What Are Hot Cross Buns?
This little roll or bun marks the end of Lent and different parts of the hot cross bun have different meanings. The cross on top of the bun can be piped with frosting or etched into the dough. It represents the crucifixion of Jesus, and the spices inside signify the spices used to embalm him at his burial.
We love to make these sweet rolls around Easter with our children, and we love teaching them about the symbolism behind them. Our kids love them, so now we make them every year along with our super viral Empty Tomb Rolls. Have you tried them? They’re so good and so fun for teaching the kiddos more about Easter! Try them or our apple version!
Is the nursery rhyme song stuck in your head by now like it is mine? 🎵 “Hot cross buns, Hot cross buns, One a penny, Two a penny, Hot cross buns.” 🎵 If I had a dollar for every time I played that song during piano and flute lessons growing up, I would be in the money! It’s a good thing that eating THE SOFTEST HOT CROSS BUNS is way more fun than hearing hot cross buns!
These hot cross buns are so soft with a slight sweetness from the raisins and syrup glaze. We love to eat them warm! Don’t hate me if the song is stuck in your head the rest of the day! The only cure is to head to the kitchen and get baking!
Happiest of Easters to all you and your sweet families! We appreciate your support more than words can say!
What’s Needed to Make Hot Cross Buns?
These Easter hot cross buns have three components: the buns themselves, the sugar syrup that’s brushed on top after baking, and the cream cheese icing that’s piped on last.
Here’s what you’ll need to make homemade hot cross buns:
- Whole milk
- Granulated sugar
- Instant yeast
- All-purpose flour
- Nutmeg and cinnamon
- Unsalted butter
- Baking soda
- Powdered sugar
- Cream cheese
- Vanilla extract
How to Make Hot Cross Buns
The dough for these little pillows of joy starts with scalding milk. I’ve heard some people get intimidated by scalding milk, but there is no need for intimidation. You’ve got this!
Here are the steps for making homemade hot cross buns:
- Place your measured milk into a pot on the stove.
- Turn the heat on medium-low.
- Stir frequently until you starts to see steam coming off the milk and little bubbles forming around the sides of the milk along the pan.
- Remove the pan from the heat.
- Let the milk cool to about 105°F (41°C). I like to stick it in the fridge for a few minutes to get the cooling started, but don’t forget about it! We don’t want cold milk!
- Meanwhile, boil the raisins with a little baking soda to plump them up. Then, lightly rinse the raisins.
- Combine the warm milk, sugar, and yeast. Let the mixture rest on your counter until it looks foamy.
- Once the yeast mixture is foamy, make the dough. (You can knead it by hand or use the dough hook on a mixer).
- Place the dough into an oiled bowl and set it aside to rise for roughly 2 hours.
- Once the dough has risen, gently punch it down and shape it into 12 balls.
- Place the dough balls into a greased 9×13-inch pan and set aside to rise once more.
- Bake the hot cross buns until golden, then brush with sugar syrup and pipe crosses on top once cooled.
Do I Have to Scald the Milk?
In short, yes. Why do we scald milk? Scalded milk helps make breads, cakes, and other baked goods light and fluffy. Scalding kills off the protein that’s in milk, which helps the gluten to remain unbroken. It also aids the dissolving process of sugar and yeast, which results in fluffier breads and sweets.
What’s the Best Yeast to Use for Baking?
I have several friends who avoid recipes that use yeast. What?! The world would be a dark place without yeast and all the deliciously perfect carbohydrate wonders it does! But I get it, there are so many options to choose from. Do you buy active dry yeast or instant? What brand to buy? And then there is also rapid rise…is your head spinning?
There is no need to be scared of yeast! Jump to my post on all things yeast for all the details, but long story short, I almost always use instant yeast and we prefer Red Star brand. You add the yeast to the lukewarm scalded milk with a little sugar, and your yeast will activate (proof) in a few minutes and be ready to roll or ready to bun in this case! See what I did there?! I’m so funny!
