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National Hot Cross Bun Day – Celebrate With a Homemade Recipe

Hooray, National Hot Cross Bun Day is here! This pastry themed September food day gives us a great excuse to do some baking to honor this tasty treat.  

If you’d like to try making them yourself, keep reading for a homemade hot cross buns recipe. The secret ingredient is rum-soaked raisins!

While this day falls annually on September 11th, hot cross buns are celebrated at other times of the year too. They are one of the traditional Easter breads, commonly served on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Check out our post on the history of hot cross buns to learn more about the bread roll this September national day is named after. Plus, keep reading for some hot cross bun facts and to learn more about their religious symbolism.

A close up image of a homemade hot cross buns recipe on a cooling rack with a text overlay for National Hot Cross Buns Day.

National days of the year are a fun way to celebrate foods, animals and items that you come into contact with. Be sure to check out our national day’s guide for information on the history of national days, why we celebrate them.

What are hot cross buns?

In order to celebrate this September 11 national day, it would be helpful to know what hot cross buns actually are! They are sweet, spiced buns.

Hot cross buns often have raisins (or sultanas or currants) added to the dough. They also are frequently flavored with cinnamon.

A pie tin of seven hot cross buns on a white cloth on top of a beige wooden backdrop.

It’s easy to tell hot cross buns apart from other pastries, because of the cross on top of them. It can be made from either piping icing or shortbread pastry across the buns.

The cross on top holds religious symbolism and makes hot cross buns one of the symbols of Easter. This is not surprising, as most of the items which are symbolic the holiday have deep religious meaning, like Easter lilies, Easter eggs, dogwood trees, and palm branches. 

Hot cross buns symbolism

The most obvious hot cross buns symbolism is the cross marked on top. It represents the cross on which Jesus was crucified.

However, the religious symbolism of hot cross buns actually goes much deeper than that. Every ingredient in these Easter pastries has meaning.

A cooling rack with homemade hot cross buns on it, with hot cross bun ingredients to the side, like eggs, flour, and golden raisins.

The spices used in hot cross buns are a biblical reference to the spices that were intended to embalm the body of Jesus Christ. The represent the spice mixture prepared for Jesus by the women of Galilee in Luke 23: 55-56.

The raisins baked into many homemade hot cross bun recipes are symbolic of the body of Christ in the tomb. Some recipes swap currants or sultanas for raisins, but the symbolism is the same.

Even the dough itself holds religious symbolism. Hot cross buns recipes use yeast dough that has to rise before baking. This is representative of Jesus rising.

Fun facts about hot cross buns

Brush up on your knowledge for National Hot Cross Bun Day with these hot cross bun facts.

  • Hot cross buns (which contain both egg and dairy) were served on the Christian feast day of Good Friday to mark the end of Lent, when things like eggs and dairy were given up.
  • Hot cross buns are similar to the king cake served during Mardi Gras, in the respect that while they can be made at any time of the year, they are traditionally only served around the holiday.
  • The Alban bun, created in 1361, was passed out to the poor on Good Friday by a monk called Brother Thomas Rocliffe at St. Albans Abbey. Though this bun didn’t contain dried fruit, it is thought to be an early predecessor of hot cross buns.
  • During Queen Elizabeth I’s reign, in 1592, the sale of hot cross buns was limited by a London Clerk of the Markets decree.
  • The first written mention of hot cross buns can be found in the 1773 Poor Robin’s Almanac

How to celebrate National Hot Cross Bun Day

If you find yourself wanting to celebrate National Hot Cross Buns Day this September 11th, we’ve got some ideas you can try! 

We highly suggest making the hot cross buns recipe at the bottom of this post. It has rum soaked raisins, and is delicious!

A cooling rack of eight hot cross buns on National Hot Cross Bun Day with one hot cross bun on a cloth beside it, all of them are surrounded by blueberries.

If you’re feeling musical, you can sing the hot cross bun nursery rhyme. Though often played by school children on the recorder, you might be interested to learn this song actually started out as an English street cry.

You can also visit a bakery or a grocery store and go on a hot cross buns scavenger hunt. There are many different varieties sold commercially, including flavors like chocolate, apple cinnamon, salted caramel, and more!

We’ll give you a fair warning though, it might be tough to find this raisin-filled treat. Even thought National Hot Cross Bun Day falls in September, it’s likely you’ll only see hot cross buns for sale around Easter.

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Hot cross bun facts & superstitions

Learn more facts about hot cross buns, including some of the early superstitious beliefs about them.

