Hello and “Hoppy” Easter!! 🐇 Around this time every year, my Dad often makes the best hot cross buns, so I just had to bake a batch of these delicious bread rolls for myself this year. And what better way to decorate hot cross buns than with adorable fondant bunnies and carrots!? Just look at them! I’m melting with cuteness overload! 😍 You could leave these adorable creatures off your bunny hot cross buns, since they are quite tedious and time-consuming to make. But they add a festive flair and extra sweetness to these spiced buns. The array of spices and citrus zest are delicious. You could also sprinkle nuts into the with the dried fruit for added texture.
Hot cross buns have been associated with Easter since the 12th century in England. But folks around the world were making bread buns with crosses on top even before that, like the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. Many Christians make hot cross buns on Good Friday, also known as the Day of the Cross, which is the date that Christians believe Jesus was crucified. The cross either cut into or decorated on top of each bread bun is to honor this day in the Christian religion. There are all kinds of quirky historical facts and legends about hot cross buns, some of which you can read here!
While these bunny hot cross buns deviate far from the traditional hot cross buns made centuries ago, they’re a fun way to celebrate the Spring season. And come on, how can you pass up teeny tiny edible bunnies and carrots?! 🥕
Baking Hot Cross Buns
The recipe I followed for these spiced hot cross buns is based on the recipe from Celebrate with Kim-Joy. From cinnamon and cardamom to orange zest and ginger, these buns are packed with flavor. They are soft and chewy, but also quite dense and filling. And my favorite part is that the cross on each bun isn’t made from icing. Sometimes when the cross on these buns are made from icing, it overloads the whole baked treat with too much sugar. But these crosses are just made from water and flour being piped onto the buns before they head into the oven.
A few other things to note:
– The dough is super wet when it’s left to rise for the first time. This is okay! Don’t add more flour, just let it rise in the mixing bowl.
– The dough is extremely soft and airy when the dried fruit it mixed into it. You’ll punch out a lot of air while mixing in the dried fruit, but don’t worry. It’ll rise again after it’s shaped and left in the baking dish to rise the second time.
Assembling all the Pieces
This was the most fun but also the most time-consuming part of making these bunny hot cross buns. I’ll just say I caught up on all my YouTube shows while forming each bunny, carrot and leaf. Fondant is a great medium to work with to form small, intricate shapes. You can buy fondant from the store and dye it any color under the rainbow that you desire. Fondant is a sugar paste that softens as it is warmed and worked in your hands. But be careful if your hands or if the room temperature is too warm, because fondant can become stringy and very sticky. It can also dry out and become hard and crumbly, so be sure to keep your fondant in an air tight container when you’re not working with it.
I suggest making all the pieces needed in one color, then wash your hands and your work surface before working with fondant of another color. This will help prevent any bleeding of different colors into your shapes.
Use just a little bit of water to stick the fondant pieces together. Therefore it’s helpful to have a small bowl of water nearby when assembling each shape.
Each fondant bunny is made from six pieces. Two long ears, a small squished sphere for the head and a larger squished sphere for the body, along with two small arms.
The fondant carrots are made from two shapes – one green piece for the carrot top and one orange piece for the carrot body. I used a pairing knife to gently impress lines onto the carrot bodies, to look more like real carrots.
I wanted to add a little more color onto the buns, so I made green fondant leaves. These are just made of one piece of fondant, shaped into a leaf. Then I used a pairing knife to impress veins onto each leaf.
More Easter and Spring Recipes
Hungry for more Easter-themed and Spring-inspired recipes? Check these out!
- Easter Eggs Dyed with Kitchen Scraps
- Slovenian Easter Buns
- Easter-Themed Sugar Cookies
- Springtime Dandelion Fruit Smoothie
- Homemade Lucky Charms Pop Tarts
Bunny Hot Cross Buns
Hot Cross Bun Dough
- ¾ cup whole milk or non-dairy milk
- 2½ tsp ground cinnamon, divided
- 3 cardamom pods, broken open
- 1 star anise
- 3½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 5 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- zest 1 orange OR 1 lemon
- 2¼ tsp (one packet) active dry yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- ⅓ cup water
- 3 large eggs, divided
- ¼ cup (one stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- ¾ cup mixed dried fruit like raisins, candied citron, etc.
Cross for the Buns
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup water
Bunnies and Carrots
- orange and green food coloring
Mix the Dough
- In a small saucepan, add the milk, ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, caradmom pods and star anise. Bring to a simmer on medium-high heat, then remove from the heat and let sit for 20 minutes to infuse the milk with the spices.Strain the whole spices from the milk and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk the all-purpose flour, granulated sugar, remaining ground spices, citrus zest, yeast and salt in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
- Add the water to the infused milk. Whisk in 2 eggs. Add the milk and egg mixture into the dry ingredients.
- Knead the dough either with a dough hook in a stand mixer for 8 minutes or by hand in the bowl for 12 to 15 minutes.
- Add the softened butter to the dough and continue to knead until the butter is incorporated. The dough might be pretty wet at this point – that's okay.
- Cover the bowl with plastic cling wrap and set in a warm place (like the oven with the light on) to rise until the dough doubles in size, between 1½ – 3 hours.
Shape the Dough Buns
- Lightly grease a 10-inch by 10-inch (or something similar) baking dish.
- Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a generously floured work surface. Roughly roll out the dough and scatter the dried fruit. Roll the dough up like a log, then knead it for another minute, until the fruit is well distributed.
- Divide the dough into 16 equal portions and shape them into dough balls. Place the dough balls evenly spaced out in the greased baking dish, and cover with plastic cling wrap. Let proof at room temperature until doubled in size, between 1 – 2 hours.
Shape the Fondant Bunnies, Carrots and Leaves
- Use a small handful of fondant at a time, and keep the rest in an airtight container to prevent it from drying and hardening. Use un-dyed (white) fondant to shape the bunny pieces.Dye a handful of fondant orange by kneading orange food dye into the fondant. Then shape it into small cones for the carrots. Dye a handful of fondant green by kneading green food dye into the fondant. Then shape it into the carrot tops and leaves. Use a tiny bit of water to secure each piece together. See blog post above for further tips to shape and assemble the bunnies, carrots and leaves.
Cross and Bake the Buns
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Whisk the remaining egg in a small bowl and brush it on the buns.
- To make the dough for the crosses, whisk the all-purpose flour and water together in a small bowl. Transfer it into a piping bag or a ziplock bag with the corner cut off. Pipe into a small cross on each bun.
- Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for another 15 – 20 minutes, until the buns are golden brown.
- Allow to cool completely before topping with your fondant shapes. If you add the fondant onto hot or warm buns, the fondant will melt into a gooey mess.Enjoy!