Can I Prep Hot Cross Buns in Advance?
Yes! If desired, you can prep this recipe through the step that asks you to shape the dough into 12 balls and place them into a greased baking pan. From there, you can put the uncooked dough balls into the fridge overnight.
Then, when you’re ready to bake the hot cross buns the next day simply let them come to room temperature (it’ll take 30 to 45 minutes) before baking as usual.
Tips for Making Easter Hot Cross Buns
Any time you make bread and it calls for milk (such as this recipe), please scald it. It completely softens the bread recipe beyond any other thing you do. It’s an absolute must!
Note that the dough for this recipe is extremely sticky, which is why we recommend using a bench scraper to transfer it into an oiled bowl.
Lastly, these homemade hot cross buns are best enjoyed warm. However, leftovers are delicious the next day too!
More EASTER RECIPES:
Looking for a few different Easter recipes? Here are a few that our family loves:
- Best Deviled Eggs
- Garlic Honey Mustard Ham
- Empty Tomb Rolls
- Easy Ham Dipping Sauces
- Best Potato Rolls
- World’s Best Brown Sugar Ham
- Apple Empty Tomb Rolls
- Texas Roadhouse Loaded Sweet Potato
- Cheesy Potato Casserole
- ALL OF OUR EASTER RECIPES!
The Softest Hot Cross Buns
- 1 1/2 Cups Milk, Whole
- 1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
- 1 Tablespoon Instant Yeast
- 4 1/4 Cups Flour, All-Purpose
- 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
- 1/2 Teaspoon Nutmeg
- 1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon
- 2 Large Eggs
- 4 Tablespoons Butter, Unsalted, softened
- 1 cup Raisins
- 1 1/2 Cups Water
- 1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
- 1/4 cup Water
- 1/4 cup Granulated Sugar
Cream Cheese Icing
- 3/4 Cup Powdered Sugar
- 2 ounces Cream Cheese, plus 2 Tablespoons, softened
- 1 Tablespoon Butter, Unsalted, softened
- 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 1/2 Tablespoon Water
Make the Dough:
- In a small saucepan over medium low heat, add the milk to scald it. This is done by gently warming the milk until it becomes frothy around the edges. You may notice a thin layer appear on the top of the milk, just remove from the heat and stir a little to remove it.
- Pour the milk into a bowl or glass measuring cup.
- Allow the milk to cool to warm. I like to put ours in the fridge for a few minutes to help it along, but you cannot use cold milk so don't forget it!
- Meanwhile, heat the water, baking soda and raisins in a small saucepan over medium heat until boiling. Allow to boil gently for 2 minutes, the raisins should be big and plump, and drain in the sink, leaving the raisins in the strainer to cool. Give them a gentle rinse very quickly under water to help speed up the process but do not thoroughly rinse them.
- In a small bowl combine the lukewarm milk, sugar and yeast. Stir gently and let it rest until the yeast activates and it begins to look foamy.
- In the bowl of your mixer add 4 cups of flour, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. Mix until combined.
- Add the eggs and butter to the yeast mixture and stir until the butter is melted.
- Pour the yeast mixture over the flour mixture, and using the dough hook attachment, mix for about 5 minutes at medium speed. Add up to 1/4 cup more flour if you notice time is almost up but the mixture is still clinging to the sides.
- Add raisins and continue mixing for another minute. They will add a little moisture, but it should still start to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
Let the Dough Rise:
- In a large bowl add a bit of oil, now place the dough in the bowl, rolling it around so that it gets oil all over. The dough is extremely sticky, so using a bench scraper is really helpful.
- Cover the bowl with a towel. Let the dough rise for a couple hours until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
Shape and Bake the Buns:
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 9x13-inch pan with parchment paper, then spray with nonstick spray.
- Punch down the dough, and cut it into 12 equal pieces and roll each one in your hands quickly to make a dough ball. Place the rolls in the pan and cover with a clean towel and let them rest for another 30 minutes until doubled in size.
- Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.
- While baking, make the sugar syrup by heating the sugar with the water in a sauce pan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Continue to boil the syrup for about another minute or until syrup thickens very slightly. Set aside.
- Remove the rolls from the oven and set aside for 5 minutes.
- Brush the tops with the sugar syrup and let rest for 5-10 minutes.
- Using the icing, pipe down the center of each row and then across each row to create a cross on each bun. Serve warm!
For the Icing:
- Whisk all the ingredients together and spoon into a piping bag with a round tip and refrigerate until ready to use. You want the icing to be a little thick so it holds shape on the rolls.
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Very fluffy, delicious, but I think next time I’ll add more spice and other dried fruits. I made the dough in the bread machine and it turned out good. I don’t have to add the extra 1/4 c flour.
Thank you so much for the feedback Marie! You can definitely add more spice and fruit if you want!
Delicious! Made them this morning and well worth the wait. I couldn’t believe the rise on them. I used my oven to proof and it needed 1.5 hours to double, and then only 20 minutes once the buns were formed.
I’m so glad you loved these, Katie! There are an Easter favorite in our house!
Love these buns! They are by far the best of many recipes I have tested. My Wilton 9×13 pan actually measures 10×14; I usually make 15 rolls. I refrigerated them after shaping; they rose and baked just fine the next morning. Nice to be able to serve them warm!
My feedback for this recipe is that the simple syrup topping always have made eating these buns a sticky mess and makes it hard to store or reheat them. They have been impossible to heat without a fork and knife. Next time, I will brush with 1 egg white mixed with 1T milk before baking, then add the crosses when they have cooled a bit.
Thanks for a great recipe–and the instructions about how to scald milk.
I have made these with various dried fruits–a mix golden raisins, currants and candied cherries are our favorites.
Yay! Thank you so much Brenda and thank you for the tips!
I made the hot cross buns yesterday for Easter. They were delicious and looked absolutely beautiful, too. 12 large, fluffy, and flavorful buns w/currants. You can’t go wrong with this perfect recipe! Thanks.
You’ve made my day Melissa! Thank you!!
If doubling, is it possible to bake on a cookie sheet instead of 9×13’s?
I really recommend a baking dish with high sides. It helps them raise properly. So I would do two 9×13’s before doing a cookie sheet.
The only thing I changed was I did the traditional cross using flour/water before baking. However other than that it was well received
Thank you so much for the feedback Claus! Happy Easter to you and your loved ones!
Beautifully fluffy,. Best for that.
I would add more spices and maybe candied fruit as these were bland.
My husband did like them
Hi Valinda! Thank you so much for the feedback! You can definitely increase the spices or add your favorite dried fruit.
Dr Mary Smiroldo
Thank you so much for this recipe! Absolutely the best hot cross buns I’ve ever made in 55 years! My husband agrees. We started this Easter tradition early in our marriage. I make the buns on Saturday, then my hubby gets up early on Easter Sunday morning to deliver baskets of hot cross buns to special friends. He puts the basket by their door, then makes a run for it! He’s the best Easter Bunny ever!! These will be a real treat🐰🐰🐰
Hello Mary! I can’t even tell you how happy this makes me! Thank you so much for taking a moment to leave us a comment! I’m so glad you love this recipe as much as we do! Happy Easter!
I thought I came for the recipe but got so much more. Your testimony of faith is encouraging. I am a ‘walk on water’ gal from the islands and I’ve been labeled as borderline insane because of how I step out in faith but I just love seeing Gods power at work. I found you guys on Pinterest on yesterday looking for hot cross buns recipes, started following you on the Gram and just love your content. I am a follower of Christ and I am NOT ASHAMED to say that. I look forward to hearing more of your stories. Also the recipes are divine.
Thank you Talia! Keep taking that step into the unknown!
I made these they came out amazing thank you
I wanted to know if I can freeze some ? I’d yes , do I freeze with the frosting and sweet syrup ?
