Vegan Hot Cross Bun and Butter Pudding is an Easter-time take on the classic British Bread and Butter Pudding. Using bought wholemeal hot cross buns this pudding is soaked in homemade vegan custard and zinged up with rhubarb and saffron.
Whether you are religious or not, I’m sure by now you’ve slung at least one packet of hot cross buns into your shopping trolley. In the UK, Waitrose and Marks and Spencer always seem to have the most interesting iterations of this seasonal bake. And just today I was picking up some bits and bobs at good old M&S when I spied some wholemeal hot cross buns, crammed with seeds and looking very enticing. I immediately knew this is what I would do with them.
Hot Cross Buns are something that many people now eat all throughout Lent, but most especially on Good Friday when sweet, sticky fruited buns are traditionally eaten. So, I’m publishing this Vegan Hot Cross Bun and Butter Pudding just in the nick of time. Not like me at all… 😉
I will admit it isn’t the prettiest of desserts, but I pinky swear it tastes the business. Think bread and butter pudding flecked with soft dried fruits, laced with warm spices and zippy rhubarb.
And the texture! Oh my. It is soft and moist all the way through, save for the crunchy-sugar top (it’s just a tablespoon’s worth). Maybe you can make it fancy-looking enough for the Easter dessert as an alternative to something chocolatey. But I would be pleased as punch knowing that you might make it with leftover hot cross buns come Easter Monday for brunch, served with a fruit salad.
What’s in this Vegan Hot Cross Bun and Butter Pudding?
6 (slightly stale) hot cross buns. I’ve used wholemeal ones, studded with seeds, but use regular ones if you like. In the UK we have so many different kinds of flavours to choose from. Chocolate and orange is a really gorgeous one that seems to be a staple flavour these days. You can adapt this recipe very easily to accommodate other hot cross bun flavours. Just drop the rhubarb bit and make the custard on its own.
Homemade custard. You will be making a super easy custard using your choice of plant milk – full-fat please – some cornflour or tapioca starch, maple syrup, vanilla and a tiny dash of salt. If you have Bird’s custard powder (I don’t) then use it instead of the cornflour. You are making enough to soak the buns in as well as pour on to serve.
Rhubarb. This is optional, but it goes really well with the “normal” fruited hot cross buns. You will be briefly poaching the rhubarb, straining it out of the liquid, then simmering the liquid to form a yummy rhubarb syrup that you can add to the custard. Yes, that stuff in the jug that looks like gravy is rhubarb custard! Add beetroot powder or a natural colouring to pink it up. If you fancy keeping it to make a nice little gin cocktail, who’s to know?
Are hot cross buns vegan?
Although the hot cross buns you grew up with weren’t vegan, most UK supermarkets now have a multiplicity of vegan versions. If you need to keep it egg-free and dairy-free, check the label. The ones I use from M&S are vegan, although they don’t tout it on the front of the package. Traditional recipes include egg and butter. Happily, supermarkets are really embracing the vegan and flexitarian leanings of their customers and are responding accordingly. Not always healthily though. Just because something is vegan doesn’t give it a health halo. But you know that already. 🙂
Steps to making it
1. If your buns aren’t a day or two old, then split them and toast in a 180C/350F oven for five minutes. This step will open up the texture, ensuring the custard soaks in. Butter the cut sides and fit them into your baking dish. I used a ceramic dish and didn’t need to butter it, but I recommend buttering.
How you arrange the pieces is up to you and will depend on what shape your dish is. You might wish to keep them whole if you have a small rectangular baking tin. Or you might want to chop them up to give it a rough texture – perfect for getting more crispy bits. It’s up to you.
2. Once your buns get their roughened texture – either by being a bit stale or by toasting – poach the rhubarb. This is done by popping them in a pan and half covering them fresh orange juice (one orange will do) and water. You will barely cook them before scooping them out and simmering the liquid down to a syrup.
