These tempting hot cross bun cookies will be the ones you need this Easter. Packed with sultanas, orange and cinnamon, they have crisp edges, a chewy middle, and are just divine!
What are hot cross buns?
Hot cross buns are enjoyed by everyone in the run up to Easter. In the past, people would eat hot cross buns on Good Friday, but now we enjoy them all year round. A traditional hot cross bun is a spiced sweet bread, contains some fruit (usually currants or raisins) and is marked with a cross on top.
Whilst I adore hot cross buns always, sometimes I want all the delicious flavours without the bread. And so, when thinking how I could satisfy the craving, the idea of hot cross bun cookies was born.
What is the difference between biscuits and cookies?
Cookies are generally made from a dough that is softer than a biscuit dough. However, the differences between cookies and biscuits continue once baked too. Cookies tend to be softer and chunkier than biscuits, often with a bit of chewiness in the middle, making them almost “bendy”. A biscuit does bake much firmer and has tends to have a more delicate texture than cookies. This means they can snap or be broken and not bend as cookies can. Biscuits are used when a filling is required (think sandwich biscuits like custard creams), or if you wanted to decorate with icing art. Cookies can be “stuffed” though, which means the filling is baked within the cookie itself.
Having given all this explaination, I am aware the word “biscuits” is used in parts of the world to mean something entirely different. If you are unaware, biscuits can also be used to mean a tender baked dough not dissimilar to what we in the UK call “scones”. Both these bakes are made in very similar ways, but they are served differently. Scones in the UK are sweet and the comparative biscuits are more savoury.
What ingredients do I need to make these hot cross bun cookies?
- Butter: I use unsalted butter for these cookies. Please make sure of this or you will have rather salty cookies.
- Brown sugar: for sweetness. Brown sugar helps too with the chewiness of your cookies.
- Egg: helps with the binding and structure of the cookies.
- Flour: I use plain (all purpose) flour in these cookies.
- Baking powder/bicarbonate of soda (baking soda): the leavening agents in this bake. Needed to help achieve that beautiful chew in your cookies.
- Cinnamon: for cosy warming flavour.
- Cornflour: helps keep your cookies soft and tender.
- Orange: I only use the rind of an orange in these cookies. It is enough to give a beautiful orange flavour. Remember to zest your orange directly into your mixing bowl so you get all the flavourful oils in your cookies too.
- Sultanas: one of the many options of dried fruit used when making traditional hot cross buns.
- White chocolate: gives the cookies a lovely sweet pop of flavour in with the cinnamon and orange.
What tools do I need to make these hot cross bun cookies?
- Baking tray*: used to chill and then to bake your cookies. I would recommend having at least two baking trays in your cupboard.
- Digital kitchen scales*: allows for accurate measuring of your ingredients. This is my preferred way of measuring out ingredients, though I do provide measurements in cups too for those that prefer it.
- Measuring spoons*: more consistent and accurate than using your everyday eating spoons. Accurate measuring means better results, so definitely worth the investment.
- Mixing bowl*: to mix all your ingredients together when making your cookies.
- Handheld electric whisk*: makes mixing ingredients together much easier.
- Sieve*: to help with removing lumps from your dry ingredients and so ensuring smooth mixing of your ingredients.
- Zester*: to get that delicious rind off your orange.
- Spatula*: this is a useful tool to scrape your bowl down and make sure everything is well combined.
- Ice cream scoop*: gives perfectly even balls of cookie dough. This is important, as even sized cookie dough balls will bake at the same time and speed.
- Cooling rack*: a space for you to cool your cookies once baked.
How to make hot cross bun cookies
Cookies are one of my favourite bakes ever, because they actually come together so quickly and easily! Honestly, the hardest part is the waiting: for them to chill before baking, and then for them to set after they come out of the oven. Once you get the hang of my method, your cookie making will be effortless!
Step 1: Line a baking tray with parchment paper and set it aside.
Step 2: In the bowl of your stand mixer or a large mixing bowl, cream together your butter and sugar until smooth and slightly paler in colour. Add in the egg and mix until it all comes together and does not look curdled any longer.
Step 3: Sift in the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda (baking soda), cinnamon and cornflour (cornstarch). Zest your orange directly into your bowl, to ensure you get all the zest but also any delicious oils off the fruit in your cookies. Beat it all together until completely combined. Tip in the sultanas and white chocolate chips, then press them into your cookie mixture until evenly combined.
Step 4: Using an ice cream scoop, place evenly sized cookie dough balls onto your baking tray. Pop the tray in the freezer for an hour or so to chill and firm up.
Step 5: When you are almost ready to bake your cookies, preheat your oven to 180C/350F and line another baking tray (or three if you have them). Space your chilled cookies, a few inches apart, on your prepared baking tray and bake in your hot oven for 10-12 minutes. The cookies should be lightly browned and cracked all the way to the middle. Leave them to cool and firm up on the trays for 20 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Step 6: Once your cookies are completely cool, time for the final decoration: the signature cross of your hot cross bun cookies! Melt a little white chocolate (I do it in the microwave in short bursts, stirring in between), then transfer it into a small piping bag. Pipe crosses onto your cooled cookies, then leave to set for a few minutes. Enjoy!
There are several factors that can affect these cookies and how they turn out. Whilst I will answer as many questions as I can, I may well miss some, so please ask away in the comments below.
Why should I use cornflour (cornstarch) in my cookies?
Cornflour, or cornstarch, gives your cookies a soft consistency that just flour alone does not achieve. It also helps keep your cookies thick when baked. You can swap it out for the same amount of flour if you wish, but you will love the result of it in your cookies if you try it.
