Thursday, August 12, 2010

Baked Cake Donuts

We're going to pretend that the wrinkled cloth looks super-artistic
and that I'm not too lazy to iron. Okay?!

We're baking donuts today!

Yes, I know we did donuts last week and yes I know it is going to be hard to top Thomas Keller's donuts but I think there should be special blog-space allowances made for donuts.

After all, donuts are good.

But are baked donuts good?

To tell you the truth, I kind of doubted it. I had an itching suspicion that all these magical pan-produced baked donuts popping up in the food-blogosphere were poor imitations of the real thing. A gimmick to sell me a pan I didn't need. After all, a donut without the oil is almost like a cupcake without the frosting.

Too cynical? Maybe. Or maybe I was on the defensive, trying to avoid yet another specialty baking pan. I am running out of places to put them!

Well, cynical or no, my resistance broke down one day while shopping at Sur la Table. Yes, I'm mentioning them a lot this week, I'm starting to sound like a paid sponsor (ha, if only). Anyway, they had a display set up with the pans, pretty donuts and those blasted containers of sprinkles I cannot resist. In a moment of weakness, seduced by the sirens call of pretty pastries with sprinkles on top, I dropped the $10 and bought the pan. Figuring, if anything, I could do a blog-review if it was awful.

So today I gave the pan a test drive. I had heard Sur la Table's recipe was the best when it came to baked donuts, so I went with it (with a few minor adjustments). To give these donuts a fighting chance, I used the best quality ingredients I had: fresh nutmeg and substituting homemade vanilla sugar for granulated.

Turns out, these donuts have something going for them. Okay, three things going for them:
  1. They're easy. If you're kitchen savvy enough to make pancakes, you can make these donuts.
  2. They're quick. I had my first batch done just over 30 minutes. Total. Really.
  3. They're actually good. The only thing that separates them from their fried cake brethren is how light they are and we're not just talking about the calories.
So I was wrong about dismissing the pans. They're alright. In fact, I may have to grab the mini donut pan too (sigh). I actually like them and what I really like is how quick and easy they are.

Perfect to whip up for quick weekend breakfasts for Mr. Humble. Butter him up… right before I load him down with chores.

That poor, poor man.

Baked Cake Donuts
adapted from Sur la Table
yields one dozen

2 cups cake flour, sifted
3/4 cup vanilla sugar or granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk*
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons butter, melted

*note on the buttermilk: Since the lifespan of drosophila appears epic in comparison to the shelf life of liquid buttermilk, I keep the powdered type on hand. Many grocery stores will carry it on their baking aisles or with the powdered milk. You can also find it online. To substitute Saco buttermilk powder, use 3/4 cup water and 3 tablespoons buttermilk powder for 3/4 cup buttermilk.

Preheat your oven to 425°F.

Prep your donut pan with a little non-stick cooking spray.

In a bowl, combine the melted butter, buttermilk and beaten eggs. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the cake flour, vanilla sugar, baking powder, nutmeg and salt. Pour in the wet ingredients and mix until just combined.

Spoon the batter into the wells of you pan (roughly 2/3rds full). An easier/cleaner option is to pour the batter into a ziplock bag and snip the corner or use a piping bag and pipe the batter into the pan.

Bake for 7-9 minutes, or until the tops of the donuts spring back when lightly touched. Do not over bake.

Allow to cool in the pan for a couple minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

Finish the donuts by shaking them in bags of powdered or cinnamon sugar. Or glaze them with chocolate.

Chocolate Glaze

1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon corn syrup
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon water

Microwave for 10 second bursts, stirring in-between, until melted.

Dip the donuts into the glaze and set on a rack to dry.

Donuts are best served fresh.

For folks without a Sur la Table in their area, Norpro and Foxrun make similar pans that can be found online.



  1. These look delicious. I had the same thoughts about the donut pan. Now I think I want one too!

  2. These look yummy! Do you think I could use Splenda or another sugar substitute?

  3. I still have steamed chocolate pudding left over from yesterday so I won't make the donuts. today. haha!!


  4. Jackie,

    Yea, I think could substitute granulated Splenda for the sugar. The sugar's only role in this recipe is as a sweetener.

