November 7, 2021

Baked Apple Cider Donuts

Article by:

Photos by:

article & photos by:

Allie Albanese

Article by:

Photos by:

article & photos by:

Allie Albanese

Moist on the inside, cinnamon and sugary on the outside, this classic baked apple cider donut recipe packs a big Fall punch!

7 apple cider donuts toppling off a wire cooling rack with one in front that has a big bite taken out of it

Here in the USA, apple cider donuts are synonymous with the Fall season. Every apple orchard or pumpkin patch you visit is likely to have these tasty treats at the ready, and no Autumn excursion is complete without a cup of hot apple cider and a donut or two to go with it!

BUT WHERE DID APPLE CIDER DONUTS ORIGINATE?

Apple cider donuts were first introduced by early American colonies. Before refrigeration existed, their Fall season was a time of butchering and preserving meat to use throughout the winter. As a result, colony members were left with lots of leftover animal fat, which they used to fry dough mixed with apples from the recent harvest and voilà! Apple cider donuts were born. Then fast forward to the 1950s when the Doughnut Corporation of America reintroduced apple cider donuts in an effort to increase Fall sales, and ever since then these donuts have been a staple of the season!

I'm a big fan, and my annual North Georgia apple orchard visit is mainly just an excuse to stock up on apple cider donuts. But in all the years I've been eating them, I've never tried to make them! So this year I decided it was time I did.

If you've ever had apple cider donuts then you know that they're not all created equal. And the recipe variations will boggle your mind! So I read a bunch, picked out a few to try, hosted a taste test with some of my nearest and dearest, and in the end our favorite of the lot is this recipe from Sally's Baking Addiction. Her traditional approach to this buttermilk-based recipe really showcases the apple cider flavor and produces a cakelike donut that's jam packed with Fall flavor. And although these donuts are baked instead of fried, I can confidently say they rank up there with some the best I've ever had!  

7 apple cider donuts toppling off a wire cooling rack

Baked Apple Cider Donuts

Moist on the inside, cinnamon and sugary on the outside, this classic baked apple cider donut recipe packs a big Fall punch!

Yields:

12 Donuts

Ingredients:

FOR THE DONUTS:

1 ½ cups apple cider

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon apple pie spice*

¼ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 large egg, room temperature

½ cup packed light or dark brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup buttermilk, room temperature*

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


FOR THE TOPPING:

½ cup granulated sugar

¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¾ teaspoon apple pie spice

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Instructions:

FOR THE DONUTS:

Begin by reducing the apple cider to ½ cup. To do this, simmer the apple cider in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Measure the mixture at 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes, etc. until it has reduced to ½ cup. Strain out any spices or solids that may rise to the top during the reduction process. Set aside to cool for at least 10 minutes. This step is crucial as it concentrates the flavor of the apple cider and makes a world of difference in the overall flavor of the donuts!

Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray donut pan* with non-stick spray and set aside.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, apple pie spice, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.

Whisk the melted butter, egg, brown sugar, granulated sugar, buttermilk, and vanilla extract together. Pour into the dry ingredients, add the reduced apple cider, and whisk everything together until smooth and combined. Batter will be slightly thick.

Pipe or spoon the batter into the donut cavities, filling about halfway. (A large, Ziploc bag makes an easy piping bag! Simply put the mixture into the Ziploc, cut off one bottom corner, and twist the top of the bag until the mixture pipes out.)

Bake for 10-11 minutes or until the edges and tops are lightly browned. To test, poke your finger into the top of the donut-- if the donut bounces back, they're done. Cool donuts in the pan for 2 minutes then transfer to a wire rack. Re-grease the pan and bake the remaining donut batter.

FOR THE TOPPING:

Combine the granulated sugar, cinnamon, and apple pie spice together in a medium bowl. Melt butter in a separate bowl.

Once the donuts are cool enough to handle, dunk both sides of each donut in the melted butter and then coat generously with the sugar and apple spice topping.

Donuts are best served immediately! Leftovers keep well covered tightly at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Recipe Notes: 

If you can’t find apple pie spice, make your own!

Buttermilk is traditionally used in this recipe, but any kind of milk works pretty well. You can also substitute ½ cup plain yogurt or sour cream for a denser donut.

If you don’t have donut pans, you can use a standard 12-cup muffin pan instead! Simply grease your pan, fill each 3/4 full, then bake at 350°F for about 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

If you’re in the market to purchase donut pans, these are the ones I have, which I absolutely love.

7 apple cider donuts toppling off a wire cooling rack

Baked Apple Cider Donuts

Moist on the inside, cinnamon and sugary on the outside, this classic baked apple cider donut recipe packs a big Fall punch!

Yields:

12 Donuts

Ingredients:

FOR THE DONUTS:

1 ½ cups apple cider

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon apple pie spice*

¼ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 large egg, room temperature

½ cup packed light or dark brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup buttermilk, room temperature*

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


FOR THE TOPPING:

½ cup granulated sugar

¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¾ teaspoon apple pie spice

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Instructions:

FOR THE DONUTS:

Begin by reducing the apple cider to ½ cup. To do this, simmer the apple cider in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Measure the mixture at 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes, etc. until it has reduced to ½ cup. Strain out any spices or solids that may rise to the top during the reduction process. Set aside to cool for at least 10 minutes. This step is crucial as it concentrates the flavor of the apple cider and makes a world of difference in the overall flavor of the donuts!

Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray donut pan* with non-stick spray and set aside.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, apple pie spice, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.

Whisk the melted butter, egg, brown sugar, granulated sugar, buttermilk, and vanilla extract together. Pour into the dry ingredients, add the reduced apple cider, and whisk everything together until smooth and combined. Batter will be slightly thick.

Pipe or spoon the batter into the donut cavities, filling about halfway. (A large, Ziploc bag makes an easy piping bag! Simply put the mixture into the Ziploc, cut off one bottom corner, and twist the top of the bag until the mixture pipes out.)

Bake for 10-11 minutes or until the edges and tops are lightly browned. To test, poke your finger into the top of the donut-- if the donut bounces back, they're done. Cool donuts in the pan for 2 minutes then transfer to a wire rack. Re-grease the pan and bake the remaining donut batter.

FOR THE TOPPING:

Combine the granulated sugar, cinnamon, and apple pie spice together in a medium bowl. Melt butter in a separate bowl.

Once the donuts are cool enough to handle, dunk both sides of each donut in the melted butter and then coat generously with the sugar and apple spice topping.

Donuts are best served immediately! Leftovers keep well covered tightly at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Recipe Notes: 

If you can’t find apple pie spice, make your own!

Buttermilk is traditionally used in this recipe, but any kind of milk works pretty well. You can also substitute ½ cup plain yogurt or sour cream for a denser donut.

If you don’t have donut pans, you can use a standard 12-cup muffin pan instead! Simply grease your pan, fill each 3/4 full, then bake at 350°F for about 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

If you’re in the market to purchase donut pans, these are the ones I have, which I absolutely love.

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