THE BEST soft fluffy hot cross buns recipe (with sourdough) with make ahead option for baked-fresh buns on Good Friday (without a 4am start).

Best soft fluffy hot cross buns recipe (with sourdough)

Best soft fluffy hot cross buns recipe (with sourdough)

It has been my mission for years to make classic hot cross buns at home that rival the ones from the bakery and this year I did it. 

These really are THE BEST soft fluffy hot cross buns and the recipe is simple and reasonably quick to make. 

I’ve also got a method to share with you so you can have freshly baked buns for breakfast on Good Friday without having to get up at 4am to make them. 

Last year I made them at least 15 times and just could not perfect it. 

The kids said they were good but they still said the bakery made the best soft hot cross buns. 

Until now. 

Why choose this hot cross bun recipe

I know there are endless recipes out there but here’s why you should choose this one:

  • Simplicity – there are no special techniques involved. It’s just a really simple straight forward recipe with very little hands on time. 
  • Fluffiness – these will rival any store-made buns in fluffiness.
  • Flavour – just like the flavour of bakery buns.
  • Versatility – you can add whatever dried fruit you like if you’re not a sultana fan (or even chocolate chips). 
  • Freshness – we’ve included a method to prepare them ahead of time so you can have fresh-from-the-oven buns on Good Friday without having to get up at 4am.
  • Taste – I know we mentioned flavour but, the addition of the sourdough starter in these to me takes away that slightly yeasty flavour you can get from homemade yeasted baked goods. It’s ok to leave it out though if you don’t have sourdough (or you can grab some here). 
Best soft fluffy hot cross buns recipe (with sourdough)

What do you need to make hot cross buns

To make this homemade hot cross buns recipe, you’ll need very similar ingredients to making dinner rolls (just with added flavour). 

The following ingredients will be used: 



  • Bakers yeast – aka instant yeast
  • Caster sugar – also called superfine sugar. Rapadura (unrefined sugar) sugar or brown sugar can also be used. 
  • Warm milk – whole milk or full-fat milk is preferred over low fat milk. Milk will need to be heated to 37 degrees C.
  • Bakers flour – also called bread flour. You could use all purpose flour or plain flour but bakers will give the best results. 
  • Mixed spice – ground
  • Cinnamon – powdered 
  • Butter – unsalted butter is preferred but you can also use salted
  • Egg – at room temperature
  • Dried fruit – we used sultanas
  • Sourdough starter – this is optional but I find cuts the ‘yeasty’ taste of the finished bun and can make them more digestible for people with gluten intolerances. Don’t have sourdough start? You can get it here.  


  • Plain flour​ – or Bakers flour
  • Caster sugar – or whatever type of sugar you have on hand. Just not coconut sugar as it has a different flavour.
  • Water – preferably warmed as it makes it easier to mix


  • Caster sugar​ – or any other type of sugar (again avoid coconut sugar as it has a flavour)
  • Gelatine – see below for vegetarian options or just alternatives if you don’t have gelatine. Don’t leave it out if you want your buns to be nice and sticky and glossy. 
  • Water – preferably filtered. 
Best soft fluffy hot cross buns recipe (with sourdough)


  • Stand mixer with the dough hook attachment (or use a large bowl & a wooden spoon & elbow grease) 
  • Baking tray or large rectangular tin 
  • Parchment paper
  • Pastry brush
  • Piping bag

Other options for flavour

If sultanas aren’t your thing, you can use orange zest (or add it for extra flavour) and or dried fruit of your choice. 

You could also use chocolate chips & sub out a few tablespoons of flour for cocoa powder. 

If you prefer fruit free hot cross buns (like me) you can just leave the additions out all together. I’d probably add a little extra spice for flavour. 

Glaze options

  • Instead of the gelatine glaze you can brush the tops with apricot jam thinned out with a little bit of hot water.
  • Orange juice can be used as a glaze.
  • Instead of a glaze you can use an egg wash over the buns prior to baking. It will make them shiny but they wont’ have that sweet sticky feel. 
Best soft fluffy hot cross buns recipe (with sourdough) ready to go in the oven

How to make this soft hot cross bun recipe 

Don’t skip this step where you let the active dry yeast activate in the warm milk. 

Combine the yeast, sugar and milk in a small bowl or jug.

Cover it with plastic wrap and stand in a warm place for about 10 minutes.

If your yeast mixture doesn’t froth up after 10 minutes, it may be stale.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the dry ingredients – flour, cinnamon, mixed spice & salt – with the butter. 

Use the beater attachment to mix it until it resembles damp sand. 

If using a large mixing bowl instead of a stand mixer, use your fingers to rub the butter through. 

Stir in the yeast mixture, sourdough starter, egg and sultanas then use the dough hook to knead on low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic. 

I like to do the earlobe test – pinch a small amount of hot cross bun dough between your thumb and index finger and if it feels soft like an earlobe and doesn’t stick to your fingers, it’s ready. 

​If it is just a little sticky still, more kneading should fix it. If it is a really sticky dough then add extra flour just a few tablespoons at a time and knead them through until it is no longer sticky. 