    However, I would mind Splenda's baking directions for using it:

    "For cookies, puddings and custards, use an additional teaspoon of vanilla extract per one cup of SPLENDA® Granulated Sweetener to enhance flavor. For quick breads and muffins, add one or two tablespoons of honey or molasses to boost flavor and provide some moistness."

    I'd treat this recipe like a quick bread (since that is what cake essentially is). Teaspoon of light honey would be wise, fructose is great for keeping baked goods moist.

  5. i have often wondered if baked donuts were good myself. glad to hear that they are...and the pan's only $10? i may have to get one!

  6. Do you think they could be made without the special pan? I know a cupcake pan isn't quite the same, but I guess they could be baked jelly doughnuts... I would prefer avoiding the purchase as I have to de-gluten and de-dairy the recipe first.

  7. The batter is very thin (think: pancake batter), so the pan is needed to make them into the donut shape.

    However you could certainly put the batter into muffin or mini-muffin pan and bake them.

    Of course, if you put baked cake donuts batter into a muffin pan you end up with... cupcakes?

  8. Now, what's the difference between cake donuts and... the other kind of donut? And which is which? I can never remember whether the airy, puffy ones are cake, or if the solid-er ones are cake. I think an argument could be made for either one to make sense, so I've never been able to keep them straight. Which are these? (Either way, they look wonderful...)

  9. How wonderful, The first thing I noticed was the wrinkly cloth and I did think *how artsy* he he

  10. There are basically two kinds of donuts: Cake & Yeast.

    Cake donuts typically use baking powder to get their lift, whereas yeast donuts use yeast (surprise, surprise!).

    Cake donuts tend to be heavier and have a denser crumb (cake-like). Yeast donuts are often large, soft and fluffy (bread-like).

    While these are cake donuts, they're lighter and fluffier than your average fried cake donut. Though, they do not have the same texture as a yeast donut.

  11. I'v also recently made baked cake donuts and fried cake donuts! I think I like the fried better.

    In the UK you can get a Tala donut set which has a regular sized pan, a mini pan, and a pan for filled for about £10 from Tesco. It's marketed to kids but I thought it worked great!

  12. These look great! Funny that we made the same flavors, we must like the same stuff. The mini ones are great. A nice small treat when you want something sweet.

  13. Oh, that's torturous today. I'm so hungry and donuts look so good!!! I'll be driving by a Krispie Kreme today...I may have to stop. Way to go. LOL

  14. Ok now I'm going to have to steal this recipe. My 2 attempts at making baked donuts failed, especially since the 1st attempt was half the calories..never good.

  15. Thank you so much for this! It answered my questions perfectly. I will try it out this weekend. I'm very glad to hear that the sugar only serves to sweeten because I have to leave it out, or substitute it with honey (thanks for your interesting observation about moistness), or fructose because my husband's diabetic.

  16. Hi, I've been reading your blog for a while now and I think it's fantastic! Although I must admit, I have yet to make any of your recipes because I've been away at school and had no money for ingredients (or even, access to a well equipped kitchen!). But that's soon going to change... But I must ask (because I'm English and easily confused, not sure if the two are connected) what is cake flour?? :S

  17. Thank you! I have been searching for the perfect baked donut recipe and everything seems to have its flaws. Your happiness is enough for me to trust this recipe, I can't wait to try!

  18. Cake flour is a low protein flour milled from soft wheat. It is finely milled and heavily bleached to help break down the what protein is in the flour. Protein is great for breads as it promotes gluten development, but in cake, too much protein can make your baked goods heavy.

    Cake flour in the US is around 6-8% protein. Pastry Flour is roughly 9%. All purpose is between 9-12% and bread and whole wheat flours range between 12-15%.

    In some parts of Europe you can determine protein by the ash content. The flours good for making cake will have low ash counts (For German flours this is less than or equal to 405 and 40 for French flours).

