Are you ready? I’m about to admit a deep, dark secret, something I withhold from even my test kitchen buddies and best friends.

I don’t care for yeast doughnuts. As in squishy-soft, Krispy Kreme-type raised doughnuts. Even hot from the fryer, dripping honey glaze or white icing, those pillowy puffs of fried dough do absolutely nothing for me.

Is it sugar overkill? The very slight chewy “bite” all yeast breads have? Whatever the reason, meh; give me a melt-in-your-mouth, tender cake doughnut — one made with baking powder or baking soda, not yeast — any day. Especially if it that doughnut is baked (not fried).

It took us a couple of days (nine batches and over 100 doughnuts) to hit on exact ingredient amounts, but in the end, success!

Now, some may quibble that baked doughnuts are doughnuts in shape alone; that without the signature crispiness and flavor resulting from a bath in hot fat, they’re just a piece of cake in doughnut guise.

But honestly, once you get past expecting a crispy fried crust, baked doughnuts are very compelling indeed. They present as doughnuts: round and full, with a hole in the middle. They taste like doughnuts: cinnamon, or apple cider, or pumpkin, or… choose your favorite.

And baked doughnuts are so much easier to make. While I do love deep-fried cake doughnuts, I don’t care for the time commitment, hassle, and mess of the frying process — not when I can easily whip up a batch of batter, pour it into my doughnut pans, and in less than an hour have a dozen cake doughnuts ready to share and enjoy.

Iced Chocolate Fudge Cake Doughnuts on a cooling rack.

This was my mindset as I pulled out a recipe I’d been meaning to try for quite some time: Chocolate Fudge Cake Doughnuts. I turned on my oven, fully expecting to be enjoying a luscious, oven-warm chocolate doughnut within the hour, but …

Crumbled chocolate doughnuts on a cooling rack.

Like children, recipes can sometimes misbehave. And it turns out Chocolate Fudge Cake Doughnuts have had a penchant for quirky behavior. For most people, the recipe works fine. For some, though, it’s a disaster: doughnuts that overflow, stick in the pan, and — even if they do finally come out — crumble at the first opportunity.

Which was exactly what happened to me. The doughnuts overflowed the pan’s boundaries, creating the doughnut equivalent of a mushroom-top muffin. About half stuck in the pan. And even the intact doughnuts wanted to crumble as I spaced them on the cooling rack.

I immediately turned to our test kitchen team — which unbeknownst to me was already on the case, having been alerted by some less-than-stellar reader reviews.

After some back-and-forth among five of us test bakers, we hit on a few things to try:

  • Less batter, to reduce the overflow and make consistently good-looking doughnuts 
  • Less sugar, to reduce the doughnuts’ stickiness (which was translating to “stuck in the pan") 
  • A bit more milk, to help replace the bit of softness lost when sugar is reduced
  • Extra egg for added structure, reducing crumbliness
Chocolate doughnut son a cooling rack, half sugared with granulated sugar, half plain.
Doughnuts from our final two test batches. The doughnuts on the left are the recipe we ultimately chose: they have less sugar in the batter, which makes them less prone to stick in the pan. For those who prefer sweeter doughnuts, adding a granulated sugar coating is an easy solution.

It took us a couple of days (nine batches and over 100 doughnuts) to hit on exact ingredient amounts, but in the end, success: a dozen doughnuts that drop out of the pan without sticking, are perfectly tender yet sturdy enough to be iced or sugared without crumbling, and that taste (and look) just great.

How to make Chocolate Fudge Cake Doughnuts

This may look like a long list of ingredients, but no worries; it’s all pretty common pantry stuff.

Dry ingredients for chocolate doughnuts whisked together in a mixing bowl.

First, preheat your oven to 350°F. You're going to have these doughnuts ready in a snap, so best to start the oven first thing.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cocoa, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, espresso powder, and chocolate chips. Set aside.

In a large measuring cup or medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, and vinegar.  

Eggs and milk being added to dry chocolate doughnut ingredients.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring to roughly blend. Once you can no longer see any bits of raw egg, stir in the melted butter.

Finished batter for Chocolate Fudge Cake Doughnuts in bowl.

There's no need to beat the batter, just make sure everything is well-combined.

Lightly grease the wells of two standard doughnut pans. If you don't have two pans, simply bake the batter in two batches.

Chocolate doughnut batter scooped into doughnut pans using a cookie scoop.
A tablespoon cookie scoop does double duty as a doughnut pan filler.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan(s), filling the wells about half to two-thirds full; there should be about 64g to 70g batter in each well.

Chocolate doughnuts baked in a pan, resting on a cooling rack.

Bake the doughnuts for 12 to 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of one comes out clean. Don't overbake the doughnuts, as this could dry them out.

Chocolate Fudge Cake Doughnuts cooling on a cooling rack.

Remove the doughnuts from the oven and after 30 seconds or so, use a nylon heatproof spatula or table knife to carefully loosen their edges. Turn the pan upside down over a rack, gently tap the pan on the rack, then give it a little shake; the doughnuts should fall onto the rack. If one or two stick, use the spatula or knife to loosen them further. Do all of this quickly; the longer you wait, the more chance the doughnuts will stick. 

To finish the doughnuts

For simple sugar-coated doughnuts, immediately shake the doughnuts in a paper or plastic bag with a tablespoon or so of granulated sugar.

You can also shake the doughnuts in confectioners' sugar if you like, but do so once the doughnuts are completely cooled (and just before serving), since confectioners' sugar will quickly "melt" into the doughnuts. An easy solution: use non-melting white sugar, a type of confectioners' sugar that won't melt and disappear.

Chocolate doughnuts on a rack, one in paper bag with granulated sugar for shaking.

If you want to ice the doughnuts instead, give them a chance to cool to room temperature first.

Chocolate chips and hot milk in a bowl, being stirred until smooth.
At some point in the icing process, your chips and liquid will seem to separate into liquid at the edges of the bowl and a chocolate blob in the center. Just keep stirring; it'll smooth out.

For iced doughnuts, combine 1 cup (170g) chocolate chips and 1/4 cup (57g) milk or half-and-half in a microwave-safe bowl or in a saucepan. Heat in the microwave (or over a medium-low burner) until the liquid is steaming and starting to bubble. This will take about 1 minute in a microwave, probably a bit longer over a burner. Remove from the heat, and stir until the chips have melted and the icing is smooth.

Chocolate doughnut being dipped in fudge icing, others with icing being spread.

Dip the top of each doughnut in the icing, spreading to coat with a spoon, knife, or spatula; or skip the dipping and simply spread the top of each doughnut with icing.

Frosted and sprinkled Chocolate Fudge Cake Doughnuts on a cooling rack.

Garnish with sprinkles or shaved chocolate, if desired. 

Iced Chocolate Fudge Cake Doughnuts garnished with shaved chocolate.
Block of solid chocolate + vegetable peeler = quick and easy chocolate shavings!

I’d say these doughnuts now take the cake — thanks to a quick collaboration with the King Arthur Baking Company test bakers. Much appreciated, team!

Has a King Arthur recipe ever failed you? If it happens, please let us know via the review option at the end of each recipe. Despite our best efforts, some misbehaving recipes simply fall through the cracks. And if we don't know it's broke, we can't fix it!

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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.PJ wa...
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