If you walk through the door of Ima Cuisine on Fort St during the month of March, you are sure to be greeted by the fragrant aroma of their highly coveted hot cross buns.

So delicious are they that, according to Jetstar's in-flight magazine, Ima Cuisine produces the "best hot cross buns" in the world, and has a cult following to prove it: the Fort St institution sells over 500 hot cross buns a day and is preparing to sell over 2000 on Thursday for Easter.

Meanwhile former street press publication Paperboy lauded them the best Easter buns in Auckland and Viva gave them the top spot on its list of the city's best.

Watching the decadent morsels being hand crafted in the restaurant's front window, it's easy to see the appeal.


If you arrive early enough, you'll catch a glimpse of the mastermind behind the buns, Yael Shochat, working away on her creations.

When we pay a visit earlier today, it's clear she's in it for the love of it, emerging from the kitchen with custard in her hair, flour on her apron and an uncanny ability to make you feel like you've just walked into your own mother's kitchen.

"This year we will make 2500 for Thursday and it's amazing, you come here on Thursday morning and it's like a sea of hot cross buns," Shochat says.

One small bite and it's easy to understand why people show up en mass to get their fix.

So what is it that really sets these buns a part?

Shochat believes it's all down to her ingredients. She substitutes sugar for honey and hand grinds fresh spices from scratch.

"The ingredients we put in them, [and the fact that] they are made by hand. That's what makes them so special. The fact that we don't sweeten them with sugar. We sweeten them with honey and we take very high grade spices and grind them fresh. And the custard -the custard is what makes it."

With such a buzz about her buns, you might expect Shochat to hold her recipe as a closely guarded secret, but she shares it openly, even providing tips and tricks along the way.

So do they really deserve the acclaim? A quick taste test suggests yes, they do: They are big, moist, fragrant and topped with what's certainly the most delicious vanilla custard this writer has ever tasted.

But when asked if Shochat thinks they are the "best in the world", the humble baker responds: "In my world they are."

You can place an order at Ima up until Wednesday. Otherwise, here's how to make them at home.

Ima Cuisine's hot cross buns

Makes 24

For the buns
• 120g fresh yeast
• 1 litre milk
• 350g honey
• 1.7kg flour
• 350g soft butter
• 6g freshly ground cinnamon
• 6g freshly ground nutmeg
• 2g ground cloves
• 800g currants
• 2 cups mixed peel

For the cross
• 130g corn flour
• 150g sugar
• 1 tsp salt
• 5 eggs
• 1 litre milk
• 1 vanilla bean (split and scraped)
• 70g butter

1. Mix the fresh yeast, milk, honey, flour and the soft butter in a bowl.

2. Tip dough onto a floured surface, knead and then leave to rise for one hour in a warm spot.

3. Once risen, add salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, currants and mixed peel, and lightly knead until evenly distributed.

4. Divide the dough into 24 and round into even buns, lay out on a lined baking tray and leave to prove for a further 30 minutes, until expanded.

5. For the cross, mix the corn flour, sugar, salt and eggs into a paste.

6. In a pot, bring the milk and vanilla bean to a boil, then add the butter and paste and continue to cook, whisking until thick.

7. Using a piping bag, pipe the cross mixture in straight lines across the risen buns.

8. Bake the buns at 180C for 25 minutes.

9. If desired, glaze with sugar syrup once out of the oven.