Dessert Doughnuts: loving the hole thing

Doughnuts… for dessert?

For breakfast, sure. With coffee, of course.

Maybe even as a late-afternoon snack, if Krispy Kreme and Dunkin’ have their way.

But as the coda to an elegant dinner party – or even a simple supper?

Read on. By the end of this post, you’re going to be DYING for a dessert doughnut – I guarantee it.

Do you like cake?

Of course; who doesn’t like cake? From the age of 1, when probably 99% of us enjoyed mashing a chocolate cupcake and smearing it around the tray of our highchair, cake has been an integral part of the American birthday experience.

But, isn’t this a doughnut recipe?

Well… yes, and no. Baked doughnuts are wolves in sheeps’ clothing: they LOOK like a doughnut – round, hole in the middle – but they’re actually cake, pure and simple.

Which means you can make coconut doughnuts. Chocolate fudge doughnuts. Pumpkin doughnuts (one of our most popular recipes). Cider doughnuts. Most any cake batter – yellow, gingerbread, lemon, even cherry – can be poured into a doughnut pan, and baked up to look like a doughnut.

Carrot cake doughnuts with cream cheese glaze, anyone?

There’s one tool you need for all of these “doughnuts” –

A doughnut pan.

I usually avoid single-use pans. I find they take up more space than they’re worth; I simply don’t use them enough.

But this pan? Honestly, I use it a lot. In fact, I bought two, as most recipes make a dozen cake doughnuts. And they nest neatly together when I’m not using them; I stand them up in one of those tall, skinny under-counter slots, the same place I keep my baking sheets.

Handy for the next cake doughnut project, like my latest favorites: apple doughnuts, banana doughnuts, and strawberry doughnuts. Er, cake. Make that cake doughnuts.

You like banana cake, right? Apple cake? How about strawberry cake? Start with one plain cake batter, then add fruit purée to make the flavored doughnuts of your choice.

From there, just one simple ingredient – ice cream – turns fruit doughnuts into Dessert Doughnuts.

What’s the use of having a hole in the middle of your cake, if not to fill it with ice cream (or mousse, or pudding, or sliced fruit)?

And how can you possibly have cake and ice cream without fudge sauce, or caramel topping, or coffee syrup?

Whipped cream is always welcome. Cherry on top? Go for it.

I’ll leave all that to your own wicked imagination. For now, let’s start with some simple fruit-cake (NOT fruitcake!) doughnuts.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two standard doughnut pans.

If you don’t have doughnut pans, you can bake these in a standard muffin tin; they just won’t have that ice cream-ready hole in the middle.

Beat together the following until smooth:

1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional; good with apple or banana doughnuts
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

Now, usually I’d beat in fruit purée (applesauce, mashed bananas, puréed strawberries) along with these other ingredients. But this time, I wanted to test three different flavors at once – so I made the batter, divided it into three portions, and added 1/2 cup purée to each portion.

When you’re making this recipe, you’ll need 1 1/2 cups purée for the entire recipe. Confused? Hope not, but if so – read the recipe.

Stir in 1 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons (3 3/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour.

Want to make these doughnuts with King Arthur Unbleached Self-Rising Flour? Reduce the salt to 1/2 teaspoon; omit the baking powder, and substitute 2 cups (8 ounces) self-rising flour for the all-purpose flour.

Fill the wells of the doughnut pans nearly to the rim; use about 1/4 cup of batter in each well.

If you’re making muffins, fill each well about 3/4 full; the recipe makes about 15, so you’ll need to bake in two batches (unless you have two muffin pans).

Bake the doughnuts for 15 to 18 minutes (18 minutes for doughnuts made with self-rising flour).

If you’re making muffins, they’ll need to bake for 23 to 25 minutes.

When the doughnuts are done, a cake tester inserted into the center of one should come out clean – or with just a tiny, moist crumb or two clinging to it.

Remove the doughnuts from the oven, and loosen their edges. After about 5 minutes, transfer them to a rack.

