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The reason for the season is not jam donut hot cross buns (Image: Anna Rawhiti-Connell)
The reason for the season is not jam donut hot cross buns (Image: Anna Rawhiti-Connell)

KaiMarch 22, 2024

I tried 12 flavours of hot cross buns and don’t believe Jesus died for these sins

The reason for the season is not jam donut hot cross buns (Image: Anna Rawhiti-Connell)
The reason for the season is not jam donut hot cross buns (Image: Anna Rawhiti-Connell)

Described as a bit of fun and based on retailer demand, at least five of these so-called hot cross buns are abominations of hellish proportions.

The lapsed catholicism runs deep in me. 

I am very sure Jesus’s side wound, coloured a disturbing shade of fluoro pink in my childhood exercise books, was inflicted on one specific Friday. Deep fact-checking reveals that the cross on top of the cinnamon jam donut hot cross bun I ate yesterday references the crucifixion of one Jesus Christ upon the hill of Golgotha. The bible and Wikipedia confirm it was a one-day event now called Good Friday.

Hot cross buns of all kinds of fun flavours, including cinnamon jam donut, are now in store for weeks on end. It is clear no one really gives a shit about when the actual cross day happened anymore. We’re a secular society. While Easter holds a lot of meaning for Christians, it’s a holiday for most people. And what is a holiday without weeks of prelude — a countdown at Countdown, reminding us that someday, very soon, most of us get four days off. 

Seasons of the supermarket (data journalism graph by Anna Rawhiti-Connell)

Unfortunately for me, and now you, the endless prelude to Easter hasn’t made me feel relaxed about the upcoming holiday but, instead, full of rage. The target of this rage has been a parade of fun-flavoured hot cross buns. 

Important not to dwell on this boring fact for too long lest I be called grumpy or a purist, but most people’s flavour preferences are formed somewhere between the ages of two and six. We’d be quite happy eating the same boring old fruit and spice hot cross buns for a couple of weeks of the year. Very few of us are craving a rocky road-flavoured hot cross bun because they only existed in our subconscious dreams or nightmares until very recently. Craaaaaaaazzzzzzy fun flavours of hot cross buns are apparently driven by retailer demand, and for food manufacturers, new flavours equal new sales.  

Here is a short survey of the franken-hot-cross-bun flavours I’ve seen on offer at supermarkets in the last few weeks. In the interests of journalism and not letting my inner boring crone tell me what to do, I have sampled them all. Five of the most egregious flavours were eaten yesterday and I am not the same person I was. 

The brioche standard

Now available in chocolate chip, plain, fruit and chocolate. Reasonable and fine, I guess but why not admit these are just brioche of a different shape that happen to carry a dubious endorsement from the son of God? Aren’t these just marked brioche with time-bound sales targets attached? 

The freak in the sheets brioche: raspberry and white chocolate

Incredibly sweet but okay. But these are also JUST BRIOCHE. They’re not dissimilar to muffins – the kind I imagine Lionel Skeggins used to sell from his trolley in the halcyon days of the 90s. I am starting to suspect novelty hot cross buns are a Trojan horse for nostalgia, specifically for those who hanker after a chicken and brie panini.

Rocky road 

The original source of my anger after my husband brought them home without consultation. The flavour profile isn’t all that different from the now bog-standard chocolate hot cross buns, but it has a weird gooeyness to it. I felt ill five minutes after eating and chased it with the freaky brioche. In hindsight, poor planning. 

Apple and cinnamon 

This is a pisstake of a bun. It is incredibly difficult to taste much apple, so it is simply a hot cross bun with advertised sex appeel. 

Cheese and onion

Guilty of the most egregious sin, but still not one I think Jesus apparently covered off for us when he died. This is a bread flavour you can buy year-round and should stay that way. It suffers greatly from needing to fit into the hot cross bun genre and has an odd sweetness to it. The cheese is on the inside, in a little hollow, presenting a technical challenge when putting butter on it. It almost made me wish we could get past the hot cross bun’s experimental savoury era, accept total defeat in the face of consumerism, whack a cross on a limited-edition cheeseburger and call the enshittification of food done.

Cinnamon jam donut 

Do-not. Essentially a jam sandwich but the jam tastes like licking a Strawberry Shortcake doll. No obvious relation to the donut. Neither holey nor holy. 

I spent $38 on the five worst hot cross bun flavours. At least I can say I am playing my part as the country continues through its economic flop era. In Australia, they’ve made Vegemite and Pizza Shapes hot cross buns. Maybe our comparatively poor economic performance is linked to more than not having our neighbour’s mineral wealth.

When faced with a cost-of-living crisis, a powerful supermarket duopoly, and a recession, perhaps there is nothing to do but innovate an already perfectly good seasonal food. Take what is essentially flour, yeast, and water, and add whatever you like, but most importantly, make sure it has a cross on it and make sure it is fun. Without fun and a cross, it is not a seasonally sanctioned food and, therefore, can not be sold for the 12 weeks of the year that now count as Easter. Jesus took three days to die and rise again, but hot cross bun season lasts forever. Happy longest season of them all to you. May God forgive us.

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