Sourdough Discard Hot Cross Buns with Cardamom and Dates

by Kaitlynn Fenley

Perfect for Easter, our Sourdough Discard Hot Cross Buns combine orange zest, dates, and cardamom beautifully with sourdough discard for an ideal, robust flavor. Each bun is wonderfully flavorful, soft, and fluffy.

Sourdough Hot Cross Bun Recipe

Hot cross buns are a traditional treat that we enjoy in the spring, during the Easter season. These delightful buns are soft, slightly sweetened bread rolls made using yeast. The rolls are distinguished by their iconic cross on the top.

Bakers enrich the dough for hot cross buns with milk and butter, giving them a tender, fluffy texture. They typically spice them with cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, which lend a warm, inviting aroma and complex flavor profile. The addition of dried fruit, such as currants, raisins, or sultanas, imparts bursts of sweetness.

Sourdough Discard Hot Cross Buns

I chose a unique flavor profile and used a mix of cinnamon, orange zest, cardamom, dates, and pistachios. I also incorporated strawberry as a topping on the buns. The flavor turned out beautiful, and I cannot wait for you to try this recipe!

You can use a sourdough starter or packaged yeast to make hot cross buns, and I used a mix of both. I prefer the texture you can achieve with rapid-rise yeast. Plus, using a mix of sourdough starter and packaged yeast makes everything quicker when preparing these for an Easter meal.

Are Sourdough Discard Hot Cross Buns Healthy to Eat?

Sourdough hot cross buns can be a healthier option, mainly if made with whole grains and consumed in moderation. They still contain sugar, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Even though this is a discard recipe, the sourdough hot cross buns still ferment for a while before baking, offering a way to enjoy a traditional treat with the added benefits of sourdough fermentation.

Are Sourdough Discard Hot Cross Buns a Religious Thing?

Yes, sourdough hot cross buns have religious connotations for many people, primarily within the Christian tradition. The cross on the top of these buns symbolizes the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, making them particularly significant during the Easter season, which commemorates Jesus’ death and resurrection. Traditionally, we eat hot cross buns on Good Friday, the day marking Jesus’ crucifixion.

The origins of hot cross buns are a mix of Christian and pre-Christian traditions. While the cross ties them to Christian symbolism, baking and eating bread marked with a cross predates Christianity in some cultures, where the cross might have symbolized the moon’s quarters or been intended for protection and to ward off evil spirits.
Over the centuries, the Christian church adopted this tradition, and hot cross buns became a staple of Easter celebrations.

Despite these deep-rooted religious associations, hot cross buns are enjoyed by people of many backgrounds during Easter and have become more of a cultural symbol of spring and renewal.

What is the White Bit on a Hot Cross Bun?

The white stuff on these sourdough hot cross buns, forming the distinctive cross on top, can be made from one of two primary methods, depending on the recipe:

  1. Flour and Water Paste: Traditionally, people make the cross on a hot cross bun from a simple flour and water paste. You mix the paste to a consistency that allows it to be piped onto the buns before they are baked. The paste cooks and hardens as the buns bake, forming a distinct, slightly chewy cross on top. This method results in a cross that is more integrated into the bun’s crust and has a similar flavor to the bun itself.
  2. Icing or Frosting: In more modern variations, some people add the cross after the buns have baked and cooled using icing or frosting. This method gives you a sweet, decorative cross that contrasts with the bun’s texture and flavor.

Both methods produce the iconic appearance of hot cross buns, but they offer different textures and flavors. The choice between them often comes down to personal preference and tradition.

More Sourdough Recipes to Try

Sourdough discard hot cross buns in a white parchment paper lined pan. The buns have a white cross piped across the top with crushed pecans, freeze dried strawberry and orange zest on top.

Sourdough Discard Hot Cross Buns with Cardamom and Dates

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Perfect for Easter, our Sourdough Discard Hot Cross Buns combine orange zest, dates, and cardamom beautifully with sourdough discard for an ideal, robust flavor. Each bun is wonderfully flavorful, soft, and fluffy.

  • Author: Kaitlynn Fenley
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Yield: 12 buns
  • Category: sourdough
  • Method: baking



  • 7 grams instant or rapid rise yeast
  • 110 grams granulated sugar
  • 640 grams bread flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup chopped medjool dates
  • zest of 2 oranges
  • 230 grams milk, warm
  • 130 grams sourdough starter discard
  • 50 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 egg , at room temperature


  • 75 grams white bread flour
  • 5 tbsp water

Glaze and topping:

  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp orange juice
  • Crushed pistachios
  • Freeze dried strawberries
  • orange zest


  1. Mix flour, yeast, sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt in a large bowl. Mix until combined
  2. In a separate bowl, add butter, milk, egg, sourdough starter dates and orange zest.
  3. Dust your counter with flour and knead by hand for 10 minutes until a smooth dough ball forms. Dough is kneaded enough when it’s smooth and does not break when stretched.
  4. Leave dough in the bowl, cover with a wet towel and place in a warm place to rise until doubled in size. This will take anywhere between 30 minutes to 1 1/2 hours depending on how warm it is.
  5. Line a 9 x 13″ tray with parchment paper.
  6. Punch dough down to deflate.
  7. Dust work surface with flour, place dough on work surface. Cut into 12 equal pieces.
  8. Take one piece and shape it into a dough ball.
  9. Place the ball with the smooth side up on the lined bakingtray. Repeat with remaining dough, lining them up 3 across 4 down.
  10. Spray a piece of cling wrap lightly with olive oil, then loosely place over the tray.
  11. Return tray to warm place and leave for about an hour (maybe longer depending on how warm it is) until the dough has risen by about 75% (a little bit less than doubled).
  12. Preheat your oven to 350° F.
  13. For the crosses, mix flour and water until a thick, smooth but slightly runny paste forms. Spoon into a small ziplock bag then snip corner.
  14. Remove the cling wrap and pipe crosses onto the buns.
  15. Bake in preheated oven (180°C/350°F) for 25-30 minutes, or until the surface is a deep golden brown. Check often, each oven will be different.
  16. While the buns bake, place honey and orange juice in a bowl, mix to combine.
  17. Remove buns from oven.
  18. Using a pastry brush, brush the buns with honey mixture while warm and top with crushed pistachios and crushed freeze dried strawberries and a little more orange zest. Serve warm.

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Kaitlynn Fenley Author, Educator, Food Microbiologist
Kaitlynn is a food microbiologist and fermentation expert teaching people how to ferment foods and drinks at home.

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Lacey March 29, 2024 - 5:18 pm

I just made these for Easter. I followed the recipe exactly except I had to substitute golden raisins for the dates because that’s what I had on hand, and they came out so beautifully. The pistachios, zest and freeze dried strawberries made them gorgeous!