A cinnamon roll twist on the classic British Easter teatime treat! My hot cross bun cinnamon rolls have all the flavour of the traditional hot cross buns, loaded with dried fruits and spice. Finished off with a frosted cross pattern.
What are these rolls like?
- Melt in your mouth buttery soft dough - these rolls are made with my standard brioche roll dough. For more details about the basic recipe, check out my Brioche Cinnamon Rolls.
- Zesty orange infused dried fruit - soaking the dried fruits, like raisins or sultanas gives you a chance to pack even more flavour into your recipe. My mixed dried fruit is soaked in orange juice to add an extra tangy citrus punch.
- Perfect for Easter - these rolls are inspired by the traditional dried fruit and cinnamon hot cross bun which is a staple of the Easter season in Britain.
What is a Hot Cross Bun
Hot Cross Buns are a classic British tea cake - a relatively plain bun that is intended to be toasted and served with tea. These are typically filled with dried fruits and spices. The name hot cross bun comes from the flour paste cross that decorates the top of each bun.
Traditionally Hot Cross Buns are eaten on Good Friday, though in Britain they're available in shops from essentially right after Christmas and all throughout the spring.
The flavour options of Hot Cross Buns have also expanded significantly over the years so that you can now regularly find anything from the basic spiced dried fruits, to blueberries and even chocolate orange.
Ingredient Notes for Filling
For these rolls, you'll need:
- Butter - unsalted butter, softened at room temperature. You can also use salted here, but as with my other recipes, it will bring a bit of saltiness to the overall bake.
- Brown sugar - light brown sugar, firmly packed. You can use dark brown sugar here but the flavours will change slightly. Light brown sugar gives a nice light molasses hint to the buns, without risking being overpowering. Dark brown sugar can be a bit too intense in my opinion, but if you're a dark brown sugar lover, give it a go!
- Ground cinnamon
- Mixed dried fruit - you can experiment here with different fruits and flavours. For a more traditional hot cross bun, you'll want raisins or sultanas, maybe even some currents or dried apricot pieces. But you can also use dried cranberries, blueberries or prunes. Just be sure the pieces of any large dried fruits are chopped up into smaller bits for better distribution in the rolls.
- Orange juice - soaking the fruits is an optional step here, but it's worth it! A little orange juice will help plump the fruits up and give them an added zest. You can use store bought orange juice (as long as it is fresh and not from concentrate) or squeeze your own. If squeezing you own, add orange zest with the mixed dried fruit for added flavour.
How to Make Hot Cross Bun Cinnamon Rolls
To make these rolls, you'll need to start with a batch of my standard brioche dough. To find step by step directions for this dough, check out my Brioche Cinnamon Roll recipe.
Quick Tips for the Dough
The key tips to always remember are:
- Make sure your yeast has activated before adding to the flour mixture. It is less hassle to restart at this stage than to discover your yeast hasn't activated after your first proof.
- There is a long kneading time for this dough. This is because of the way the butter is added, which is key to the super soft texture.
- This dough is wet and sticky. Don't worry if it doesn't pull itself entirely clean from the sides and especially the bottom of your mixing bowl.
- The overnight proof should be about 8 hours, but this doesn't have to be exact. I've left mine up to 12 hours and still been able to bake tasty rolls for brunch!
Preparing the Filling
Make your filling while your dough is proofing. This filling is made up of two parts: the fruit and the cinnamon sugar.
For the cinnamon sugar mixture, simply mash the softened butter together with the cinnamon and brown sugar until you have a spreadable flavoured butter. This will be spread on your rolled out dough.
The fruit part of the filling can be handled in a few different ways.
Soaking Dried Fruit
- Soaked overnight - place the fruit and orange juice together in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap. This can be left in the refrigerator overnight to let the fruits soak up orange juice. Drain off the orange juice before use in the rolls.
- Benefit of this method: fruit is prepped in advance and no need to cool before adding to dough.
- Downside: this method takes longer for the fruit to soak in the flavour, so you'll need to do it the night before.
- Infused in a saucepan - place the fruit and orange juice together in a saucepan and cook over a medium heat until the orange juice boils. Turn off the heat and let the fruit sit for about 30 minutes in the hot juice. Then drain and allow the fruit to cool.
- Benefit: this is a quick way to get the fruits plumped with juice.
- Downside: you will need to let them cool first. Adding a hot filling to cold brioche dough melts the butter and will make it a sticky mess to handle!
