Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >
Feb 21, 2007 12:46 PM

Hot Cross Bun Tour 2007

It’s that time of year. All hot cross bun sightings will be appreciated.

In the past, I had standards … white icing cross, generous raisins, restrained candied fruit, not spiced with cloves.

The heck with it … some of the best buns didn’t meet those standards.

Don’t like the supermarket types that usually have a tasteless bun, too much candied fruit and not enough raisins and … shudder … a pineapple topping.

Anything anywhere is fair game. Who knows where I’ll be in the next few weeks.

This year kicked off with La Fayette in San Rafael … a pretty decent hot cross bun despite no white icing cross. Last year to get this bun … the bakery closes its doors in April, the owner retires, the bakery torn down and replaced by condos. Not officially in the ranking because it is going away … but it would have been maybe # 7

Here’s my past rankings:

1) Hopkins Bakery (Berkeley)
2) Virginia Bakery (Berkeley
)3) Crixa (Berekeley) Not cross bun
4)Bennet Valley Bread & Pastry (Berkeley Farmers Market)
5) Sweet Adeline (Oakland)
6) Crixa (Berkeley) Hot cross bun
7) Bear Claw Bakery (Pinole)
8) Palo Alto Baking Company
9) FatApples (El Cerrito & Berkeley)
10) Chestnut Street Bakery (SF)
11) Danilo (SF)
12) The Bread Garden (Berkeley)
13) Liberty Café (SF)
14) Masse's (Berkeley)
15) Victoria Pastry (SF & Marin)
16) La Farine (Berkeley & Oakland)
17) Acme (Berkeley & SF)
18)Neldham's (Oakland)
19) Schubert’s Bakery (SF)
20) The Bread Workshop (Berkeley)
21) Whole Foods
22) Boudin (SF)
23) Emporio Rulli (SF & Larkspur)
24) Miette (SF)

Top of my list to try this year … come hell or … well, hell … in order of preference unless I hear otherwise

- Sweet Things Bakery in Cal Mart at Laurel Village or Sausalito
- House of Bread (Albany)

Others waiting to be tried:

- June Taylor (Ferry Plaza Farmers Market on Saturday)
- Ladyfingers (Oakland)
- Citizen Cake (SF)
- Il Fornaio bakery (SF)
- Cake Box (Lafayette)
- Dianda’s (SF)
- Gayle's Bakery (Santa Cruz)
- Delanghe (SF) didn’t make them last year
- La Boulange / Bay Breads (SF, Temescal Farmers Market & Mill Valley)
- Noe Valley Bakery (SF) Tried them in 2002, but forget the details
- Downtown Bakery (SF & Healdsburg) Tried them in 2003, but forget the details
- The Village Bakery (Sebastopol)
- Arizmendi (SF location had a sign to reserve them for Easter a few years back)
- Brioche Bakery (SF) Maybe yes, maybe no. If they make them it will be close to Easter.

Hot Cross Buna and Pretzel origins

Details are in the next post so the rather long descriptions collapse after reading.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Here’s the details

    Descriptions of hot cross buns on list to try from previous posts …

    CAKE BOX (LAFAYETTE): “ not bad. Lots of candied fruit, which isn't everyone's thing, but I liked it. Gooey top = good. :)”

    DELANGE (SF): (tho they didn’t make them last year here are previous favorable comments). White icing cross, lots of citron fruit and seems to be made with a high proportion of dark flour (rye, whole wheat?). The bun was very moist, almost chewy in texture, with a heft to it. It was similar to panettone but moister. .

    DIANDA'S (SF): It was similar to panettone but moister. It contained raisins & candied fruit with a custard cross. The top of the custard was dried out.

    DOWNTOWN BAKERY (HEALDSBURG): “ not bad. Like the orange zest focus, but would prefer less icing (grew up with a pastry cream cross on top)”

    HOUSE OF BREAD (FREEMONT & ALBANY): Easter weekend (Fri-Sun). Challah dough with dried apricots, raisins, and cranberries with a white icing cross

    LA BOULANGE / BAY BREADS (SF, TEMESCAL FARMERS MARKET & MILL VALLEY): “Not too sweet, buttery, and not a bit stale”

    THE VILLAGE BAKERY (SEBASTOPOL): “... bakes them nicely with a yeast dough and a hint of cardamom, raisins, and a light white confectioner's icing cross on top for $2.25 each.”

    Hot Cross buns I have tried over the years

    1) HOPKINS BAKERY (BERKELEY): $1.85 Hot cross bun classic. Nice glaze, a little sticky, with a thin white icing cross. Good dense texture with a pleasantly yeasty flavor and the right hit of candied fruit and spice. Delicious aroma and one terrific HCB.

