Sweetened with both brown and white sugar and spiced with a dash of nutmeg, these hot cross buns are perfectly sweet and such a treat! Find step-by-step instructions below for making hot cross buns from scratch two ways: same-day or days beforehand.

Frosted hot cross buns.

Just as Lahey’s pizza dough can be dimpled into pissaladiere and Holly’s challah twisted into babka and Nigella’s Danish pastry spiraled into croissants, Molly Wizenberg’s cinnamon buns can be rolled into hot cross buns.

These buns can be mixed and baked in the same day, but isn’t it more fun to pull a pan from the fridge, pop it in the oven, and tend to fussy toddlers relax with the paper while the smell of freshly baked sweet buns fills the air?

Find instructions for how to make hot cross buns from scratch two ways below: same-day and make-ahead.

PS: A few ideas for Easter, and my favorite reminder this time of year: If you’re making a ham, don’t forget the ham sauce! Seriously, it’s the most delicious sauce ever.

PPS: I am in the process of updating this post with more process shots, but I can’t get myself to delete this photo 🥰

dividing dough

Hot Cross Buns, Step by Step

Gather your ingredients: Flour, salt, brown sugar, white sugar, and instant yeast. And don’t forget the nutmeg!

The dry ingredients, measured out, to make hot cross buns.

Place all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk to combine.

The dry ingredients to make hot cross buns in a bowl aside a whisk.

Gather your liquid ingredients: milk, egg, butter:

The liquid ingredients to make hot cross buns.

Melt the butter on the stovetop:

A small pot holding melted butter on the stovetop.

Then add half of the milk:

A small pot of butter on the stovetop.

Whisk together the egg with the other half of the milk:

A two-cup measure filled with an egg whisked together with some milk.

Then add the melted butter/milk, which will create a perfectly lukewarm final mixture:

A two cup measure with a whisk, melted butter, milk and an egg inside.

Add the wet to the dry ingredients:

A bowl of ingredients to make hot cross bun dough, unmixed.

And stir until you have a sticky dough ball:

Hot cross bun dough rising in a bowl.

If you want to make a currant variation, add the currants with the dry ingredients:

Currants added to the dry ingredients for hot cross buns.

Then proceed with the recipe, adding the wet ingredients, mixing until you have a sticky dough ball:

Just mixed currant hot cross bun dough.

Cover the bowl …

Hot cross bun dough rising in a bowl.

and let rise until roughly doubled in volume 2-3 hours:

A bowl of hot cross bun dough, risen.
Rising currant hot cross bun dough.

Turn out onto a floured work surface:

Hot cross bun dough turned out onto a floured counter top.
Hot cross bun dough with currants turned out onto a floured counter top.

Shape into a rough ball:

Two balls of hot cross bun dough.

Then divide each into 16 portions: I like to do this by dividing the dough into quarters, then cutting each quarter into quarters again.

Portioned hot cross bun dough on a countertop.
Portioned currant hot cross bun dough balls.

Ball up each portion and place in a 9- or 10-inch baking dish:

Shaped hot cross bun dough balls in a pan.

At this point, you can cover the dishes with plastic wrap and let rise until the dough balls fill the pan or you can transfer them to the fridge for up to 2 days:

Hot cross bun dough balls in a circular baking pan.

The dough balls should fill the pan …

Currant hot cross bun dough balls in a circular baking pan.

… before being egg washed:

Egg washed hot cross buns, ready for the oven.

Bake until beautifully golden brown:

Just baked hot cross buns in a baking dish.
Just baked Currant hot cross buns.

While the buns cool, make the frosting:

Hot cross bun frosting.

Once the buns have cooled for at least 15 minutes, you can adorn each bun with a white cross.

Frosted hot cross buns.

Serve with softened butter on the side.

Halved and buttered hot cross bun on a plate.
A halved hot cross bun on a plate.
A buttered and halved hot cross bun on a plate.
A cross section of hot cross buns in their baking dish.
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Frosted hot cross buns.

