The Pantry at Park Hyatt Auckland.

Denizen’s definitive guide to the best hot cross buns for Easter 2023

It’s a tough job, but someone has got to do it. In the lead-up to Easter, we’ve eaten our way through a comprehensive selection of some of the best hot cross buns in Auckland in order to determine the specific composition of each one and, in turn, guide you to choose the best bun for your tastes. From fruit ratio to texture; crust thickness to whether we think the bun is better toasted or untoasted, and the all-important question of just how much butter, to use we’ve made sure to meticulously chart the strengths of each.

Now, without further ado, we present our comprehensive hot cross bun findings for Easter 2023:

4&20 Bakery.

4&20 Bakery

This Remuera bakery’s buns are ultra-soft, fluffy and sticky. While the dough is quite sweet, they are coated with an espresso glaze leaving an aromatic, bittersweet finish. This year comes in two delicious iterations; the traditional fruity bun (with notes of vanilla) and a classic chocolate twist. One thing we will say is this bakery never scrimps on the taste testers. Two huge boxes arrived in our kitchen, with buns that are somehow both fluffy and dense, and fresh out of the oven, these were still warm with the spices wafting through the office nothing short of mouthwatering — restraint is needed here.

Traditional —
Fruit ratio: 50%
Texture: Almost cakey in density.
Crust: Bouncy, and semi-sticky.
Serving suggestion: Toasted, or fresh out of the oven if you’re able, with a light smear of butter.

Chocolate —
Fruit ratio: N/A
Texture: Similar to their traditional counterparts.
Crust: Just the right amount of firm and sticky.
Serving suggestion: Fresh, but still warm. No butter is needed here.

VaVaniyé Patisserie.

Vaniyé Patisserie

From Parnell’s Vaniyé Patisserie, these batches of hot cross buns are so hot, they are selling out as quickly as they come out of the oven. Baked by owner Sonia Haumonté and her team, the old-fashioned-style buns are made with rye flour and care, for a dense and full-of-flavour mouthful. A group of six buns are sealed in packaging to be able to be kept at room temperature — and to continue to bring joy — for four days.

Fruit ratio: 40%
Texture: Dense and heavy — an almost rustic take.
Crust: Light with a glaze.
Serving suggestion: Toasted with lashings of butter.

Daily Bread.

Daily Bread

When Daily Bread’s delivery landed at our office early in the morning, we knew we were in for a good day. Arriving in one of the bakery’s signature totes, these buns came wrapped in Daily Bread’s signature packaging — a nice touch, sure to keep them fresh for days to come. In both traditional and chocolate, the buns were ever so slightly still warm. And while I’ve never really been a fan of chocolate in bread, I had been told that these buns would change my mind. Post-indulgence, I stand by my personal opinion that traditional remains best, but Daily Bread’s chocolate version made a very compelling case for switching it up.

Traditional —
Fruit ratio: 50% spice-soaked berries.
Texture: Chewy, dense and, dare I say it, moist.
Crust: Soft and sticky.
Serving: Best fresh, no butter, exactly as God intended.

Chocolate —
Fruit ratio: N/A — but chocolate heavy
Texture: Dense but somehow light.
Crust: Soft and spongey, with an essential layer of glazing.
Serving: Fresh, and while they’re very good sans butter, sometimes a simple slather of salted butter can cut through the sweetness perfectly.

Best Hot Cross Buns Auckland
Bread & Butter.

Bread & Butter

Bread & Butter’s hot cross buns are organic, and made with a long fermentation time, which results in a deliciously subtle flavour and moist texture. 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. These tasted delightful from the moment I tore into one, but in the commitment to journalistic integrity, I toasted half for comparison — and can attest it is best when slightly golden (toaster setting 1 or 2).

Fruit ratio: 40% (as a raisin-hater, this is the perfect amount).
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.

Ima.

Ima

Yael Schochat’s buns are famous in Auckland for their heavy, dense consistency and indulgent custard cross. The Ima team haven’t changed a thing this year, and why fix something if it ain’t broke? Jam-packed with candied fruit-peel, currants and sultanas, these buns should always be enjoyed toasted so the butter seeps into the dense bread and the custard is warmed and caramelised.

Fruit ratio: 45%
Texture: Dense and delicious.
Crust: Custard-laden and soft.
Serving suggestion: Toasted, no butter needed.

Best Hot Cross Buns Auckland
Olaf’s Hot Cross Buns.

Olaf’s

Olaf’s hot cross buns are a must for lovers of a traditional hot cross bun with not too many bells and whistles. Deliciously light when fresh, they have a good amount of sweetness in both the dough and glaze but it’s not overpowering. Olaf keeps his buns simple, and to be honest — we appreciate that. Although, it does make them surprisingly easy to devour, and one does have to limit themselves from indulging in too many.

Fruit ratio: 25%
Texture: Surprisingly light and fluffy.
Crust: The middle ground of soft and firm, not too sticky, with a nice thick cross.
Serving suggestion: Fresh, especially when delivered the day of, with a big smear of soft butter.

The Pantry at Park Hyatt Auckland.