    2) VIRGINIA BAKERY (BERKELEY): Two types of crosses - lemon and custard. Light white sugar glaze. Despite my prejudice against crosses other than white icing, Virginia Bakery is still my second favorite hot cross bun ... hot cross bun classic almost. The lemon worked with the bun.

    3) CRIXA (BERKELEY) $1.95 No Cross Bun - Before Easter Crixa makes a no cross bun but very similar to the bulocki. Cross or no cross, I liked this very much. It is lightly dusted with some sort of flour that has a faint sweetness to it. The bun itself is perfect in texture, not too chewy, bready or airy. It is light yet yeasty and the perfect touch of dark and light raisins with tiny citron accents. Lovely, lovely, lovely. The soul of a hot cross bun though not classic.

    4) BENNETT VALLEY BREAD & PASTRY (BERKELY SATURDAY FARMERS MARKET): For people who don’t like citron in their HCB, this totally organic bun is an excellent choice. The cross is delicious cream cheese white icing. It is lovingly, perfectly flavored with cardamom and the raisin to bun ratio is nice. The texture is what those awful supermarket buns fail at and should aspire to. It is soft yet yeasty

    5) SWEET ADELINE (OAKLAND) $2.00 It was pretty much perfect, dense and yeasty with white icing cross. The orange peel was finely chopped, fresh tasting and a pleasure to hit with intense flavor. Not too much to overwhelm the bun. My only nit was that the white and dark raisins were also finely chopped where I like bigger pieces.

    6) CRIXA (BERKELEY) Artistically crafted with care. The lightest whisper of glaze on top, so sheer I didn’t notice it at first. Nice buttery white icing cross. Unfortunately they put it in a bag and most of the cross stayed on the bag. Ask them to put it in a small box. Nice yeasty bun with a touch of citron and raisins. It might have been that particular roll, but it could have used a little more of the fruit. Oddly enough, I liked the not crossed bun a little better.

    7) BEAR CLAW BAKERY (PINOLE) Hot from the oven, the fluffy biscuit-like bun had a thin spread of white icing, A thick piping of still-warm custard formed the cross. There was a restrained use of fruit. The texture that reminds me of the Pillsbury refrigerated cinnamon rolls, but they are made from scratch. An excellent bun though.

    8) PALO ALTO BAKING COMPANY: Glaze on top and pineapple cross (points off). Nice bun. It was a dense bun filled with regular raisins, golden raisins, and finely chopped orange rind and citron which added flavor without being obnoxious. Enjoyed it very much despite the pineapple.

    9) FATAPPLES (EL CERRITO & BERKELEY) $1.80 Light glaze, cross is thick white icing with a butter cream taste. Nice texture and yeasty taste. Not enough currants or raisins though. A touch of citron would be nice.

    10) CHESTNUT STREET BAKERY (SF): $2.25 Large bun, not enough custard cross … more for decoration. No glaze. Nice spice and one of the yeastiest. Generous whole black and white raisins, but no citrus.

    11) DANILO (SF): $2.00 - Big thick custard cross, a little gluey, but tasty with maybe a touch of rum. Mainly white and black raisins with a little candied fruit.. A breadier, lighter square bun. Aged the best. It actually tasted better the next day and it didn’t go stale.

    12) THE BREAD GARDEN (BERKELEY): Nice generous white icing cross with a touch of lemon. While it was a good bun, it was more of a raisin roll. No citrus for those who prefer their HCB without it. Lovely cardamom aroma I think it was cardamom. Whatever spice it was it warmed the bun with spiciness. That part was lovely.

    13) LIBERTY CAFÉ (SF): It was just ok. The bun was a little dry. They do a non traditional thick custard type topping which was very good

    14) MASSE'S (BERKELEY): If the white icing cross was any thinner, it would be invisible. I didn't like the sticky glaze. The bun itself had a nice mix of citron and raisins, but was a little dry.

    15) VICTORIA PASTRY (SF & MARIN): These were yeasty with nice cardamom flavor and citron (not too heavy). Custard cross. It was a little too big and dry. The top is glazed which I didn’t like in this particular bun.

    16) LA FARINE (BERKELEY / OAKLAND): Nice white icing cross. It was a delicious raisin roll, yeasty and full of raisin, but it was not a hot cross bun. There was some sort of odd spice for a hot cross bun. Although there was no visible citron, it was almost like it had the essence of candied fruit ... or mild cloves. Just couldn't identify it.

    17) ACME (SF & BERKELEY): Called ‘sorta cross bun’ … well, truth in advertising … the cross is just cut into the bread. I would have been sorta cross if it had been called anything else. More of a chewy raisin roll with a few pieces of citrus and not enough golden and black raisins

    18) NELDHAM'S (OAKLAND): Too much like the supermarket version.

