. Remove from oven and let cool.
- While buns are cooling, prepare the icing. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together all of the icing ingredients. Transfer to a piping bag (or resealable plastic bag) and then snip off the tip. Using the crosses you cut into your buns before baking as a guide, make a cross on each bun. Enjoy as soon as possible!
- Make sure your yeast never gets too hot during the entire baking process to ensure it doesn’t die off.
- If you’re planning on freezing your Hot Cross Buns, wait to ice them until you’re heating and serving.
- To reheat, place in a 250-300 degree Fahrenheit oven for 10-15 minutes or until warmed through.
- If you don’t want to go through the effort of piping on a cross, you can also just smear a dab of the icing over top of each of the buns right before serving.