Pumpkin Hot Cross Buns

Pumpkin Hot Cross Buns

I love everything about Hot Cross Buns – apart from the raisins. They are the definitive flavour of the family Easter celebrations of my childhood where the UK weather could be either scorching hot or wintery and wet, but the food was always the same.

Over the years I have tried several variations – chocolate hot cross buns, citrus hot cross buns, no-fruit hot cross buns, cranberry and white chocolate hot cross buns…….But I think these are my favourite so far.

They still have that subtle spiciness that you expect from a hot cross bun. They still involve soft, enriched dough with little nuggets of fruit hidden inside it. They still have that slick of shiny sugar on top, and the pumpkin adds a depth of flavour and a pretty pop of orange!

This is the first year that I've had a little assistant to help me with my buns…..he didn't totally 'get' the whole crosses thing, but he thought the piping bag was all kinds of fun. In fact, when I was distracted by the washing up, the 'decorating' with leftover paste continued all over the kitchen worktops and Jasper's teddy……..

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These Hot Cross Buns are a little bit more ‘involved’ than most of my recipes, but there’s nothing complicated about them, and they are absolutely worth the effort.

Think of them as having 3 parts:

  • the dough
  • the crosses
  • the sugar glaze

I find that it also helps to think of the process as having four steps

  • making the dough and leaving it to rise
  • shaping the buns and leaving them to rise again
  • adding the crosses and baking the buns
  • glazing them with a sticky sugar gloss

Pumpkin and Apple Hot Cross Buns Recipe

Makes: This recipe makes 12 generously proportioned hot cross buns

Takes: 15 minutes to make and knead the dough, 1 hour to rise, another 25 mins for shaping and crosses, then 45 minutes for the second rise and bake. Finally 5 minutes for the sugar glaze. So you’re looking at about 2.5 hours (but with a couple of long breaks in between the hard work!)

Storage: These buns keep fresh for up to 2 days, and are best eaten warmed in the oven, or split and toasted, and spread with butter.


For the dough:

  • 50 grams butter
  • 130 ml milk
  • 150 grams pumpkin purée (you can make your own or buy it canned eg Libby’s – available in most supermarkets)
  • 1 large egg
  • 100 grams chopped crunchy apple eg braeburn (approx. 1 large apple)
  • 425 grams strong white bread flour (plus extra for kneading)
  • 60 grams caster sugar
  • 1 sachet (7 grams) dried fast action yeast
  • 2 tablespoons dried mixed spices
  • ½ teaspoon salt

For the crosses:

  • 100 grams plain flour
  • 30 grams melted butter
  • About 30ml cold water

For the Glaze:

  • 3 tbs caster sugar
  • 4 tbs cold water


  • To make the dough: In a heat-proof bowl, or a small pan, warm the butter and milk until the butter just melts.
  • Take the pan off the heat and add the pumpkin to the milk mixture and whisk well with a fork.
  • Add the egg to the other ingredients and whisk (note: if the milk has got very hot, let it cool a bit before adding the egg or else it will scramble!)
  • Peel the apple, remove the core and cut it into very small pieces (approx. the size of a raisin). Add the apple to the milk mixture.
  • Into another large mixing bowl measure all the dry ingredients: Flour, yeast, sugar, spices and salt. Mix them together well with a fork.
  • Add the liquid ingredients from the other bowl and mix to form a sticky dough.
  • Sprinkle a clean worktop with flour, and knead the dough with your hands for 5 minutes or more until it is soft and elastic. It’s fine to add extra flour if you need to, but try to keep the dough as sticky as possible as this will result in much lighter buns. Use a spatula or dough scraper to keep scraping dough off the table and your hands if it is sticking. If you have an electric mixer with a dough hook you can use that.
  • Once you have kneaded the dough (the longer the better, you can’t ‘over-knead’ it) put it back in the bowl and leave it to rise, tightly covered in clingfilm, for 45-60 minutes until it has doubled in size.
  • While the dough is rising make the pastry mixture for the crosses: Measure the flour and melted butter into a small bowl and mix, adding water bit by bit, adding just enough to make a very thick, pipe-able paste, the consistency of toothpaste. Spoon this into a disposable piping bag or a plastic sandwich bag (you’ll snip off a very small corner when you’re ready to pipe crosses on the buns).
  • When the dough has doubled size, dust the worktop with flour again, and knead it again quickly for a minute to get the air out.
  • Cut the dough into 12 equal pieces; roll them into balls and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper, with enough space around them to rise.
  • Leave them on the tray, lightly covered with cling film to rise again for another 30-45 minutes before (they should almost double in size again)
  • Pipe two stripes of the paste to make a cross on top of each bun.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius or equivalent until they are risen and cooked through and sound hollow if you tap the bottoms. While the buns are cooking make the glaze.
  • To make the glaze: In a small saucepan dissolve the sugar in the water on a low heat (just simmering) for 3 minutes.
  • As soon as the buns come out of the oven, brush their tops with sugar glaze to make them shiny and sticky, then let the buns cool a bit before you eat them.
  • ENJOY!!