3. Making the custard is very straightforward. It’s really a matter of pouring everything in a pan, whisking it up and stirring until it thickens to a custardy texture. Taste it and see if you need to add more sweetness or more vanilla. You may even wish to grate in some nutmeg or add a sprinkle of cinnamon. Why not echo the spicing of your hot cross buns?
4. Pouring over the custard is the bit that requires a bit of patience. It’s best, I think, to let the custard soak in a bit before carrying on with more. Then stud it with the syrupy rhubarb pieces, tucking them in randomly, or in a pattern. Sprinkle over a little crunchy sugar if you wish. It really does add texture to the finished bake. Now pop it on a baking tray and into the preheated oven.
5. Just before serving it warm – not hot – gently heat the remaining custard and stir in the rhubarb syrup.
This dessert pudding is a bit gooey, a bit sweet and a whole lot satisfying. Enjoy it best after a light meal.
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If sweet isn’t your thing, why not make my Savoury Marmite and Five-Seed Hot Cross Buns? (pictured above)
Vegan Hot Cross Bun and Butter Pudding with Rhubarb
A vegan, Easter-time take on the classic British Bread and Butter Pudding using hot cross buns and zipped up with rhubarb and saffron.
- 6 wholemeal hot cross buns slightly stale preferred; otherwise have and bake for 5 minutes at 180C/350F
- 500 ml plant milk unsweetened
- 2 tsp vanilla extract or split vanilla pod
- 3 tbsp corn flour/starch or tapioca starch
- 3 tbsp maple syrup
- 1/8 tsp salt
- small pinch saffron strands optional
- 2 tbsp vegan butter softened for spreading + extra for the baking dish
- demerara sugar optional, for crunchy top
- 200 g rhubarb sliced into 1" pieces
- 1 medium orange juiced
- water just enough with the orange juice to half way cover the cut rhubarb in a medium pan
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
Preheat the oven to 160C fan/180C/350F. Butter a round baking dish.
Halve all but one of the hot cross buns and butter them. Place the whole one in the centre and arrange the others around it as best fits your dish. I ended up cutting one of them into quarters to fill the gaps. Set aside.
Rhubarb Compote (optional)
Place the cut rhubarb into a saucepan and pour over the fresh orange juice and add just enough water for the liquid to come halfway up the rhubarb. Add the maple syrup and vanilla. Let the liquid come to a gentle simmer and cook the rhubarb for 3-4 minutes, or until just softened. I let mine go too far in the images! Remove the rhubarb with a slotted spoon and let the juices left in the pan simmer until they are reduced to a light syrup. We will add this to the custard.
The Vegan Custard
To make the custard, pour almost all of the milk into a medium saucepan. Pour the remaining milk in a mug and whisk in the cornflour; add this to the pan and whisk well. Pour in the maple syrup, vanilla, saffron if using, and salt. Bring very gently to a bubble, whisking or stirring as it heats. Simmer until the custard coats the back of a wooden spoon and you can run your finger down it, leaving a gap where your finger was. Or, until it is as thick as slightly thickened cream. Pop a lid on the pan to keep warm.
Strain about two-thirds of the custard over the hot cross buns. Take your time so that it can soak in. Dot the rhubarb pieces over the pudding, slightly pressing them in. Sprinkle with the demerara sugar and place on a tray and into the hot oven.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until slightly crunchy and the middle is no longer wet with liquid, but is still delectably moist. Meanwhile, gently reheat the remaining custard.
Serve warm rather than hot with the warmed custard, swirling in the rhubarb syrup if you wish. This is delicious at room temperature, too.
I used Marks & Spencer wholemeal hot cross buns with added seeds, so this gives more fibre and nutrients. But use whatever kind that is available.
This custard in this recipe will cover up to 10 hot cross buns, so use more if you have a crowd, or want leftovers.
To heat leftovers, cover with foil and pop in a 180C/350F oven for eight minutes.
RIPE FOR PINNING!