Delectably soft, sweet buns for Easter, Mother's Day, and other special mornings

Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

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Hot cross buns are traditionally served at Easter, but they're also a Sunday-morning favorite in our house. If you're still looking for inspiration for a Mother's Day morning treat, these sourdough hot cross buns are sure to be a hit!

Delectably soft, sweet buns for Easter, Mother's Day, and other special mornings
Print Recipe
5 from 9 votes

Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

These gorgeously soft, sweet buns are a favorite on Easter, Mother's Day, or any Sunday morning.
Prep Time17 hours 59 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Total Time17 hours 59 minutes
Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: British
Servings: 24 buns
Author: Kresha Faber


  • 500 g ~ 2 cups sourdough starter
  • 1.125 kg 2 1/2 lb or ~7 cups unbleached all-purpose flour + extra for kneading
  • zest of 2 large oranges
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons unrefined cane sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup raw honey
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 ½ cups dried fruit, currants, dried cherries, raisins, dried cranberries, chopped apricots, dried figs, etc – soak in warm water for 10 minutes, then drain
  • 1 teaspoon unrefined sea salt
  • 50 g ~4 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • Flour, water, and olive oil for the crosses
  • Honey for glazing
  • juice of 1 orange for glazing


  • Place the sourdough starter, flour, zests, sugar, and spices in a large bowl or in the bowl of an electric mixer. Lightly beat the eggs with the raw honey, milk and water, then add to the sourdough/flour mixture. Mix until completely combined and a very sticky dough has formed. Cover and let sit for 20 minutes.
  • Mix in the fruit and the salt. The dough will be a rather wet dough, but resist the urge to add more flour. Knead until the dough begins to look smooth and shiny, about 20 minutes by hand or 10 minutes with the mixer.
  • Add in the cubes of butter, one at a time. The kneading action will incorporate it and create a gorgeous, rich dough. Knead until all the butter is fully incorporated, once again resisting the urge to add more flour. (You may add 2-3 tablespoons of flour ONLY if the dough at this point is super-sticky AND if you measured your flour by volume rather than weight. Remember: Too little flour is better than too much flour!) The final dough should be very soft, but not at all sticky.
  • Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and let it sit for 1 hour. After an hour, punch it down gently by folding it over on itself a number of times on a floured board, then place it back in the bowl to rise another hour.
  • Divide dough into 24 pieces and shape each into a small roll. Place rolls in a buttered 9×13 baking dish, close but not quite touching. Leave at room temperature until doubled, about 2-4 hours. (As they rise, they will touch. This is exactly what you want, as the final result will be like pull-apart dinner rolls.)
  • Mix the flour, water, and olive oil together to form a fairly stiff paste. Use a piping bag to pipe crossed across the top of each bun. Bake in a 375 degree Fahrenheit oven for 20-30 minutes until the rolls are golden and at least 190 degrees inside.
  • To glaze, heat the honey and the orange juice over medium heat until it begins to simmer rapidly. Remove from the heat and brush over the rolls as soon as they are removed from the oven.


Using the weight measures listed provides the most consistent results, but if you don't have a scale available, I've provided volume estimates as well.
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  1. Just wondering about the paste for the crosses… Do you have an amount or ratio for how much water, oil and flour to use?

    1. That’s a good question. No, I don’t, as I usually just start with a cup or so of flour in a bowl, drizzle in a bit of water (maybe a couple of tablespoons?) and a bit of olive oil (a teaspoon is a good guess), and then mix, adding more of any of the ingredients as I like until it has a texture that’s pipe-able. Perhaps next time I make the recipe I’ll do a more accurate measurement, but truly, the ratios don’t really matter – all it needs to be is pipe-able. You could even use powdered sugar instead of flour, if you wanted, but that’s a bit too sweet for me.

      I’m sorry I can’t be of more help!

      (See how to make homemade powdered sugar.)

  2. 5 stars
    These are our new Easter Tradition…my husband is from South Africa and after tasting these he said they were just like the ones from back home. Thanks for the recipe.