Hi Chris! Yes you can definitely freeze them. You can freeze them either before or after baking. If you freeze them, let them cool completely and then wrap in plastic wrap. You can do that with or without the frosting.
Best hot cross buns! The dough is so soft and fluffy. I wonder if this dough can be used for cinnamon rolls as well?
Yes, it definitely could. Technically any bread dough would work. My worry with this dough is that it wouldn’t be dense enough.
I made these today and they turned out beautifully. My first time making these and not my last. Thanks so much!
Love to hear that Kathy! Thank you so much for the feedback!
Buns were delicious! Used my Instant Pot to proof dough and used Active dry yeast instead of instant and it turned out great! Very fluffy! My mother and grandmother used to make these at Easter, these were better!
Love to hear this! Can you give us your tips for proofing your dough in the Instant Pot? I bet our readers would love to know more about that!
I made these to hand out for Easter to our friends/neighbours. It was nice to put a smile on their face during this time of COVID. I put orange zest and currants in them. They were absolutely the most tender and tasty hot cross buns I have ever made! I look no further so big thank you!!
Have a safe and Happy Easter🐣
Thank you so much for the feedback!! I’m so glad you enjoyed them and how sweet to share them with friends and neighbors! Happy Easter!
These are delicious!!! Sooo fluffy! I didn’t follow the instructions exactly because I added the eggs and butter in with the flour mixture and then added the yeast mixture in. It actually made it so my dough pulled away from the bowls really easily.
Question- since it has cream cheese frosting do they need to be stored in the fridge?
Yes, I recommend storing them in the fridge. So glad you enjoyed them! Thank you for the feedback Melissa!
Hi – delicious recipe. Just have a question if prepping the night before…do you let them rise for the 30 mins before putting in the fridge? Or, form balls, refrigerate and then take out in morning and let rise? Thanks in advance!
Yes…second option! Make them, stick them in the fridge, and then let them rise in the morning before baking. Enjoy!
So light and airy…. delicious! The dough was very sticky and I had a hard time rolling them into balls because of that. I did add the extra 1/4 cup flour but it didn’t change the consistency. Not sure what I did wrong. Also it made 19 rolls so more to enjoy!
Bread can be so tricky with humidity and elevation, etc. It sounds like you handled it perfectly! I’m so glad you enjoyed them!
Any success making these the night before to bake in the morning?
Yes! There is a section in the post about making them in advance. There is also a lot of helpful advice in the comments. Enjoy!!
We loved this recipe for its lightness and texture. Definitely the best recipe I have come across. We used extra strong bread flour instead of all purpose/plain, and it worked amazingly well. I used Greek currants and citrus peel instead of raisins as those are more traditional, and made a paste of flour and water and piped that on a cross shape on the buns before baking. We also made the dough in a breadmaker, proved the buns the night before, and put them in the fridge overnight, and as advised in the comments, we let them come to room temperature before baking the next morning. I would put more spice in for more flavour. Because we wanted more traditional buns, we made these changes (hence I didn’t put 5 stars) but we definitely recommend these as the best recipe ever.
Thank you so much Pauline!! And thank you for sharing all your tips and changes! It is so helpful for other readers! Happy Easter!
I have read that bread flour is better than AP for the hot cross buns because the extra protein in bread four helps with the lightness of the buns. What do you think?
Hi Sandi! We prefer it with AP flour, but you can definitely try bread flour or a combo of the two.
Can’t wait to try this! Can almond milk be used as a sub for whole milk? Thanks!
Hi Ashley! I haven’t tested with it so I don’t know for sure but I would try it!
I made these and they turned out great! Delicious! Any tips on doubling the recipe?
Hi Alice! If I were doubling it, I would follow the steps exactly (doubling everything of course) and then just put them in two 9×13 pans. Happy Easter!
Hi! I am so excited to try this recipe! Is it possible to make this up the day before, refrigerate the dough overnight, and then bake the buns the next day? Or should I bake the rolls the day before, store them, and then reheat them?
