Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

Happy Easter! I’m excited to finally share this festive recipe with you. These hot cross buns are sweet, spiced and I can’t help but say…they’re JUST SO NICE.  There, I said it. 

But really – If you’re anything like me, you’ll absolutely love this recipe and want to make it way more often than just for Easter. The other bonus is that these are sourdough, which makes the whole process of making these more fun. The flavor is also that much richer, fuller and better. If you don’t have a sourdough starter, you can follow my recipe at the link here to Make A Sourdough Starter from Scratch


The origin of hot cross buns is a little fuzzy – no one knows exactly who came up with these. Some say they were originally invented by monks and served to the poor in the 13th century, some say they were sacrificial bread for pagan sacrifices. I also read somewhere that one of the Queens of England prohibited the sale of hot cross buns to Easter, Christmas and one other holiday because the people would sell them for high prices, claiming that the buns had magical healing power.  

But now, these are most commonly considered (and I would consider them) an easter food because the cross on the buns symbolizes the cross that Jesus Christ died on, and the bread rising in the oven symbolizes his resurrection to life 3 days later! Hence, these celebrate Christ’s power over death which is what is celebrated by Christians on Easter Sunday. 

So let’s get into it with a few recipe notes. 


1. These buns are traditionally made with dried, candied fruit inside. In my version I used craisins since that is what we had on hand – and they were delicious! But depending on your preference, you can either omit the fruit altogether and just enjoy the spiced roll, or do your own variation with other types of dried fruits, chocolate chips or nuts. 

2. This recipe makes 8 large rolls! But you could absolutely divide the dough into smaller pieces to make 12, or even 16 rolls. Just keep in mind that the baking time for smaller rolls will be less, so you’d want to keep a close eye on them after they’ve been baking for longer than 20-25 minutes. My guess is that the smaller version rolls would be done baking after 25-30 minutes.

3. Scoring – I scored the top of the rolls with my bread lame to make a cross which was easy for me to glide the frosting right into the score. This is also totally optional! You can skip the scoring and just add the frosting right on top of the roll. 


– Active Sourdough Starter

– Baking dish: Cast iron skillet, stone baking dish, muffin tin, glass casserole dish or a Dutch oven all would all work fine- you just need to make sure it’s roughly the size of a 9”x11” pan.

– Electric mixer (or just a mixing bowl and some patience with using a spoon/your hands!) 

– Bread lame for scoring *optional 

– Basting brush 

– 1 medium sized bowl and 2 smaller bowls for the glaze, frosting and egg wash



For the dough: 

  • 4 cups flour (1 1/2 all purpose, the rest whole wheat) 
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar 
  • 2/3 cup active & bubble sourdough starter 
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp water 
  • 1/4 cup butter 
  • 1 cup craisins or other dried, candied fruit **optional 
  • 1 Tsp salt 
  • 1/4 cup honey 
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon *
  • 1/4 Tsp cloves *
  • 1/2 Tsp allspice *

For the cross frosting: 

  • 1/4 cup cream cheese, room temperature 
  • 1 cup powdered sugar 

For the glaze: 

  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar 
  • 3 Tbsp water 

For the egg wash: 

  • 1 egg, whisked 


In an electric mixer, combine all the dough ingredients except the cinnamon, cloves and allspice. Mix with a dough hook until the dough comes together smoothly. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes. 

Knead again with the dough hook for about 5 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap, and place on the counter at room temperature for up to 12 hours, or until the dough has doubled or tripled in size. 

Lightly grease your 9”x11” baking dish, and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

Pour the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Stretch the dough out into a rectangle shape, and sprinkle the spices evenly across the dough. Fold each edge of the dough in toward the middle, then press down on the middle and stretch out the dough again. Repeat this stretch and fold method 3 more times, then shape into a ball. Cut and divide the dough into 8 pieces. Lightly flour and shape each piece into a roll, then place into the greased baking dish. 

Let the rolls rise for 1-2 more hours, until puffy.

In a separate bowl, mix the room temperature cream cheese (it can be warmed in the microwave for 15 seconds to help achieve the right temp) and the powdered sugar. Mix until smooth. Spoon into a piping bag, or use a ziploc bag with a small hole cut out of the corner to squeeze the frosting out.   

In another, separate bowl, whisk a single egg and use a basting brush to add the egg wash to the top of the rolls. 

Using a bread lame, cut a cross into the top of each roll. Then using the piping or ziploc bag, decorate the top of the rolls with the frosting in the shape of a cross. 

Once done, bake the rolls for 40-45 minutes at 350 degrees F. (**See note #2 in the recipe notes above for baking time if you decide to make more than 8 rolls). 

Make the glaze while the rolls are baking. Heat the water and brown sugar together in the microwave until the sugar is completely dissolved. Set aside. 

Remove the rolls from the oven, add the glaze, more frosting (if desired). Serve immediately and enjoy! 

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