  3. Hi! I loved those as a kid, but cannot have store-bought yeast leavened treats anymore. I am restricted to what i can make with my sourdough (which i digest properly without flare-ups).
    I was super happy to see this recipe, but was wondering if you had tried them with other types of milks? I am also lactose intolerant and cannot have any dairy. I was wanting to use earth balance instead of butter (which tends to work perfectly for recipes that require butter) and almond/coconut milk for the milk. Any advice?

    1. I have not tried them with any of those substitutions, but I would imagine they would work just fine. The milk is merely for liquid, helping the crust brown, tenderizing the crumb, and sweetening the flavor, and the substitutions you suggest should likely do all of those as well. I wonder if the coconut milk might alter the flavor a bit too much, so I might just use almond milk, but I’m sure you’re more familiar with non-dairy substitutions than I am!


    1. 5 stars
      Just made an “official” batch for Easter morning….this batch turned out even better than the last! Thanks again for the GREAT recipe!

  4. I’m not sure what happened to my dough, but it remained extremely sticky and too wet like a batter, although I followed this recipe to the letter. I made it in my food processor, making sure not to knead it too much in order for the gluten not to break down. What could have gone wrong?

    1. You likely didn’t do anything wrong. Starters can vary in their hydration levels, as well as different climates vary, as well as different brands of flour can vary, so the actual amount of flour needed may vary a bit, even from batch to batch. Also, too little flour in this recipe is better than too much flour.

      Also, did you measure your flour by weight or by volume? If you measure by volume, the results can vary significantly from batch to batch, so I definitely recommend measuring by weight if at all possible, and all my instructions about resisting the urge to add more flour assume that you’ve added the full amount of flour (which you can know if you’ve measured by weight but you may not have if you measured by volume). So, if measuring by weight is simply not possible, then yes, you may add a small amount of flour to keep the dough from being sticky at the final mixing stage.

      So, I hope all that rambling helps – and I hope they were still yummy even if the dough was sticky! 🙂

  5. Can you tell me about the starter? I maintain a 100% hydration mother starter. When I bake bread, I use a small amount to seed a levain for 6-8hrs before mixing. Shall I raise this sort of levain (500g) before mixing or use my mother starter straight? Thanks

    1. I use the mother starter straight, but if you’re more comfortable with making a sponge, you can certainly adapt the recipe, time-wise. The thing is, when you make a levain, you’re essentially just making more starter for that specific recipe – not quite as potent because it’s a short rise time and the hydration is slightly different, but you’re going to get a similar lift and a more pronounced sourdough flavor by using a levain. (This can be very important when making loaves, but it’s not as crucial with buns.) Delicious either way, but I prefer just using the starter straight and that’s what I’ve assumed would be used when I wrote this recipe.

      I hope that helps!

    2. i have tried today, and all okay, however the dough was a bit sticky, i added some flour to make the rolls, otherwise, it is hard to do! mind telling me if i did it correct if the rolls need flour added? since you didn’t have any pictures to show how you did! also, i am doing final proof, and wondering wht if they are not double in size (since i had bad experience before), or i just wait for 4 hours and regardless they are double or not? thanks a lot!

  6. 5 stars
    These are AWESOME! I’ve just started sourdough baking & these work perfectly even for a newbie like me. Thank you VERY much.

  7. 5 stars
    Well I made them for Easter!
    I used apricots and currants for dried fruit and glazed them with a mix of apple cider and earl grey tea gelée. I ended up using real butter, but almond/coconut milk, and it worked really well. They were delicious! However, wanting to make them halfway in advance, i followed the steps all the way to the shaping part, and after shaping them i placed them in the fridge overnight. The next morning i took em out and left them temper and rise at room temp for 2.5hrs. Still, they had not risen enough. The result was amazing, but dense. I wanted them warm out of the oven for the brunch, but i know now that i should probably make them COMPLETELY in advance and worst case scenario, warm them slightly before serving!
    Still stoked though! thanks!

