One of my favorite memories of living in Michigan is stopping at apple orchards during autumn for a mug of fresh pressed apple cider and a hot donut. I loved Michigan in the fall with its crisp, cool weather and colorful scenery. Quite a contrast to Louisiana. In my opinion, apple orchards are one of Michigan’s best kept secrets. During apple harvest, family-owned cider mills seemed to pop up everywhere. There is nothing better than cold unfiltered and unpasteurized apple cider. As an added attraction, most of these cider mills sold fried cake-style donuts which were made on the premises. They are the best donuts ever and I am really wishing that I had some. But, I’m a long way from Michigan. This year I decided to make my own “Spiced Cake Donuts with Apple Cider Glaze.” After many attempts, I achieved a wonderful fried cake donut. My donut is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. And my recipe isn’t too, too sweet. I’m glad that I finally figured out how to make fried donuts at home. This recipe is a little tricky, follow my instructions exactly to get the same results .
Michigan’s Apple Orchards
As a little trivia, Michigan ranks third in apple producing states behind Washington and New York. Washington is far ahead of every other state. However, apple orchards are a significant crop for Michigan farmers. You don’t really notice the apple orchards until fall. Then the wonderful aroma of fresh apples fills the air at farmer’s markets and produce sections of local grocery stores. I found varieties of apples which I have never seen here in Louisiana. Great for eating, cooking and baking.
Automated Cake Donut Production at the Cider Mills
We discovered tasty cake-style donuts on some of these visits to cider mills. These donuts are produced “on location” and seemed to go hand-and-hand with the apple cider. Usually the production of these donuts was semi-automated. The donut batter would automatically protrude in a donut shape onto a conveyer belt of hot oil, frying and flipping the donuts along the path. Then the donuts would somehow slide out of the oil at the end and into the hands of hungry patrons. The unique operation was intriguing to watch; but what home cook has one of these contraptions?
Two Styles of Donuts
There are two types of donuts: yeast donuts and cake-style donuts. Both types present challenges for home cooks. For example, making yeast donuts is a time consuming process since the dough must rise before shaping the donuts. Cake-style donuts, on the other hand, are tricky to make. The batter is sticky and can be difficult to roll out. Many of my cake-style donuts fell apart during frying. (Actually, the crumbs were delicious!) The temperature of the oil must be carefully regulated and stay at 350 degrees
Baked Cake-Style Donuts
There is a third alternative for making cake-style donuts at home; that is to bake the donuts. Although I was skeptical about the results in terms of flavor, texture and shape, I decided to give baked donuts a try. I figured that donuts which you could pick up with your hands was better than a plate of fried crumbs. And so I purchased a mini-donut “cake” pan which allows you to bake the individual donuts in the proper shape. I was determined to get my donut fix!
These cake-style baked donuts were very easy to make. They turned out great — except they didn’t have that wonderful crispy fried flavor. So, my search for the “perfect” donut continued.
Cake-Style Donut Batter Recipe – Two Versions
Both my cake-style versions — fried and baked — use the same ingredients and the same preparation. The quantities are slightly different and the baked donuts have a thinner batter. Both donut styles are simple and quick to mix up since I use a one-bowl process. Rather than getting out my electric mixer, I used a wire whip to mix up the ingredients.
Here are the ingredients. I used self-rising flour which made things easy. Cake-style donuts need leavening as they rise when fried/baked. For flavoring, I added vanilla extract, cinnamon and nutmeg. You really only need a “pinch” of each spice. A little goes a long way Don’t skip the vanilla extract; this adds flavor — otherwise you’ll have a “bla” donut. My recipe uses buttermilk — this gave an incredibly tender, soft donut. The spray canola oil is used if you are making baked donuts. Otherwise, you need vegetable or peanut oil to fry the donuts (oil is not shown).
Making the Batter for Cake-Style Donuts
To make the batter, beat the egg and sugar with a wire whip until the mixture is pale yellow and airy. Add the melted butter and mix in. Next, I added the vanilla extract, cinnamon and nutmeg. Then I added the buttermilk. Last, switch to wooden spoon to mix in the self-rising flour.
Two Tips for Making Fried Cake-Style Donuts
I have to admit that I made many batches of fried donuts before getting the process perfected and I learned several tricks along the way. I hope that if you follow my suggestions, then your donuts will turn out perfectly the first time. The dilemma is that cake batter is sticky. If the batter is too thin, then it is difficult to handle. The donuts fall apart when baking. If the batter is too thick, the donuts are “tough.” I took the middle ground and found proportions of ingredients which allowed me to handle the dough without being either excessively sticky or thick.
Here are the two tips for handling “sticky” dough: I heavily floured a small cutting board — which would to fit in my freezer. Then I pressed and gently rolled the dough out into a 9″ square, using small dustings of flour as needed if the dough started to stick. As these photos show, the dough is only about 1/4″ to 3/8″ thick. But that is okay; as the donuts fry, they rise and increase in size.
The most important tip is to freeze the dough for one hour after it is rolled out. Place the cutting board with the dough into the freeze. Freeze exactly an hour. One hour is long enough for the dough to chill so that it can easily handled without it freezing into a solid block. As you can see, I can pick this donut up with my hand. The donuts fried perfectly from the semi-frozen state, so this is not a problem. In fact, if the dough warms up too much, put it back in the freezer for a short time.