    19) SCHUBERT’S BAKERY (SF): Too much like the supermarket version.

    20) THE BREAD WORKSHOP (BERKELEY): $1.25 Nice looking brown crust with cross cut into the dough and filled with white icing, but that was the best part. It was too dry & dense with not enough raisins (maybe three) and only one piece of dried fruit which might have been a cranberry.

    21) WHOLE FOODS: Don’t remember why. Just didn’t like them. I think they were dry.

    22) BOUDIN (SF): $1 – once the classic perfect bun, each year they get worse. I resent what Boudin has done to this bun. Tasty custard cross, but a bit gluey in texture. Baked in a muffin pan in cupcake paper … a sin. The roll itself had a yeasty, good texture, but the raisins and dried fruit were stingy. The cheap fruit dyed the dough around it bright red or green.

    23) EMPORIO RULLI (SF & LARKSPUR): $2.50 – once perfect in 2006 they were is a sticky, lemony, soggy mess Tasteless custard cross. Overly sticky lemon glaze that made the bun soggy. Yeasty roll with no candied fruit and two white raisins. The lemon glaze overwhelmed & ruined the bun.

    24) MIETTE (SF): The worst I have ever had. As often is the case with Miette, looks 10 taste zero. They were golden and plump with a deep cross cut in the top and filled with, my favorite, white icing. Dry, stale tasting and they used rye flour. The less than generous currents were tasteless. The icing was ok. Had to buy 4 at a stiff $6.Took a few bites and threw the rest. Tried it long ago when Miette first started selling at Ferry Plaza Farmers Market … Green St. location

    Of course, things are always changing. Hope the good buns remain great and the bad buns improve.

    Previous hot cross bun posts:

    Bread garden - 2006

    (2006 – Downtown Bakery Healdsburg, Cake Box in Lafayette

    The other 2006 topic went to topic heaven and was lost in the conversion

    The Ultimate Hot Cross Bun? (2005 - Bear Claw Bakery, Palo Alto Baking Company, Schuberts, Sweet Things, Liberty Café, La Farine, Masse's, Virginia Bakery, Boudin, Victoria Bakery, Delanghe's,

    Hot X Buns at Victoria Pastry (2005

    hot cross buns (2004 - La Boulange, Il Fornaio, Citizen Cake, Victoria bakery, Boudin, Delange's, Sweet Things, Liberty Café

    (2003 – Downtown Bakery Healdsburg, Noe Bakery

    Hot Cross Buns from Arizmendi (2003

    No, no Miette - hot cross buns (2003

    Best hot cross buns and Irish soda bread (2003 – Boudin (the first year of decline) Virginal Bakery, Cal Mart, The Village Bakery

    1 Reply
    1. Last year I had a bun from Nabalom in Berkeley, and remember enjoying it, though it was a little sweet for my taste.

      1. Not having much to compare, I've always loved the hot cross buns at the Cakery(was Ingbord's years ago) in Burlingame, Burlingame ave. Soft, sweet with some spices, good balance of raisins and citron.

        6 Replies
        1. re: peppatty

          Agree with your addition of The Cakery at 1308 Burlingame Ave. Am almost reluctant to mention them, lest they run out before I can get my weekly dose. Husband usually hates hot cross buns but really likes these. Towards the end of the season, I have to buy a batch to save in the freezer for those moments of yearning after the holiday.

          1. re: liz88lee

            Thanks. Definately have them on my list if I get to that area. Yeah, if we don't share our tips sometimes great places discontinue things due to lack of interest.

            1. re: liz88lee

              I just got some last week. As good as usual but I hate inflation. I remember when they were only 70¢!

            2. re: peppatty

              Just came to this thread to post about the great hot cross bun that I had today at the Cakery. Nice and soft (but still bready) with good spice, raisins, and a great not to sweet cross. The cross was made out of more of a custard (like a filling for a danish) but a thicker one, and it was excellent. I only went in because there was a little Hot Cross Buns sold here! sign in the window, and I'm glad that I did.

              1. re: JasmineG

                I wanted to add a link here to what is sort of the Hot Cross Bun Tour 2008 thread, in case you want to post there too. Finding it through search was not easy. Why oh why does it need to be so difficult?


                Remind me: Where is the Cakery?

                1. re: Atomica

                  Ah, I looked for it through search, and only found this one, I'll go post about the Cakery bun there.

            3. you muist add destination baking co, in glen park, on chenery in sf, to your list! in the past, they had wonderful, wonderful hot cross buns...

