Traditional Hot Cross Buns Recipe

Grandma's traditional hot cross buns recipes are for making those flavorful sweet buns that are routinely served on the Christian holiday of Good Friday and during the Holy Season of Lent.

Homemade Good Friday buns are very easy to make, and they taste extra delicious served when warm from the oven with butter. However, these old fashioned buns are so delicious, you'll enjoy them any time of the year!

What is a Traditional Hot Cross Bun?

The smallish sweet bun has its top marked with a distinctive white cross made of lightly cooked dough or glazed sugar to symbolize the Crucifixion of Jesus, and is traditionally eaten on Good Friday.

What are Hot Cross Buns Made of?

The slightly sweet buns contain spices and raisins, or currants, and they sometimes contain chopped dried fruit, or candied fruit.

Should Hot Cross Buns be Eaten Hot?

These spicy, festive buns are best served warm from the oven and split open with a pat of butter. Our family loves to eat them toasted and buttered, sometimes spread with thick-cut orange marmalade.

The Traditional Hot Cross Buns Recipe That Grandma Loved to Make

Mom's Recipe Scrapbooks (c. 1920s)

Homemade Hot Cross BunsCelebrate Easter with Homemade Hot Cross Buns
(Source: ©andrew-neilan/123RF)

This traditional hot cross buns recipe calls for bread yeast and is adapted from vintage newspaper clippings found in Mom's scrapbook.

These homemade Good Friday buns are easy to make, and they taste extra delicious when served warm from the oven spread with lots of butter.


1 tablespoon yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup warm water

2 cups milk
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 egg
1/3 cup melted butter
6 cups flour (bread flour may be used)
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup mixed candied fruit


Add yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar to 1/2 cup warm water. Let sugar and yeast mixture sit 10 minutes in warm place.

Warm the milk, add 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, salt, egg, and melted butter. Pour mixture into large mixing bowl, add yeast mixture, and stir with wooden spoon. Add 5 cups of flour, cinnamon, raisins, and candied fruit. Mix well.

If you have very sticky dough, add up to 1 cup remaining flour. Knead as for bread dough until smooth. Cover ball of soft dough with tea towel, let dough rise until doubled at room temperature, then punch down, knead briefly, and divide dough into equal pieces for buns.

This traditional hot cross buns recipe makes about 2 dozen festive buns ready for decorating and baking (see easy instructions below).

How to Decorate Hot Cross Buns

Traditional Hot Cross Buns Decorated with IcingHot Cross Buns Decorated with a Traditional Icing Cross
(PD Source: Don Bell)

Follow the old fashioned hot cross buns recipe, and place your cut buns on a baking sheet or large baking tray. Cut a cross in the top of each, then let rise till almost doubled in size. Heat oven and bake at 325°F for 25 minutes, or until golden brown in color.

Remove hot buns from oven and let cool on wire rack. After buns have cooled, blend remaining 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar with enough milk to form a fairly thick paste and put icing in each cross.

This can be done using a table knife, but it's easiest done with a piping bag, or you can simply adapt an ordinary resealable plastic bag by cutting a small hole in the corner of the bag and squeezing to pipe crosses.

Baked buns may be stored in an airtight container to preserve their freshness before serving.

Alternate Ways to Decorate Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Buns Decorated for EasterHomemade Hot Cross Buns With a Cross of Dough
(Source: Don Bell)

Method 1:

By following the old fashioned hot cross buns recipe, prepare buns for the oven, then put a cross on top of buns using little bits of rolled hot cross bun dough and brush on butter and powdered sugar, then bake as usual.

Method 2:

With a sharp knife, slit top at right angles OR press a cross indentation onto the top of each bun with a long pencil.

When NEARLY baked, glaze buns, and dredge (coat) the cross thus produced with granulated sugar; repeat glazing and dredging until cross is filled with sugar. Complete baking.

For glazing, mix 1/2 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons water in a small saucepan over medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Brush glazing mixture lightly over buns using a pastry brush.

Cinnamon may be mixed with the glazing sugar, or you can add a small amount of lemon extract, orange juice, or orange zest for a slightly tangy flavor.

Farm Kitchen Chelsea Buns

This old fashioned Chelsea Buns recipe is easy to make and offers a pleasant change from Hot Cross Buns.

Take prepared bread dough that's ready for the oven. Roll out thin and spread with butter. Sprinkle sugar over it, brown or white. Repeat three times. After the third time, sprinkle ground cinnamon over the rolled dough. Put dried currants thickly over the cinnamon.

Cut dough in strips about 3/4-inch wide and roll each strip separately to the size of an ordinary bun. Stand them on end in a greased cookie tin. Let stand at room temperature until very light, then bake in moderate oven (350°F) until done.

Hot Cross BISCUITS Recipe

Mary Lee Taylor Recipe (c. 1940)

Yummy Hot Cross Biscuits on a PlateHomemade Hot Cross Biscuits for a Change of Pace
(Source: Mary Lee Taylor)

Evaporated Milk

To substitute 1 cup evaporated milk, use 1 cup heavy cream, or gently simmer 2-1/4 cups whole milk in a saucepan until reduced to 1 cup.

This vintage BISCUIT recipe is an easy recipe for anyone seeking an alternative to the classic hot cross buns.

1. Turn on oven; set at very hot (450°F).

2. Grease a cake pan measuring 9 inches across.

3. Sift together 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour, 3 teaspoons baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt into large bowl.

4. Work into flour mixture with a fork 1/4 level measuring cup shortening.

5. Stir in with fork a mixture of 6 tablespoons SEGO Evaporated Milk and 6 tablespoons water.

6. Turn out on lightly floured surface. Knead a few seconds, or until smooth. Roll to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut into rounds with floured 2-1/2-inch cutter. With back of knife press a cross about halfway through each round.

7. Fill crosses with equal parts of 4-1/2 tablespoons jelly or thick jam.

8. Place close together in a prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven on oven rack slightly above center for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve at once. This makes 1/2 dozen delicious Hot Cross BISCUITS. Now, that's different!

This original biscuit recipe offers a tasty change from a traditional hot cross buns recipe. So delicious and so easy to make!

Hot Cross Buns History

Hot Cross Buns Nursery Rhyme IllustrationHot Cross Buns Nursery Rhyme

Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns!
One a penny two a penny — Hot cross buns!

If you have no daughters, give them to your sons,
One a penny two a penny — Hot cross buns!

Many people in the United Kingdom, Canada, and elsewhere in the Commonwealth of Nations can recall reciting the familiar Hot Cross Buns rhyme as a child.

The old nursery rhyme originated back in the 1800s when English street vendors sold the popular buns to the loud cry of "Hot cross buns!"

The origin of hot cross buns is unclear, and there are numerous theories offered. Some say their history dates from the small consecrated loaves that were once given to the poor as alms by priests after the Mass.

It's also claimed that in 1361, a Father Rocliff of St. Albans Abby in southern Hertfordshire handed out sweet, spiced buns marked with a cross to the poor after the Good Friday Mass. Good Friday is also known as the Day of the Cross.

The tasty little buns must have been a hit with the parishioners, as their association with Good Friday remains today, making the traditional hot cross buns recipe one of the most popular Easter recipes and an Easter tradition in many kitchens across the land.

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