Hot Cross Buns !

25 Mar 2014

My very first taste of a warm hot cross bun arrived during the springtime of my second year in Ireland. We were invited to a friend’s farm for an afternoon garden party. The country estate was sprawling, with a main “big house,” several stone farm buildings, and other various dwelling houses dotting the acreage. There was a charming, if a bit battered, vintage grass tennis court and a sweet little lake, which was called The Leap. Dogs and cats roamed freely with the hens, sheep, cattle and horses.

It was a beautiful sunny day and her husband had baked loads of delicious goodies to share with us. I recall that we all sat perched on colorful tartan wool blankets surrounded by blooming daffodils happily feasting upon hot cross buns, brownies, and tiny slices of Simnel cake whilst sipping copious amounts of Ceylon tea under the canopy of a (long-awaited) crayon blue Irish sky. At one point, a striking ringneck pheasant cock strutted across the field in front of us, and we all marveled in awe. I felt like I was an extra in a Merchant & Ivory film.

It is a magnificent memory to say the least, and I was again reminded of it this year when I began seeing hot cross buns in the markets for Easter. I decided I would try my hand at making a batch and perhaps swap currants and sultanas for something a little different.


Hot cross buns are sweet, yeast-leavened, spiced buns made with currants or raisins, often with candied citrus fruits marked with a cross on the top. The cross can be made in a variety of ways including: of pastry; flour and water mixture; rice paper; icing; two intersecting cuts. They are traditionally eaten at Easter and are massively popular in Ireland and the UK at this time of year.

I was delighted when I stumbled upon a basic Martha Stewart recipe for these yummy yeasty hot cross buns, but I wanted to add a bit more color to the classic original so I substituted sour cherries, toasted almonds and a touch of cardamom to her instructions. The end result is still spicy and sweet, but the cherries and cardamon add a little more pizazz.

These buns can feed a gang of farmers for breakfast on Saturday morning, or make the perfect spring hostess lunch or dinner party gift.  Also, hot cross buns are fantastic for french toast if you actually have any leftover!

After all the ingredients are mixed together,

the dough is kneaded on a floured surface

to ensure cherries + almonds are distributed evenly

Using a pastry sleeve to pipe on the icing crosses is easy and makes less of a mess

I came across this sweet little tidbit while doing my research on these lovely treats: Sharing a hot cross bun with another is supposed to ensure friendship throughout the coming year, particularly if “half for you and half for me, between us two shall goodwill be” is recited at the time.

Goodwill and Slan Abhaile,


Photos and Styling by Imen McDonnell. Assisted by Sonia Mulford Chaverri.

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17 Responses to “Hot Cross Buns !”

  1. Carmel says:

    I was just thinking about hot cross buns the other day! I remember the smell of them so well from my childhood and the excitement at holding one in my hand before I chomped on it! They always seemed so huge! I’m living away now and sometimes I forget about things like this that used to punctuate my childhood years. I’ll be giving these a go with my daughters on Vendredi Saint (as they call Good Friday here in France). Thanks for posting the recipe!

    • imen says:

      I love memories like that Carmel….the ones we are reacquainted with after years and years. Thank you for sharing your story =) Imen x

  2. Krista says:

    What a beautiful memory, Imen. 🙂 I made my first hot cross buns last year, and they were so delicious. 🙂

  3. What a lovely story to go with these beautiful buns! And I like the little anecdote about sharing at the end 🙂

  4. Wow! they look delicious! And what a good idea to use the left overs for french toast!

  5. […] Give Imen’s Hot Cross Buns recipe a try for yourself this Easter. « Traditional Irish Goodness with Chef Darina Allen […]

  6. Wow these looks amazing and delicious love ur recipe and beautiful photos

  7. Clare says:

    I used to sing that song as a kid and I’ve still yet to eat a real hot cross bun! I may have to try one this Easter weekend somewhere, or make yours!

    • imen says:

      That’s funny because I was thinking as I wrote this, the very same thing…I remembered the rhyme but not eating the buns. They are really lovely…just the right amount of sweet! Thanks for your comment =) xx

  8. Aoife Mc says:

    Imen, will you be my Mommy? Please?

    These look INCREDIBLE.

    I’ll move in on Monday, yes? 🙂

  9. Susan says:

    I am so going to make these…I don’t “do” raisins in my food, so the idea of sour cherries and cardamom just sounds scrumptious!
    Thanks for posting!

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