1. Black Star Pastry
$4.50 each or 6 for $25
Dense yet cushiony, sticky and sweet, these are the best hot cross buns in Sydney. Rested overnight and rolled by hand (despite the fact that more than 2500 of them will sell on Holy Thursday alone), the buns are fragrant with allspice and glazed all over. They're the kind of treat you'll only need one of, but you'll definitely want more. Black Star owner Christopher The was inspired to glaze the buns with a frankincense-spiked syrup by his memories of church at Easter, perfumed with the scent of incense. Though he admits that not many customers would be able to pick up on the secret ingredient, to Christopher, "it's just what Easter smells like." Bonus: they're completely vegan.
Various locations, see blackstarpastry.com.au
2. Bowan Island Bakery
Traditional buns $2 each or 6 for $11.90; spelt and choc-chip varieties $2.50 each or 6 for $12.50
At Bowan Island, there are three types of hot cross buns: original fruit, Belgian chocolate, and organic spelt. Head baker and owner Jason McMenamin says the spelt variety is "quite niche", but we think it's one of the best in Sydney. They've got a hearty density, thanks to the spelt flour, but they're still moreishly light, thanks to the buttermilk used to help the leavening process. "We don't scrimp on ingredients here," says McMenamin. "It's a festival of eating, you should have the very best." That's why his buns are sweetened with yellow box honey and the chocolate chip variety is scattered with large Belgian chips and flecked with sea salt.
183 Victoria Road, Drummoyne and 2 Defries Avenue, Zetland; David Jones pop-ups, see bowanisland.com.au for details
$4 each or 6 for $22
Packed with currants, candied orange and cranberries, and heady with the aroma of ginger and cardamom, Brickfields makes a helluva hot cross bun. The soft, airy buns are glazed all over with a sweet, treacly syrup, and honestly, the only thing that could make them taste any better than they already do is a thick slab of butter sandwiched between the halves. We suggest you try this immediately.
206 Cleveland Street, Chippendale, brickfields.com.au
4. Mrs Jones the Baker
At Freshwater's new favourite bakery, hot cross buns are on the menu for the very first time. With a soft yet firm bun that yields nicely when you sink your teeth in, these HCBs aren't heavy on spice or glaze, but are still packed with that warm, sweet flavour you expect. There's the hint of a crust on top but nothing about these feels heavy. For kids, try the hot cross buns with grumpy faces piped on top.
16A Lawrence Street, Freshwater, mrsjonesthebaker.com.au
5. Sonoma Sourdough Bakers
$3 each or 6 for $14
Is a hot cross bun really a hot cross bun without a (gasp) cross? It is when the sourdough gods at Sonoma make it. This is a dark, firm bun with a great fruit-to-dough ratio – 30 per cent fruit, including cranberries for a little sourness and sultanas for the sweet. Laced with Dutch speculaas spice (pepper, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom and nutmeg) these are glazed to sticky-sweet perfection and best served warm. Hearty and filling, they'd make an excellent bread and butter pudding on Easter Monday.
Various locations, see sonoma.com.au
6. The Cook and the Baker
$3.50 each or 6 for $19.50
Lightly glazed with sugar syrup, these hot cross buns are shinier than a WAG's ponytail. More importantly, though, they're delicious. Light yet chewy, these HCBs have the perfect dried-fruit-to-bun ratio (what's more, the fruit is soaked in Earl Grey tea before baking – a nice touch). Laced with notes of caramel and honey, these are sweet and spicy in good measure, and perfect with a cuppa around the 4pm mark.
238 Oxford Street, Bondi Junction, thecookandbaker.com.au
7. Bourke Street Bakery
$7 for one hot cross bun loaf
Purists, look away. At Bourke Street Bakery, the hot cross bun isn't … well, it isn't a bun. It's a large, round loaf, marked (of course) with a cross and studded with sweet dried fruit. Decadently spiced and fragrant with cinnamon, this might not be traditional, but it's damn tasty. Toast a slice (there's enough for at least six people) and top with ricotta and honey.
Various locations, see bourkestreetbakery.com.au
8. Strawberry Fields
$3 each or 6 for $12
At Strawberry Fields, tradition meets 2016. It's a bakery full of nods to times past (you won't find a cronut) but everything is executed in a fresh way. So you'd expect that their hot cross buns take an old favourite and make it even better. Warm notes of cinnamon and nutmeg blend with candied orange and seriously plump currants to deliver that HCB taste, and the bun is soft but dense. These buns are glazed all over, so if you don't have a sweet tooth, avoid. If you do, slather the bun with salted butter and treat yo'self.
2/420 New Canterbury Road, Dulwich Hill, 02 8021 2294
9. The Pig and Pastry Cafe
This beloved inner west cafe isn't pumping out hundreds of HCBs a day, but the ones they do have are fantastic. Like all the pastries here, the hot cross buns are made on site. With sweet creme patissiere piped across the top, these are more like tea cakes than HCBs, but let's not get caught up in semantics. They're sweet, pillowy and sure to run out the door.
1 Station Street, Petersham, thepigandpastry.com.au
10. Adriano Zumbo
$2.50 each or 6 for $14.50
Of course Adriano Zumbo – the man who introduced us to the croquembouche and kalamata olive-flavoured macarons – isn't content with the traditional hot cross bun. He makes one, of course (and it's decent; dotted with currants and orange rind, spiced and sweet in good measure), but the real action here is the Choc Chip and Cherry. With a dense, almost cake-like chocolate bun, it delivers an intense cocoa hit. It's light on the cherries, as well as tradition (obviously), but it makes a fun, tasty departure from all that cinnamon.
Various locations, see adrianozumbo.com