Yield: 16 to 20 three-inch doughnuts

(Depending on if adding the suggested embellishments)

Although cake doughnuts are especially easy to make, since the holidays are usually hectic, why not make one or more separate sifted batches of your dry mixture (NOW) before the holidays begin and store them in labeled and sealed plastic bags. That way, when you want to make doughnuts, it's really easy to assemble the dough. And, since doughnuts doused with sugar that's flavored with either cinnamon or cocoa is my family's favorite, I also make a big batch of the sugar coating and keep it in a bag, as well. Although the listed embellishments to both, the spiced doughnut dough and the chocolate variation are optional, they do add an interesting dimension to the texture and a delicious taste. Before making doughnuts, be sure to read my "doughnut making tips" and, when working with children, make sure to have all of your decorating sugars, glazes, etc. made as well as any added toppings assembled. This way, you're all set to just have fun!

Special Equipment

  • 3 or 4-inch doughnut cutter
  • Deep-fry thermometer


  • 3 cups sifted unbleached, all-purpose flour (sift before measuring), plus more, as needed, for dusting
  • 1 cup (un-sifted) cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon double-acting baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fine table salt
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips or dried (but supple) currants (optional)
  • 3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream (close to room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 4 generous tablespoons shortening, melted


1) To assemble the doughnut dough: Whisk the sifted flour with the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Sift this into another bowl. (If planning to add either of the optional embellishments, whisk them in now.) In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment (or using a wooden spoon). Beat the sugar with the eggs, until light-colored and increased in volume (mixture will be loose). Blend in the vanilla. In a separate bowl, whisk the sour cream, shortening and milk together, until well blended. Add the sour cream mixture to the egg mixture, alternating with the dry ingredients and, when blended, chill the dough for 2 hours.

2) To set up to make doughnuts: When getting ready to shape doughnuts, place a large wide pot on the stove and fill it half way with fresh vegetable oil. Attach a deep-fry thermometer to the side of the pot, making sure that the mercury tip is suspended half way down the depth of oil (so it does not touch the bottom of the pan). Heat the oil to between 365oF and 375oF, and maintain this temperature while you cut your doughnuts.

3) To shape and fry doughnuts: Turn the chilled dough out onto a lightly floured surface and, like you were working with biscuit dough, knead the mixture gently and superficially, just to smooth out the exterior. Pat, then roll the dough out, 1/2-inch thick and cut out doughnuts and holes, using a floured doughnut cutter. Fry the doughnuts until golden, turning them once, about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes on each side, keeping an eye on your thermometer and regulating the heat so the oil doesn't either get too hot or cool down too much. Remove the doughnuts with a slotted implement, and let them drain on paper towels. .Drain them well on doubled paper towels. Line several wire cooling racks with doubled paper towels.

Chocolate Variation:

For deep-dark chocolate doughnuts (with or without chocolate chips):

Reduce the sifted all-purpose flour to 2 3/4 cups and the cake flour to 1/2 cup. Add 1 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed) and an additional 1/3 cup of powdered sugar to the dry ingredients, before sifting. Omit the spices but keep the baking powder, soda, salt eggs and granulated sugar the same but increase the vanilla to 2 teaspoons. After sifting the dry ingredients, if desired, whisk in 1 cup mini chocolate chips. Follow the remaining instructions for making spiced cake doughnuts, using this mixture. (Don't be alarmed when you feel the increased stiffness in this particular dough after being chilled for 2 hours. This is intentional for easier rolling.) Yield: 18 doughnuts when using the chocolate chips or about 15 when not.

Doughnut making tips...

Be sure to roll the dough out to the proper thickness before cutting out doughnuts. Remember, both variations are leavened with baking powder and will expand in the hot oil. If rolled and cut too thick at the onset, they will require longer cooking which will likely cause the outsides to burn.

Try to cut out as many doughnuts the first time you roll the dough. Excessive gathering of dough scraps and rerolling can adversely affect texture.

When working with children, save the decorating part for them. It's safest to have most of your doughnuts already fried and drained before beginning or set up to decorate in a completely different section of the kitchen. If desire, show the kids how the last few doughnuts are fried, so they understand the entire process.

Never fill a pot more than half way with oil.

Don't crowd the pot when frying doughnuts since this will make the temperature of the oil drop severely causing the doughnuts to absorb too much oil. It's best to use a large, wide pot so the doughnuts can sit freely and have enough surface space in between them when frying.

Let the oil reach the desired temperature before frying each successive batch of doughnuts.

For the best finish on sugar-coated doughnuts, shake them in sugar when still a bit warm and then again, when the doughnuts are completely cool. And, when applying a glaze to the tops of doughnuts (whether chocolate or vanilla or colored), do this when the doughnuts are completely cool.

If you'd like to purchase plain store-bought doughnuts and decorate them, as described here, that's fine. For sugar-coated doughnuts, just rewarm them briefly on a wire rack set within a shallow baking sheet, in a 350oF oven. Let them stay on the rack until barely warm before shaking them in the sugar of your choice. Shake twice, for best coverage.

To make a liquid glaze pipe-able, make it thicker by adding more sifted powdered sugar. When thick enough to hold it's shape, it's fine for piping through a plastic squeeze bottle, with a 1/4-inch opening (if your opening is too small, snip off the tip using kitchen scissors. If, when assembling, the glaze becomes too stiff to pipe, stir in a few drops of milk or water. If, while decorating your doughnuts, the glaze becomes too stiff to pipe, plant the squeeze bottle in a drinking glass half-full with hot tap water, for a few minutes.

If you'd like to completely cover the doughnuts with a topping (like shredded coconut or ground toasted coconut), make a generous amount of a somewhat thin glaze, using powdered sugar and egg white or water, in a pie plate. Dip a doughnut into the glaze, then turn it over to coat the other side. Use a chop stick or the stem end of a thin wooden spoon to remove the doughnut from the glaze and lay it directly on a plate filled with your topping. Cover both sides, using your hands to help the topping adhere. Let the doughnuts "set" on trays lined with parchment paper, turning them once the top side is set.

Doughnut Storage Tips...

Unglazed doughnuts (and without a sugared finish) can be frozen, once cool, if laid flat in a heavy-duty plastic container, separated by sheets of wax paper. To use them, reheat them (frozen) on a wire rack place on a shallow baking sheet in a preheated 350oF oven for about 10 minutes, or until warmed throughout. At this point, you can apply a sugar coating. Let the doughnuts cool before applying a glaze.