Hot Cross Buns – Your Questions Answered

Hot cross buns are not difficult to make. And Easter wouldn’t be the same without them! Some people experience problems making them so I’ve attempted to answer some questions you may have. For example, “Why are my hot cross buns heavy?” or “Can hot cross buns be frozen?” Here is a step by step recipe that was given to me by my mother. I’m sure you’ll love it. In fact, the recipe I’m sharing with you is so delicious that we invariably eat the buns without butter – the soft, spicy and airy texture of the buns is just simply exquisite.

Hot Cross Buns with one bun buttered

Traditional Recipe For Hot Cross Buns

This recipe makes 15 buns.


  • 400 g Plain Flour
  • 1 pinch Salt
  • 75 g Caster Sugar
  • 200 g Raisins
  • 10 fl oz Milk (Tepid)
  • 25 g Fresh Yeast
  • 0.50 tsp Bun Spice
  • 50 g Butter (Melted)
  • 1 Egg
  • 50 g Flour (for piping
  • 2 tbsp Golden Syrup


  1. In a small dish mix the yeast and 25 g sugar together. Work the yeast until it becomes a liquid.
  2. Place the flour, salt, 50 g sugar and the raisins into a machine mixing bowl and blend lightly.
  3. In a jug, whisk together the milk, egg, melted butter and bun spice. Then add the worked yeast mixing thoroughly.
  4. Add the liquid to the flour and using a dough hook, mix the ingredients together until the dough leaves the side of the bowl.
  5. Place the dough on a floured surface and knead for 2-3 minutes. Form into a large ball and place the dough back into the machine bowl.
hot cross bun dough kneaded into a large ball

6. Cover the bowl and allow the dough to prove and double in size in a warm area, for one hour.
7. After 1 hour, transfer the dough to a floured surface and roll into a sausage shape. Cut the dough into 15 equal pieces.

hot cross bun dough cut into pieces

8. Take each piece of dough and mould into a small ball using the palm of your hand.

hot cross bun dough moulded into small balls

9. Place the balls of dough onto a non-stick baking tray.

Rolled Buns

10. Cover very lightly with a cloth and leave in a warm area to prove for 45 mins to 1 hour, or until they have doubled in size.
11. Pre-heat your oven to 180ºC.

To Make The Cross

  • Mix your additional 50 g of Plain Flour with a little water to make a really tight paste.
  • Fill a piping bag fitted with a writing nozzle with the paste. In straight lines, pipe across your buns one way, and then pipe across the other way to form the cross.
Putting the cross onto hot cross buns

12. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes.
13. Remove from the oven, brush lightly with diluted golden syrup and allow to cool for 5 minutes.

glazing buns

Which is Best – Fresh or Dried Yeast

I prefer fresh yeast although it can be difficult getting hold of it. Previously I bought yeast from local bakers, but they are not always willing to sell it. Presumably they would prefer that you purchased their ready made produce! I buy mine from Amazon.

Fresh Yeast from Amazon
Fresh Yeast 42g x 12 Individually Wrapped Portions
£4.90 plus delivery

My delivery charge was £4.35 when I last purchased the yeast in October 2019. Nevertheless, I would certainly recommend this yeast and will be making another order shortly. It is produced in France and is a slow acting yeast. The individually wrapped cubes are excellent for ease of handling and storing. I simply freeze the yeast and take out a cube when it’s needed.

The question as to whether fresh or dried yeast is best is really a matter of personal choice. Some prefer dried yeast and it does last longer, whereas I would use fresh yeast any day.

(Please be aware that the above link is an affiliate link. This means that if you decide to buy the item I will make a small profit from your purchase.)

Why Are My Hot Cross Buns Heavy?

There could be a number of reasons why your hot cross buns turn out heavy or even hard. The most common reasons are as follows:

  • Over kneading – this is more likely to happen if you use an electric mixer and dough hook. If you over knead dough it will break down the glutens and make the buns hard.
  • Under kneading – if dough is under kneaded it won’t rise properly. This is because kneading develops the structure of the dough by folding and stretching the glands of gluten until they form a network to trap air bubbles produced by yeast as it feeds on the flour.
  • Milk is too hot – if the milk used is too hot it will kill the yeast. Make sure that the milk is warm and not hot.
  • Dead yeast – if your yeast, fresh or dried, is dead unfortunately there is nothing you can do to revive it. A useful article here explains how to tell if your yeast is dead or dying. Expiry dates cannot be relied upon.

Why Are Hot Cross Buns Eaten On Good Friday?

Hot cross buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday because they mark the end of Lent.

How To Glaze Hot Cross Buns

Many glaze the buns with a mixture of sugar and water. You will see from the above recipe that I use a glaze made with golden syrup.

Can Hot Cross Buns Be Frozen?

Yes – after baking let the buns cool. Place them in an airtight container and freeze. The dough can also be frozen but sometimes the dough doesn’t rise after freezing.

When needed, simply allow the hot cross buns to thaw at room temperature for a couple of hours. They can then be warmed in a pre-heated oven set at 150 c.

What Is The Cross Made Of On Top Of The Buns?

Some simply use a knife to leave an imprint on top of the buns. I use a paste made from flour and water (see above recipe).

7 Interesting Facts About Hot Cross Buns

  1. The cross on top of the bun is said to represent the crucifixion of Jesus. This is possibly a modern interpretation as small loaves bearing a cross were made by the Saxons. The four quarters on these loaves represented the four seasons.
  2. The spices inside the buns are supposed to remind Christians of the spices put on the body of Jesus.
  3. According to legend, if you hang a hot cross bun from your kitchen rafters it will remain fresh and not grow any mould.
  4. English folklore believed that hot cross buns hung in the kitchen would prevent fires in the kitchen and provide you with a year of successful baking.
  5. They were thought to have healing powers, and were dried and sprinkled on to wounds.
  6. Taking a hot cross bun on a sea voyage was believed to protect against shipwreck.
  7. In 1592 Elizabeth 1st passed a law decreeing that hot cross buns could only be sold on Good Friday, Christmas or for burials. People caught cooking them in their own kitchens had to give their buns away to the poor.
Buttered Hot Cross Buns

You can’t have Easter without hot cross buns. Try the recipe above and I’m sure you won’t want shop bought ones again. Enjoy and please share if you found this post interesting.

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