Making doughnuts is less messy and more fun than you think
My first memory of doughnuts was of Winchell’s, a popular West Coast chain near my childhood home. Behind the counter, trays of dazzling doughnuts sat in neat rows winking at my 6-year-old self. The bright colors, twisted shapes and then-exotic toppings were irresistible. Early on, I developed a regular order: glazed vanilla doughnut covered with sprinkles. Always with sprinkles.
Fast forward a few mostly doughnut-less decades, and I found myself craving some nostalgia. There’s something comforting about indulging in a fried dessert. I regret the years I swore off doughnuts, but am glad to report we are now reunited and in a long-term relationship.
This simple recipe will rekindle your own enthusiasm for these fried cakes. At- home doughnut-making is far easier and less messy than most people fear. And it’s free of sideways glances when you’re still wearing your robe and slippers.
Glazed Vanilla Cake Doughnuts
3 cups cake flour (all-purpose flour can be substituted)
¾ cup sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1½ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Zest of ½ lemon
1 large egg
½ cup buttermilk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Vegetable oil for frying
1½ cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
2 to 3 tablespoons milk
Food coloring gel
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and lemon zest. Turn the mixer on low, add the egg and continue mixing. Add the buttermilk, butter, egg yolks and vanilla. Mix until the dough barely comes together. It will be stiff.
Scrape the dough onto a floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out so it’s ½-inch thick. Transfer the dough to a sheet pan lined with parchment and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Heat at least 2 inches of oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Monitor the oil with a deep-fry thermometer. The oil needs to reach 350 F. Meanwhile, prepare two baking sheets: one lined with paper towels, the other dusted with flour.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place on a floured surface. Lightly dust the top with flour. Dip a doughnut or biscuit cutter into flour and cut the dough. Place the rounds onto the floured baking sheet.
Fry the doughnuts in batches, being careful not to crowd the pot. Monitor the oil’s temperature and adjust the heat as needed. Doughnuts will cook quickly, turning golden brown in 1 to 2 minutes. Flip each over to cook both sides. When ready, remove doughnuts and allow them to drain on the paper-towel-lined baking sheet. Dip in glaze and add toppings. Eat immediately, or store in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
To make glaze: Whisk together powdered sugar, melted butter, vanilla and salt in a shallow bowl. Add 2 tablespoons milk and stir to combine. Add additional milk until the desired consistency is reached. Whisk until completely smooth. Tint with food gel or coloring. Dip doughnuts and sprinkle with toppings.