Standard donut cutters are usually 3-1/2″ in diameter. I improvised and made a smaller donut using a 3″diameter empty can and a small coffee measuring scoop to make the hole. Remember coffee scoops? If you don’t have one of these, you could use a small jar cap or a very, very small empty medicine bottle (ask your veterinarian for one). I cut out nine donuts first, then re-rolled the dough a second time using the scraps to make five more donuts. This recipe made 13 donuts (a baker’s dozen) which were 3″ diameter plus the donut “holes.”
Frying the Donuts
These donuts only take several minutes to fry. However, the temperature of the oil is critical and should be maintained at about 350 degrees. If the oil is too hot, the donuts will burn. If the oil is too cool, the dough will soak up too much oil. I used my heavy cast-iron skillet for frying several batches. I also used a “Fry Daddy” deep fryer. Although I rarely use such a deep fat fryer, sometimes this kitchen appliance is really handy. This particular deep fryer doesn’t allow you to adjust the temperature, but the pre-set temperature of 360 degrees worked well. Since you can only fry three donuts at a time in the “Fry Daddy,” the temperature drop of the raw donut rebounded quickly.
Apple Cider Glaze
Adding either a glaze or dipping the donuts in cinnamon sugar definitely adds to the flavor of the donuts. To get the effect of the cider mills and apple orchards, I dipped my donuts in an apple cider glaze. (Adding the apple cider concentrate directly to the donut batter made for a very sour flavored donut!) Here are the ingredients for my glaze.
For the glaze, I concentrated apple cider by boiling it on the stove to achieve a thick syrup. This took about half an hour. The syrup can be made and chilled several days ahead..
To make the glaze, mix the apple cider concentrate, melted butter, confectioners sugar and a pinch of salt. Stir until it is creamy and smooth. If too thick, add more apple cider concentrate, one tablespoon at a time. If too thin, add a bit more powdered sugar. The glaze should be thick, yet still pourable. Dip the donuts in the glaze. I put the donuts on wax paper so the glaze could harden.
Although making fried donuts turned out to be quite an adventure, I’m glad I finally will get my “donut fix.” These donuts are crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. They are best when served hot and when first made — like at our visits to the Michigan apple orchards and cider mills.
I’m already thinking of making more variations — perhaps a chocolate donut. Since I don’t have apple cider here, I’ll drink coffee with my donuts!
I hope you enjoy my recipe and that you make some fried cake donuts, too!
Fried Spiced Cake Donuts with Apple Cider Glaze
Ingredients for Glaze:
- 2 cups apple cider
- 2 Tbsp butter, melted
- dash salt
- 1-1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
Ingredients for Donuts:
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 Tbsp, butter melted
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- dash ground nutmeg
- 3/4 cup cultured buttermilk
- 2 cups self-rising flour
- flour for dusting pastry board or cutting board
- 4 cups oil for frying — such as canola or peanut oil
Method and Steps:
- Concentrate the apple cider: In heavy, medium-size pot, bring apple cider to a boil. Turn heat to medium-low and let cider gently boil until the cider is reduced to 1/2 cup. This may take about 30 minutes. Remove concentrate from stove, transfer to a small bowl and set aside until needed. May be made ahead of time and stored in refrigerator.
- To make donuts, add egg to a large bowl. Beat with wire whip until pale yellow and creamy.
- Add sugar and continue to beat with wire whip until well blended.
- Add melted butter, vanilla extract, ground cinnamon and nutmeg and mix in.
- Make sure cultured buttermilk is shaken and well-mixed in container. Add buttermilk to egg/sugar/butter mixture in large bowl and mix in.
- Change to wooden spoon and mix in self-rising flour. Do not over mix.
- Transfer dough to well-floured cutting board which will fit in freezer compartment of refrigerator. Dough will be sticky. Using your hands, or a utensil such as rubber spatula, spread the dough into a 9″ square. Use a rolling pin to gently smooth out top, dusting with additional flour as needed. Dough will be about 1/4″ to 3/8″ thick.
- Place cutting board with dough into freezer for exactly one hour.
- Then remove dough from freezer. Using a 3″ cutter (I used an empty can), cut out donut circles. Use a small round cutter — such as a coffee scoop, bottle cap or small medicine bottle (ask veterinarian for one), to cut out donut centers. Reserve donut holes for frying. Re-roll dough scraps to cut out additional donuts. This recipe will yield from 13 to 14 donuts.
- Heat oil to 1″ in heavy cast iron skillet to 350 degrees. Fry about three donuts at a time until golden brown on each side, adjusting temperature of stove to keep oil consistently at 350 degrees. Use a wire mesh spoon or silicone spoon to add donuts to oil and remove from oil — as hot oil may splash. Remove donuts when golden and drain on plate lined with paper towel.
- Alternately, add 4 cups oil to Fry Daddy and pre-heat for 15 minutes. Fry 3 donuts at a time for several minutes until golden brown on each side. Remove and let drain on paper towels.
- Fry donut holes in hot oil, too. This will take only a minute or two.
- To make apple cider glaze, add 1/3 cup apple cider concentrate, melted butter and a dash of salt to medium size bowl. Use a spoon to mix and combine ingredients.
- Add confectioner’s sugar and beat with spoon until creamy and smooth. Glaze should run off spoon in a drizzle. If too thick, add additional apple cider concentrate, one tablespoon at a time. If too thin, add additional confectioner’s sugar — one tablespoon at a time.
- Dip the top of each donut in the glaze. The glaze hardens quickly, so work as quickly as possible. Place donuts on large tray lined with wax paper to harden.
- Best when served warm. Store remainder of donuts in sealed zip lock bag.