It’s that time of year again: hot cross bun season. (Thankfully we aren’t living in the 16th century when, the story goes, it was illegal for bakers to sell hot cross buns on any day but Good Friday.)

Bakeries in Melbourne know the importance of perfecting their own version of the doughy Easter dumpling, and this year is no different. From recipes perfected over decades to inventive spins on old classics, here are seven bakeries doing it well.

And the best part? They’re already on shelves across Melbourne.

20-Years-in-the-Making Hot Cross Buns at Rustica Sourdough
Baker Brendon Lang has spent almost 20 years developing the perfect hot cross bun recipe. “Three years ago, we decided to settle on this one and we’re pretty happy with the way they are coming out.” Lang’s buns go through a 48-hour process and have a choux-pastry cross – “it’s just a little bit different but tastes a lot better,” he says. The aim of the game here is a super soft and spicy bun with plump juicy fruit, he says. “They are full of milk and butter and when toasted they melt in your mouth.”

Fruit: $3.50 for one, $17.50 for six
Chocolate: $4.20 for one, or $21 for four
Open from 7.30am to 4pm Fri–Sun, closed Easter Monday.

Spicy Fruit and Dark and White Chocolate Hot Cross Buns at Chez Dre
“Since I am French, I did not know what hot cross buns were a few years ago,” says head baker Quentin Berthonneau. He’s come a long way since then, and perfected his recipe over three years. Berthonneau says it’s his fruit selection that makes his buns a winner. “We make a fresh orange and ginger puree to put into the buns and I soak my fruits into a mix of spice and water keeping the fruits super moist.” His chocolate buns are a fusion of dark and white chocolate: “I use dark for the flavour and white for the sweetness.”

$3.50 for one, $18 for six
Open 8am to 4pm every day

A Choc-cano Mörk X St David Chocolate Milk and Triple Chocolate X Buns
It’s Mörk’s second year making its triple chocolate hot cross buns. “Very good quality ingredients are key to making a good tasting hot cross bun, and the love,” says pastry chef Kate Robertson. “It’s loaded up with chocolate, the single origin Madagascan chocolate is quite a fruity chocolate, which complements the flavours of the bun, and the dark chocolate ganache acts as a little surprise in the middle.” Last year the team at Mörk was only producing small batches, but because of their success, it’s now producing 200 fresh buns daily.

$6 for one
Open 9am to 5pm, Tues to Sun

The French-Take Hot Cross Bun at Gontran Cherrier
“We are here to innovate a bit,” says baker Nicolas Raiga on developing his own take on the traditional hot cross bun. “I have tried a lot of hot cross buns and most of them are dry – we want to give them a bounce with softness and fluffiness.” This year the French bakery has three buns on the menu, made with a French flour that, according to Raiga, is “more soft and supple on the mouth.” No cocoa powder is used for the hazelnut and chocolate flavour – Raiga uses chocolate instead. “Cocoa powder would have made it dry.” On Good Friday he will release the macadamia and chocolate hot cross buns, “because it is very Australian.”

Fruit and Chocolate: $2.50 for one, $19 for six
Macadamia: $3.90 for one, $21 for six
Open every day from 7am and closing at 3pm on Good Friday, and 2pm on Easter Monday

Have a Halva Bun from Oasis Bakery
Shane Wuls began baking hot cross buns in 2015, and releases a new range each year. “We started with a traditional bun, last year we did the brioche bun and this year we have the halva bun.” Next year’s buns are already on his mind: “I’m thinking a popping candy one.” Wuls hopes the halva buns will bring Oasis Bakery’s Middle Eastern customers a taste of home. “I don’t think anyone has done the halva version, and this way the Middle Eastern people will have something close to their heart.” If peanut butter has a weakness, it’s the way it sticks to the roof of your mouth. There’s no such problem here. The generous halva centre has the consistency of jam, and delivers an intense burst of nuttiness with every bite. Just watch out for spurts landing in your lap.

Hot Cross Brioche: $4.50 for one, $14 for six
Fruit: $2 for one, $7 for six
Pistachio Halva: $3 for one, $10 for six
Open 8am to 9pm on Good Friday, 9am to 5pm on Sat and Sun, 8am to 7pm on Easter Monday.

The Traditional Hot Cross Bun at Phillippa’s
Phillippa’s keeps its hot cross buns traditional with a 23-year-old recipe from the husband and wife team. “We approach the buns exactly the same as we approach our bread, only a small amount of yeast which means we give it a long fermentation time and the flavours are more interesting,” Phillippa Grogan says.

Grogan’s ingredients are locally sourced and carefully prepared. The secret six-spice mix is ground daily, and oranges from a farmer’s market are boiled down three times. The apple glaze is made from apple skin and cores left over from the baker’s cranberry apple muffins. “They’re also not baked to pull apart – they are shaped individually so they bake properly.”

$3.50 for one, $17.50 for six
Open 7.30 am to 5pm on Saturday, open on Easter Monday 7am to 3pm.

A Hot Cross Gelato Bun by Pidapipó, Baker D. Chirico and Hunted+Gathered
Gelateria Pidapipó has joined forces with Baker D. Chirico and chocolatier Hunted+Gathered to create a very special version of the Easter bun. But forget butter, this one is filled with something more decadent. Baker D. Chirico is providing the hazelnut and dark chocolate hot cross bun (using Hunted+Gathered 60 per cent Dominican Republic dark chocolate), and Pidapipo is providing the gelato (made with Hunted+Gathered milk chocolate, gianduia and hazelnut) to go between the buns for a very festive sandwich. If you want to make them at home, Pidapipó is offering buns by the half and dozen with a tub of the gelato, via UberEats. The buns are already on shelves at Baker. D Chirico in South Yarra and Carlton.

A Pidapipó cart will be at both sites on April 13 to turn them into Hot Gelato Cross Bun. Pidapipó’s Carlton and Windsor outlets will sell the complete Easter treats from April 11 to 15. Fifty per cent of proceeds from the sale of these products will go to the Royal Children’s Hospital’s Good Friday Appeal.

$8 for 1
Gelato buns are available at Pidapipo and Baker D. Chirico from April 11 to 15. Baker D. Chirico in Carlton, South Yarra and St Kilda are open 7am to 2pm on Easter Friday, and open from 7am until 5, 4 and 3pm respectively on Saturday, open from 8am to 2pm on Sunday in Carlton and St Kilda only, and all closed on Easter Monday. Pidapipo is open 12pm to 11pm every day over Easter.