Forget the Chocolate Eggs, Let’s Hunt For The Best Hot Cross Buns

A big tray of hot cross buns from Volare, Hamilton.

It’s that time of year; hot cross bun season and we’re all about it.

Words by: Kelly Tapper

Photography by: Neat Places and Supplied

Whether you like them toasted, slathered in butter, or au natural straight from the bakery bag, there's no denying hot cross buns are pretty much the best thing about Easter. But what’s the recipe to success? We hasten to guess at a precarious blend of elements; the spice to fruit ratio, the plumpness of that soft sweet roll, a citrus kick courtesy of candied peel and, of course, the cross. So when it comes to these sticky buns X really does mark the spot.  

Here are a few of our favourite bakeries across Aotearoa delivering the goods this Easter. It’s simply impossible not to start eating them immediately, and fair to surmise you may eat your bodyweight in these buns before Easter is through.   

Amano

Auckland

Amano’s hot cross buns are a knock-out, and the cat is well and truly out of the bag. These ​​bodacious buns sell like hotcakes, so be sure to get an order in early if you’re to have some in the pantry come Good Friday. Made from sourdough and generous on the fruit, the glaze is a concoction of orange juice and spices adding the perfect lip-smacking stickiness. As you may not be inclined to share, we suggest ordering a dozen.

Hot cross buns by Amano in Auckland.

Daily Bread

Auckland

There’s stiff competition in Auckland for the coveted mantle of the best hot cross bun, and Daily Bread are certainly in the mix. Handcrafted using a madre lievito sourdough starter, the buns have the added benefit of a long fermentation and the end result is light and flavourful. Throw in a healthy dose of freshly ground spice and vesty fruit, and ta-da the result is mind-boggling good.

Exterior of Daily Bread in Ponsonby, Auckland.

Ima Cuisine

Auckland

Ima’s hot cross buns should come with a warning. Seriously, once you’ve tried their buns you will not be able to stop yourself. The utterly indulgent custard cross is beyond genius and brings a whole other level of deliciousness to the bun. For those not able to get to Ima to sample (gawd, it’s heartbreaking), you can attempt to recreate the magic at home with this recipe from the legendary Yael Schochat, the mastermind behind these bad boys.

Close up of a plate of hot cross buns from Ima.

Bellbird Bakery

Christchurch

The trusty folks at Bellbird bake a classic hot cross bun jam-packed with candied fruit-peel, currants and raisins and with the added twist of fresh ginger and coconut milk. These vegan buns are moreish, moist and not too sweet, making them a little too easy to devour. You can order online to be picked up at The Tannery just in time for Easter. Don’t wait around.

Grizzly Baked Goods

Christchurch

Grizzly is renowned for some of the finest bread and pastries in Ōtautahi, so it’ll come as no surprise that they have produced a top shelf hot cross bun. Made from sourdough and lovingly enriched with free-range eggs and NZ butter, Grizzly adds their top-secret spice blend to the dough to create a darn fine bun that’s generously sized and plump. With in-store and online shopping options available, it's really very easy to get your mitts on some of these irresistibly good hot crossies.

Interior view of Grizzly Baked Goods at The Welder.

BABCO

Palmerston North

BABCO aka Brick Artisan Bread Company, create many marvellous treats in their bakery including a much-loved HCB. Their buns are incredibly good-looking and taste like a dream; soft and fluffy (think more brioche-style), delicately spiced and lots of juicy dried fruit. For those not a fan of the traditional bun, BABCO also has a chocolate rendition available; purists look away.

Tray of six hot cross buns from BABCO.

Side-On

Dunedin

The master bakers at Side-On certainly know what they’re doing when it comes to hot cross buns. Loaded with fruit, spice and all things nice, Side On’s offerings are made using rye flour giving their Easter morsels a dense and flavoursome taste. You can scoff one at the cafe with your morning coffee or take away a bunch to share selflessly with your fam (or just yourself… we won’t judge).

Interior view of Side-On in Dunedin.

Myrtle

Wellington

Myrtle may have been making hot cross buns since late February but for good reason, people can’t get enough of their carby sweet buns. What we love about Myrtle's HCB is that they have added Turmeric into their spice blend giving a pop of colour to the end result. Wellingtonians can get their Easter bun quota directly from their bakery in Mount Victoria. Run don't walk!

Close up of hot cross buns from Myrtle in Mount Victoria, Wellington.

Volare

Hamilton

Good news Hamilton peeps, Volare’s award-winning Hot Cross Buns are back with a bang. Made from fermented brioche dough, these sticky golden HCB are light, bouncy and totally divine. Doused in spices, tonnes of fruit and hand iced, these Easter treats fly out of the door every year. You can order them online via Breadbox or pick them up in store. Yum-my!

Row upon row of baked hot cross buns from Volare.

Pembroke Pâtisserie

Wānaka

Wānaka’s boutique artisan bakery Pembroke Pâtisserie, is our go-to for hot cross buns this far south. With a sugary cinnamon glaze, the buns are laden with sultanas and currants and a somewhat controversial no peel policy. The result still makes for a truly magical bun (bready and sweet), and as with all these HCB, it should be eaten with lashings of butter.

Interior view of Pembroke Patisserie in Wānaka.

Neat Auckland Places

Red Rabbit

Two woman having a coffee at a leaner table at Red Rabbit, Auckland.
Place Auckland
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Situated in Parnell’s industrial quarter, Red Rabbit’s Faraday Street outpost is where the locals come for their caffeine hit.

Mr T's Baked Goods & Eatery

Close up of baguettes for sale at Mr T's Baked Goods and Eatery, Auckland.
Place Auckland
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A trip to

Cotto

Cotto Restaurant sign.
Place Auckland
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You simply can’t talk about the best of Auckland’s dining scene without mentioning Cotto.

Bandung Café

Woman holding cocktail and plates of food at Bandung Café, Auckland.
Place Auckland
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Inspired by home cooking from the team’s roots in Java, Parnell’s Bandung Café boasts a fresh take on Indonesian cuisine.