Easy Hot Cross Buns for Good Friday

As a child growing up in India, I looked forward to the arrival of our baker on Maundy Thursday morning. Bread was, and still is, delivered to the house each morning in India. Every morning around 8am, our 'bread man', as we called him, would swing into our lane on his cycle, merrily ringing his bell. The large metal basket attached to the back of his cycle would be filled with freshly baked loaves of bread and buns for the morning bread run.

But the bread delivery on Maundy Thursday was a special one, for it held a once-in-a-year treat that had to be specially pre-ordered the week before... Sweet, soft, hot cross buns, spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice and generously studded with raisins and candied orange peel. The buns were specially prepared and supplied for only on one day in the year, Good Friday. But, since the bakery was closed on Good Friday, we would receive our hot cross buns the day before, on Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday.

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We would relish our buns for tea and then like we did every year... we would wish we had ordered more. Sadly, we would have to wait a full year before we were able to enjoy them again.

Now, that I live in the U.S., I make my own hot cross buns every year for Good Friday- very simple to make and deeply satisfying.

The Significance of Hot Cross Buns

Remember learning the nursery rhyme 'Hot Cross Buns' from Mother Goose? So do I! 'One a penny, two a penny, Hot Cross Buns!' The history of hot cross buns has been traced back to the 18th century when they were first prepared in London. But it bears a significance beyond the simple street cry turned nursery rhyme.

Hot Cross buns are typically prepared for Good Friday, a solemn day in the Christian faith, to commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus and his death at Calvary. In the Roman Catholic church, Good Friday is a day of adoration and veneration of the cross, where Catholics kneel before the crucifix and kiss it, acknowledging what it represents and paying the highest honor to the Lord's cross as the instrument to salvation. The cross on the top of the buns is a symbolic representation for Good Friday. It signifies Jesus' cross that he had to bear and was ultimately crucified on. And the spices in the buns are a representation of the sweet smelling spices used to embalm Jesus at his burial. 

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Learn how to make delicious Hot Cross Buns with minimal effort. The sweet aroma wafting through the house as the spiced buns bake is simply wonderful. And I assure you, they taste as good as they smell.

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Just out of the oven! Mmm they smell so good!


Ingredients* for the Buns

☐ 3/4 cup (180ml) whole milk, warmed to about 110°F
☐ 2 and 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast or instant yeast (1 standard packet)
☐ 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
☐ 1/2 cup (100g) packed light or dark brown sugar
☐ 5 tablespoons (70g) unsalted butter, melted
☐ 1 teaspoon salt
☐ 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
☐ 2 large eggs, beaten
☐ 1 and 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
☐ 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
☐ 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
☐ 3 and 1/2 cups (435g) all-purpose flour or bread flour (spooned & leveled)
☐ 1 cup (150g) dark raisins 
☐ 1/4 cup (50g) candied orange peel, chopped

Ingredients* for the Flour Cross

☐1/2 cup (60g) all-purpose flour or bread flour
☐6–8 Tablespoons (90-120ml) water

* While the ingredients are both in weight and cup measures for convenience, I would suggest weighing the ingredients, unless you don't have a weighing scale.


1. Prepare the yeast mixture

Whisk the warm milk, yeast, and 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar together in a large bowl.  Cover and allow to sit for 5 minutes until a foam develops on top.

2. Prepare the dough

Add the brown sugar, butter, vanilla extract, eggs, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and 1 cup (125g) flour. 

Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, then add the remaining flour and the raisins and orange peel. 

Beat on medium speed** until the dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 2 minutes. Dough should be a little sticky 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. 

**Since I don't own a mixer, I used a hand mixer, before moving to a wooden spoon and eventually my hand to knead the dough.

3. Knead the dough

Keep the dough in the mixer and beat for an additional 2 minutes or knead by hand on a lightly floured surface for a few minutes.

Do the window pane test, to check that you have kneaded the dough sufficiently.

4. Allow for the First Rise

Lightly grease another large bowl with oil or nonstick spray. Place the dough in the bowl, turning it to fully coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rise in a relatively warm environment for 1-2 hours or until double in size. 

Meanwhile, line a 9×13 inch baking pan or two 9-inch square or round baking pans with parchment paper. I find parchment paper works much better than greasing a pan, as there is less likelihood that the buns will stick with parchment paper.

Alternatively, you could use a cast iron skillet or on a lined baking sheet. I used an 8x11 inch glass baking dish to fit 12 rolls. The remaining 4 rolls went into a smaller pan. However, do note that the bottom of the buns won't brown as nicely in a glass dish as they would in a metal baking pan.

5. Shape the rolls: 

  • When the dough is ready, punch it down lightly to release the air. Then allow it to rest for 15 minutes.
  • Without working the dough and just by using a pastry cutter or knife, divide the dough into 16 roughly equal pieces. 
Easy Hot Cross buns recipe, Dividing dough

  • Shape each piece into a smooth ball by 'rounding' the dough: 
Rounding: With the piece of dough on the counter top,  pull the outsides toward the center to produce a smooth skin. Flip the ball over, so that the seam is on the counter. Cup the palm of your hand lightly over the dough ball and roll the dough ball gently between your palm and the counter top to form a smooth ball.

Watch King Arthurs video demonstration on how to shape buns on the countertop using the rounding method.

Or Zeyneyps' video demonstration of the rounding method in the palm of your hand.

  • Arrange the dough pieces (untouching) in prepared baking pans.
Easy Hot Cross buns recipe, Rising dough

6. Allow for the Second Rise

Cover shaped rolls with plastic wrap, or a clean kitchen towel. Allow to rise until puffy, about 1 hour. They would have filled up and started touching one another.

Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C).

Easy Hot Cross buns recipe, Risen dough

7. Pipe on the cross

Whisk the cross ingredients together, starting with 6 tablespoons of water. You want a thick paste that will pipe easily. Add remaining water if needed. Spoon paste into a ziplock bag. Snip off a small piece at the corner. Pipe a line down the center of each row of buns, then repeat in the other direction to create crosses.

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8. Bake 

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on top, rotating the pan halfway through. If the tops are browning too much, lightly tent the buns with foil. When done, remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack before enjoying them with butter.

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Adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction- Hot Cross Buns

If you enjoyed this recipe, you may like:

 Or check out all my other bread recipes by clicking on "BREAD" below.

For more Easter related recipes, click on the 'Easter' label below.

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