Kiwi bakers gear up for Easter, the busiest time of the year

Hot cross buns have evolved from a religious tradition to become as symbolic of Easter as eggs and bunnies.

Bakers all across the country work round the clock to be ready for the busiest day for Hot Cross Bun sales - Thursday.

"No sleep - just go, go, go. Just adrenaline, and then Easter - die. Maybe rise again after!" joked Ima Cuisine owner Yael Shochat.

Ima on Fort St in in downtown Auckland is busy doing what bakers up and down the country have prepared all year for.

"It's insane. We're not going to sleep tonight - we start early today, finished late last night - we're gonna go all the way 'til Thursday afternoon. And then, thank god, we have four days off!" says owner Yael Shochat.

Her hot cross buns have just been named the world's best by JetStar's in-flight magazine - partly for their crosses, which are custard instead of the standard flour and water.

"I found this book and I thought 'wow, that's a really good idea!' and it's just gone mad since then. It's just built, every year bigger and bigger. This year it's crazy," she says.

Ms Shochat and her team made 1000 for Wednesday, and have made 2500 for Thursday - but that's nothing compared to the supermarket giants. New World estimates it will be selling 2.5 million hot cross buns on Thursday.

That's almost 85,456kg of flour, 34,996kg of sultanas, and 6,514kg of caster sugar.

It's a long way from what started out as a Christian tradition to mark the crucifixion of Jesus and the end of Lent.

"There's the bread, the bread of Easter, of the resurrection - so bread's already a thing with Christianity, with a cross on it, and then I think the bun's evolved with fruits and spices and all sorts of other things," says Arobake Master Baker Maximillian Fuhrer.

After 35 years of making hot cross buns, Mr Fuhrer says it's still surprising most people stick to buying them for Good Friday.

"Businesses want to make money, so they get on anything I suppose, any tradition. And it just grows. People like hot cross buns, you don't have to be religious or anything," he says.

A Catholic, Mr Fuhrer starts making his buns on Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. He says despite New Zealand's secularity it's always good idea to know what they represent.

"It's healthy to be informed, whether you agree or disagree," he says.

And with 5000 to make before 5am, it's another sleepless night for him too - all so the nation can get its sticky, sweet fix.