    Mr. P, who is also English, once mentioned to me that cake flour wasn't readily available in his part of the world. He HAS baked with low protein Japanese flour, but I'm guessing that was purchased over seas.

    You might be able to order it from or other online retailers that specialize in hard to find goods. Just make sure it is wheat flour and not some other low protein flour (like potato etc).

    You can substitute regular flour in the recipe, just keep in mind it won't produce the ideal end result. They'll be a bit heavier than donuts made with cake flour.

    Hope this helps!

  19. This looks like an awsome recipe. I also read your Thomas Keller recipe, too. I am going to definitely try his recipe. I actually just went to his Bouchon Bakery in N.Y. a few weeks ago. The baked goods were insanely tasty. No donuts, though.

    I really enjoy your blog. Thanks for sharing.

  20. Wow! :o)

    When I bought my donut trays, rather a large number of years ago, I was disappointed. The recipe they came with made donut shaped scones, and I could find nothing better. They have been hidden at the bottom of my cupboard ever since.

    This morning, I dug them out and tried this recipe since I had some yogurt left over, which makes a good buttermilk substitute.

    This recipe is awesome! :o) The donuts were light and fluffy and surprisingly donut like! :o) My partner was *very* impressed and is now eyeing up the rest of the batch! ;o)

    Thank you!! :o)

  21. Does this work well with Whole Wheat flour? And what about honey as a sweetener?

  22. Lepuppy,

    Hate to say it, but this is one recipe where whole wheat and honey would be rather disastrous in terms of texture.

    It would probably be better to find/modify a yeast doughnut recipe for those ingredients.

  23. Lepuppy,

    How about these? Just came across them on Tastespotting:

  24. I'm so glad I'm not the only person too lazy to iron my linens before I shoot a photograph. I was just introduced to your blog today. Great stuff, you're very talented. LOVE the onesie cookies.

  25. I made a batch of these yesterday. The only change I made was to use vanilla extract instead of the vanilla sugar. I used a muffin tin - while technically not donuts, I was more interested in the flavour. I brushed mine in butter and coated them with cinnamon sugar, and they were definitely comparable to fried donuts - yum!

  26. talk about late to the party....I made these today. Had to use a mini-bundt pan instead of a donut pan, and I substitued 1/4 cup of cocoa powder for 1/4 cup of flour for chocolate donuts. Chocolate glaze of course! absolutely yummy!

  27. anyone made a GFDF version yet? these look amazing!!

  28. Made these this morning--Yummy. Especially enjoy the glaze--stays nice and shiny:)

  29. The trouble I am having with baked donnughts is they all seem to taste like a cupcake but in the shape of a donught. Do these taste like donughts? They certainly look great!

  30. These baked cake donuts taste like... well, cake. They just lack the denser heft of a fried cake donut (they never had a chance to soak up oil). Cake donuts are naturally similar to cake and cupcakes as they share a similar batter. The only real difference is cooking method. Cake donuts are fried and cupcakes are baked. When you bake a cake donut they become even more similar to a cupcake.

    Perhaps you're thinking of a classic yeasted donut? Something like a maple bar or jelly filled donut? Then you'll find cake donuts (baked or otherwise) share little resemblance to those in taste and texture. If you're looking for baked yeasted donut recipes, there are several in the Top Pot Donuts cookbook, and Donuts book by Lara Ferroni.

  31. Thanks for you excellent response. I am a fan of both yeasted and cake doughnuts, though I prefer cake. I was expecting the baked cake doughtnuts to be more similar to fried cake doughnuts. I guess I didnt´realize just how much the method of cooking affects the taste. sigh. It was really wishful thinking really.
    Thanks again. Love your blog

  32. We made these this morning. The nutmeg was a bit strong for the kids. But I loved the texture and spring. We will be using this to tweak for our family's tastes and maybe adding blueberries and more sugar, cutting back on the nutmeg. Thanks so much for posting!


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