Iced Buns with Spice and Citrus

This is a British classic which was prompted by Baked To Imperfection. I’ve made her recipe gluten-free and added spices (I just can’t help myself). The usual optional alternatives for flavourings/colours are in the footnotes.

If you need fewer buns, please do reduce the ingredients proportionally (but these are 1-2 bite sized as-is).

Makes: 24-32 buns depending on size

For the buns:

  • 500g gluten-free plain flour, plus loads extra for kneading
  • 2 tsp xanthan gum
  • A 7g sachet of dried yeast
  • A few quick grinds of sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground cardamom (3-4 green pods, seeds removed and heartily crushed)
  • 1/8 tsp ground allspice
  • 50g unsalted butter, cubed and softened
  • 2 tablespoons soft light brown sugar
  • 100ml (105g if weighing) whole milk, warmed to tepid
  • 1 large egg (62-70g when weighed in the shell), beaten
  • 200ml (200g if weighing) tepid tap water

For the icing:

  • 1 unwaxed lemon: finely grated zest, and juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp ground white pepper (crushed pink peppercorns, if you have them, are excellent here)
  • 1/8 tsp ground mace (or ground nutmeg)
  • 300g icing sugar


  • 2 baking trays
  • Baking/parchment paper to line both trays
  • 2 mixing bowls: 1 large and 1 medium; and a small bowl for the beaten egg
  • A measuring jug (if not weighing liquid ingredients)
  • Mortar and pestle (for cardamom seeds, if you don’t have ground cardamom)
  • Fine citrus grater
  • Citrus juicer
  • Clingfilm
  • 2 clean tea towels, slightly dampened (very hot water, & thoroughly wrung out)
  • Cooling rack
  • Oven-safe plate
  • Manual whisk
  • Piping bag and nozzle (optional for garnish)


  1. Add the flour, gum, yeast, salt, and spices to a large mixing bowl (keep the salt separate in the bowl from the gum/yeast prior to mixing), and make a well in the centre. Add the softened butter, sugar, milk, beaten egg, and tepid water into the well. Mix with your hands until you have a very soft and wet dough.
  2. Turn on your oven to the very lowest setting, let it heat, then turn it off with the door closed (see Rising footnote) whilst you continue with Step 3.
  3. Heavily flour a work surface and your hands, and knead the dough for around 5 minutes, adding more flour as needed until it’s not sticking to your hands, and you can make a smooth ball.
  4. Put the dough back into the bowl and cover with clingfilm. Put in the oven to prove until it’s doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  5. Remove the dough from the oven. Turn the oven on again to the lowest setting until it’s heated, then turn it off again (see Rising footnote). Line your baking trays with parchment.
  6. Lightly flour your work surface and your hands, and knead the dough again gently for 1-2 minutes. Tear off and roll small balls 30g (for 32 total) or 40g (for 24 total) each and place on the prepared baking sheets 3x4. If you like, you can squidge the balls into oblong shapes for ‘finger’ buns.
  7. Cover each baking sheet with a lightly dampened tea towel, and put back into the oven to prove for a second time, about 1 hour or so. Turn the trays (this also lets out excess steam) halfway through. Remove the trays from the oven when the buns have almost doubled in size, and remove the tea towels.
  8. Heat the oven to 180 C (160 C fan-assisted). When it’s fully hot, put the trays back in the oven to bake for 10-15 minutes (turn trays halfway through for even baking). When the buns are golden brown and you hear that ‘hollow’ sound when tapping on the bottom of a couple of buns, remove the trays from the oven, and transfer to a cooling rack.


  1. When the buns have baked, turn the oven off. Spread the lemon zest on an oven-safe plate, breaking up any clumps, and leave in the oven – door ajar – to dry out as the oven cools.
  2. Manually whisk the vanilla, spices, icing sugar, and 2 tablespoons lemon juice in a wide bowl until really well combined, and leave in the fridge until the buns have fully cooled.
    Use your own judgment on how thick/thin you want it – add more juice 1/2 teaspoon at a time to make it looser, or add more icing sugar if you want it thicker.
  3. Transfer the buns to a serving plate/platter, and dip/twist the tops in the icing. Sprinkle over the dried lemon zest to garnish.

Notes on Rising
If it’s a warm day, you don’t have to faff about with turning the oven on and off at the lowest setting.
Just leave the dough in a warm, draught-free place to prove both times.

Alternatively, to save time on the day of baking, you could let the first prove happen overnight (Buns Steps 1-4). Pick up again at Step 5 the next morning. If doing this, zest the lemon and leave to dry on a plate on the countertop overnight – you don’t need to dry it in the oven this way.

Citrus Zest / Alternate Flavours & Colours
A) This recipe works equally well with orange zest/juice instead of lemon in the icing.
B) You could use limes (I’d advocate two). Since coffee and lime are such great taste partners, I suggest dissolving 1/2 tsp instant coffee granules in heated lime juice for the icing. Allow extra chilling time (or, put the icing in the freezer) if doing this.
C) If you have gel food colouring, add it to Icing Step 2. Using yellow with lemon is a nice touch, but you could go wild and add purple; or, green with orange zest/juice; or, pink with lime zest/juice. Be creative!  🙂

Alternate Garnish
If you have a piping bag and a nozzle, you could also pipe the icing over each bun for a more ‘finished’ look.


Let me know what you think ...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s