The wait is over — we present Denizen’s definitive guide to the best hot cross buns for Easter 2024

It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it. In the lead-up to Easter, we’ve eaten our way through an inordinate amount of hot cross buns in a bid to definitively uncover those which reigns supreme. Whether you’re more of a heavy fruit, heavy spice lover, partial to an indulgent chocolate iteration, a fan of a classic with lashings of butter, or looking for something different entirely, we’ve tasted (and rated) them all.

Here, we present our guide to the best of the best, including something for every taste preference — mapping out our personal favourites across all of the important categories. Enjoy.


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Best Overall

Winner

This year’s breakthrough hero, ladies & gents! Beabea’s has quickly become known for its unique, modern and honestly, utterly delicious takes on traditional Kiwi bakery fare, and their hot cross buns do not deviate. Crafted using a three-day sourdough, multi-dough process, these fluffy morsels are inspired by Panettone, the Italian Christmas bread, making them impossibly light and airy. Ben & Sarah, the clever duo behind Beabea’s, blended cinnamon, pimento, cardamom, white pepper and a few others secret spices to create buns with a comforting warmth and not “a punch in the face” (their words!). The juicy fruit — poached South African sultanas and house-made orange peel, is a timely labour of love. And finally, perhaps the most genius addition, once the buns are out of the oven, they’re finished with an Honest rum and tart apple glaze which adds a stunning touch of brightness. Honestly, sublime. Sarah eats hers fresh out of the over with a lick of salted butter, but Ben likes to mix it up and pair his with peanut butter or blue cheese. Over to you!

Texture: Pillowy clouds (light, airy, with the perfect bite).
Crust: Soft and sticky with a healthy dose of rum and apple glaze.
Serving: In our opinion, these are best served fresh with no butter, exactly as God intended — toast from day two onwards.
Price: $4 each, or $22 per half dozen

Best Traditional

Winner

With outposts in Mount Eden and Wynyard Quarter, Mibo has become somewhat of a go-to for sweet delights thanks to its stunning line-up of baked goods — but their hot cross buns are in a league of their own entirely. The crust is impossibly glossy and subtly sweet, while the utterly perfect spice blend is beautifully offset by the hearty fruit ratio (raisins soaked and cooked in orange juice and zest). And, while all of these elements are undeniably delicious, the bun’s consistency is the real hero here. Pillowy soft and bouncy, but still with a decent bite — reminiscent of an impossibly fresh bread roll, boasting, dare I say it, the perfect amount of moisture. We devoured most of these straight from the box, sans butter, and they were perfect just as they came, but lightly toasted with butter was tasty too.

Texture: Soft and bouncy, underpinned by the perfect baseline density.
Crust: Lacquered with an iridescent, subtly sweet glaze.
Serving suggestion: While these could just one devoured fresh and warm with nothing at all on top, adding a slab of cold butter will up the ante. Recommend lightly toasting after day one.
Price: $6 each

Best Traditional Runner Up

We are huge fans of Knead on Benson here at Denizen, along with everyone else in Auckland (if the full sidewalk on Saturday mornings is anything to go by) and we weren’t even slightly surprised to learn that their hot cross buns are just as exceptional as the rest of their delightful cabinet and flavourful menu. These buns — nicknamed ‘The Big Softie’ and boasting the silver medal in BIANZ’s The Great NZ Hot Cross Bun Competition for 2024, exit the oven impossibly soft and airy, and stay that way for days (unlike many others). While devouring, you’ll find a generous amount of fruit, evenly distributed so not to overpower, and a balanced level of spice. And while the buns are light for sure, they still have a touch of bite, and one of the highest moisture levels we have encountered on our tastings.

Texture: Soft, plush and featherlight.
Crust: Marmalade-esque glaze — sweet but not overpowering.
Serving suggestion: Fresh really is best here, and a healthy spread of butter is a welcome addition. We suggest enjoying these at Knead, where they’re served with house-made earl-grey infused butter.
Price: $6.50 each & $36 for a half dozen

Best Traditional Runner Up

Bread & Butter’s hot cross buns are organic, and made with a long fermentation time, which makes for a delicious flavour with depth, and decent amount of moistness. Their portion size is generous, and the addition of house-churned butter is a welcome touch. These buns arrived at the office so fresh they were still oozing and boasted a gently spiced flavour profile, and with no peel included, they’re less tart and more simple than others — in the best way. We suggest lightly toasting (to bring out the true magic of the long ferment) and topping with butter.

