Category Archives: Cake Doughnuts

How to Make Cake Doughnuts

Is a fry pan full of bubbling cake doughnuts not a joy to behold, my friends? If not, I put it to you that you are dead. Or vegan.

Oh, I kid. You know, baseball players get a very bad rap. They’re not respected as athletes, though it’s widely claimed that the act of merely hitting the ball is the most difficult single feat in all of sports. Something similar can be said about doughnut making. It’s considered a rather plebian act by pastry standards. Yet frying doughnuts well — and consistently — is one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done in the realm of cooking. But more on that later.

Start by assembling your ingredients. Combine your dry ingredients in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.

Stir them all together, then add the very soft butter.

Stir on low for a minute or so to fully incorporate the fat.

Next, combine all your (warm) wet ingredients, including sour cream, into a pouring device and give them a good whisking.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients in the mixer and run the machine on medium-low for 30 seconds or so. Scrape the bowl down.

Don’t think you need to scrape? Have a look at this, PLENTY of dry stuff down there:

Mix another 30 seconds, scrape, then a final 30 and scrape once more for good measure. The batter should be mostly smooth and shiny:

Allow it to sit for 10 minutes while you bring your oil up to temperature. ALWAYS have a fire extinguisher at the ready when you fry. Notice that you want enough oil in the pan to cover the bulb of your thermometer while still leaving plenty of headroom (the oil level will rise when the doughnuts go in. Heat the oil to 380 degrees Fahrenheit.

For those interested in seeing how a professional cake doughnut apparatus works, I’ll start by using my Belshaw Type K Depositor. These things are expensive when they’re new (anything for business is), but can often be found used for about $100. Notice the end of the depositor goes right into the hot oil (to prevent the batter ring from changing shape as it falls).

I put in half a dozen, and the rings slowly float up to the top (note: if your oil is too deep the doughnuts will flip on their way up, and the torsion will cause cracks…one more argument for shallow oil).

Let the doughnuts fry for 45 seconds on one side, until you see little bubbly spots beginning to emerge on the undersides:

Then give them a turn with tongs (pros use drumsticks to turn a whole fryer full of rings one after the other, but I don’t recommend that for home). Fry for another 45 seconds…

…and remove to a screen for draining. There. Pretty close to perfect rings.

Now then, if you don’t happen to have a Belshaw Type K Depositor lying around, you can still make cake doughnuts the old-fashioned way, as so-called “drop” doughnuts. Just scoop up about a tablespoon and with your other finger (mine is clicking a photo just now), push the dollop into the oil. Repeat until the pan is mostly full. (Did I say ALWAYS pay careful attention to your oil temperature? Do.)

You’ll want to fry them until they’re a little darker than the doughnuts, since they’ll be a bit thicker. Say 1 minute per side.

The result will not be perfect rings, but they will be these, which, trust me friends, do not stink.

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The sophisticated doughnut

I like sprinkles every bit as much as the next guy, but sometimes even the working man’s delight needs to be taken uptown for the day. Pictured above is one of my old best-sellers: the lemon-lavender doughnut. Lemon and lavender were a hip combo six or eight years ago, but I’m pretty sure I was the only one putting them together in a doughnut icing. This really made some waves — in fact a fellow from Krispy Kreme once even offered to buy the recipe from me! I refused, but then they never would have been able to pull it off. No corporate purchasing agent would ever have sprung for lavender blossoms, not in a million years!

To make it, start with two tablespoons and a teaspoon of lavender infusion (from the infusions tutorial). Add to that eight ounces of powdered sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of lemon extract and four drops of yellow food coloring. Dip and top with curly strips of lemon zest (not strictly necessary, but a very nice addition).

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The chocolate doughnut

This one is a no-brainer, save for one very important detail: never (really, never) use high quality chocolate to top a doughnut. Why not? Because truly good eating chocolate deserves to be eaten on its own. Combining high quality chocolate with a high quality doughnut ruins them both, as they compete for attention (kind of like pairing a truly great wine with a truly great dinner…a waste). Use the absolute cheapest chocolate you can find. In fact, don’t even use chocolate if possible, use a “coating” chocolate, one without cocoa butter in it. Occasionally you can find it in big grocery stores. If that fails, then let your wallet decide. Trust me on this, you won’t be sorry. Just melt the chocolate in the microwave (one burst of 20 seconds on high, followed by 3-4 more 10 second bursts) until the chocolate is completely melted:

Dip…

…and remove to a rack or plate to let cool and harden.

