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Fluffy and sweet, these Hot Cross Buns are spiced with orange, cinnamon, and cardamom, then finished with a warm apricot glaze. A true Easter delight!

Overhead of hot cross buns.

Easy Easter Dinner Rolls

Hot cross buns are a traditional Easter side dish but one I have hesitated to make, usually opting to grab some from the store. However, after experimenting in the kitchen over the last few months, I’ve learned that yeast is truly nothing to be afraid of. I’m becoming more and more comfortable with this delicate living organism.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to working with yeast.

You can make soft, glazed apple cinnamon rolls. And homemade pizza dough loaded with all of the good stuff. You can make crisp and tender cinnamon maple bagels.

And if you’re in the mood (or it’s Easter), you can make a batch of sweet, super soft and fluffy buns like these hot cross buns. You’ll end up with bakery-style buns that are perfectly spiced and sweetened.

This hot cross buns recipe yields tender, pillowy rolls that are spiced with orange zest, cinnamon, and cardamom. Each roll is sweetened with honey and brown sugar. Brush them with a warm apricot glaze when they are fresh from the oven for a dose of wonderful sweetness and flavor.

The most important thing you need is patience. If you can manage that, you will be good to go.

Side view of hot cross buns on wire rack.

What You’ll Need

The ingredients in this Easter bun recipe include a few spices and ingredients that are traditional to hot cross buns and a few pantry staples.

For The Dough

  • Raisins – A traditional ingredient in hot cross buns.
  • Whole milk – I do not recommend substituting this with skim. 2% would be okay.
  • Yeast – Active dry yeast works best. You’ll need 2 envelopes.
  • Light brown sugar
  • Honey – Along with the brown sugar, the honey sweetens the rolls.
  • Orange zest – You’ll need one orange to zest.
  • Vanilla extract
  • Salt
  • Ground cinnamon & cardamom – These two spices add the warm flavor to the buns.
  • All-purpose flour – It’s very important that the flour is measured properly. Too much or too little will affect how much the buns rise.
  • Eggs – Lightly beaten for an egg wash.
  • Unsalted butter

For The Cross

  • Egg
  • Whole milk
  • Flour – The all-purpose flour is what creates the color difference.
  • Water
  • Apricot jam – Strained and added at the very end for flavor.

How to Make Hot Cross Buns

As I mentioned above, making homemade hot cross buns requires patience but is overall pretty easy!

  1. Prepare the raisins. Soak the raisins in a bowl with hot water for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Prepare the dough. Warm the milk and honey to 110°F then transfer to the stand mixer. Whisk in the yeast. Let sit for 5 minutes until dissolved and foamy.
  3. Whisk in the eggs, butter, orange zest, and vanilla.
  4. Add one cup of flour, sugar, and spices and mix until combined, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  5. Add the remaining flour and mix until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Then continue to mix for 3-5 minutes until well kneaded.
  1. Scrape the dough itno to a lightly greased bowl. Cover with plastic and let rise in a warm place until it’s doubled in size.
  1. Shape the dough. Punch down the dough and let it rest for 5 minutes. Divide into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and place on the baking sheet. Cover and let rise until they’ve doubled in size.
  1. Add the cross. Whisk the egg and milk together. Brush the tops of the buns. Combine the flour and water, adding 2 tablespoons at a time until a thick paste forms. Use a piping tip to pipe a cross over each bun.
  1. Bake. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown.
  2. Add the apricot jam. Heat the apricot jam until warm. Press through a fine-mesh sieve, then brush over the hot buns when they come out of the oven.
Hot cross buns with one cut open so the inside is visible.

Tips for Success

If this is your first time making this recipe for hot cross buns, here are some things you might find helpful.

  • Always dissolve the yeast first. I always dissolve the yeast before adding it to the flour. This a great habit to form because you can easily tell if the yeast is good or not without wasting an entire recipe.
  • How to tell if the dough has risen enough. Check to see if it has risen enough by pressing two fingers into the dough. If the indentation remains, that means the dough has risen enough.
  • Measure the flour properly. The amount of flour used is important because if you use too much, your rolls won’t be as soft. That’s why it’s best to use the spoon and level method and weigh the flour.
  • Add more flour if necessary. If the dough is still too sticky and sticking to the bowl, slowly add more flour. Add just enough that it no longer sticks to the sides. The softer the dough (the less flour), the more rise and the softer the buns will be.
  • Let them cool. As tempting as it is to dive right in, allow the buns to cool on the baking sheet for at least 20 minutes. During this time the buns will finish cooking and you won’t have a dough-y texture on the inside.