- Not soaked at all - you don't have to soak the fruit in this recipe. This is purely optional. If not soaking, you will not need the orange juice for the filling and no preparation of the fruit is necessary.
- Benefit: no prep and no need for orange juice in the filling!
- Downside: the fruit won't be as soft from being soaked in the juice. It also means you're missing an opportunity to add flavour.
Rolling it All Together
Once your dough is finished its first proof, it's time to get the rolls together.
- Start by placing your dough on a well floured work surface and pressing it into a rectangle.
- Roll the rectangle out into a 12" wide by 15" long rectangle.
- Spread the cinnamon butter mixture over the surface, leaving gaps at the edges.
- Sprinkle over your dried fruit (drained if you've soaked this).
- Roll up from the bottom to the top, forming a long log.
- Use floss or kitchen twine to trim the uneven and unfilled ends, then divide into 9 rolls.
- Place these in a parchment lined square baking pan and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Allow to proof at room temperature for about 2 hours, until doubled in size.
When making the dough, you should have a leftover egg yolk. I recommend reserving this for use in an egg wash.
Egg Wash for Cinnamon Rolls
In most of my recipes, the egg wash is less significant because you'll be frosting the whole roll, meaning you won't really see the golden tops of your baked dough.
For these Hot Cross Bun Cinnamon Rolls, there will be a lot more of your dough left exposed, so I would strongly encourage the egg wash.
Prior to baking, beat the reserved yolk with a splash of milk (about half a tablespoon or so will be plenty). Brush this over the rolls.
Bake in the centre of a preheated oven until risen and golden.
Once baked, remove the rolls from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes while you whisk up the frosting.
You'll only need two ingredients for my quick frosting here:
- Powdered sugar - or icing sugar. This doesn't normally need to be sifted for use in a frosting like this, but if yours has particularly stiff clumps, you may want to sift these out to make it easier to create a smooth frosting.
- Orange juice - I like to use orange juice here to compliment the orange soaked fruit. You could also use milk or even water, but the measurements for other liquids may vary.
Simply whisk together the sugar and juice until you have a smooth frosting. You're looking for a relatively thick consistency - not a thin glaze. This will be piped in a cross pattern over your rolls, you so want something that won't be too runny to hold together in the design.
If needing to adjust, you can always add a bit extra powdered sugar to thicken, or a bit more orange juice to thin.
Piping the Cross Pattern
The best way to pipe the traditional cross pattern is to use a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle. Using a nozzle helps ensure that you get good straight lines.
Once your rolls have cooled a little from the oven, pipe a straight line down the middle of each roll (so three straight lines across the square bake). Then cross these with another three lines running through the centres of the rolls.
Tips and Tricks
- Using flavorless dental floss or a thin kitchen twine is the best way to cut your cinnamon rolls. This is because it applies equal pressure around the roll to make the slice. You can use a sharp knife or dough cutter, but you may find that the rolls become a little misshapen or distorted.
- You can pipe without a dedicated piping tip, simply cut the end off your piping bag and follow the same process outlined above. In my experience, not using a tip may result in more wobbly lines, so take care to guide the bag slowly and steadily.
- It is also possible to pipe using just a ziploc bag, rather than a specific piping bag. If using a ziploc bag, look for one that has sharp edged corners. These will give you a better tip to pipe from. Cut off the tip of the corner to your desired width and pipe as directed.
- Mix up the filling - just like the Hot Cross Buns you buy in shops these days, you can experiment with the fillings here. Add some chopped nuts or chocolate chips. A bit of zest is always a great addition.
- Different juices or liquids - soaking the fruit is a great way to add an extra punch of flavour in these rolls. Orange juice is my favourite, but it is by no means the only option! You can use different juices (citrus flavours do work really well here), try infusing with a tea (like Earl Grey or Lapsang Souchong) or even give it a hit of booze with rum or whisky.
- Frosting options - the cross pattern is key to a Hot Cross Bun and likewise is important to these cinnamon rolls to keep with the tradition. But, you can use vanilla frosting, cream cheese frosting or really any flavour you'd like here.
So these Easter cinnamon rolls are really best fresh - just like any other home-baked cinnamon roll! You can't really beat a roll still warm from the oven. Leftovers will last for a few days if wrapped well and stored at room temperature.
Just like my other cinnamon roll recipes, the majority of the effort involved in these rolls takes place the day before in the the kneading of the dough. You can also prep your filling in advance.