Texture: Light and fluffy, but still with a bit of weight to them.
Crust: Chewy and sticky, and the cross itself was a nice added crunch.
Serving suggestion: Lightly toasted, with a smear of soft butter. We’d substitute this for heavily salted butter if you have it at home.
Price: $19.50 for a half dozen

Best Traditional Runner Up

Earmarked as some of last year’s (and the year before’s) office favourites, Wild Wheat’s 2024 buns had some remarkably big boots to fill. What we love about these buns is that the piped cross almost diffuses into the bun — it’s not the traditional, sometimes jawbreaking cross that we’ve come to know. And they also have some real textural synergy. It’s not until you sink your teeth into them you realise that these buns have a lasting hint of vanilla, and with a seriously sticky top, which in our eyes, is pretty hard to beat.

Texture: Soft, but still with some essential hardiness.
Crust: Firm, but not chewy, covered in glaze.
Serving suggestion: Fresh, with a solid smear of butter. Or toasted if you’re really wanting to take in all the flavours.
Price: $2.50 each & buy 11, get 12

Best Chocolate

Winner

Amano’s bakery is known City-wide for its bakery fare, so it was hardly surprising to discover that their hot cross buns (both chocolate and original) are something special, too. These buns are unique in texture — light and airy, but with a great amount of bite. The chocolate iteration is subtly sweet — definitely not overpoweringly so, and still has that hot cross bun feel that many flavoured iterations miss the mark on. These should come with a warning, given how addictive they are, and absolutely need to be bought in half dozens — as one will never be enough. An Easter staple in our humble opinions.

Texture: Light and airy with a delicious bite.
Crust: Glossy with a slight stickiness.
Serving suggestion: Fresh, no butter needed. Toast and top with butter from day two.
Price: $3 each & $15 for a half dozen
Other flavours available: Traditional

Best Chocolate Runner Up

From French patisserie La Petite Fourchette (and their sister venue, Copain) comes some of the most authentic French buns we’ve tried. These unique takes are incredibly soft and spongy, evidently fresh from the oven, and decidedly French. Generously, we were allowed to sample both the traditional buns and the chocolate buns — and while the traditional were delicious, the chocolate was a stand out. More like a chocolate brioche than a hot cross bun per se, the soft, buttery bread was light and fresh, with chocolate chips smattered through in perfect ratio. These are the perfect Sunday morning, long weekend breakfast in bed companions, and could easily double as a tasty after dinner treat.

Texture: Unspeakably soft.
Crust: Squishy, but with the right amount of firmness.
Serving suggestion: Fresh, no butter needed. There’s plenty of that in the batter.
Price: $3.50 each & $19 for a half dozen
Other flavours available: Traditional

Best CrowdPleasers

For The Pantry Winner

Daniel Cruden, AKA Dan The Baker has done it again this year with his infamous, stout-infused bready buns. This Helensville micro-bakery’s hot cross buns are somewhat of a phenomenon across the City. Taking cues from their approach to traditional baking methods, they’re dense but delicious. And in collaboration with local brewers, Liberty Brewing, the Darkest Days Oat Stout is infused in the bun, and the added sultanas, raisins and candied fruit peel have been drunkenly soaked in more beer, to make these totally indulgent for the holidays.

Texture: Dense and bread-like, with notes of its sourdough roots.
Crust: Firm, crunchy and not too sticky.
Serving suggestion: Ever so slightly toasted, with lashings of salted butter. Here, the insides seem to melt, and the exterior is nice and crispy.
Price: $3 each & $15 for a half dozen

For The Whole Family Winner

Known for making some of the most sought-after patisserie and viennoiseries in town, Remuera-based bakery Mor has, unsurprisingly, mastered the hot cross bun this Easter. The buns balance their traditionally dense texture with a fluffy, light quality that gives them a superb mouthfeel — a little bit chewy and perfectly soft. The spice is right too, with each bun boasting that classic flavour we crave at this time of year, and one of the best fruit-to-bun ratios of the 2024 cohort. There is also a tantalising glaze that adds a touch of extra sweetness without overpowering the inherent nature of these morsels which are, at their heart, just really good, classic, moreish hot cross buns — exactly as you want them. They came with a sticky apricot jam and an utterly indulgent burnt butter, which, while not entirely necessary considering how good these buns are au naturale, were a welcome addition and a nice way to change things up.

Texture: Soft and fluffy with the perfect amount of bite.
Crust: Coated with a subtly-sweet glaze, which beautifully softens the crust.
Serving suggestion: Fresh from the oven is the dream, otherwise lightly toasted — topped with Mor’s salted, whipped burnt butter and in-house apricot jam. Sublime.
Price: $5 each.

For The Office Winner

Ima Cuisine’s hot cross buns have been known to garner lines for miles, loved for their unique take which features a gooey custard cross — a delicious addition indeed. While the buns themselves are relatively dense, they still have a lightness to them, and the heady mix of currants, orange zest and spice makes for a tasty iteration indeed. These buns should always be enjoyed toasted so the butter seeps into the dense bread and the custard is warmed and caramelised.

