The secret to amazing Easter hot cross buns

A NAIT baker offers advice about buying or making the seasonal treat

Those hot cross buns you’ve got your eye on may not be the sweet and spicy seasonal treat you think they are.

Don’t worry – Easter isn’t ruined. You can easily avert disaster in one of a couple of ways, says Alan Dumonceaux (Baking ’05), chair of Baking and Pastry Arts at NAIT.

Method 1: Check the ingredients

candied fruit

“Hot cross is a staple Easter yeast product,” says Dumonceaux. That means every store will be making them just not the same way. If you buy from a local, established bakery, he believes that in most cases “you’re going to have better quality.”

The biggest reason for that is the fruit that helps sweeten the buns. In some cases, it may not be the real deal.

“Commercially suppliers sell what’s called a bun mix,” Dumonceaux explains. “But the ‘fruit’ is actually coloured rutabaga.

“If your bakery is charging you more it’s because you’re getting real fruit. So you’re getting cherry and lemon peel and orange peel – instead of turnips.”

Method 2: Make your own

hot cross bun dough

Hot cross buns are also a staple at the NAIT baking program, where learning to make them perfectly helps prepare students for one of the busiest times they’ll encounter in their careers (a good chunk of bakery revenues are earned during Easter and Christmas, says Dumonceaux).

Check out their tried-and-true recipe below.

But first, a tip. Hot cross buns are easy to make – as long as you add the spice at the right time.

“Spice delays fermentation considerably,” says Dumonceaux. “It’s really important that you fully develop your dough, and the very last thing you do is add your spice and fruit. [Otherwise], it will be quite dense instead of something that is light and airy and flavourful and soft.”

Here’s wishing you a flavourful and happy Easter. Enjoy!

Recipe: NAIT’s Hot Cross Buns

Makes 12 buns

easter hot cross buns and coffee



  • ¼ cup and 1 tsp all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup warm milk (body temperature)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp instant yeast


  • Disperse the yeast in the milk, add the flour and sugar using a whisk if mixing by hand. Mix until smooth. The batter will be very thin.
  • Cover with plastic and let stand 30 - 40 min.
  • Sponge will rise 3 - 4 times original size.
  • Cover currants and mixed citrus peel (see below) with water and soak for 5 - 30 minutes. depending on its original moisture level. The fruit should be soft but not mushy.



  • All of the sponge
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground allspice
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground mace
  • 2 tsp instant yeast
  • ¾ cup dried currants
  • 1/3 cup mixed citrus peel


  • Add sponge.
  • Add dry ingredients, egg and yeast. Note: only add half the sugar and half the butter.
  • Mix 4 - 5 minutes on first speed of dough mixer until all ingredients come together.
  • Mix 5 minutes on 2nd speed, add balance of sugar. Mix additional 6 minutes.
  • When the dough looks smooth and silky, incorporate the balance of butter gradually over 4 - 6 minutes.
  • Incorporate all spices and then add drained fruit.
  • Round the dough and place in a bowl for 30 minutes.
  • Divide the dough into 12 equal portions. If using a scale they will be about 72 g each.
  • Round each bun and cover with plastic. After 20 minutes, re-round again and place on a baking sheet close together but not touching.
  • Allow it to proof at room temperature for 1 - 1.5 hours until the buns have doubled in size.
  • Pipe crossing paste (see recipe below) to form a cross on top of buns.
  • Bake in a 350 F for approximately 20 - 25 minutes.
  • Glaze (see recipe below) after removing from oven.



  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp egg, beaten
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour


  1. In a mixer with a paddle attachment, mix the butter, sugar, egg, milk, vanilla and lemon zest, scraping down the bowl occasionally.
  2. Add the flour and mix thoroughly, scraping down the bowl. If the paste seems too thick or thin use milk and flour to adjust consistency.
  3. Use immediately. With a piping bag using a round tip #5, pipe lines on the proofed buns just before they go in the oven.



  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup water


  1. Mix sugar and water together and heat up to dissolve the sugar.
  2. Allow to cool.
  3. When buns are still hot, brush on the glaze.
  4. Allow to cool and enjoy.

Subscribe to receive more great stories every month

Find out more news about NAIT, stories about our alumni and their impact on their communities, and useful how-to content featuring our experts.

Sign up today »