Hot Cross Bun Recipe for Easter

Easter is coming and while we’re all looking forward to Hot Cross Buns, it’s much more fun to make them for yourself than to buy them from a shop. The smell of the spiced buns baking will fill your house with anticipation!

It is said that the Alban Bun, the precursor to the famous Hot Cross Bun, originates in St Albans where Brother Thomas Rocliffe, a 14th Century Monk at St Albans Abbey, developed an original recipe. From 1361, Brother Thomas would distribute these buns to feed the poor on Good Friday.

The original recipe is unknown, but ingredients include flour, eggs, fresh yeast, currants and grains of paradise or cardamom. Many modern bakers stay faithful to the original 14th century recipe with only a slight addition of some extra fruit. The buns can have a piped cross, or it can be cut into the top of the bun with a knife.

An article in the Herts Advertiser of 1862 reports the origin of the Hot Cross Bun as follows:

“In ‘Ye Booke of Saint Albans’ it was reported that; “In the year of Our Lord 1361 Thomas Rocliffe, a monk attached to the refectory at St Albans Monastery, caused a quantity of small sweet spiced cakes, marked with a cross, to be made; then he directed them to be given away to persons who applied at the door of the refectory on Good Friday in addition to the customary basin of sack (wine). These cakes so pleased the palates of the people who were the recipients that they became talked about, and various were the attempts to imitate the cakes of Father Rocliffe all over the country, but the recipe of which was kept within the walls of the Abbey.” The time honoured custom has therefore been observed over the centuries, and will undoubtedly continue into posterity, bearing with it the religious remembrance it is intended to convey.”

The fascinating story of the Alban Bun continues to attract significant interest with enquiries about its origins coming from as far as New Zealand. It was also featured on ITV’s Good Morning Britain and Lorraine during Easter 2019 and the BBC’s Mary Berry’s Easter Feast during Lent 2016.


  • 500 g strong bread flour
  • 5 g dried, fast-action yeast
  • 10 g salt
  • 60 g caster or soft dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 50 g softened butter
  • 250 ml warm milk, or half-and-half water and milk
  • 1 egg
  • 100 g dried fruit (currants, raisins, sultanas, etc.)
  • 25 g candied peel

For the crosses:

  • 50g strong white flour
  • 70-80 ml water

For the glaze:

  • 60g sugar
  • 70 ml water


  • Mix together the flour, yeast, salt, sugar and mixed spice in a bowl, then make a well in the centre.
  • Beat an egg into the milk, and pour it into the well, adding the butter too. If you have an electric mixer, use the dough-hook attachment and mix slowly until everything is incorporated, then turn the speed up a couple of notches and knead for around 6 minutes. The dough should be tacky, glossy, smooth and stretchy. If you don’t have one, get stuck in with your hands and knead by hand on a lightly-floured worktop. It’s a very sticky dough at first, so it’s a messy job, but it will come together.
  • Grease a bowl, tighten the dough into a ball, pop it in and cover the bowl with cling film or a damp tea towel. Leave to prove until doubled in size – this can take anywhere between 1 and 3 hours, depending upon ambient temperature.
  • Knock back the dough to remove any air and mix in the dried and candied fruits – again, either by using your hands or your dough hook. Divide the dough into 8, 10 or 12 equally sized pieces and roll up into very tight balls on a very lightly-floured board. This is done by cupping your hand over a ball of dough and rolling it in tight circles, takes a little practise, but is an easy technique to learn.
  • Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and arrange the buns on it, leaving a good couple of centimetres distance between each one. Cover with a large plastic bag and allow to prove again until they have doubled in size.
  • Meanwhile, make the cross dough. Simply beat the water into the flour to make a loose, but still pipeable batter. Put the batter in a piping bag (or freezer bag, with a corner cut away) and make your crosses. If you like, just cut crosses in the tops.
  • Put the tray in a cold oven, and set it to 200⁰C and bake for 20 to 25 minutes (you get a better rise if they go into a cold/just warm oven, if you have to put them into a hot over, knock 5 minutes from the cooking time).
  • When they are almost ready, make the glaze: boil the sugar and water to a syrup and when the buns come out of the oven, brush them with the glaze twice.
  • Eat warm or cold with butter. To reheat them, bake in the oven for 10 minutes at 150⁰C.

Photo by Seriously Low Carb on Unsplash

See also: Mary Berry’s Spring Greens Salad

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