Make-Ahead Hot Cross Biscuits

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These easy hot cross biscuits with a sweet cream cheese frosting cross on top are a delicious way to celebrate Easter. You can prep the biscuits the day before and bake them fresh on Easter morning.

A platter of hot cross biscuits has a ceramic carrot accessory. Each biscuit has a cream cheese frosting cross on the top and currants inside.

Classic holiday recipes make my heart so happy. I love introducing old traditions to my kids, knowing so many generations have celebrated the Easter season with hot cross buns brings an extra special feeling to that recipe.

Just because a recipe is a classic, doesn't mean we can't have a little fun with it.

This fun twist on the traditional hot cross bun recipe involves a homemade flaky biscuit topped with a simple cream cheese frosting cross.

I've been making this recipe every single Easter for over a decade. When my girls were still super picky, they would lick the frosting cross off first before hand-picking each and every currant out of the hot cross biscuits. It drove me crazy but I continued to make them because I loved them so.

Now, it just doesn't feel like Easter without these hot cross biscuits on the table.

I made them early this year so I could share the recipe with you and the girls both squealed: "We're still going to make these ON EASTER, right??"

That is the power of a traditional recipe--it gives our families something to anticipate at every holiday.

Why We Eat Hot Cross Buns at Easter

The icing cross on top of a hot cross bun represents the cross that Jesus died upon.

According to tradition, families eat hot cross buns on Good Friday, the day of Jesus' death, to remember the sacrifice He made.

Since the bun involves a sweet icing cross on top, our families feels they are more appropriate to be enjoyed on Easter Sunday as part of our celebration.

Traditional Hot Cross Bun vs. Biscuits

Traditional hot cross buns are a yeasted roll filled with currants and a thin icing cross on the top.

That version of this Easter tradition is just as delicious. If you're looking for a recipe for the yeasted bun, I included my favorite in The Ultimate Bread Machine Cookbook.

It is a great way to try your hand at using a bread machine to make dough that you form and bake in your oven.

Ingredients

The ingredients to make the homemade biscuits with currants are on the counter.

I love the simple list of ingredients required to make these homemade biscuits.

  • Buttermilk: The key to the flaky biscuits is using buttermilk. If you don't have any on hand, you can make your own by mixing 1 tablespoon of lemon juice into 1 cup of milk. Stir them together and let it sit for 5 minutes before using.
  • Dried Currants: These are the traditional dried fruits for a hot cross bun. You could substitute dried raisins but I recommend chopping them into smaller pieces before using so they mimic the size of a currant.
  • Lemon: Mostly used for the zest but great if you need to make homemade buttermilk.
  • Egg
  • Butter
  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Baking Powder
  • Salt

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You will also need a few ingredients for the cream cheese frosting crosses:

  • Butter
  • Cream cheese
  • Powdered sugar
  • Vanilla extract

The recipe card below includes just enough of each ingredient to decorate the biscuits. But if you are planning to make a carrot cake for the holiday, you could also just use a little reserved cream cheese frosting from that recipe.

How to Make the Biscuits

In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Whisk them together. Add the lemon zest and whisk it in.

Cut the cold butter into small cubes. Add it to the bowl and use your clean fingers to pinch the butter into the flour. Work quickly and lightly, you don't want the butter to melt in your fingers.

The step by step photos show how to mix the dry ingredients and work in the butter.

Continue to pinch and stir the flour and butter with your fingers until the butter is completely incorporated and the flour starts to stick together like small peas.

Stir in the dried currants and then make a well in the flour.

Measure the buttermilk in a measuring cup and then whisk the egg into the milk. Pour the mixture into the well in the flour. Use a fork to stir the ingredients together. Make sure there are no dry pockets of flour.

The step by step photos show how to work the biscuit dough into shape for cutting.

Sprinkle some flour onto a large cutting board or work surface. Pour the biscuit dough onto the flour. Rub your hands with a bit of flour so the dough doesn't stick to your fingers and then gently knead the dough together.

Gently pat out the dough so that becomes a 1-inch thick circle.

Use the bottom of a drinking glass (about 3-4 inches) to cut circles of biscuits out of the dough.

Place the biscuit rounds on your prepared baking sheets.

There's a drinking glass upside down on the dough to cut the biscuits.

Knead together the dough scraps and pat it out again. Keep cutting circles of dough until you've used everything up.

Brush the tops of each biscuit with a little more buttermilk.

The pastry brush is brushing buttermilk over the top of the biscuits before baking.

Baking Instructions

Bake the biscuits at 425°F for 10 - 12 minutes or until golden brown.

You'll need to let them cool completely before trying to add the cream cheese frosting crosses on top.

Make Ahead Tips

I have made these biscuits the night before more years than not.

I prepare the biscuit dough, cut the biscuit rounds, and place them on my baking sheet.

I cover them tightly with plastic wrap to keep all the moisture in. 

Then on Easter morning, I brush the tops with buttermilk and bake them fresh.

If you want to bake them completely the night before, just store the baked hot cross biscuits in an airtight container and frost them fresh on the day you want to serve them. 

Make the Frosting Crosses

Two hot cross biscuits are on a platter with a ceramic carrot decoration on the side.

Once the biscuits have completely cooled, add the cream cheese frosting to a plastic baggie, snip off a corner, and pipe on the crosses.

If you need step by step instructions on how to make the frosting or want to see how I use a piping bag, you can read my cream cheese frosting recipe here.

