Hot cross buns are an Easter tradition for many. The fluffy, spiced buns are made with a yeasted dough and typically include mix-ins like currants, raisins and candied citrus. They are one of those recipes that I only make once every year – and there are times that I skip them because I just don’t have the time. These Hot Cross Bun Muffins are a twist on those classic buns, but they’re made with a regular muffin batter that uses no yeast, so they take almost no time to put together.
The muffin batter starts with flour, sugar, brown sugar and a generous helping of spices. Most hot cross buns used “mixed spice,” a spice blend that is a bit like pumpkin pie spice. The blend is very common in the UK and Australia, but is a bit unusual in the US. It includes cinnamon, nutmeg, mace and allspice. Cinnamon is always the dominant flavor, though the mix varies a bit from brand to brand. I used cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice in these muffins, all of which pair nicely with brown sugar. Traditional buns usually include “mixed peel,” which is another ingredient that is a lot more common outside of the US. While you can feel free to mix in a few tablespoons of finely chopped candied citrus, I used lemon and orange zest in the interest of keeping things simple for these muffins. I also added in dried currants, golden raisins and chopped walnuts.
The muffins are spicy and packed with flavor. They’re hearty muffins, thanks to all that dried fruit and spice, and they are delicious when served warm and spread with a little bit of butter (or a lot of butter) or cream cheese. After baking, the muffins are topped with an icing sugar cross. Some hot cross buns are topped with an X made of plain dough, but the sweetness of a little frosting works better on these muffins Be sure to make your frosting thick so that it doesn’t run off the sides of the muffin after you pipe it on. The muffins are best on the day that they are baked, but can be stored in an airtight container for a day or so after baking.
Hot Cross Bun Muffins
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground mace
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1 large egg
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
2/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp orange zest
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried currants (or more raisins)
1/4 cup finely chopped, toasted walnuts or pecans
1/4-1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tbsp water
Preheat oven to 375F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugars, baking powder, salt and spices.
In a medium bowl, whisk together egg, melted butter, milk, vainlla extract, orange zest and lemon zest. Pour into dry ingredients and stir until batter starts to come together. When most of the dry ingredients have been incorporated, stir in raisins, currants (or more raisins) and chopped nuts. Mix just until no streaks of flour remain.
Divide batter evenly into prepared muffin cups.
Bake for 19-21 minutes, or until the tops of the muffins spring back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean.
Turn muffins out onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
Frosting: Whisk together confectioners’ sugar and water to make a stiff glaze. If glaze is runny, whisk in a few additional teaspoons of confectioners’ sugar. Transfer mixture to a piping bag or a ziploc bag with the corner snipped off and pipe X’s on top of each of the muffins.