Jesus in a white robe holding a large hot cross bun, and breaking it to symbolize sharing bread with others and to show the religious hot cross buns symbolism.

  • It was an early superstition that hot cross buns baked on Good Friday were immune to mold. They were hung in kitchen from one Good Friday to the next for good luck.
  • It was also believed that if any humans or livestock fell ill during the year, that eating a piece of the hanging hot cross bun would cure them.
  • Splitting a hot cross bun was believed to be a sign of good friendship and luck as evident in the quote “half for you and half for me, between us two, good luck shall be”.
  • Every year on Good Friday a sailor from the Royal Navy brings a hot cross bun to an East London pub called The Widow’s Son, to honor a superstition where a widow baked hot cross buns every year for her son’s arrival home from war.
  • Early Pagan ceremonies baked small cakes with crosses on them for the Germanic goddess of spring, Ēostre (also known as Ôstara), to celebrate the shift of seasons.
  • Cakes which looked similar to hot cross buns, with deer or ox horns on them, were baked to honor the Greek goddess Diana (goddess of fertility, the moon and the hunt).

More national days in September

There are close to 2000 national days in the year and over 150 of them are celebrated in September.

To see them all, have a look at this post to discover more about the national days in September. If you enjoy doing puzzles, be sure to also check out the September word search printable which feature many of the national days hidden in a word find puzzle. 

A September calendar surrounded by leaves and the words "Hello September..." to represent all the amazing national days this month.

Is food your thing? Each day of the month has a food or drink associated with it, too. You’ll find all the September food holidays here.

Be sure to also check out these national days this September:

More September 11 national days

Did you enjoy learning about National Hot Cross Bun Day? Well you’re in luck, September 11 is host to more than just one national day! 

A hand holding a pink alarm clock ringing with "September 11" printed on the middle of it in bold lettering.

Here is a complete list of all the September 11 national days:

  • National Hot Cross Bun Day
  • National Make Your Bed Day
  • National No News is Good News Day
  • Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance
  • Women’s Baseball Day
  • Libraries Remember Day
  • Remember Freedom Day
  • I Want to Start my Own Business Day

Pin this post on National Hot Cross Bun Day for later

Would you like a reminder of this post for National Hot Cross Bun Day? Just pin this image to one of your recipe boards on Pinterest so that you can easily find it later.

Four hot cross buns and a pat of butter on a cutting board, with one of them on the wooden background beside it with a text overlay at the top of the image reading "National Hot Cross Buns Day - celebrate with a recipe and fun facts".

Homemade hot cross buns recipe

Now that you’ve learned some facts about hot cross buns, it’s time to enjoy one! Use the homemade hot cross buns recipe below to make your own. 

A cooling rack of hot cross buns with a text overlay that reads "Easter Recipe for Hot Cross Buns, plus learn the folklore, meaning and history of hot cross buns".

Yield: 15 hot cross buns

Recipe for Hot Cross Buns at Easter (with Rum Soaked Raisins and Orange Glaze)

A wooden tray of hot cross buns, a ramekin of butter, a butter knife, and blueberries surrounding the tray.

Try making this spin on a classic hot cross bun recipe. The rum soaked raisins and orange glaze make it a crowd pleaser!

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Rising Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 45 minutes

Ingredients

Hot cross bun dough:

  • 3/4 cup (177 ml) milk, warmed to 110℉ (43℃)
  • 1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (107 g) packed brown sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly ground if possible
  • zest of 1 orange (optional)
  • 3 1/2 cups (420 g) all purpose flour

Rum soaked raisins:

  • 1 cup (158g) raisins or sultanas 
  •  juice of 1 orange (optional)
  • 1/4 cup (59 ml) rum (optional)

Egg wash:

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon cream

Flour crosses:

  • 1/2 cup (60 g) all purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons water

Orange glaze:

