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Food & Recipes

Best-Ever Hot Cross Buns Recipe for Easter — Genius Shortcut Makes It Quick & Easy

Our Food Editor uses this trick to make the dough in half the time!

It just wouldn’t be a traditional Easter weekend celebration without hot cross buns, would it? Sure, there are other must-haves for this spring holiday — baskets, the Easter bunny, pretty pastel dresses, even popular candies like jelly beans, Cadbury eggs and Peeps. But hot cross buns are something special: a classic and time-honored treat that completes your holiday feast. In fact, some (and we include ourselves in this bunch) might say they’re a must, especially on Good Friday. Keep reading to learn how this holiday tradition came about and our test kitchen’s recipe that uses a clever shortcut!

What are hot cross buns?

This treat is a yeast-risen spiced bun with a cross pipped on top. It’s best enjoyed warm or sliced and toasted with butter or jam. Most hot cross bun recipes start with a dough of flour, eggs, yeast, sugar, butter, milk, spices and dried fruit. Other seasonings — such as cloves, lemon juice, fruit juice or even rum — are sometimes added in. The fruit and dough ingredients are kneaded together to make it soft and elastic. Then, the dough sits in a warm place covered until it’s doubled in size before it’s shaped into balls. The balls (buns) are given another chance to rise before baking. Once cooled, icing crosses are put atop each bun, if they weren’t prior to baking, and enjoyed.

Where hot cross buns originated

As for where the hot cross bun tradition began, the St. Albans Cathedral in Hertfordshire, England, offers one compelling theory. According to the popular legend, the hot cross bun is said to originate in St. Albans, where Brother Thomas Rocliffe, a 14th-century monk at St. Albans Abbey, developed an original recipe for the buns and distributed them to hungry, poor locals on Good Friday, starting in 1361.

Why hot cross buns are eaten on Good Friday

Hot cross buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday in the British Isles, Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and some parts of the Americas. The buns mark the end of the 40 days of Lent. The cross on top of the hot cross bun is meant to remind Christians of Jesus on the cross. In the US, this cross is typically made from sugary frosting; in parts of Europe, the cross is made either by slashing the dough with a knife or by laying strips of pastry across the top of the bun.

How to make hot cross buns

Woman’s World Food Editor Charles Grayauskie shares his Easy Hot Cross Buns recipe that uses a time-saving ingredient: Pillsbury hot roll mix. This mix already contains flour and salt, so you don’t have to measure them out. Plus, the package comes with a packet of yeast to incorporate into the dough for fluffy hot cross buns that only need 30 minutes to rise. Once baked, the buns are piped with a 3-ingredient icing and ready to serve. “The buns are sweetly spiced and the glaze is ooey-gooey wonderful — they’re such crowd-pleasers!” Charles promises. (For another shortcut dough recipe, try this 2-ingredient dough to make protein-packed donuts and bagels.)

Easy Hot Cross Buns

Hot cross buns for Good Friday on a wire rack



  • 1 (16 oz.) box hot roll mix like Pillsbury, with yeast packet
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened or slightly melted
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 3 Tbs. sugar
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon


  • ¾ cup powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbs. milk
  • Dash of vanilla extract


  • Yield: 12 buns
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 13-by-9-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In medium bowl, combine hot roll mix with yeast, raisins, sugar and cinnamon. Add hot water, butter and egg to dry mix and stir until soft dough forms.
  3. Pour dough onto lightly floured surface and knead 5 minutes until smooth. If needed, sprinkle extra flour over surface and dough to eliminate stickiness.
  4. While dough is still on surface, cover dough with bowl and rest 5 minutes. Remove bowl and Divide dough into 12 equal pieces. Shape into balls.
  5. Place dough balls in greased pan. Cover with plastic wrap or clean tea bowl and rise about 30 minutes or until doubled in size.
  6. Uncover and bake around 16 to 18 minutes. Buns are down when they’re golden brown and risen. Once baked, remove from oven and cool while making icing.
  7. In small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, milk and vanilla. Transfer icing to pipping bag with regular round tip. Pipe a cross design onto each slightly warm hot cross bun and then serve.

    Bonus: Store leftover buns in an airtight container and enjoy within 1 to 2 days.

    Note: Measurements for wet ingredients and directions for making the dough are based on the package’s instructions. Adjust for your specific brand of hot roll mix.

Keep reading to learn how to whip up more sweet treats!

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16 Fast, Easy Coconut Desserts That Are Creamy, Dreamy Delicious

These Churro Cookie Recipes Are Full of Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice — So Easy to Bake Up at Home

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