How do I make chewy cookies?
Brown sugar that is key for a wonderfully chewy cookie. The reason for this is molasses in brown sugar. This helps retain more moisture in the cookies, making them thicker, softer and deliciously chewier!
Can I use oil instead of butter in my cookies?
Oil and butter are unfortunately not interchangeable in my cookie recipes, as oil has a lower melting temperature to butter. This means they will not firm up sufficiently after chilling, and so will spread more when baking, so you will not have the same final results.
What if my cookie dough is too soft?
If your cookie dough feels too soft, chill your dough for 10-15 minutes before separating into cookie dough balls. Keep in mind if you did not use a block butter in your cookies, they will remain soft and not firm up. I always use block butter, not oil or the kind that is spreadable from a tub (such as a margarine), in my cookies. Using butter should result in your cookies really firming up in the freezer when chilled.
How do I know if my hot cross bun cookies are done?
Your cookies are baked when the edges are lightly golden and the cracks on top have just found their way into the middle of the cookies. Remove them from the oven, but leave them on the baking tray. They will continue to bake in the residual heat from within the cookie and from the baking tray. Leaving them on the tray to cool and firm up is super important for beautiful chewy cookies.
Why did my cookies turn out flat?
In my recipes, I chill my cookie dough before baking my cookies. This allows the butter in the dough to firm up, which helps the cookie hold its shape when you bake them instead of spreading flatter. A good guide is remembering the warmer your cookie dough is when you put it in the oven, the thinner and flatter your cookies will be once baked.
Why did my cookies turn out cakey?
There are a few reasons why your cookies might have turned out cakey. The most common reason is due to the flour in the recipe. Adding too much flour (especially if using volume measures rather than weigh/mass) can result in drier or cakier cookies.
Why are my cookies crumbling?
Again, there are many reasons your cookies are crumbling, but there are two likely culprits. The first option is that the cookies could have been baked too long, and so will have dried out. It might also be that too much flour was used when making the cookie dough, which would therefore lead to drier cookies.
How long will these hot cross bun cookies last? And how should I store them?
These hot cross bun cookies are at their best if enjoyed within 3-4 days from baking, and kept in an airtight container.
Can I freeze these cookies?
Yes! You can freeze them both unbaked and baked. Keep reading for how to do both.
For unbaked cookies, freeze the cookie dough in individual cookie balls for a couple of hours. Once firm, transfer them into a lidded container suitable for the freezer. These dough balls will keep for two months in your freezer.
If you want to freeze baked cookies, allow them to cool completely first. Wrap each cookie tightly in cling film and place in a lidded container before freezing.
How do I thaw my hot cross bun cookies?
If you froze your cookies unbaked, simply remove your frozen cookie balls and place them on a lined baking tray. Remember to leave about 2 inches between each cookie as they will spread as they bake. Pop them in the oven straight from frozen and bake according to the recipe, adding a couple of minutes extra to your baking time.
If you baked your cookies before freezing, you can just defrost them fully at room temperature and enjoy. However, if you want to get the crunchy edges and soft middle once again, that is simple too. Just pop them on a baking tray (no need to spread out too much, you are just heating them up again) and reheat in your oven at 180C/350F for about 3-5 minutes. Then pop the cookies onto a cooling rack for a few minutes (to avoid getting burned!) before devouring!
Additional tips for making this hot cross bun cookies recipe
- Make sure you’ve prepared your tools and ingredients before you start mixing. Line your baking tray and get your ingredients out ready to use. And do remember to make space in your freezer for your baking tray.
- If you do not have an electric mixer to hand, no need to worry as it can be done entirely by hand. Please bear in mind if you do this entirely by hand though that your arm will get quite the workout!
- When you add your egg in with your butter and sugar, it may look like it has split initially. Just keep mixing and it will all come good eventually.
- Always ALWAYS zest any fruit you use directly into your bowl. Zesting fruit is not just for the zest itself, which contains so much beautiful flavour, but also for any oils and juices that come off the fruit too. Super important for all the yummy flavour!
- I like to use sultanas in these cookies, but you could just as easily swap them for raisins if you prefer. Equally, feel free to swap the white chocolate chips for milk or dark chocolate, though this would change the flavour of your cookies a little to be more chocolatey.
- If you do not have an ice cream scoop you can use, you can just as easily use two spoons to scoop out even sized portions of cookie dough to freeze instead. I really like the uniformity of a scoop, as it means all my cookies will bake evenly too.
If you have any questions about this hot cross bun cookie recipe, please use the comments below to ask away and I will do my best to help. And if you make this recipe for homemade hot cross bun cookies, please do take a moment to leave a rating and review below. I would really love to know how you enjoy them and it really helps others looking for a recipe such as this one too. You could even post a picture on Instagram and tag me when you share it with the world, that would make my day!
More yummy recipes for you to enjoy
If you enjoyed these homemade hot cross bun cookies, take a look at these other delicious cookie and Easter themed recipes on my blog too.
The ULTIMATE triple chocolate cookies: deep rich and chewy chocolate cookies cram-packed full of oodles of white, milk, and dark chocolate chips. Pure, unadulterated, indulgent chocolate heaven.
Carrot cake tray bake: this tray bake is packed with walnuts and a delicious spice mix, and you will love it! Topped with a tangy cream cheese icing and a scattering of walnuts, this is sure to become a favourite!
Mini egg cookies: gorgeous chewy cookies with wonderful crispy edges. Plenty of gooey and melty chocolate chips. And lots and lots of mini eggs too. Easter doesn’t get much better with mini eggs!
Thanks for joining me today friends! Happy baking!