Hi Melissa! Great question! There is a section in the post with the heading “Can I Prep Hot Cross Buns in Advance?” Head there for the answers to your questions! Enjoy!
Thank you so much! I totally missed that section. Have a great Easter!
Hi! I’m relatively new to baking. Can I use 1 tablespoon Rapid Rise Instant Yeast (fast-activating)? I excited to try this recipe!
Yes, that’s exactly what you should use! Enjoy!
These turned out amazing! I did add some orange peel to the dough, and I made a flour paste to make the traditional cross on top! Otherwise I followed your recipe exactly….they are delicious and so soft! Thanks for sharing!
Thank you so much Dee! Sounds delicious!
Just made these and both my husband and I agree-tooooooo delicious! How to stop eating all of them at once? We love our hot cross bunds and these are by far, the best we’ve ever tasted!
Thank you for sharing your recipe!!
Hurray!! Thank you so much Sherry! And I totally know what you mean! I can’t stop eating them either!
First time to make hot cross buns. Turned out well just maybe a little on the dry side, not sure why.
Hi Lorna! A couple of things can cause them to be dry…maybe your oven runs a little on the hot side or over measuring the flour. I’m glad you enjoyed them still!
Great. Thanks for your reply, the oven temperature has been playing up and they looked a little over done when they came out. I also doubted adding the extra flour when it was mixing. Ill watch for these two points next time.
I would love to hear how it goes the next time around!
Made these and they are delicious. I am not fond of cream cheese icing so just used confectioners sugar with milk and a bit of vanilla. So easy to make. Thank-you for sharing.
Thank you so much Claudette! I’m so glad you enjoyed them!
I’m so excited to make these this Easter. The ones I’ve tried in the past always turned out dry. These sound perfect. I do have a question though. Some have said they tend to deflate in the fridge overnight. Should I just bake them on Saturday instead of trying to chill the dough and bake Easter morning?
Hi Cindy! They should be fine if you let them come to room temperature before baking them. If you’re worried about it, you could bake them on Saturday and then reheat them Sunday morning. Add the frosting after reheating them. Let us know what you think!!
Can i let The dough sit in the bowl with oil Over night?
Should be ok, I haven’t done it personally though. Let me know if you do.
I tried this recipe during Easter and it turned out amazing! They were delicious. Canni use this recipe to make a loaf?
Yes, absolutely!! It will make multiple loaves, 2-3 depending on the size of your bread pans. 350 for 30 minutes. Enjoy!
I made these for Easter Sunday Brunch. Oh My Goodness!!! So delicious, moist and the icing sublime! I added another half cup of dried fruit, which included a combination of odds and ends I had in the pantry including: currents, dried chopped dates, chopped apricots, and dried chopped apples. Instead of the simple syrup, I brushed the tops with the liuid I had soaked the fruit in. It was sweet and had more depth than the simple syrup.
Otherwise, I followed your recipe. As I said before, they turned out moist and delicious! Thank you so much for sharing the recipe!!! I look forward to trying many more recipes from your site!
Thank you so much Cheri! We get nothing but rave reviews for these every Easter. I love the additions and changes you made too!
Hi! Just made this yesterday and they turned out delicious. Can you clarify the instructions for the icing? It says 2 ounces 2 tablespoons of cream cheese. Also, how would you suggest storing these? Put in the fridge? Countertop? Also how long do you think these will last for? Thank you!
You want 2 ounces of cream cheese plus two addition tablespoons. I always store them in the refrigerator in an airtight container. They will last 3-4 days in the refrigerator.
store? lol. we ate them all within 24 hours!
Hahaha…that’s what I like to hear!
Loved this recipe! Was my first time making hot cross buns and thought it would be difficult – was a super easy recipe.
Will definitely make it again xx
Yay! Love to hear this! Hope you had a wonderful Easter!
