Chinese-style Cocktail Buns

A staple of the Chinese bakery is the Cocktail Bun. This Chinese bun, found in every Hong Kong bakery, is an enriched sweet bun with a buttery sweet coconut filling. It is said that this bun came about when a baker didn’t want to throw away any unsold breads so he crumbled it up with some sugar and coconut to create a filling and the Cocktail Bun was born.


The recipe for the filling usually includes milk powder – and this does tend to be a common ingredient in a lot of Chinese baking. It adds creaminess but I have struggled to find milk powder in supermarkets around my area so I have found custard powder is a good replacement adding that creamy flavour as well as making the filling really golden yellow.

Traditionally, these buns are long and are piped with a paste similar to that use on a hot cross bun. They are batch-baked and this means that they are placed near to each other on the baking tray so when they expand, they join together and they form 1 long bread which can be easily split into individual buns. These buns are always finished off with a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

I like using plain flour as opposed to strong flour; I prefer the texture of the bread using plain. The gluten content is only up to 2% more in strong flour.


The other bread in the picture is a Strawberry Cheesecake Bun. The recipe for that will come out later this week.

For the bread dough

500g plain flour

100g sugar

1 tsp salt

180ml whole milk

60g margarine

2 x 7g sachets of fast-action dried yeast

1 egg

For the cocktail bun filling

90g margarine

50g sugar

½ tsp vanilla extract

20g custard powder

32g self-raising flour

45g desiccated coconut

Sesame seeds, to decorate

Heat up the milk and margarine in the microwave until the fat has melted. Allow to cool to body temperature and add the 2 sachets of yeast. Stir and allow the yeast to bubble up for about 10 minutes.

For the bread dough, pour the flour into a large bowl and add the sugar and salt to one side of the bowl. Use your finger to stir through and make a well in the centre. Add in the egg with all of the liquid and use your hands to bring the mix into a ball of dough – it shouldn’t be too sticky or too dry.

Once the dough has combined nicely, transfer to a floured work surface and knead by hand for 10 minutes. The dough should not be sticking to the surface neither should it be crumbly. Test whether the dough is kneaded enough by pressing a finger into the dough and it should spring back fully.

Place into the bowl and cover with clingfilm and prove until doubled in size.

Meanwhile make the coconut filling. Place all the ingredients into a bowl and beat together with a wooden spoon until the filling is even, golden yellow, flecked with plenty of coconut and is thick.

When the dough has proved, knock back the air and divide the dough into 50g portions (you should get 18). Roll out each of the dough balls into a rectangle slightly longer than it is wide. Place a heaped teaspoon of the coconut filling onto the bottom third of the rectangle. Leave as a quenelle shape, do not press it down.

Fold down the top third so you have two thirds lying on top of each other. Then fold over the bottom third dough over the coconut filling and around the bottom. Press down slightly to flatten, fold the open edges on the bottom and shape into a rectangle which measures about 8x4cm. Place on a baking tray lined with parchment. Put 3 of the buns near each other, leaving a 4cm gap.

Repeat with all the buns, and cover with clingfilm and prove for a further hour or so until doubled in size. The buns should almost be touching. When you are ready to bake, sprinkle the buns with a few sesame seeds and place the buns into the oven as it is preheating to 170°C. Bake for 18 minutes until the buns are browned well.


Cool on a wire rack for an hour before eating. I recommend microwaving the buns for 10 seconds to warm up, they taste much better that way.

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