Old-fashioned hot cross buns: Classic recipes from 1912

LIFE Mar 17, 1952 Easter hot cross buns

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One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns (from 1912)

We do not hear the cry “Hot Cross Buns, Hot Cross Buns, One a Penny, Two a Penny, Hot Cross Buns,” when we awaken on Good Friday morning in this country.

A good reason for this failure is that our wives and mothers are such excellent cooks that with their own fingers they mix the dough that goes into the bread for the greatest fast day of the year.

In the older countries, the maternal head of the house is not a bread-maker. So the baker boy goes up one street and down another calling in musical tones the well-known rhyme of our childhood.

Here are a couple of recipes for Good Friday buns. Either will make delicious buns. Do not neglect, however, to make a cross in the top of each bit of bread before putting the baking tin in the oven.

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Hot cross buns

Old-fashioned Irish Hot Cross Buns recipe

To 3 cups of milk, add flour enough to make a thick batter. Into this, stir 1 cake of compressed yeast dissolved in warm water. In the morning, add a few spoonfuls of melted butter and 1/2 spoonfuls of grated nutmeg, 1 saltspoon of salt, 1 teaspoonful of soda, and flour enough to make a stiff dough like biscuit.

Knead well and let rise 5 hours. Roll to 1/2 inch thickness, cut in round cakes and put in buttered baking pans. Let stand until light.

Make a deep gash in each with a knife. Bake in a moderate oven till light brown. Brush over the top with the beaten white of an egg and powdered sugar.

Old-fashioned New York Hot Cross Buns recipe


One cup scalded milk
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 yeast cake dissolved in 1/4 cup lukewarm water
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 cups flour
1 egg
1/4 raisins stoned and quartered, or 1/4 cup currants


Add butter, sugar, and salt to milk; when lukewarm, add dissolved yeast cake, cinnamon, flour and egg well-beaten; when thoroughly mixed, add raisins, cover, and let rise overnight.

In morning, shape in forms of large biscuits, place in pan 1 inch apart, let rise, brush over with beaten egg, and bake 20 minutes; cool, and with ornamental frosting make a cross on top of each bun.

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