  8. 5 stars
    Wonderful! So fluffy, and perfect amount of fruit and spice. I might try a bit more salt next time. These aren’t very sweet, so maybe a bit more sugar too, but maybe the craisins made mine more tart. How do you only make 24 with this recipe? And you really fit it into one 9 x 13? I made 45 rolls, each using about 57 grams of dough. The recipe made over 5 lbs. of dough! Scale down unless have a large family or company coming.

  9. I am new to using making sour dough bread and have a batch of s/d starter and would like to try your recipe. Can I use white bread flour instead of unbleached AP? Look forward to hearing from you.

    1. Absolutely. I specify unbleached flour simply as a reminder to avoid chlorinated and bromated flours whenever possible, and using bread flour instead of all purpose will give a lovely extra oomph to the recipe.


  10. Before I make these I would really enjoy hearing Kresha Faber’s answer to the question about whether she actually fits 24 rolls into one 9×13 pan. When I buy hot cross buns they are usually squished together and touching. I like that idea as opposed to individual buns but the entire recipe seems a bit excessive.

    1. Excessive in what way? That they actually fit in a 9×13 pan or that it makes 24 rolls, which is more than you desire? I’m not exactly sure what you’re asking, but if you don’t want to make such a large batch of dough, simply cut the recipe in half so you’re using fewer ingredients.

      And yes, I do fit the entire batch of rolls into one 9×13 pan. I love the squished together rolls too. 🙂

  11. 5 stars

    I made these today, and my whole family loved them. They are wonderful and soft and delicious! I’m just wondering, it would be amazing to ull a batch straight from the oven in the morning to take to work, but could the dough be left in the fridge overnight and then just bought up to room temp? I know it has eggs in it, so not sure if this would be ok? thank you for the wonderful recipe – my first sourdough hot cross buns.

    1. Yay! I’m so glad you loved them as much as our family does. 🙂 And yes, setting them in the refrigerator to bake in the morning should be fine! Just keep in mind that they will rise – albeit slowly – while in the refrigerator, so I would let them sit at room temperature only as long as it takes to preheat the oven, then bake from there.


  12. Hi Krishna, how do I make the sour dough starter or is it a dough one just purchases. I love hot cross buns and grew up in South Africa , and they were a special Easter treat there. Would love to make some! Thank you for the reminder about the true meaning of this special celebration!

  13. hello Kresha,

    I made two batches of these buns at easter and just decided to make another batch yesterday as standard fruit buns. but i did something wrong! the ones easter were so soft and lasted fresh fro ages, but these ones were hard and dry. i noticed that the dough didn’t seem as sticky as i rememebr the easter buns to be, and i used wholemeal flour this time. should i have added extra liquid? maybe proofed them longer? any ideas from your persepcetive of what might have gone wrong? cheers!

  14. 5 stars
    fantastic! I normally bake a couple of sourdough loaves each weekend. I skipped the glaze and the cross and made a large spicy fruit sourdough loaf from this recipe. Turned out perfectly (25 mins in cast iron dutch oven then 15 mins with lid removed at 240 deg c)

  15. 5 stars
    I’ve tried several different recipes for hot cross buns, both sourdough and yeasted, and this is one of the best. The dough came together easily and handled well when shaping. The buns are soft and moist with a slight chew. The spices are subtle. The only change I made was to add some ground ginger and vanilla to the dough. I mixed the dough the night before baking the buns and let it rest at room temperature for several hours until doubled, then refrigerated for a few hours before shaping the buns. Instead of a 9X13 pan I used a large sheet pan and ended up with 12 very large buns from a half recipe. The oven spring was amazing. I’ve tested a few ways of making the pastry crosses, and the best one I’ve found is to mix 50 grams A/P flour, 1 tsp caster sugar, 1/4 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp veg oil, and 50 g water. The consistency is perfect for piping. Excellent!

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