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News / Life / Clark County Life

Can you make your own cake doughnuts at home? Better question: Should you?

More adventures in baking with Monika Spykerman

By Monika Spykerman, Columbian staff writer
Published: April 24, 2024, 6:03am
4 Photos
You can make your own cinnamon spice donuts at home. All you need is a doughnut tin and to mistake the cayenne pepper for nutmeg.
You can make your own cinnamon spice donuts at home. All you need is a doughnut tin and to mistake the cayenne pepper for nutmeg. (Monika Spykerman/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

I don’t like doughnuts that much, especially cake doughnuts. I know, I know — I might as well say I don’t like sunshine and money. I mean, I’m not crazy. I have reasons. Cake doughnuts just aren’t that exciting. They’re simply round pieces of cake. And cupcakes? Don’t get me started. They’re cake in a slightly different shape and cake is as common as toenails.

Yeasted doughnuts are a step up from cake doughnuts. They’re light and airy and taste like something I could never make at home, so they’re more special. However, about halfway through eating a yeasted doughnut, I think, “Why did I do this?” They’re too sweet and make my mouth feel slightly greasy. Worse still, the deep-frying process sometimes gives doughnuts a slightly bitter tang, akin to stale oil. The actual experience of the doughnut never meets the ideal in my mind. Doughnuts taste like disappointment.

So why the heck did I decide to make cake doughnuts? For starters, a friend recently took me out to lunch for my birthday and dessert was cinnamon cake doughnut holes (deep fried, of course) with caramel dipping sauce. I would never admit to anyone that I don’t like doughnuts, so to be polite, I took one, still warm from the fryer. It was a touch crisp and chewy on the outside but tender and fluffy inside. The cinnamon coating reminded me of the cinnamon toast my dad used to make on weekends. In short, it was good.

My late mom’s favorite doughnut out of any dozen was a cinnamon cake doughnut. I gently mocked her for liking such a boring thing, an offense on par with her fondness for plain vanilla Dairy Queen cones. Why on Earth would you order a plain vanilla cone when there were so many other wonderful things to choose from, like Peanut Buster Parfaits? However, I’ve come to appreciate the wisdom in her simplicity and now the plain vanilla cone is my favorite, too. So I was willing to change my mind about cinnamon cake doughnuts. I have a silicone doughnut pan at home, so why not whip up a batch of homemade doughnuts and see if I was missing anything?

I found some promising recipes online and set about mixing the dough. Just before I was about to squeeze the dough into the doughnut pan, I sampled a bit to see if I’d gotten the salt levels correct. The dough was very spicy and made my tongue tingle like I’d added fresh ginger or too much nutmeg. I looked down at my spice to discover that what I thought was nutmeg was actually cayenne pepper. Whoops!

I baked the doughnuts anyway because I couldn’t stand to waste the dough, and some of the doughnuts didn’t bake completely (maybe because I was using a silicone pan?), so in addition to being spicy they were also not very photogenic. I put the remaining dough into a pie tin and put it in the oven to bake, even though I had no idea what I’d do with it after it was done. My spice averse husband certainly wasn’t going to eat it.

There was nothing for it except to start over. I got halfway through the process and went to the fridge for eggs, then realized I’d used the last two eggs to make the cayenne pepper doughnuts. I left the bowl of dough half-mixed and went to the market to get more eggs. Halfway to the market I remembered the little cake I’d put in the oven. I had to go back and get it or else come back to a house full of smoke. Finally, I got to the store, got the eggs, came home and finished the dough, making sure to use nutmeg and not cayenne pepper. I taste tested a teensy bit of dough and you know what? I’d forgotten the sugar. I mixed it in at the last minute, probably overmixing the dough in the process. I wasn’t even aiming for tasty doughnuts anymore. I just wanted to get them done.

I didn’t have a pastry bag, which is necessary to neatly and efficiently squeeze batter into each indentation of the doughnut pan. Instead, I spooned the batter into a gallon-size plastic bag and cut a small piece off the corner. It would be good enough, I supposed, and it was. (At least one thing went right!) I baked the doughnuts, burned my fingers turning them out onto a wire rack and immediately dipped them into a mix of sugar and cinnamon. (The doughnuts, not my fingers. Well, in truth I did get a lot of cinnamon and sugar on my fingers, too.) In theory, the cinnamon-sugar was supposed to stick to the just-baked doughnuts, but it didn’t, or at least not to the degree that I’d hoped. I was crestfallen because I’m a girl who needs a lot of cinnamon.

The second batch of cinnamon spice cake doughnuts turned out OK. Not great, but not necessarily terrible. They were kind of dry and not powerfully cinnamony, but they tasted quite nice when dipped in coffee. They certainly weren’t comparable to the warm, crispy, chewy, fluffy, buttery, thoroughly cinnamon-coated birthday doughnuts I’d enjoyed at the restaurant.

The moral of the story is: Check your labels and go out to eat more often.

Cinnamon Spice Cake Doughnuts

2 cups flour

½ cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg (or cayenne pepper, if you’re feeling brave)

½ teaspoon cardamom

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup buttermilk

2 eggs

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons melted butter

1 tablespoon vanilla

Cinnamon coating

½ cup sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

Turn oven to 425 degrees and grease a doughnut pan with oil or butter. Into a large bowl, put flour, ½ cup sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and salt and whisk to combine. In a separate small bowl whisk together buttermilk, eggs, melted butter, honey and vanilla. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until evenly moist. Overmixing could make doughnuts dry or tough. Using a pastry bag fitted with a round tip (or a gallon-size plastic bag with the corner cut off), pipe batter into each of the greased doughnut cups in a circular motion, being careful not to overfill. Bake for 10 minutes if using a metal doughnut pan and 15 minutes if using a silicone pan. While waiting for the doughnuts to bake, combine ½ cup sugar with 2 teaspoons cinnamon in a wide bowl. As soon as the doughnuts come out of the oven, tip them onto a wire rack and immediately roll them in the sugar-cinnamon mixture. To get more sugar and cinnamon to stick, consider dipping the doughnuts in melted butter first. This recipe makes enough dough for 12 doughnuts. The doughnuts can be eaten while still warm and are honestly probably better that way.