I’m so excited to to make these! I have never made hot cross bins before— a tadition my 8year old has asked we begin ❤️As I write they are set aside to rise 😍 only convern is I had to add about 1/3 of flour more at the end because it was super steaky😬 Did I ruin them!? Anyways, thank yoi so much, I enjoyed reading your through intructions and these have akkowed me to enjoy the process! Happy easter every bunny 🐰❤️
How did they turn out?? I don’t think 1/3 cup should have made a huge difference. Depending on humidity and a lot of other things, dough can be stickier. Hope you had a happy Easter!
This is a five star recipe. I made a batch from another recipe and was disappointed. Then I came across this recipe….made them, and will agree, these are the softest, tastiest hot cross buns I’ve had EVER….and I’m a 68 yr old hot cross bun critic.
I did add a 1/4 tsp of cloves as well as some candied fruit mix in addition to the raisins as it is a personal preference of mine. I shared a few with a neighbor and they got high acclaim. Thank you for sharing this recipe!
You have made my day Gerry! Seriously! We love these hot cross buns so much!
This is a great recipe and my Hot Cross Buns were beautiful after the final proof, my only mistake was refrigerating them overnight so they were freshly baked, with all the smells, this morning, Good Friday. Although they tasted amazing they were flatter and not such a nice shape. Will definitely be making these again, very soon!
I did the same thing. Absolutely bummed as they looked amazing after the final proof and were huge then put them in fridge as per instructions and they deflated overnight. If I had known I would’ve just baked them last night and warmed them again today.
Ya, I wouldn’t recommend putting them in the refrigerator. You want the dough to stay nice and warm throughout the process. I’m sorry they didn’t turn out the way you wanted!
This really is the softest hot cross buns. I enjoyed using this recipe because my buns came out great.
Thanks! So glad you enjoyed them!
Hi, I do not have instant yeast. I have Active Dry. Should I increase the amount of yeast or change anything with the preparation of the yeast?
Hi Julie! Keep everything the same. Just be sure the yeast activates and gets foamy. They should turn out perfectly!
What type of yeast did you use? Active dry yeast, rapid rise etc? Thank you!!
Hi Katherine! I just active dry instant yeast. Enjoy!
I just finished these guys and I can update after we eat them tomorrow. They look and smell amazing! A little note on the yeasts though. I used instant and I think that might be why mine are very puffed up lol. For anyone else, if using instant, you might want to reduce the rising times.
Also, I used a raisin, craisin, dried apple, and dried pineapple mix I had on hand. I did the traditional flour crosses and I used orange juice in the glaze. I am so excited to try them!
Yum! They sound delicious! Thank you for taking to leave us a comment!
AMAZING! I will use the recipes again.
Going to try with apples as I don’t like raisins, but even with raisin it was amazing.
Oh yum! I love the idea of using apples! I would cook them a little first so they are baked perfectly with the bread. Enjoy!
Can I do without the raisins, or are they important for sweetness? Could I replace them with something? Thanks!
You can definitely replace them with anything you want or just omit them. Chocolate chips would be yummy even!!
I have made these three times already and they always turn out great. The only thing I changed was the amount of water in the sugar syrup. It turned out too runny the first time and there was too much of it. I add less water to the sugar and I let the syrup cool down a bit before pouring it on the buns to make it less runny.
Thank you so much for the feedback and so glad you enjoy them!
Have you tried making these through to the shaping part and then putting them in the fridge overnight to finish in the morning? I’m wondering how long they’d have to come to room temp before they can be baked.
I am wondering the same thing!!
It takes about 30-45 minutes for them to come to room temperature. Enjoy!
Yes, this works great! It takes about 30-45 minutes to come to room temperature. Enjoy!
Oh, I am so excited to try these for Easter! I have never had hot cross buns before, but I have heard of them a lot! Yum.
I made these with my daughter just now, they were the fluffiest most delicious Hot Cross Buns ever – thankyou!
Yay! Love to hear that Emily! Thank you!