See how brown they are on the bottom? Bottoms-up is definitely the way to go when you’re serving.

While the doughnuts are still warm (but no longer fragile), gently shake them, 1 or 2 at a time, in a bag with granulated sugar or cinnamon-sugar. If you’ve made muffins, sprinkle their tops with sugar.

Cool completely, and wrap airtight; store at room temperature for several days. Freeze for longer storage.

To make dessert doughnuts: Fill the hole in each doughnut with your choice of ice cream, pudding, mousse, sliced fruit, etc. Top with sauce; add whipped cream (and nuts, and a cherry) if desired.

Here I’m filling a warm apple doughnut with caramel-swirl ice cream, and topping it with butterscotch sauce. Warm cake, soft ice cream, unctuous sauce…

Didn’t I tell you, by the time you got to the end here, you’d be DYING for a dessert doughnut?

You can make these doughnuts start to finish in just about 30 minutes, including baking. So what’s stopping you?

Lack of a doughnut pan? Well – buy one! Trust me, this will be the best $16.95 you’ve spent on a baking pan in a long time. Go ahead, treat yourself to some fun – aren’t you (and your family) worth it?

Read, bake, and review (please) our recipe for Dessert Doughnuts.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!


  1. Pamela Johnson

    While I like pumpkin being a southern girl I fancy sweet potatoes more. I will tweak this using my favorite flavors that I use in my pie and see how it taste as a doughnut. Oooo!!, I am excited to see how it turns out. Thanks PJ for the recipe.

  2. MicheleGlasgow

    I was wondering how to make apple crumb baked donuts? Bought the pans, making pumpkin, but apple crumb. The crumb is the question??

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Michele, I’d made the apple version of our Dessert Doughnuts, then simply add streusel topping before popping into the oven. You might try sprinkling a bit into the pan before spooning in the batter, then sprinkling some on top, too. You might end up making 13 or 14 doughnuts instead of 12, due to the streusel taking up room in the pan; but if you only want to make 12, simply limit the streusel to the top. If you don’t have a favorite streusel recipe, try the streusel from this pie – it’s a nice, basic crumb streusel. Good luck! PJH

  3. Melanie

    I have two of these doughnut pans and use them all the time. I’ve used the dessert recipe (above) with all kinds of fruit purees: banana, pear, homemade apple sauce, apple and prune baby food. The recipe is very forgiving and I am constantly tinkering. My current version includes a few tbsp of ground oatmeal, reducing the oil and sugar slightly and sometimes using up to 50% WWW flour. We haven’t had a bad one yet. The pumpkin doughnut recipe is also fantastic. I use my muffin scoop to fill the pans, just do it slowly and wipe up any drips.

    PJH – can you please tell me if the strawberry flavour came through? I’m imagining it (or a blueberry puree) might need added extract to make the flavour come through – if Lorann makes such a thing? I’m thinking of those Dunkin Doughnuts blueberry cake doughnuts (or a cherry-chip cake)… which are certainly boosted in flavour artificially (and deliciously).
    Hi Melanie,
    Yes, the flavor comes through in a nice tangy, berry way. If you want it to really say STRAWBERRY try a touch of Lorann Strawberry Extra Strong Flavor. Just a few drops would do it. ~ MaryJane

  4. Annie B -

    Made them for Easter dinner dessert! Used applesauce and cinnamon and topped with vanilla peanut butter swirl ice cream, homemade chocolate sauce, strawberries and whipped cream! Baked them after dinner – gave us all time to have room for dessert.

    Great idea, Annie, baking them after dinner – as you say, gives everyone a chance to let out the belt a few notches, PLUS they’re nice and warm. Genius! PJH

  5. jlandis10

    Can the same concept be used with the mini donut pan, using less of everything? I have guests who are always wanting tiny slices of dessert.

    Yes, absolutely – same batter, bake for a shorter amount of time. Enjoy – PJH


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