Hot Cross Buns (Fastelavnsboller)

Candied Mixed Citrus Peel (Succade)

Candied Mixed Citrus Peel (Succade)

By Cat, Sept 2007 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

My family’s Scandinavian Tradition for holidays includes two wonderful breads: Hot Cross Buns (Fastelavnsboller) for the Easter season, and Yule Bread (Julekage) for Christmas. Both are rich and slightly sweet, with candied fruit (an ancient way of preserving the fruit from summer, to last through the cold months of winter and early spring) and spices like cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg. Sometimes, for a change of pace, I add chopped pecans with the dried fruit, but this is not traditional.

If your only experience with dried fruit is heavy, old-fashioned, rum- or brandy-soaked fruitcake, you’re in for a treat, because these buns are light, only slightly sweet, and not overburdened with the fruit.

The name Fastelavn, is for the holiday otherwise known as Carnival (or Mardi Gras), seven weeks before Easter Sunday, on the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of lent. (1)

Hot Cross Buns (Fastelavnsboller)

Like Julekage, Fastelavnsboller include currants, candied citron and sweet spices, but also grated lemon zest. The bread is made in single-serving buns, rather than loaves, and each bun is topped by a cross decorated with frosting.

I’ve adapted this recipe from Wonderful Wonderful Danish Cooking (2). Full recipe makes 24 buns; half recipe makes 12 buns. NOTE: ingredient amounts in red text indicates updates based on testing.

Eat these while still warm from the oven, with plenty of fresh dairy butter (salted or unsalted) and lots of hot coffee. These are light and slightly sweet rolls that just beg to be eaten. Children love them!

NOTE: I’ve made this many times when I lived in moderately humid Portland OR, usually a half-recipe. Apr 8, 2012 is the first time I tried the half-recipe in less humid Bigfork MT. I’ve had to adjust the flour amounts: where a range is provided, the amount in red is for the less-humid areas and the upper end of the range is for more humid areas. See testing, below for details.


  • large and medium bowls
  • cotton dish cloth
  • baking sheet(s) or 8″ x 11″ Pyrex baking pan(s)

Ingredients (Half Recipe):

  • ½ cup milk, scalded
  • 2 Tbsp Rapadura sugar (or white cane sugar)
  • 1 ½ Tbsp butter
  • ½ Tbsp active dry yeast
  • 2 Tbsp warm water
  • ½ – ¾ cup Organic whole wheat flour
  • ¾ – 1 cup (or more for very humid areas) unbleached white flour (plus more for kneading
  • ¼ tsp Unrefined sea salt
  • ¼ tsp each ground allspice & cardamom
  • ⅛ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 Tbsp dried Zante currants
  • 1 Tbsp citron, chopped
  • grated rind of ½ lemon
  • 1 egg (separated; use all the white & half of yolk for dough; remaining half yolk beaten with a bit of water to brush on buns)
  • pinch of sugar
  • Quick Icing (see below) or Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients (Full Recipe):

  • 1 cup milk, scalded
  • ¼ cup Rapadura sugar  (or white cane sugar)
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • 1 – 1 ½ cups Organic whole wheat flour
  • 1 ½ cups (or more) unbleached white flour, plus more for kneading
  • ½ tsp Unrefined sea salt
  • ½ tsp each ground allspice & cardamom
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼ cup dried Zante currants
  • 2 Tbsp citron, chopped
  • grated rind of 1 lemon
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten with a little water (to brush on buns); save egg white for the Quick Icing (see below)
  • pinch or so of sugar
  • Quick Icing (see below)


  1. Scald milk; transfer to mixing bowl; add sugar and butter. Cool to lukewarm (11F).
  2. While milk is cooling, proof yeast in the warm water for 5 minutes, then add to the milk mixture.
  3. Meanwhile, grate lemon zest.
  4. Sift whole wheat flour with spices and salt into medium bowl. Add currants, citron, and grated zest, and toss with a fork to dredge. Then stir into milk & yeast mixture.
  5. Beat egg (or egg white and half-yolk for half recipe) and stir into dough.
  6. Add white flour, ¼ cup at a time, folding dough to mix, then turn out onto floured board and knead to work in enough flour to achieve a soft but smooth and elastic dough.
  7. Clean out bowl, then butter or oil it. Place dough in bowl, rotating it to coat it all over with the oil. Cover bowl with damp cloth and let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk (use 2-finger test; see Bread Basics (Yeast-Leavened Breads).
  8. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400°F.
  9. Punch down dough and knead lightly. Shape into round, flat buns and place on a greased baking sheet(s)/pan(s), ½” apart. Let rise again until almost doubled in bulk. Beat egg yolk (or reserved half-yolk for half recipe) with a little water and brush over top of buns. Sprinkle with a little sugar.
  10. Using a sharp knife, cut a cross in the center of each bun.
  11. Bake in preheated oven for 20 – 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and frost the cross (optional).

Quick Icing

Whip egg white a bit then add powdered sugar, 1 Tbsp at a time while mixing, until quite thick. Add a bit of milk to get the desired consistency.

Make a cone out of parchment paper, with a small hole at the tip. Fill cone with Icing and pipe onto each bun, over the cross you had cut in the dough before baking.


4/8/12:  I followed as originally written, using ¾ cup whole wheat flour and started with ¾ cup white flour. Dough was way too stiff, and hard to work. I tried to work more water into the dough during kneading, but that only made the dough stick to the board. I finally got it worked to the right texture. I’ve modified the flour amounts to reduce total flour by ¼ cup (for half-recipe), and changed the mixing instructions to add a small amount at a time so you have more control at getting it just right. More can always be added if the dough is too soft. After first rise and punching down, it was still quite stiff, but I managed to work in a little water. I divided the dough into 12 buns, but they don’t fit well in my 9” square pan. I need to unpack my 8”x11” pan from Portland, for next time. Into oven after second rise, to bake total of 30 minutes. I didn’t frost them, since I’m avoiding sugar. Result: They didn’t rise as much as I like, probably because dough was too stiff. Nice flavor; not too sweet. Could have used less nutmeg and more cardamom, so modified accordingly.


  1. Wikipedia on Fastelavn (
  2. Wonderful Wonderful Danish Cooking, by Ingaborg Dahl Jensen; see Beloved Cookbooks for more about this book.

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