Or not.

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The simple glazed doughnut

This is my favorite way to enjoy a cake doughnut, without any fancy flavors, just a good honest scratch doughnut glazed with a thin coat of icing. As you might expect, it’s a very easy thing to do. Just combine:

8 ounces powdered sugar
2 tablespoon plus two teaspoons water or milk
a few drop of vanilla extract

Stir until your icing is smooth:

Dip your slightly warm or cooled doughnut…

…and quickly remove it to a wire rack where the icing will drip down the sides and harden.

Now where did I put that cup of coffee?

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Discount dropper?

Reader Jordan wrote in to point out that these droppers have hit the market in recent years. I’ve never tried one, but for fifteen bucks, can you go wrong?

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Cake Doughnut Troubleshooting

Cake doughnuts, especially when they’re made from scratch, are extremely fussy things. I can’t emphasize enough how important temperature is to getting them just right. Doughnut shop owners I’ve met get almost mystical about it. Some have a “magic number” for their kitchens to help them keep track of temperature variations. For one doughnut maker I knew, that number was “450″. What’s that? It was his ideal oil temperature (375) plus his ideal batter temperature (75). As long as they added up to 450, he maintained, the doughnuts would be perfect. If his batter temperature was a little high, he’d lower his oil temperature by the same amount. If the batter temperature was low, he’d turn the heat up on the oil. I can’t explain why that rule seemed to work so well, it just did. Of course it varies from shop to shop, depending on the type of batter and the type of fat being used, but the principle really does seem to work. One shop owner I met added room temperature to the equation (his magic number was 520), but my brain starts to hurt when I try to consider all the possible variations.

But on to some particulars. What happens if the batter temperature is too high? The doughnut will want to spread in the oil, creating a flat ring with lots of greasy pits in the bottom. What if the batter temperature is too low? The doughnut will tend to sink, sit in the oil for too long, and soak up more fat.

What about the oil? If the oil temperature is too high, the doughnuts will turn out small and fat. The reason, because the outside skin of the doughnut will harden before the interior gets a chance to rise. The result can be a virtual tennis ball. If the oil temperature is too low, once again the batter will want to spread out into very large, flat rings (that turn out very, very greasy).

So you see there are a lot of things to consider if you want a perfect doughnut. How obsessive you get about them is up to you, but I’ll tell you right now you’ll need a good thermometer. How obsessive am I about my doughnuts? Just ask the missus. That, however, is no reason for you to get uptight. As you can see from the below recipe, decent doughnuts are very easy things to mix and to make. Push the perfection envelope as far as you like, but above all have a good (safe) time. Even an imperfect doughnut is one fantastic breakfast.

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Cake Doughnut Recipe

So here it is: one of my top secret recipes. Cake doughnuts are a batter, not a dough. In professional shops, they’re made by a machine that drops ring-shaped quantities of batter into a vat of hot oil. They look like this, or if you have a bigger operation, like this. These so-called doughnut “depositors” are a little on the pricey side. Should you ever have access to one, great! If not, this recipe will work fine and dandy simply dropping spoonfulls of batter into hot oil.

Vanilla Cake “Drop” Doughnuts

8 ounces all-purpose flour sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3.5 ounces (1/2 cup) sugar
1 once ( 2 tablespoons) soft butter
2 ounces (1) egg
1 ounce sour cream
1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
3.5 ounces (scant 1/2 cup) milk

Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature to begin (this is VERY important). Have a fry pan or Dutch ready with about two inches of oil in it (I recommend canola).

Combine all the dry ingredients (including the sugar) in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Stir the eggs, milk, sour cream and vanilla together in a separate bowl. Turn mixer on low to blend all the dry ingredients together. Add the butter and turn the mixer up to medium-low. When the butter has been fully incorporated add the wet ingredients in a steady stream with the mixer running. Let the mixer run for 30 seconds and scrape the bowl down. Let the mixer run for another 30 seconds. The batter should be smooth, thick and spoonable. Let it rest for ten minutes, while you bring your oil up to temperature: 380 degrees Fahrenheit. Fry tablespoon-sized dollops in oil for 45 seconds per side. Drain on paper towels. Dust with sugar or dip in icing and serve warm.

Filed under:  Cake Doughnuts, Doughnuts, Pastry, Pastry Components | 50 Comments