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 sheep's 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 (99g) vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups (248g) 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 a little less than 1/2 cup purée to each portion.

When you're making this recipe, you'll need 1 1/4 (283g) cups purée for the entire recipe. Confused? Hope not, but if so – read the recipe.

Stir in 1 3/4 cups (213g) 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.

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About PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was an award-winning Maine journalist (favorite topics: sports and food) before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. Hired to write the newly launched Baker’s Catalogue, PJ became the small but growing company’s sixth employee.    ...
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