These hot cross buns are soft, fluffy, and loaded with sweet raisins and candied orange peel. Topped with simple icing with a hint of orange flavor, these homemade buns are the perfect addition to your Easter celebrations!
Holidays are usually when I like to take a bit of extra time to make recipes that I might not be able to make during a busy work week. Hot cross buns and hot buttermilk scones with a cinnamon sugar crust are two types of buns I like to make for my family to enjoy throughout the day!
Table of contents
What are Hot Cross Buns?
This may seem out of left field, but every time I think of Hot Cross Buns, I picture hours (it was probably seconds) of pounding middle C on the piano trying to learn how to play my very first masterpiece. You know the song, right? But Hot Cross Buns is not just a song for beginner musicians!
Soft, pillowy and perfectly buttery hot cross buns are an Easter tradition. Freshly baked buns are an aroma you can’t beat. These buns taste like something you’d pick up from your local bakery bright and early, but even better!
The rolls don’t have the traditional spices you might find in a classic hot cross bun. However, with the addition of raisins and candied orange peel, you won’t miss a thing!
Where Do Hot Cross Buns Come From?
Easter is a Christian holiday in which the resurrection of Jesus Christ is celebrated, and his death and burial are remembered. Approximately 6 weeks leading up to Good Friday, the Friday before Easter Sunday, Lent is observed. This is typically a time of repentance, reflection, prayer, and giving up something as a symbol of sacrifice.
This is a time during which certain “luxuries” while fasting are sacrificed, including certain ingredients in yeast buns. Tradition has it that the Hot Cross Bun signifies the end of the period of lent and the cross on the bun signifies the crucifixion. At one point the Hot Cross Bun became so special and so symbolic that it was not allowed to be made or sold on any other day but Good Friday.
Why We Love This Recipe
Today, you’ll find hot cross buns being enjoyed at any point leading up to, and even on Easter (and in some grocery stores, all year round). There are no longer hard and fast rules around enjoying these delicious buns.
This recipe uses my soft, buttery, and sweet homemade dinner roll recipe as a base. It’s such a versatile dough that can also be used for lemon rolls with a citrus cream cheese icing and braided sweet bread with an apricot filling.
Breaking open a soft hot cross bun while it’s still warm and allowing the steam to melt a pad of butter is a great way to start your day. You can enjoy it with a cup of tea in the afternoon, or have a basket set on the dinner table.
Breadman Programmable Bread Maker (aff): If you’re in the market for one, using a bread maker to make bread is a fool proof method meant to make your life easier. You definitely don’t need it to make this recipe, though.
Stand-up mixer: This is an appliance that comes in handy for most baking recipes. It’s one you’ll want to invest in if you’re a frequent baker. It makes kneading a breeze!
Your hands: Ok, so it’s not an appliance, but it’s definitely a method that has stood the test of time! Kneading the dough with your hands (or a wooden spoon) works great on days you’ve missed arm day at the gym.
- Homemade dinner roll recipe
- Raisins – Can use either dark or golden.
- Candied orange peel – These can easily be homemade, but storebought works just as well.
- Egg yolk & water – Used as the egg wash to give the buns a nice golden finish.
- Heavy Cream – Used as the rich liquid base to the frosting.
- Salted butter – Softened, for easy mixing.
- Orange extract – Gives the frosting a beautiful orange flavor.
- powdered sugar – Provides sweetness and texture to the icing.
How to Make Hot Cross Buns From Scratch:
This hot cross bun recipe is simple enough for beginners and this step-by-step recipe will ease any home baker into the world of bread making. You’ll need to set aside a few hours for the preparation of the dough and rise time but believe me, it’s worth the wait!
Once you’ve prepared your dough, you’ll add in your raisins and candied orange peels, form it into balls and let it rise again before brushing it with an egg wash.
Then from here, it’s just a matter of baking until golden brown and trying to avoid eating them all.
Once they’ve cooled, use the icing to make the cross. If you do this while the buns are too hot, the icing will just slide off and while they still might taste great, you’ll lose the signature cross!
These hot cross buns are sweet and flavorful enough to eat all on their own but you can definitely slice them open and spread with a pad of butter, or your favorite jam.
Save any leftovers for bread pudding, French toast, or as a snack the next day!
To make a neat cross, the easiest way is to transfer the icing to a piping bag and pipe the lines that way.
If you don’t have a piping bag, you can use a spoon to drizzle it one way and then the other. It may not be as neat, but it will still taste as great.
You don’t need to at all, but it can help! If you’re looking for soft raisins, you might want to think about it. It also helps keep them light so they don’t all sink to the bottom of the bun while they are baking.
Some even soak their raisins in a bit of rum!
Yes! Traditional spices include cinnamon, nutmeg, and/or all spice. 1/4-1/2 tsp of each into your dough will create a signature spice blend.
Depending on the temperature in your kitchen, you may find different areas are more optimal than others. Generally you want a warm, draft-free area, but if you find your house to be extra moist, and a little too warm, you can set your dough to rise by an open window. If you don’t have a specific bread proofing appliance, then a little trial and error might be in order. A turned off oven (or the drawer underneath it) may work, but the countertop might work just as well.
Store these buns at room temperature for a few days. Cover them to avoid them drying out.
Yes, you can. These buns freeze really well. They can be kept frozen for up to 6 months and if you wrap them separately you can just take out and warm up only what you need.
There are lots of options for add-ins! Try adding nuts, like walnuts or pecans. Maybe try cranberries instead of raisins, or have both. Other candied fruits you could try are lemon, apricots, cherries, or currents.
Hot Cross Buns
Sweet Roll Dough
- 1 recipe homemade dinner roll recipe
Hot Cross Buns Add-Ins
- 1/2 cup raisins dark or golden
- 1/3 cup candied orange peel chopped
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon water
Sweet Orange Icing
- 1-2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon salted butter softened
- 1/3 teaspoon orange extract
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar
Hot Cross Buns
- Prepare sweet roll dough and allow to finish the first rise cycle.
- Punch down the dough and mix in the raisins and candied orange peel.
- Divide the dough into 15-20 pieces (you can see the size of the rolls if divided into 20 pieces in the original homemade dinner rolls recipe). Form the dough into balls.
- Place the rolls evenly in a greased 9"x13" glass baking dish.
- Cover with a light dish towel and allow the rolls to rise until doubled, 1-1 1/2 hours.
- Whisk together the egg yolk with 1 teaspoon of water. Use a pastry brush to brush the tops of the rolls with egg mixture.
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake the rolls until they are deep brown on the tops and cooked through, 12-15 minutes.
Sweet Orange Icing:
- Beat together all of the icing ingredients (or stir together with a spoon).
- Transfer the icing to a piping bag. Pipe crosses over the tops of the rolls.