The Pantry at Park Hyatt Auckland

We’ve already waxed lyrical on pastry chef Callum Liddicoat’s Easter creations for Park Hyatt Auckland’s The Pantry over the years, and we’d do it all again. The traditional hot cross buns have this year been replaced with a custard-stuffed doughnut, a thoughtful addition that pushes the bounds of just what we can include here. But apart from the obvious, these doughnuts are an ode to tradition. Liddicoat’s signature recipe combines a brioche with a soft milk roll, packed with Earl Grey-soaked currants and sultanas, alongside traditional spices of cinnamon, ginger and allspice, and an added punch of black pepper, coriander and cardamom. Citrus peel, fresh lemon zest and a hint of tonka bean also bring these buns to a whole new level. Then filled with fresh vanilla custard and brushed with a spiced citrus glaze, you’ll never want a regular hot cross bun again.

Fruit ratio: 15%
Texture: Soft, doughy, totally decadent (but not too sweet either).
Crust: Soft, with a classic doughnut bite to it.
Serving suggestion: Fresh, still warm, if you can manage.

The Real Bread Project.

The Real Bread Project

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, this year 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.

Fruit ratio: 65%
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.

Best Hot Cross Buns Auckland
Wild Wheat.

Wild Wheat

Earmarked as some of last year’s office favourites, Wild Wheat’s 2023 buns had some remarkably big boots to fill. What I 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 I appreciate the 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, in my eyes, they’re pretty hard to beat.

Fruit ratio: 60%
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, without, it you’re really wanting to take in all the flavours.

La Petite Fourchette & Copain.

La Petite Fourchette & Copain

From French patisserie La Petite Fourchette (and their sister venue, Copain) comes some of the most authentic French buns we’ve tried. Delivered first thing on a Monday morning on deadline week, a bag of 24 hot cross buns was exactly what we were craving. These were immediately soft and spongy, evidently fresh from the oven. Generously, we were allowed to sample both the traditional buns and the delicious chocolate brioche buns — the latter of which, on first look, were not the polarising chocolate bread, but a delicious traditional brioche with chocolate chips smattered through. Here , the traditional iteration has all the markings of a delicious hot cross bun — packed with fruit, perfectly spiced (when toasted the aromas are unbeatable). We also agreed that the chocolate brioche is the right amount of sweetness, and the chocolate chips aren’t overwhelming. Bread is light and unfortunately for my gluten intolerance, incredibly moreish.

Traditional —
Fruit ratio: 50% — evened out by all the spices.
Texture: Soft, bouncy. Almost melt in your mouth.
Crust: On the softer side, still sticky.
Serving suggestion: Fresh is best, but lightly toasted will do you well. Butter isn’t needed, but a light dollop always adds to it.

Chocolate Brioche —
Fruit ratio: N/A — but the chocolate chips were perfect.
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.

Best Hot Cross Buns Auckland
Fort Greene.

Fort Greene

Even wrapped up in their sleek, signature packaging, you’ll smell these buns before you see them. The box makes for a delightful, holiday-slanted gift, but what’s inside it is obviously the real treat to behold. Fort Greene’s bakers tell me that this is one of the craziest times of their year, and as such, the buns never stick around for long after Easter. And with that in mind, we’d suggest stocking up asap.

Fruit ratio: 50%
Texture: Dense, almost more sourdough-like. When toasted they become thick and spongy.
Crust: Firm, and not too sticky at all. These feel quite traditional in the scheme of it all, and somewhat virtuous enough that they could plausibly pass for breakfast.
Serving suggestion: Toasted, with a healthy dollop of salted butter.

Scratch Bakers.

Scratch Bakers

This year the delightful buns from Scratch Bakers (if you’re in the Victoria Park vicinity, you’ll be familiar with this spot), have been met with a showstopping pecan custard — as well as the traditional variety. The bakers here tell me that their traditional hot cross is made with a housemade Brandy and vanilla infused fruit mix. This is nine months in the making, combining dried fruits and citrus peel in brandy and vanilla, turning and mixing it every week. They then mix it in with the signature Scratch hot Ccoss mix and rest the dough overnight for the flavours to infuse. And then of course to top it off, for those that want it, a generous helping of spiced pecan custard is piped into the middle.

Fruit ratio: 25% — but the extra care in the spices doesn’t go unnoticed.
Texture: Soft and sumptuous.
Crust: Just the right amount of firmness and stickiness
Serving suggestion: Fresh from the oven is best, where they’re still slightly warm. Lashings of butter are recommended for the traditional iteration, but with the pecan custard piped through, you’ll find it more than enough on it’s own.

Mor bakery.

Mor Bakery

Known for making some of the most sought-after patisserie and viennoiseries in town, online bakery Mor has created a delicious hot cross bun offering for Easter. Delivering the box of six buns still warm from the oven, the talented duo behind Mor is once again proving once again why their micro bakery has garnered such a stellar reputation. 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 2023 cohort. There is also a tantalising glaze that adds a touch of extra sweetness without overpowering the inherent nature of these morsel which are, at their heart, just really good, classic, moreish hot cross buns — exactly as you want them.

Fruit ratio: 30% – they hit the sweet spot here.
Texture: Soft and fluffy 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 adding a slab of cold butter will up the ante. Recommend toasting after day one.

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