Spiced Hot Cross Buns (Overnight or Not)

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Updated recipe:

  • Replaced 1/4 cup of the sugar with 1/4 cup of brown sugar — in other words, instead of using 1/2 cup of granulated sugar, I use a mix of brown and white. 
  • Upped the salt to 2 teaspoons. If you use a digital scale, which I highly recommend, it’s 10 g.
  • Added a pinch of nutmeg. I keep whole nutmeg on hand, so I just swiped one across my microplane grater a few times… be careful, spices such as nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon can overpower quickly. A small pinch is all you need.
  • Upped the butter from 3 tablespoons to 4. I always use salted butter, but unsalted butter here works just as well. 

Warm Place to Rise: If you need a warm spot, preheat your oven for one minute, then turn it off — it shouldn’t get warmer than 100ºF or so and you should be able to press your hands on the grates without burning yourself. Place bowl of dough, covered, in this warm spot until doubled, about 2 hours.

If using active-dry yeast: Boil 1/3 cup of the milk and combine it with 2/3 cup cold milk — this should give you a nice lukewarm temperature. Test with your finger. Add a teaspoon of the white sugar (you can add an additional teaspoon or take from the 1/4 cup of sugar … an extra teaspoon won’t make a difference) and sprinkle the yeast over top. Let stand for 15 minutes or until foamy. You can then whisk the egg into this mixture, and you can whisk in the melted butter, too, so long as it has cooled a bit. Then proceed with the recipe. 


For the dough:

  • 3½ cups (450 g) or more unbleached all-purpose or bread flour
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50) brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (8 g) instant yeast, see notes above
  • 2 teaspoons(10 g) kosher salt
  • pinch nutmeg, see notes above
  • 1 cup (100 g) of dried currants, optional
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup (256 g) whole milk or 2%, divided
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted or salted butter, melted, plus more for greasing the pan

For the egg wash:

  • 1 egg beaten with 2 teaspoons water

For finishing (See notes below for another option) 

  • 4 ounces softened cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • pinch flaky sea salt


  1. Make the dough: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, yeast, salt, and nutmeg, if using. Add the currants, if using, and whisk to combine. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg with 1/2 cup of the milk. Set aside.
  3. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of the milk and heat until warm to the touch, another 30 seconds or so. Whisk this milk-butter mixture into the bowl with the egg-milk mixture. Resulting mixture should be warm to the touch.
  4.  Add the milk-egg-butter mixture to the bowl with the flour mixture. Use a spatula to combine all ingredients until flour is absorbed and dough is sticky. Sprinkle a handful of flour over the surface, and use your hands to briefly knead dough in bowl just until it all comes together—use more flour as needed, but go light. Dough should be on the sticky side.
  5. Let the dough rise: Cover bowl with plastic wrap or a bowl cover. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 2 to 3 hours. (See notes above for creating a warm place for your dough to rise.)
  6. Portion and proof: Butter a 9- or 10-inch square or round baking pan. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. If dough is especially sticky, knead briefly with a little bit of flour. Divide into 16 pieces. If you want perfectly sized balls, each portion should weigh about 60 grams. Roll each piece into a small ball using flour as necessary — this is a very sticky dough! Place balls equally spaced into pan. Cover with plastic wrap or a cloth bowl cover and stick in fridge overnight; or, if baking immediately, let rise again until rolls have doubled and are squishing against each other, 30 to 60 minutes (or more depending on how cold your kitchen is).
  7. Eggwash and bake: Preheat oven to 375ºF. If you are doing the refrigerator rise, remove the pan an hour (or two if possible) before baking. Ideally the buns should be puffed, filling the pan, and light to the touch but it’s fine if you don’t see much of a change — they will puff in the oven. Brush the rolls with the egg wash. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the rolls are evenly golden brown.
  8. Make the frosting: In a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese with the confectioners’ sugar until combined. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and a pinch of sea salt. (Alternatively, if your cream cheese is very soft, you can mix this with a spatula as opposed to a stand mixer.) Taste, and adjust with more sugar and salt to taste. Transfer to a piping bag or small ziplock bag. 
  9. Frost the buns: Remove the pan from the oven. Let buns cool for at least 15 minutes before frosting: Snip off a corner of the storage bag, if using, and pipe an X over each bun.  Serve immediately.


If you’ve made these previously and used and liked the confectioners’ sugar frosting, here’s the recipe:

  • 1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk or buttermilk
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  1.  Stir confectioners’ sugar, milk, salt, and vanilla to form a glaze.
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Category: Breakfast
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American