Serving Suggestions

Hot cross buns are traditionally served on the Easter dinner table. With the sweetness and warmth of the spices, plus the egg wash, there’s no need to add anything to these Easter rolls to enjoy them. If anything, a bit of salted butter will do the trick.

The best advice, though, is to enjoy these warm from the oven. They are heavenly!


How to Store

  • How to store. These Easter dinner rolls will stay fresh at room temperature for 2 days or in the fridge for up to a week, when stored in an airtight container.
  • Can I freeze hot cross buns? Yes, you can freeze these rolls for up to two months. Wrap each roll in plastic wrap then store in a ziplock freezer bag.

More Bread Recipes:

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Hot cross buns on a wire rack with parchment paper.

Hot Cross Buns

Yield: 12 rolls
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

Fluffy and sweet, these Hot Cross Buns are spiced with orange, cinnamon, and cardamom, then finished with a warm apricot glaze. A true Easter delight!

Ingredients

For the Dough

  • ¾ cup (180 ml) whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast, 1 packet
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups (390 g) all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup (53 g) light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup (104 g) raisins

For The Cross

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk
  • ½ cup (60 g) all-purpose flour
  • 4-8 tablespoons water
  • ¼ cup (80 g) apricot jam

Instructions

Make the buns

  1. In a small saucepan, heat the milk and honey over low heat until it reaches 105-115°F. Remove from heat and transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk in the yeast and let sit for 5 minutes until foamy.
  2. Whisk in the egg, egg white, melted butter, orange zest, and vanilla.
  3. Add 1 cup of the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer. Fit the mixer with the dough hook attachment and mix at low speed for 1 minute.
  4. Add the remaining flour and raisins. Mix on low speed until the dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 2 minutes. The dough should be slightly tacky and soft. If it’s too sticky and not pulling away from the sides of the bowl, mix in additional flour 1 Tablespoon at a time. Continue to mix at low speed for an additional 5 minutes.
  5. Use a silicon dough scraper to scrape the dough out of the mixing bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Shape it into a ball and transfer it to a lightly greased bowl, turning to coat all sides of the dough with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about 1-2 hours.
  6. Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking pan and set it aside.
  7. Once the dough has doubled, gently punch it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 12 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball, pinching the bottom to seal and arrange in the prepared baking pan.
  8. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Make the cross

  1. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. In a small bowl whisk the remaining egg and 1 tablespoon of milk together. Brush the tops of the rolls with the egg wash.
  3. In a small bowl combine the remaining ½ cup of flour with 4 tablespoons of water. If needed, continue adding water, 1 teaspoon at a time until a pipeable paste forms. Using a piping bag fitted with a Wilton #10 piping tip, pipe the paste over the top of the rolls to form a cross over each one. (You may need to run the tip across the sides of the pan to break the batter free after each row.)
  4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown.
  5. While the buns bake, add apricot jam to a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in 15-second intervals until warm. Press through a fine-mesh sieve, then brush over the tops of the hot buns.
  6. Cool the buns in the pan for 15 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. Hot cross buns are best served warm.

Notes

Flour: Weigh the flour for the most accurate measurements. This recipe will only work with all-purpose flour.

Raisins: You may substitute equal amounts of dried currents, cranberries, apricots if desired. Chop apricots into small pieces before using.

Make ahead tip

  1. Rolls will stay fresh for up to 2 days stored in an airtight container at room temperature.
  2. Rolls will keep for up to 1 week stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  3. Rolls can be frozen for up to 2 months. Wrap each roll tightly with plastic wrap and store in a ziptop freezer bag.

Warm for a few seconds in the microwave before serving, if desired.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 12
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 567

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Since different brands of ingredients have different nutritional information, the values shown are just an estimate.

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4 Comments

  1. Yeast. It’s a beast. That’s my opinion! Thanks for letting me know that I shouldn’t be scared and I should embrace it so I can make these fabulous buns!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Julie! Yes, yeast is surely a beast. Or so I thought for so many years. The more I work with it though, the easier it’s becoming. And I’m starting to favor yeast breads more.

    1. They are traditionally made with lemon and currants but I decided to switch it to orange and raisins because that’s how I roll, ha. They turned out so good, I may always make them orange. You must try them! Nom nom nom…