Hong Kong Style Cocktail Buns

One of my favourite Chinese bakery buns are Cocktail Buns, sweet buns with a buttery coconut filling. I would say they are a very iconic staple of any Chinese bakery and I’ve made them plenty of times in my kitchen but I thought I would share the recipe so you can try these buns yourselves!

Cocktail buns (雞尾包) literally translates to chicken tail bun. However cocktail buns were apparently created in the 1950s when a baker ground up the unsold buns from the previous day, added sugar and coconut to make a new filling and they were given the name cocktail as the baker mixed ingredients like a bartender! They traditionally are finished with stripes of a sweet cookie paste and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. They are also usually batch baked which means they are baked so that the buns are touching and they are pulled apart to eat them; I love doing this as you can see the incredibly light and fluffy texture from the tangzhong. It is also possible to bake these as individual buns if you would prefer.

If you are currently struggling to locate desiccated coconut and don’t want to head out to the shops, then you can buy it online from Buy Whole Foods Online. Clicking here will direct you to their site via an affiliate link. By clicking the link, I will receive a small commission from any purchases you make from their site but the price remains the same for you! This is part of my affiliate policy and you can read more details about it in the ‘Contact Me’ page of my blog.

Check out my other bread recipes that use the tangzhong method:

Matcha Swirl Tangzhong Bread

Sweet Potato Babka

Sweet Potato and Taro Buns

Tangzhong Chinese Tear and Share Buns

For the tangzhong:

  • 30g strong white bread flour
  • 150ml cold water
  • 25ml runny honey

For the bread dough:

  • 420g strong white bread flour
  • 7g fast action dried yeast
  • 25g granulated sugar
  • 7g table salt
  • 1 large egg
  • About 100ml warm water
  • 40g margarine or very soft unsalted butter

For the filling:

  • 120g margarine
  • 50g granulated sugar
  • 30g plain flour
  • 40g custard powder
  • 75g desiccated coconut

For the decoration:

  • 10g margarine
  • 5g granulated sugar
  • 9g plain flour
  • Whole milk, for glazing
  • Sesame seeds, for sprinkling

To make the tangzhong, mix together the flour and water in a small saucepan until there are no lumps. Place over a medium heat and cook until it has thickened to a paste, stirring constantly to prevent lumps forming. Leave the tangzhong to cool while you prepare the other ingredients (see next step). Once prepped, add in the honey to the tangzhong and stir until combined. Add 50ml of the warm water for the bread dough, stirring until smooth.

In a mixing bowl, add in the strong white bread flour. Place the yeast to one side of the bowl, the sugar and salt to another side of the bowl. Use your finger to mix them into the flour nearby and make a well in the centre. Add the egg into the well and use a spoon or your fingers to beat the egg, gradually incorporating more flour as you mix. Open the well up more and pour in the tangzhong mixture as well as a splash of the remaining water. Gradually bring everything together into a rough raggedy dough. Turn out the mixture onto a lightly floured work surface and knead the dough together until it forms a dough that is soft, smooth and workable but not sticky. This should take around 3 to 4 minutes. Flatten out the dough slightly.

Spread the margarine or unsalted butter on top of the dough and fold the dough on top of itself and continue to knead the dough, incorporating the margarine evenly, adding more flour when the dough becomes sloppy and hard to handle. The dough has been kneaded enough when you shape the dough into a ball and you press a lightly floured finger in and it springs back – it should take a good 5 minutes of kneading once the fat has been fully incorporated. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover with clingfilm and leave to prove until doubled in size, about one hour on a warm day.

To make the cocktail bun filling, beat together the margarine with the sugar until incorporated. Mix in the plain flour, custard powder and desiccated coconut until the mixture comes together into a ball of dough. Chill the mixture for about 30 minutes, covered. Divide the filling into 14 equal pieces (they should weigh around 23g) and shape them into thumb-shaped pieces. Keep these covered until you are ready to use them.

When the dough has proved, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough for 1 minute to knock back and then divide the dough equally into 14 pieces. Working with 2 balls of dough at a time and keeping the rest covered to prevent them from drying out, roll out the balls of dough into an oval shape (see photo). Place one portion of the filling onto the bottom half of the dough lengthwise. Roll up from the bottom over the filling and all the way up.

Turn over the dough and pinch the seams together. Press the ends to seal and tuck them onto the seam side. Use your hands to shape the bun into a cocktail bun shape. Place onto a lined baking tray in two lines (each line should have 7 buns) leaving about 1cm space between each bun. Cover the buns with clingfilm. Repeat with the rest of the buns until all the balls of dough and filling has been used up. Leave the buns to prove for about 45 minutes or until doubled in size.


While the buns are proving, make the cookie dough topping by mixing together the margarine, granulated sugar and plain flour in a small bowl. If the dough feels too thick to pass through a piping bag, add a drop of milk to loosen. Place into a piping bag and cut off a small hole. Set aside until needed.

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. When the buns have proved, brush the surfaces of the buns with milk. Pipe two lines of the cookie dough on each bun (see photo) and sprinkle a small number of sesame seeds between the cookie dough lines. Bake the buns for around 18 to 20 minutes until the buns are golden brown and still soft. Leave the buns to cool down for about 20 minutes before moving to a cooling rack to cool fully. To eat the buns, tear them off and enjoy them warm. Store the buns in an airtight container where they will keep for about 3 – 4 days.


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