Delicious hot cross buns with icing, that can be made with raisins, currants and peel, if you like. Topped with an icing cross.

hot cross buns on cooling rack

It wouldn’t be Easter without some hot cross buns with icing and these are the ones I grew up with. This old family recipe produces a pan of pull-apart-style hot cross buns and in our house, they were always topped with an icing cross.

These buns freeze beautifully, so make them ahead and pop them in the freezer until Easter. Simply thaw and add the icing on Easter morning.

hot cross buns with icing cross

Ingredients and substitutions

Yeast – you will need Active Dry Yeast or regular Instant Yeast (such as SAF brand yeast).

Raisins, Currants and/or Peel – You can use any combination of raisins, currants and/or peel, just keep it to the total amount specified. You can use all raisins, for example, or 1/3 raisins, 1/3 currants and 1/3 peel.

Spices – Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Allspice and Mace are specified. Mace is a bit of an uncommon spice. If you don’t have it, increase the other three spices by 1/4 tsp each.

You will also need – water, white sugar, milk, butter, eggs, salt, vanilla, all purpose flour. For the icing cross, you will need icing/confectioners’ sugar, milk and butter.

Step-by-step photos

photo collage of making hot cross buns

Note that the dough is quite sticky-ish looking at the end of mixing. As long as it cleans the bowl, it is good. You can add a bit more flour on the counter, if needed.

I like to weigh the dough ball as a whole, then divide that weight by the number of buns, to get a weight each bun should be. For this bake, that was about 88g. Set the buns into a greased pan, leaving a bit of space between each one. Cover and let rise until doubled before baking.

Recipe tips!

  • Scalding the milk (heating it to 180F) before using deactivates some enzymes in milk that can inhibit yeast production. While not absolutely necessary, it is always a good idea to do it, if you can. If you don’t have a thermometer to test 180F, just remember that milk will boil at 212F, so 180F will be before the milk comes to a boil. You will notice steam and small bubbles around the edge of the pan.
  • Dough with spices can be slow risers, so be patient and allow it to rise until doubled, however long that takes.
  • If you like spicier hot cross buns, you can increase the spice amounts to your taste.
  • Note that this recipe uses a triple rise, that is it is set out to rise to doubled, then punched down and allowed to rise again, before it is shaped into rolls and then set to rise a third time before baking.
  • If you are feeding a crowd, double the recipe and bake in a 9×13-inch pan. Doubling will make 18 buns, which you should place 3 wide by 6 long the pan.

Top Tip!

As you are shaping your dough into balls, be sure not to have any raisins exposed on the top of the buns, as they will burn and taste bitter when baked. Simply push them into the dough, so they are covered up.

hot cross buns pulled apart

Making ahead, storing and freezing

These rolls are best on the day they are baked. Like most enriched breads (with butter and egg), these will dry out at a faster rate than non-enriched breads. If you can’t eat them all up on the day they are baked, freeze them, even if it’s just for a couple of days.

To freeze, wrap well and freeze for up to 3 months. Ideally, freeze before adding the icing. Thaw at room temperature still wrapped. Keep the buns in one piece if you are baking with plans to freeze them all. Simply ice with the cross before serving.

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hot cross buns on cooling rack

Get the Recipe: Hot Cross Buns

Delicious hot cross buns with icing, that can be made with any combination of raisins, currants and/or peel.
5 stars from 8 ratings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Rising Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 55 minutes
Yield: 9 buns


Hot Cross Bun Dough:

  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry or instant yeast, not quick or rapid-rise yeast
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water, about 105F
  • 1 teaspoon white granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm milk, scalded to 180F, then cooled to 105F (*see instructions for how to)
  • 1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 large eggs, lightly beaten (*see Note 1)
  • 1 cup raisins, currants and/or peel, plumped (*see Note 2)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/2 – 3 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and levelled
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mace, if you don't have, add 1/8 tsp additional cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg

Glaze: (after baking)

  • 2 Tablespoons white sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons hot water


  • 1 cup icing/confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 – 3 teaspoons cream or milk, plus more, as needed, to make a pipeable icing


  • Scalding the milk: Heat milk in a small saucepan until steaming or 180F. Remove from heat and let cool to just barely lukewarm (105F) or room temperature.
  • Plump the raisins (if using): Place raisins in a small bowl. Cover with very hot or boiling water and let stand for 15 minutes. Drain and dry well before adding to the dough.
  • Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water (about 105F) and the 1 teaspoon sugar in a small bowl. Let stand for 10 minutes.
  • In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer with a kneading hook, combine the scalded milk, softened butter, 1/4 cup sugar, salt, vanilla and lightly beaten eggs. Add the yeast yeast mixture and mix to combine. Mix in the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, adding the spices with the third addition of flour, and the raisins/peel/currants with the next addition of flour, making sure the fruit is well covered with flour before mixing in.
  • Start kneading with hands or mixer, adding only enough flour to keep the dough from sticking. Knead at least 5 minutes. Place dough into a greased bowl, sprinkle lightly with flour, cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk.
  • Punch down dough. Cover again with flour and damp cloth and leave to rise another 30 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 350F. (not fan-assisted)
  • Divide dough into 9 equal-sized pieces. *I like to weigh the dough and divide that number by the number of buns I want to make, then weigh out each piece to that weight. That way all the buns will be exactly the same size.
  • Place balls into a greased 8×8-inch baking pan, in 3 rows or 3 buns. (For a 9×13-inch pan, place in the pan in 6 rows of 3). Cover the pan with a clean towel and let rise until doubled.
  • Bake in a preheated 350° F. oven for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown and hollow sounding when tapped (or at least 195F when tested with an instant read thermometer). *Check them at 25-30 minutes and cover loosely with aluminum foil for the last part of baking, if already browned enough. They can seem "done" at about 30 minutes, but are probably not. Baking time should be at least 35-40 minutes).
  • Meanwhile, prepare the sugar glaze by stirring together the sugar and hot water.
  • Remove from oven and immediately brush tops of buns with the sugar glaze.
  • Allow buns to cool for 8-10 minutes in the pan, then remove (in one large piece) to a cooling rack to cool completely. (Do not separate buns until ready to eat, to keep them nice and soft inside).
  • Once completely cooled and before serving, prepare the icing by beating together all the icing ingredients. Start with 2 tsp cream or milk and add more, a tiny bit at a time, until the icing is piping consistency. Use a pastry bag or a Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off to pipe a cross of icing on top of each bun.
  • Buns are best eaten on the day they are made. If they can't be eaten up right away, wrap and freeze up to 3 months.


  1. To get the 1/2 egg, lightly beat 1 whole egg in a small bowl, then discard half of it. 
  2. You can use any combination of raisins, currants and/or peel, as you like, or just use all of one if you prefer. just keep it to the total amount specified. 
If you like a spicier hot cross bun, you can increase the spices to 1 tsp of each.
Be sure to read the notes above the recipe card, where I share more tips for making this recipe.
Cuisine: British, Canadian
Course: Snack
Serving: 1serving, Calories: 381kcal, Carbohydrates: 67g, Protein: 11g, Fat: 8g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 46mg, Sodium: 120mg, Potassium: 148mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 7g, Vitamin A: 229IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 40mg, Iron: 4mg
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