If you want to get even more of a head start, the rolls can be baked as directed and rewarmed the following day in the oven for about 10 minutes. If intending to bake in advance and rewarm, don't frost the rolls. Wait until you are ready to serve them to add the icing cross.
Yes - you can freeze these. Once baked, allow to cool first before wrapping well or placing in a freezer bag. These can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months. Allow to defrost at room temperature before consuming.
For best results, freeze un-frosted and reheat the rolls once they've returned to room temperature before adding the topping.
Looking for more Easter inspiration? Try:
- Easter Brookies
- Cadbury Creme Egg Cookies
- Old Fashioned Carrot Cake with Pineapple
- Chocolate Shredded Wheat Easter Nests
Hot Cross Bun Cinnamon Rolls
- stand mixer fitted with a dough hook
- 8" square baking tray
Ingredients for the Dough
- ¼ cup full fat milk or whole milk, warmed to 104°F (40C)
- 2¼ teaspoon dry active yeast
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 cup all purpose flour or plain flour
- ¾ cup bread flour or strong flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 large eggs ideally at room temperature, one egg separated into yolk and white
- ½ cup unsalted butter softened at room temperature and cut into small chunks, plus extra for greasing the bowl
Ingredients for the Filling
- ½ cup light brown sugar firmly packed
- 6 tablespoon unsalted butter softened at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 3 oz mixed dried fruit raisins, sultanas, chopped dried apricot, etc.
- ½ cup orange juice fresh orange juice, not from concentrate
Ingredients for the Frosting
- ⅓ cup powdered sugar sifted if particularly lumpy
- 1½ teaspoon orange juice fresh orange juice, not from concentrate
Instructions for Dough
- Begin by sprinkling the yeast and a teaspoon of the sugar into your warmed milk. Stir and set aside for about 10 minutes until the yeast has developed a foam on top.
- Meanwhile in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the flour, bread flour, remaining sugar and salt. Give this a quick stir.
- Once the yeast is frothy, add this to the flour mixture, immediately followed by two full eggs and one egg white. Reserve the remaining egg yolk to make an egg wash later. (see note)
- Turn the mixer to a low setting and knead for 15 minutes, stopping once or twice early on to scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure all of the flour is incorporated. After 15 minutes your dough should have come together and be pulling itself from the sides of the bowl (though it will still be sticky).
- With the mixer still on a low setting, slowly begin adding the butter a couple of bits at a time. Once all of the butter is incorporated, continue kneading for 15 minutes until the dough has come together again and is pulling itself away from the sides of the bowl. (see note)
- Scrape the dough into a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set in the refrigerator to proof slowly for about 8 hours (or overnight).
Instructions for Filling
- To prepare your filling, start by infusing the dried fruit in the orange juice. Place the fruit and juice in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Bring this to a boil, stirring occasionally to make sure none of the fruit is sticking to the base of the pan. Once boiled, remove from the heat and leave the fruit to sit in the warm juice for about half an hour before before draining and setting aside to cool. (see note)
- In a small bowl, mix together the softened butter, sugar and ground cinnamon until you have a smooth spreadable butter mixture.
Instructions for Rolling and Second Proof
- Line an 8" square baking pan with parchment paper.
- After the dough's overnight proof, turn this out onto a floured work surface and press into a rectangle. Use a rolling pin to roll out into a large rectangle, about 12" wide by 15" long.
- Spread the butter mixture over the surface of the dough, leaving a gap around the edges. Then sprinkle with your soaked (and drained) fruits.
- Roll the dough from the bottom to the top, forming a tight log.
- Use flavorless dental floss or thin kitchen twine to trim the uneven and unfilled ends (about an inch or two off each end). Then divide the dough into 9. Use the floss to cut your nine rolls.
- Place these in your lined square baking pan and cover with a clean kitchen towel to proof at room temperature for about 2 hours or until doubled in size.
Instructions for Baking and Frosting
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (175C/155C Fan).
- Make a quick egg wash using the reserved egg yolk and a splash of milk. Brush this over the top of your rolls once they're done the second proof.
- Place the rolls in the centre of the preheated oven for about 25 minutes until risen and golden.
- Once baked, remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes while you mix together the powdered sugar and orange juice for the frosting.
- Use a piping bag with a round nozzle (or a ziploc bag with the corner cut) to pipe the frosting in a cross pattern over the rolls. This is a simple pattern - just a line through the centre of each roll, crossed with another as shown in the images.
- Serve fresh and still warm.