Hot Cross Buns: Spiced sweet buns made with soaked currants, zest of lemon and orange, and plenty of spices. Topped with a cross, and glazed with a sweet light glaze. This tasty bun originates in UK, has a nursery rhyme dedicated to it, and is typically consumed for Good Friday or Easter. This is a food steeped in tradition, but also seriously yummy.
As an avid traveler, I love learning about food culture around the world, and adopting it into my own holidays and traditions. Hot Cross Buns is a fun recipe that is traditionally eaten on Good Friday in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and more. It is steeped in tradition, and such a fun addition to my own Easter traditions.
The first time I experience hot cross buns was at a tea time in London with some friends. And after the first taste of this sweetly spiced bun I was hooked. The glaze, the spices, and fruit. Delicious.
Why Make Hot Cross Buns?
For many cultures hot cross buns are served to mark the end of Lent and are marked with a cross in honor of Good Friday. And these buns have different meanings based on which culture you are in. For example, the cross on top of the buns represents the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
The spices represent the embalming spices used to prepare Christ’s body for burial.
This is a recipe that includes dairy so is often eaten at the end of Lent as dairy is not allowed during Lent.
The story goes the origins date back as far as the 12th center when an Anglican monk baked them, and used a paste of water and flour to put a cross on top to honor Good Friday. Over time they were adopted into many traditions and cultures and have come be to symbol of Easter. And are often served as part of brunches for Easter weekend.
What is the Cross Made of on Hot Cross Buns?
The bun itself is a typical bun recipe with some added spices and flavors, but the cross, while edible is typically a paste of plain flour and water. Alone not that appetizing, but provides the white cross at the center of the bun.
Because this cross is made with water and flour paste, and piped on, it is best to eat these buns warm. If you wait too long to eat them, the crosses will need to be removed as they become very hard.
The easiest way to get the crosses on your hot cross buns is to mix up your paste, and spoon it into a piping bag, then snip the end off and pipe it across each bun. Do this right before baking for best results.
Hot Cross Bun Nursery Rhyme
I did not grow up eating hot cross buns for Easter, but I did know the nursery rhyme that included the lyric “hot cross buns” and as I grew up we adapted it into a jump roping game.
However, this some was first published in the “Christmas Box” London, 1798. But is reportedly something that was used by street hawkers who were selling these tasty buns as early as 1733. They would cry out the little ditty to attract customers.
“Good Friday come this month, the old woman runs. With one or two a penny hot cross buns”
For me, the song lyrics were as follows:
Hot cross buns!
Hot cross buns!
One ha’ penny, two ha’ penny,
Hot cross buns!
If you have no daughters,
Give them to your sons
One ha’ penny,
Two ha’ penny,
Hot Cross Buns!
Great for jump roping and hop scotch.
Hot Cross Bun Recipe Tips:
- Substitute as you like: The traditional recipe calls for rum soaked currants. But where I live currants can be hard to find, and if I don’t plan ahead and order them online I would be without hope. But raisins make a great substitute. Also, if you are anti-alcohol, or don’t like the flavor of rum, or just prefer something easier/cheaper, apple juice makes a great substitute to the rum.
- Plan ahead, for the best buns you want softened soaked raisins or currants, and you need a good two hours to achieve this. So don’t try and make these last minute. They are still easy to make, but take some forethought.
- Knead and touch the dough. The amount of time you soak your currants, the flour you use, the humidity etc. can all play a role in the dough. Which means you want to touch it and add the right amount of flour to get the right consistency. It should stick to your finger, but pull away clean. Adjust until you get there. And then knead the right amount of time.
- Use weight to make them pretty. If you want to get all your buns the same size, weigh your dough then divide by 16. Divide it out, and weigh each individual bun ball to make sure it is the right amount. This will give you perfectly even buns. (I so want to make a joke right now)
- Hot cross buns are best made and served the traditional way, eaten warm or toasted with salted butter. And eaten fresh. This is not something you make way ahead. Same day is best.
- Adjust the spices to your preference. I love how rich these buns are with the zests and the spices, but my kids prefer them a little blander, or with clotted cream (hahaha). Make them your own!
- Glaze while the bun is still warm so it can soak in and be oh so yummy! But taste the glaze first and adjust it to your liking.
Hot Cross Buns
- 1/4 cup dried currants or raisins
- 1/4 cup rum or apple juice
- 3/4 cup milk warmed to 100 degrees F/40 degrees C
- 2 3/4 cups bread flour more if needed if dough is too sticky
- ½ Tbs active dry yeast
- 5 Tbs white sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 large egg beaten
- 2 Tbsps grated lemon zest
- 2 Tbsps grated orange zest
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 7 tablespoons melted butter
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour or as needed to make thin, pipe-able dough
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1 Tbs fresh squeezed orange or lemon juice
- Place currants in a small bowl.
- Heat rum or apple juice in the microwave or a small saucepan until steaming.
- Pour rum or juice over currants to soften them, let sit about 2 hours.
- Drain and set aside.
- In a separate bowl, whisk warmed milk with ¼ cup flour and ½ Tbsp active dry yeast.
- Let sit about 15 minutes until yeast activates and bubbles.
- Add sugar, a beaten egg, lemon and orange zest, cinnamon, salt, cardamom, nutmeg, melted butter, vanilla extract and remaining flour.
- Use a dough hook to mix the dough. Mix until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl cleanly and becomes slightly elastic. When touched with your finger it should stick but pull away cleanly. This should take 5 or 6 minutes. If dough is still sticky, add up to ¼ cup additional flour.
- Continue kneading another 10 minutes until dough is smooth.
- Remove dough from mixing bowl and shape into a ball.
- Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface.
- Flatten dough into a large oval about 1/2 inch thick. Sprinkle the soaked and drained currants evenly over the surface.
- Fold dough into thirds.
- Turn and fold into thirds again to incorporate the currants.
- Reshape dough into a round ball.
- Transfer to lightly oiled mixing bowl. Cover and let rise until double in size, about 2 hours.
- Once risen, transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface.
- Divide dough into 16 equal pieces.
- Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or wax paper.
- Roll dough pieces into round balls and place on the baking sheet. Arrange evenly
- Let rise 15 minutes.
- While balls rise, mix 1/4 cup water and 1/3 cup flour together in a mixing bowl until mixture is thick enough to hold its shape but thin enough to pipe with a piping bag.
- Transfer mixture to a piping bag and carefully pipe crosses on top of each roll.
- Let rise another 15 minutes until the dough is double in size from when it was first rolled into balls. Use this time to preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Bake rolls for approximately 15 minutes until golden brown.
- Remove from oven and let cool on the pan.
- While rolls are cooling, combine 1/4 cup powdered sugar and 3 tablespoons warm water and whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture is lump free, add free squeezed juice and stir well.
- Glaze rolls with this mixture while they are still warm/hot.
- Enjoy the buns the same day.
Our recipe card software calculates these nutrition facts based on averages for the above ingredients, different brands, and quality of produce/meats may have different nutritional information, always calculate your own based on the specific products you use in order to achieve accurate macros for this recipe.
Pin to your Easter board on Pinterest: