In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water. Add a pinch of sugar and set aside for 10 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons of the flour to the yeast and mix well to create the sponge. Cover with a towel and let rest in a warm spot for 20 minutes or till it starts to get bubbly.
Place the remaining flour in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the yeast starter, egg, butter, vanilla, sugar, salt, raisins and lemon zest. Combine the ingredients by mixing with a spatula, incorporating the flour slowly. You will get a soft dough (make sure it's not too sticky or too dry). If it's too sticky, add more flour, a tablespoon at a time and a teaspoon of water if it's too dry.
Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead by hand or in a mixer with a dough hook until you've formed a very smooth ball of dough. Using a baking spray or oil, grease a bowl lightly, place the ball inside of the bowl, and cover with a towel. Let rest in a warm place for about 1 hour so that it will double in size.
Take the dough out of the bowl and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 8 even pieces. Shape them into round balls, place the dough onto a baking sheet with parchment paper, leaving 2 inches in between each ball. Cover with a towel and let them rise in a warm spot one last time for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350F. After the dough has rested, bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown on top.
While baking, make the syrup by bringing the 2 tablespoons of sugar and 2 tablespoons of water to a boil, then turn off the heat. Brush this syrup onto the hot buns as soon as they come out. Doing this while they are hot will allow the syrup to dry. Let the buns cool completely before cutting them open and filling with whipped cream.