              8 Replies
              1. re: sfoperalover

                Does Destination also have a location in the old Creighton's next to the Old Tower Market (now Mollie Stones)?

                1. re: rworange

                  No, they are only on Chenery. The "bakery" (I use the term loosely) at Old Tower Market is still Creighton's. I strongly second the notion that you need to try Destination, and I think I stated so last year as well. They have hot cross buns now and I just bought a bunch an hour ago.

                  Since the owner of Destination is a partner in Mission Pie (Mission & 25th) and sells muffins and scones at Mission Pie as well, you might check to see if the hot cross buns will also be available at Mission Pie.

                  1. re: Atomica

                    Destination Bakery is a fantastic recommendation. It is NOT related to Creighton's in any way other than that it uses the same site as the late, great second Creighton's on Chenery. Both of the new Creighton's are mediocre at best. Destination Bakery sells wonderful tarts, coffeecakes, sweet rolls, etc. I've never tried their hot cross buns, but I'll be going there this week to buy some.

                    1. re: Atomica

                      Thanks. I'll put Destination high on my list this year, especially early. Too many places wait till the week of Easter.

                      Yeah, with the missing thread from last year a few recs I wanted to try got lost. Thanks again for the reminder. I might be in the City next week so I'll make that breakfast.

                      1. re: rworange

                        I tried the HCB at Destination today--it was very good, just the right amount of icing, and less than $2. It was a little on the small side--I could probably have eaten two. Or eight. Or eleven hundred and five.

                        I haven't tried the others on your list, so I have no means of comparison, but for me it was certainly worth the trip out to Glen Park. I had not been to that neighborhood and thought it might be a haul, but Destination is just about a five minute walk from the BART station and a block or so up from a 26 Valencia stop.

                        I'm going out to the Ferry Building tomorrow--I'll post if there are any HCB sightings.

                        1. re: pane

                          I am certainly no HCB expert, sort-of good Jewish girl that I am, but at the Ferry Building today I saw versions at Acme and the Noe Vallery Bakery Stand. I tend to avoid Noe Valley and didn't try it, but at least you could clearly see the icing cross. I did try the Acme one out of curiousity, figuring, well, it's Acme, how bad can it rw says above, more of a raisin roll: no icing, very little fruit, and not as soft and yeasty as I imagine one should be; (but as I say, what do I know?)...I didn't finish it.

                          1. re: susancinsf

                            Thanks for the update on Acme ... I feel sort of evangelical getting a good Jewish girl eating them ... but I've long ago converted to Jewish food.

                            I can't seem to be in the same place as a hot cross bun this year, but I'm taking notes and going to up the effort over the next few days ... I appreciate all the feeback.

                            I'll post separately tommorrow ... but don't forget ... Monday March 19th ... St Joseph's Day ... or in the temple of Chowhounds ... zeppole day ... attend your local Italian bakery that day. Victoria and Emporio Rulli being the high church of zeppole ... a lovely Italian donut.

                            1. re: susancinsf

                              I grabbed one at the Acme in Berkeley recently - there they called it a "Sorta Hot Cross Bun" or something similar. The taste & texture were exactly as you described it

                  2. OK--the results are in from the Ferry Building HCB crawl. I found two contenders there--Noe Valley Bakery and Downtown Bakery (from Healdsburg).

                    First up was Downtown's version, which was $1.25. The bun had a spongy texture and a good amount of icing, but a bit too much candied fruit. The roll itself was sweet without offering as much flavor as Destination's version.

                    Noe Valley Bakery's bun, at $2.50, was more like a roll studded with candied fruit. I did not enjoy the thick, bready texture. The icing cross was yellow and was depressed into the roll. I had a couple of bites and tossed the rest.

                    So my personal rankings would be:
                    1. Destination
                    2. Downtown Bakery

                    87. Noe Valley Bakery

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: pane

                      Cool ... and thanks. Keep an eye out for that elusive June Taylor bun ... maybe brave the Miette bun ... if they sell one ... who knows ... maybe they improved.

                      1. re: rworange

                        I've had too many bad experiences at Miette to give it another go. I checked in at June Taylor, but didn't see any buns--the sampling line was long, so I didn't get a chance to ask the clerk if they would offer any this year.

                        Try to check out Destination if you have a chance and let me know if you like it.

                      2. re: pane

                        Now that's interesting. I skidded into Downtown Bakery in Healdsburg a few minutes ago and snagged a hot cross bun, $1.35 marked down by 50% at the end of the day. It's been years since I've had one from anywhere. This seemed to have a denser crumb and less sponginess. White icing cross. No candied fruit but a good lashing of orange zest and many tiny currants. I would have liked it to be a bit sweeter to have more flavor impact, as it's not that satisfying as is.