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The Softest Hot Cross Buns [+Video]

22 Reviews
Traditional hot cross bun just got a face lift! These Easter Hot Cross Buns are the softest we’ve ever had! You can totally eat them for breakfast. Or dessert. Or just because. I love food that has strong holiday meaning — put these on your Easter menu!
A photo of a silver cake pan of hot cross buns.

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!

A close up photo of a pan of hot cross buns with white frosting crosses.

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
  • Salt
  • Eggs
  • Unsalted butter
  • Raisins 
  • Water
  • Baking soda
  • Powdered sugar
  • Cream cheese
  • Vanilla extract

A photo of a cross section of a hot cross bun sitting on a white plate full of raisins and topped with a white frosting cross.

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: 

  1. Place your measured milk into a pot on the stove.
  2. Turn the heat on medium-low.
  3. 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.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat.
  5. 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!
  6. Meanwhile, boil the raisins with a little baking soda to plump them up. Then, lightly rinse the raisins. 
  7. Combine the warm milk, sugar, and yeast. Let the mixture rest on your counter until it looks foamy. 
  8. Once the yeast mixture is foamy, make the dough. (You can knead it by hand or use the dough hook on a mixer). 
  9. Place the dough into an oiled bowl and set it aside to rise for roughly 2 hours. 
  10. Once the dough has risen, gently punch it down and shape it into 12 balls. 
  11. Place the dough balls into a greased 9×13-inch pan and set aside to rise once more. 
  12. 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.

A photo looking down on a pan of hot cross buns with white frosting crosses on them.

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. 

A photo looking down on a pan of hot cross buns with white frosting crosses on them.

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! 

A photo of a silver cake pan of hot cross buns.

More EASTER RECIPES:

Looking for a few different Easter recipes? Here are a few that our family loves:

 

A photo of a silver cake pan of hot cross buns.

The Softest Hot Cross Buns

4.41 from 22 votes
Prep Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Additional Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours
Servings: 12
Traditional hot cross bun just got a face lift! These Easter Hot Cross Buns are the softest we've ever had! You can totally eat them for breakfast. Or dessert. Or just because.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2  Cups  Milk Whole
  • 1/2  Cup  Granulated Sugar
  • Tablespoon Instant Yeast
  • 4 1/4 Cups   Flour All-Purpose
  • 1/2  Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2  Teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon
  • Large Eggs
  • Tablespoons Butter Unsalted, softened
  • cup  Raisins
  • 1 1/2 Cups Water
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Soda

Sugar Syrup

  • 1/4  cup  Water
  • 1/4  cup  Granulated Sugar

Cream Cheese Icing

  • 3/4  Cup  Powdered Sugar
  • ounces Cream Cheese plus 2 Tablespoons, softened
  • Tablespoon Butter Unsalted , softened
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2  Tablespoon Water

Instructions

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.

Notes

The best way to reheat hot cross buns is to place them in a plain paper bag, sprinkle the bag lightly with water, and place in a hot oven 3 to 5 minutes before serving.
Nutrition Facts
The Softest Hot Cross Buns
Amount Per Serving (1 g)
Calories 569 Calories from Fat 81
% Daily Value*
Fat 9g14%
Saturated Fat 5g31%
Cholesterol 52mg17%
Sodium 279mg12%
Potassium 313mg9%
Carbohydrates 111g37%
Fiber 4g17%
Sugar 31g34%
Protein 12g24%
Vitamin A 302IU6%
Vitamin C 1mg1%
Calcium 63mg6%
Iron 5mg28%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

A photo of a silver cake pan of hot cross buns.

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About the authors

carrian feik cheney oh sweet basil

Cade and Carrian have three children and love to spend time together whether it’s vacationing or snuggled up on the couch for a good movie.

And this family especially loves to eat.

They love everything from the keep you fit and healthy to the get out your sweat pants indulgent and everything in between.

But most of all, they love the memories made, shared and treasured and it’s all thanks to a meal shared together with loved ones.

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Recipe Rating




41 comments

  • Can i let The dough sit in the bowl with oil Over night?

    • Reply
    • Should be ok, I haven’t done it personally though. Let me know if you do.

      • Reply
  • I tried this recipe during Easter and it turned out amazing! They were delicious. Canni use this recipe to make a loaf?

    • Reply
    • Yes, absolutely!! It will make multiple loaves, 2-3 depending on the size of your bread pans. 350 for 30 minutes. Enjoy!

      • Reply
  • 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!

    • Reply
    • Thank you so much Cheri! We get nothing but rave reviews for these every Easter. I love the additions and changes you made too!

      • Reply
  • 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!

    • Reply
    • 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.

      • Reply
    • store? lol. we ate them all within 24 hours!

      • Reply
      • 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

    • Reply
    • Yay! Love to hear this! Hope you had a wonderful Easter!

      • Reply
  • 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 🐰❤️

    • Reply
    • 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!

      • Reply
  • 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!

    • Reply
    • You have made my day Gerry! Seriously! We love these hot cross buns so much!

      • Reply
  • 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!

    • Reply
    • 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.

      • Reply
      • 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.

    • Reply
    • Thanks! So glad you enjoyed them!

      • Reply
  • 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?

    Thank you

    • Reply
    • Hi Julie! Keep everything the same. Just be sure the yeast activates and gets foamy. They should turn out perfectly!

      • Reply
  • What type of yeast did you use? Active dry yeast, rapid rise etc? Thank you!!

    • Reply
    • Hi Katherine! I just active dry instant yeast. Enjoy!

      • Reply
      • 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.

    • Reply
    • 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!

      • Reply
  • Can I do without the raisins, or are they important for sweetness? Could I replace them with something? Thanks!

    • Reply
    • You can definitely replace them with anything you want or just omit them. Chocolate chips would be yummy even!!

      • Reply
  • 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.

    • Reply
    • Thank you so much for the feedback and so glad you enjoy them!

      • Reply
  • 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.

    • Reply
    • I am wondering the same thing!!

      • Reply
      • 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!

      • Reply
  • 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.

    • Reply
    • Enjoy!!

      • Reply
      • 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!

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