Texture: Dense and delicious.
Crust: Custard-laden and soft.
Serving suggestion: Toasted, no butter needed.
Price: $6.50 each & $39 for a half dozen

For The Discerning Diners Winner

Florets has developed somewhat of a cult following since opening its doors in 2022, and for good reason. Known for producing some of the most wholesome, inventive breads and other baked goods in the City, the Grey Lynn-based bakery’s hot cross buns were sure to stand out. Here, a denser, almost yeasty bun produced with local organic flour is complimented deliciously by a trio of currants, sultanas, and a generous amount housemade peel, resulting in a more sophisticated, unique, but definitely delicious hot cross bun iteration.

Texture: Heavier and denser, but with a softer, chewier centre (think sourdough).
Crust: Firm with a decent bite, and not too sticky.
Serving suggestion: Toasted in the oven with a generous amount of unsalted butter is sublime.
Price: $6 each

Best Unique

Winner
Spiced Apple

Look, we all know Daily Bread’s hot cross buns are great (we’ve seen the billboards and the list of awards), and while the traditional are undeniably tasty, it was the apple iteration in collaboration with Farro that did it for us this year. With their signature sourdough base, which is as light and airy as it is moist, and a hearty dose of spice, paired with delicious chunks of perfectly cooked apple (retaining some bite), there’s really nothing not to like. We enjoyed the switch up, subbing out the raisins and sultanas for another fruit — perfect for the fussier, sultana haters amongst us, and as with their other six packs, these buns came wrapped in Daily Bread’s signature packaging — which is a nice touch, and means they keep fresh for longer than others.

Texture: Chewy, but somehow light and fluffy. And, yes, moist.
Crust: Thin, delicate and and sticky.
Serving: Toasted with lashings of salted butter.
Price: $4.50 each ($5 toasted with butter) or $22 for a half dozen
Other flavours available: Traditional, Chocolate & Ready to Bake

Best Unique Runner Up
Raspberry & White Chocolate

This Remuera bakery’s buns are ultra-soft, fluffy and sticky. This year sees two delicious iterations on offer; the traditional fruity bun (with notes of vanilla) and a decadent raspberry & white chocolate bun which, while definitely more sweet treat than hot cross bun, is not to be missed. These beautiful looking morsels, complete with bright fuchsia icing, were somehow both fluffy and dense, and fresh out of the oven, the smell of melted white chocolate wafting through the office was nothing short of mouthwatering — restraint is needed here.

Texture: Almost cakey in density.
Crust: Bouncy, and semi-sticky.
Serving suggestion: Toasted, or fresh out of the oven if you’re able, no butter needed.
Price: TBC
Other flavours available: Traditional

Best Unique Runner Up
Nutella

If you have yet to hear of Luna Bakehouse, we’re afraid you’ve been missing out. A charming Parisian bakery with an artful Asian-fusion flare, this is the place to go for unique sweet treats sure to satisfy — and the hot cross buns (if you can call them that) don’t deviate. With three flavours, including Nutella — which proved our favourite, biscoff, and classic buttercream, these Easter treats come in individual cups, mirroring Luna’s famed ‘cruffins’ (croissant muffins) and follow a similar style in texture. Light, bready and well balanced on the spice front, with just the right amount of fruit (a mix of raisins and citrus peel) and a decadent nutella filling.

Texture: Light, airy, bready.
Crust: Light, thin and semi-glossy.
Serving suggestion: Fresh, fresh, fresh.
Price: $7 each
Other flavours available: Biscoff & Classic Buttercream

Best Gluten Free

Winner

Lucy’s has delivered for those of us that are sans gluten, with their limited edition gluten free (and vegan) hot cross buns. These tasty morsels are infused with a blend of punchy mixed spice, plump cranberries (a tasty addition), and fresh citrus. The cranberries really add something unique, which is more than welcome when you’ve been taste testing hot cross buns for weeks, and the texture, despite being gluten free, was really soft and fluffy. Gluten and dairy free, these are buns to be enjoyed by all.

Texture: Soft, fluffy, and a little chewy.
Crust: Thin, delicate and a little sticky.
Serving: Lightly toasted with butter (or a butter alt).
Price: $24 for a half dozen

Best Hot Cross Buns
The Best Of The Rest

Baked at Devonport
Flavours available: Traditional

Cake Concepts
Flavours available: Traditional

Little French Pastry
Flavours available: Traditional

Little & Friday
Flavours available: Traditional

Mizu
Flavours available: Traditional (made with miso & yuzu zest)

Pastrami & Rye
Flavours available: Traditional (made with Hallertau stout)

Rollers Bakery
Flavours available: Traditional

Vaniyé Patisserie
Flavours available: Traditional

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