Place the smooth ball of soft dough in a greased bowl (so it doesn’t stick to the sides of the bowl) and cover with plastic wrap and leave to double in size at room temperature. 

Best soft fluffy hot cross buns recipe (with sourdough) freshly baked from the oven

While the dough is rising prepare the tin. My preference is to use two square tins. 

Line them with baking paper. 

​Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead the dough until smooth. 

Divide the hot cross bun dough ball into 16 pieces. 

I cut it in 4 wedges, roughly shape each into a ball and cut them into 4 equal pieces. 

Roll each wedge into a ball pinching it underneath to make the top smooth. 

Place the dough balls in the prepared tin just touching each other and cover the pan with plastic wrap and leave to almost double in size again. 

If you are going to bake the hot cross buns the next day, after shaping them & putting them in the tin, put the whole covered baking pan into the fridge. 

Make the flour paste (sometimes called water paste) to make the crosses on top of the buns. 

Combine the flour and water (warm water makes it a little easier to stir) until it forms a smooth, thick paste then put into a piping bag with either a small round tip or just snip the end of it. 

Pipe a white cross on top of the bun. 

You can just go all the way across the buns in a row rather than doing each one individually. 

Best soft fluffy hot cross buns recipe (with sourdough) being brushed with glaze for hot cross buns

Bake for 20 minutes in a preheated oven (200C fan-forced) or until the buns are golden brown on top. 

Transfer the buns to a wire rack (try and keep them all attached to each other). 

Make the glaze by heating the water, sugar and gelatine in a small saucepan over medium heat then brush over the top of the buns. 

​Best served fresh but can be kept in an airtight container. 

Best soft fluffy hot cross buns recipe (with sourdough)

How to refresh hot cross buns

To refresh hot cross buns the day after they have been baked either: 

  • Microwave – about one minute wrapped in a cloth napkin or tea towel
  • Oven – heat at 100C for about 10 minutes wrapped in foil
Best soft fluffy hot cross buns recipe (with sourdough) 2

Tips for preparing the dough a day ahead of time

Want fresh-from-the-oven hot cross buns for breakfast but don’t want to get up at the crack of dawn? 

I’ve got you! 

Simply prepare the dough the day before up until the shaping stage. 

Put the tin of shaped rolls in the fridge (covered).

When it’s time to bake them, remove them from the fridge and pipe on the crossed then put them into a COLD oven and turn it on to 200C fan-forced. 

As the oven comes to the full temperature, the dough will come to room temp. 

The baking time will vary a little so best to keep an eye on them from the 20 minute mark. 

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Best soft fluffy hot cross buns recipe (with sourdough)

Soft fluffy hot cross buns (with sourdough option)

Yield: 16 buns
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Additional Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours


  • **BUNS**
  • 1 tbsp (14g) dried yeast
  • 1/4 cup (55g) caster sugar (or any other type of sugar other than coconut)
  • 1 1/2 cups (375ml) warm (37C) milk
  • 4 cups (600g) Bakers flour (or plain or all-purpose flour)
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 60g butter (the pure stuff not margarine)
  • 1 egg
  • 60g fresh, bubbly sourdough starter
  • 3/4 cup (120g) sultanas
  • 1/2 cup (75g) plain flour
  • 2 tsp caster sugar
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) water, approximately
  • **GLAZE**
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tsp gelatine powder
  • 1 tbsp water


    1. Combine the yeast, sugar and milk in a small heat-proof bowl or glass jug. Cover the bowl and leave to stand at room temperature for about 10 minutes or until the yeast mixture is frothy. 
    2. Sift the flour and the spices into a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Rub in the butter either using the mixing attachment or use your fingers if not using a mixer. 
    3. Tip in the frothy yeast mixture and add the sourdough starter, egg and sultanas then mix using the dough hook on low speed until the dough comes together and is soft and no longer sticky. This will take at least 5 minutes. If the dough is still really sticky add a little more flour a couple of tablespoons at a time. 
    4. Transfer the dough into a greased bowl, cover and leave the dough to rise in a warm place until doubled in size. 
    5. Prepare a large baking tin - line it with parchment paper so it extends over the sides. 
    6. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently for a minute or two then divide into 16 equal pieces. 
    7. Shape each piece into a ball and pinch it underneath to make the surface smooth. 
    8. Place the dough balls in the prepared pan so they are just touching. 
    9. Cover and leave to rise until almost doubled again (about 20 minutes) and pre-heat the oven to 200C fan-forced. 
    10. Make the flour paste for the crosses by combining the flour and sugar in a cup then gradually mixing in enough of the warm water to make a smooth firm paste. 
    11. Use a piping bag to pipe crosses onto the buns. 
    12. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown on top. 
    13. Make the glaze by heating the water, sugar and gelatine in a saucepan over medium heat.
    14. Transfer to a wire rack, cross side up and still attached to one another. 
    15. Brush the hot buns with the glaze and leave to cool on the rack. 
    16. Serve while warm or leave to cool completely and store in an airtight container or freeze. 

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