If you try to rush this and decorate warm biscuits, the frosting will melt.

Serving Suggestions

Platters of iced biscuits are served for Easter.

If you prefer to skip the cream cheese crosses, you could also serve the biscuits with a bowl of homemade lemon curd which would taste amazing with the currants.

I love to bake these for every Easter breakfast, they're a simple treat to enjoy right after the Easter egg hunt but before the official Easter brunch begins.

These would also be a stunning breakfast pastry to bring to an Easter potluck party. Especially since they hold up well to travel.

More Easter Bread Recipes

Planning something sweet for your Easter bread basket? You won't want to miss these other delicious Easter bread recipes:

📖 Recipe

A platter of hot cross biscuits has a ceramic carrot accessory. Each biscuit has a cream cheese frosting cross on the top and currants inside.

Hot Cross Biscuits

5 from 1 vote
This easy make ahead hot cross biscuit recipe is perfect for baking for Easter. Serve it as part of your Easter brunch or as a sweet treat before the Easter egg hunt begins! Tasty cream cheese frosting crosses are the perfect finishing touch to the flaky biscuits studded with sweet currants.
TOTAL TIME 35 minutes
PREP TIME 20 minutes
COOK TIME 15 minutes
YIELD 12 biscuits

Ingredients
  

For the Biscuits:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter cold
  • 1/2 cup dried currants
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk cold

For the frosting crosses:

  • 4 tablespoons butter softened
  • 3 tablespoons cream cheese softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

Bake the Biscuits:

  • Preheat the oven to 425°F with a rack in the top third of the oven, you don't want the bottoms of the biscuits to get too dark. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  • In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Whisk them together. Add the lemon zest and whisk it in.
  • Cut the cold butter into small cubes. Add it to the bowl and use your clean fingers to pinch the butter into the flour. Work quickly and lightly, you don't want the butter to melt in your fingers. Continue to pinch and stir the flour and butter with your fingers until the butter is completely incorporated and the flour starts to clump together.
  • Stir in the dried currants, coating them in flour will help them distribute evenly throughout the biscuit dough.
  • Measure the buttermilk in a measuring cup and then whisk the egg into the buttermilk. Pour the mixture into the bowl of flour. Use a fork to stir the ingredients together. Make sure there are no dry pockets of flour.
  • Sprinkle some flour onto a large cutting board or work surface. Pour the biscuit dough onto the flour. Rub your hands with a bit of flour so the dough doesn't stick to your fingers and then gently pat the dough together into a ball. You may need to knead it together a little but don't overwork the dough. Gently pat out the dough so that becomes a 1-inch thick circle.
  • Use the bottom of a drinking glass (about 3-4 inches) to cut circles of biscuits out of the dough. Place the biscuit rounds on your prepared baking sheet. Knead together the dough scraps and pat it out again. Keep cutting circles of dough until you've used everything up.
  • Brush the tops of each biscuit with a little more buttermilk.
  • Bake for 6 minutes and then rotate the pan in the oven. Bake another 5 - 6 minutes until the tops of the biscuits are golden brown.
  • Transfer the biscuits to a wire rack to cool so the bottoms don't over-brown. Let cool COMPLETELY before frosting.

Make the Cream Cheese Frosting Crosses:

  • Add the butter and cream cheese to a medium bowl. Beat them together with a hand mixer on medium-high speed.
  • Add the powdered sugar and beat it into the butter mixture on low speed until smooth. Increase the speed of the mixer to medium-high and beat the frosting for 1 - 2 minutes until light and fluffy.
  • Add the vanilla and beat until combined.
  • Transfer the cream cheese frosting to a ziptop baggie. Snip a tiny corner off the bag and pipe the crosses on the cooled biscuits.

Recipe Notes

Make Ahead Tips:

If you want to prepare these in advance for your Easter brunch, you can assemble the biscuit dough and cut the biscuit rounds the day before.
Place the prepared biscuits on a baking tray lined with parchment and cover tightly with plastic wrap to keep them from drying out in the fridge.
In the morning, unwrap the pan and brush the tops with buttermilk. Bake as directed.
You can also make the cream cheese frosting the day before. Store it in an airtight container or transfer it to a piping bag and refrigerate.
Then you can simply frost the crosses on top of the cooled biscuits and serve.
COURSEBreakfast
CUISINEAmerican

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The photo collage shows the hot cross biscuits on a platter.

6 Comments

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  3. I decided to try this recipe a day early with hopes to serve with our ham for the upcoming Christmas Eve dinner. My husband does not like sweet but given the fact that I do, I decided to go for it and just not put the topping on his. I started with a little batch first to see if we would like it to add to our table and I honestly am in total LOVE with the way they came out. They looked so perfect as if I bought them from a store. The topping wasn’t even needed because the buttermilk made these little buns so moist and so decadent by themselves. I’m running to the store to go buy more ingredients so I can now triple the recipe and proudly display them on our holiday table❣️

  4. 5 stars
    I decided to try this recipe a day early with hopes to serve with our ham for the upcoming Christmas Eve dinner. My husband does not like sweet but given the fact that I do, I decided to go for it and just not put the topping on his. I started with a little batch first to see if we would like it to add to our table and I honestly am in total LOVE with the way they came out. They looked so perfect as if I bought them from a store. The topping wasn’t even needed because the buttermilk made these little buns so moist and so decadent by themselves. I’m running to the store to go buy more ingredients so I can now triple the recipe and proudly display them on our holiday table❣️

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