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Hot cross buns
Photograph: Jess Hand

London’s best hot cross buns

Our testers have found the ho cros that’ll resurrect your taste buds this Easter

Alice Saville
Written by
Alice Saville

As Easter approaches, a parade of ever-more-elaborate chocolate eggs marches across supermarket shelves. They’re flashy, but their prestigious metallic wrapping is often as deceptive as an AI-generated cover letter, masking a hollow, sickly egg that’s wholly unqualified to lift your spirits this spring.

If you want to splurge on one seasonal treat, make it the humbler and infinitely more satisfying hot cross bun instead. You know where you are with these sturdy teatime delights, their richly-spiced flavours honed by generations of ordinary bakers. And although the standard issue high street ones are pretty great, it’s infinitely more satisfying to go to a proper bakery and emerge clutching a giant, gleaming example of the genre in a rustling paper bag.

This city’s bakeries fill up with buns as soon as Easter approaches, so we’ve scooted around town to pick up London’s best hot cross buns, whether they’re classics or unholy mash-ups. Then, we got an elite panel of taste-testers to rate them so that you can guarantee that you’re getting maximum bun for your buck. Fire up the toaster, we’re off to bun nirvana.

RECOMMENDED: Fill your Easter with fun with these things to do over the long weekend.

London’s best hot cross buns for 2024

The tastetesters’ favourite: Toklas

‘This is a hot crossie for grown-ups,’ said one tester approvingly. And the praise rolled in from the whole panel; ‘a very pleasant silky pillowy texture, lovely gently spiced taste, feels mildly indulgent without being nauseating – just a great bun,’ concluded another, while a third hymned its ‘soft, doughy, tangy’ joys. Nice work!

Toklas Bakery, Temple.

The sexy one: St John

Sexier than Jacob Elordi, curvier than Sydney Sweeney, shinier than Paul Mescal’s little chain: this gleaming beauty is definitely the handsomest bun in town. It ‘looks absolutely mega,’ summarised one tester. And the secret to its good looks isn’t some kind of insta-peddled supplement, it’s a Paddington-worthy slathering of marmalade: ‘it tastes formidably orangey, but it pulls it off,’ said another fan. Combined with a densely spiced interior, this bun could feasibly be devoured straight from the bag, ideally in the privacy of your own home.


The lavish one: Popham’s

Did Jesus suffer on the cross so we could desecrate his favourite teatime treat? Oh pipe down, poor guy probably never even owned a toaster. So we’ll allow this luxurious riff on a classic, with its elaborate croissant-dough topping that ‘makes for a nice bit of textural variety,’ according to our testers. They also enjoyed the ‘instant burst of smoky flavour’ and ‘darker, more caramelised notes’ in its spice mix. And as much as we hate to bait traditionalists, its almost-savoury charms would make a bacon sandwich to die for, too.

The hybrid one: B Bagel

See that dimple in the middle? Nope, this bun wasn’t prodded by an impatient baker. It’s actually an exciting hybrid with all of the spice of a ho cro, and all the hole of a bagel. In common with other classic cross-cultural mashups like the Tesco chicken tikka sandwich, it’s not likely to thrill traditionalists, but it makes loads of sense: cinnamon and raisin bagels are already very much a thing, and this satisfyingly chewy bun just pushes the envelope a tad further. Testers complained that it came with ‘way too much cream cheese filling,’ so keep things simple by toasting yours at home.


The outlandish one: Jolene x Gelupo

If (for some dark, twisted reasons you’ll probably unpick in therapy some years from now) you feel compelled to make a TikTok of yourself eating a hot cross bun, this is the one to do it with. In a riff on one of Gelupo’s famous ice cream-filled brioches, Jolene’s fragrant-yet-substantial buns are the container for an egg made out of layers of creamy marscapone, egg yolk and chocolate gelato. ‘My teeth hurt,’ said a tester with delicate gums, but more resilient gourmets will delight in this lavish mash-up of spice, unctuous creaminess, and just enough Eastery chocolate.   

The delectable vegan one: Crosstown

Icing! Candied peel! Spicy custard! Veganism! This is a hot cross bun that’ll have traditionalists spluttering indignantly into their cups of Earl Grey but who cares when it’s this delicious. ‘It tastes like a Body Shop vanilla spice lip balm I had when I was 12,’ said one tester approvingly, while other satisfied customers praised its ‘nice and soft and pillowy’ texture and ‘proper custard filling – I never would have guessed it was vegan’. Just don’t try putting it in your toaster.


The trad one: Blackbird

Not all of our testers were enthused by this oh-so-trad offering from south London bakery mini-chain Blackbird. ‘Dry and dusty’ grumbled one spoilt bun-eater. But if you like a lighter, breadier ho cro experience this is well worth a try: ‘it doesn’t feel like you need a lie down afterwards,’ said another tester, welcoming the break from the endless decadent richness of the other entrants on the list.

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