Moist on the inside, cinnamon and sugary on the outside, these traditional buttermilk-based, cakelike donuts pack a big Fall punch!
By Allie Albanese
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 did you know that 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, they 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 they’ve 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 from Sally's Baking Addiction. Her traditional, buttermilk-based recipe really showcases the apple cider 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!
APPLE CIDER DONUTS
Recipe by Sally's Baking Addiction
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
½ cup granulated sugar
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon apple pie spice
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Reduce the apple cider: Stirring occasionally, simmer the apple cider in a small saucepan over medium heat until you’re left with about 1/2 cup. Start checking at 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes, etc. until you have 1/2 cup. If there are any spices or solids on top of your reduced apple cider, strain them out. 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.
Make the donuts: 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.
Spoon the batter into the donut cavities. For ease, I recommend using a large zipped-top bag. Cut a corner off the bottom of the bag and pipe the batter into each donut cup, filling about halfway.
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 for 2 minutes then transfer to a wire rack. Re-grease the pan and bake the remaining donut batter.
Make the topping: Combine the granulated sugar, cinnamon, and apple pie spice together in a medium bowl. Melt butter in a separate bowl.
Coat the donuts: Once 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.
Allie is the founder of Parched Around the World and the owner of Parched Global, LLC, a communications company based in Atlanta, GA. She's a Certified Sommelier and a foodie at heart, and is forever suffering from a severe case of wanderlust! When life allows, you can find Allie traveling around the world and photographing her adventures both domestically and abroad. Feel free to get in touch with her by email at email@example.com or to connect on Instagram at @aaalbanese or @parchedaroundtheworld.