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Gingery Whole Wheat Hot Cross Buns

These might be the best hot cross buns you’ll ever eat. Baked healthier, with whole wheat and honey, these gently spiced Gingery Hot Cross Buns celebrate spring!

Gingery Whole Wheat Hot Cross Buns baked in pan with cream cheese frosting cross on top

Imagine a batch of soft dinner rolls, gently spiced with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and mace, with candied ginger pieces, dried apricots, cranberries, and dates in every little bite. These gingery hot cross buns are honey-sweetened and made with whole wheat flour, and crossed with cream cheese and maple syrup frosting.

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bowls of candied ginter, dried fruit and spices, the ingredients for Gingery Hot Cross Buns

The cross symbolizes several things. In the Christian tradition, in the 40 days before Easter known as Lent, the cross on each bun represents Good Friday and Holy Week. Hot cross buns commemorate the renewal of life that happens each spring–think tulips and daffodils popping up all over and chirping birds busying their nest. We may have to wait a little longer for the blossoms here in the mountains, but there’s no waiting for these buns. The time is now. This is hot cross bun season!

Gingery Hot Cross Buns in pan ready to eat with a few on plates

In my former pastry chef life, we baked hot cross buns every day throughout Lent, from Mardi Gras right up until Easter. We made them with white flour and sugar. For a new, more healthful and rustic-feeling treat, I traded honey for the brown sugar, and whole wheat flour for the all purpose flour in Deer Valley’s recipe. The original recipe is in my Chocolate Snowball cookbook.

Happy Spring! Keep up the tradition. Or start one. Make these ginger-spiced, fruit-filled buns with a cross on top.

Hot-cross buns! Hot-cross buns! One a penny, two a penny, hot-cross buns. If you have no daughters, give them to your sons. Hot-cross buns! Hot-cross buns! ~ Old Nursery Rhyme

Gingery Whole Wheat Hot Cross Buns recipe details:

  • Yeast doughs, hot cross buns for example, are about passive time. 20 minutes to prepare the dough, then an hour of rising, 10 minutes to shape the rolls, and another hour of rising. You can make and shape the dough one day, and bake them the next.

Gingery Hot Cross Buns proofed and ready to bake

  • If it works better in your schedule, mix and shape the rolls the day before. Let them rise overnight in the fridge and bake them off in the morning. Or make and bake your hot cross buns the day before—they’re easy to refresh with a light sprinkle of water and a reheat in the oven. Decorate with the cross until just before serving.
  • To make these gingery hot cross buns, I used white whole wheat flour–lighter in color and flavor than the whole wheat flour we are most familiar with. White whole wheat flour, ground from white wheat berries, includes the bran, germ and endosperm of the wheat grain, the same as regular whole wheat flour which is ground from hard red wheat berries. Read more here. If you prefer your rolls less rustic, feel free to substitute unbleached all-purpose flour for all or some of the white whole wheat flour.
  • I use instant dry yeast, which does not need to be dissolved in warm water before mixing the dough. You just stir instant dry yeast into the other dry ingredients and use a warmer liquid. Saf-instant dry yeast and the trademarked RapidRise yeast, as well as bread machine yeast, are all instant dry yeast. If you use regular active dry yeast, keep your milk below 110°F.

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Special products and equipment used to make hot cross buns:

You might like this vegetarian polenta cauliflower torta with roasted asparagus on your brunch buffet too!

For appetizers, an elegant crostini with goat cheese and shallot red wine jam would be excellent!

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Nutrition information is meant to be an estimate only. Numbers do not include cream cheese frosting. The calculation will vary based on the brands you use and substitutions you make.

Nutrition Facts
Gingery Whole Wheat Hot Cross Buns
Amount Per Serving
Calories 260 Calories from Fat 54
% Daily Value*
Fat 6g9%
Saturated Fat 3g19%
Cholesterol 40mg13%
Sodium 170mg7%
Potassium 166mg5%
Carbohydrates 46g15%
Fiber 5g21%
Sugar 15g17%
Protein 8g16%
Vitamin A 300IU6%
Calcium 62mg6%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

8 comments

  • They look fantastic and I love that you used white whole wheat flour and maple syrup. I don’t use a lot of flour, but when I do it’s either white whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour. Reply · 30 March, 2015

  • Kozikat

    Our Lenten tradition and now for Easter Sunday is hot cross buns. For years I converted my old B.C. recipe to the fast-rise yeast and white whole wheat flour. I can’t wait to add the ginger but one batch I added orange zest and used a dried fruit mix and yum. I can’t wait to try the cream-cheese cross and ginger this holy week. Thanks for the inspiration. Reply · 30 March, 2015

    • Letty

      Thanks Katie. I remember buying HCB from the Helms truck. Reply · 30 March, 2015

  • This is a great adaptation. Hot Cross buns are often too “white bread” for my taste. This version seems to walk the line nicely. GREG Reply · 31 March, 2015

  • Louise Redmond

    Thank you Letty for this recipe, I’ve wanted to make some. I remember how good they are, I used to buy them from DV every year. I try my hand at making these and see how I do. Because of my hands now, may I use my stand mixer to knead the dough instead? And for how long to knead it? Reply · 4 April, 2020

    • I always use my standup mixer. 😉 Knead about 5 minutes, adding the remaining 1/2 cup of flour if necessary, until the dough is soft, smooth and elastic. After 5 minutes if gets sticky again, turn it out and finish by hand. During the last minute, mix in the candied ginger, apricots, cranberries and dates. Reply · 4 April, 2020

  • Louise Redmond

    Letty,
    I have whole wheat flour, is it possible to use some of that with AP flour, what ratio would I use? I have a lot of wheat flour I need to use up, what ratio would I use for other recipes? Reply · 4 April, 2020

    • Whole wheat just fine. White whole wheat flour is whole wheat flour. If you are subbing whole wheat flour for unbleached or bleached white flour, your bread will just be a little more rustic. you may need to reduce the flour by 1/4 cup or so. Go by that soft and elastic test. White whole wheat flour is lighter in color and flavor than the whole wheat flour we are most familiar with. White whole wheat flour, ground from white wheat berries includes the bran, germ and endosperm of the wheat grain, is the same as regular whole wheat flour, just ground from red wheat berries. If you prefer your rolls less rustic, feel free to substitute unbleached all-purpose flour for all or some of the white whole wheat flour. Reply · 4 April, 2020

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