  • 1-2 tablespoons orange marmalade
  • 2-4 tablespoons hot water

Instructions

  1. Proof yeast : Warm the milk to between 100℉-110℉ (38℃-43℃). Add the milk, granulated sugar and yeast to the bowl of your stand mixer (or a regular bowl if you'll be making this recipe without a stand mixer*).
  2. Stir, and allow the yeast to activate (roughly 7 minutes) until it's foaming and bubbling.
  3. Soak raisins: While the yeast if proofing, it's time to soak your raisins. Place them in a microwave safe bowl with the orange juice and rum.
  4. Heat for roughly 45 seconds. (If you're not using the orange juice and rum, just microwave the raisins with water)
  5. Mix the dough: Add the brown sugar, butter, vanilla extract, eggs, salt, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, orange zest and 1 cup (120g) flour to the bowl of your stand mixer.
  6. Use your dough hook, and mix on low for 30 seconds, then scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  7. Drain the raisins and discard liquid.
  8. Add the raisins and remaining flour, mix on low until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl (it should be soft and tacky, but not sticking to the sides of the bowl).
  9. If your dough is too wet, and won't pull away from the sides of the bowl, add one tablespoon of flour and mix (repeat as necessary).
  10. Knead the dough: Once the dough is ready, transfer it to a floured surface and begin kneading. Your knead-time will vary depending on how long you mixed it in your stand mixer.
  11. You'll know that you've kneaded the dough well enough if when you touch it, the dough springs back. If it does not spring back, knead for a little longer to develop the gluten more.
  12. Once it fully springs back, the dough is ready for the next step.
  13. Proof the dough: Grease a bowl with oil, and put the dough in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, or a clean kitchen towel.
  14. Set the bowl in a relatively warm environment and let the dough proof, until it's doubled in size. This usually takes 1-2 hours.
  15. Portion the dough: Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface.
  16. Divide into 15 equally sized pieces, by weighing the dough** or eyeballing it.
  17. Form hot cross buns: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  18. Now that you have uniformly sized dough balls, tuck the edges of the dough and pinch under the ball. Then roll gently under a cupped hand until the top is smooth and circular.
  19. Transfer to your baking sheet, leaving space in between each bun.***
  20. Let the buns rise: Cover with plastic wrap or a slightly damp towel, and let the buns rise until doubled in size (about 1 hour).
  21. Preheat the oven: Preheat the oven to 350℉ (177℃).
  22. Brush with egg wash: Combine your egg and tablespoon of cream and mix together.
  23. Brush over the tops of the hot cross buns.
  24. Add the crosses: Whisk the flour and water together, until you have a thick paste that will pipe easily. Add more water if needed.
  25. Transfer paste to a piping bag (or small plastic bag). Cut off a small corner of the bag.
  26. Pipe a line going horizontally across the center of the hot cross buns.
  27. Rotate the baking sheet 90°. (The lines you previously piped will be running vertically now). Pipe another line going horizontally across the center of the buns (forming a cross shape).
  28. Bake the hot cross buns: Bake for roughly 25 minutes, rotating the baking sheet half way through.
  29. If you notice that the tops of the buns are browning too quickly, lightly cover with aluminum foil and continue to bake.
  30. Prepare the orange glaze: When the buns are almost finished baking, mix the orange marmalade with hot water until it's a good consistency for glazing****.
  31. Take the hot cross buns out of the oven and glaze using a pastry brush.
  32. Enjoy: Serve while warm, and enjoy this traditional Easter bread!

Notes

*Stand mixer vs hand mixing: If you are using a stand mixer, use your dough hook attachment. If you are making this recipe without a stand mixer, I recommend mixing it with a silicone spatula, or wooden spoon (not a hand mixer).

This dough is sticky, so it has the tendency to get stuck inside of the beaters. Mixing with a spatula takes a little more arm strength, but will be easier in the long run.

**Making uniformly sized hot cross buns: If you want to be precise and have uniformly sized dough balls, weigh your entire dough ball, and divide the number by 15.

Each of the 15 portions should weigh that amount.

***Accommodating for buns rising: If you do not leave space between the buns on the baking sheet, during the next step, when the buns rise, they will expand and touch each other. If they are touching your buns will have soft sides, like pull apart bread. If they are not touching, they will have the opportunity to become golden brown all the way around. You can choose which way you prefer - both are delicious!

****Substituting a sugar glaze: If you don't want to use the orange glaze, you can substitute a sugar glaze, made by mixing equal parts of sugar and hot water.

A note on making the crosses: You may see some recipes where the crosses on top of the buns are made by piping icing onto the hot cross buns after they are finished baking. If you choose to do this method you have to wait until the buns are completely cooled before adding the crosses.

We prefer to eat them warm, so for that reason we recommend making the crosses as instructed above.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

15

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 260Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 48mgSodium: 170mgCarbohydrates: 47gFiber: 2gSugar: 11gProtein: 6g

Nutritional information is approximate due to natural variation in ingredients and the cook-at-home nature of our meals.

Jess author photoAbout the author

Since graduating from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Jess has been living and working in Los Angeles, CA. She is a freelance writer, specializing in content related to fashion, food and drink and film industry topics. Find out more about Jess here.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small commission from the sale, but the price is the same for you. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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