Easy Cake Batter Donuts
All of the excitement surrounding the Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino reinforces the idea the odd phenomenon that is our obsession with colors. Tie-died clothing, unnaturally-colored hair, and food that I’m 99% sure no caveman would recognize all capitalize on our inexplicable attraction to color. These donuts are no different!
The plain and humble cake donut was always a favorite of mine from the classic, bread-aisle, boxed trio. Even in retrospect, this preference still surprises me! As a kid, I was, by rule, always attracted to the gaudiest, most colorful, sweetest, least “natural”-looking foods, yet still, the delicious simplicity of the plain donut broke won over my childish, unrefined palate.
Now, as a so-called “adult,” I’ve traded in my Froot Loops for actual fruit and my Toaster Strudels for oatmeal. My penchant for plain donuts, however, has stood the test of time. When presented with everyone’s favorite dilemma — a wall of freshly made bakery donuts — I still gravitate for the plain.
My first blog post was another donut recipe (click here for the tasty details), but one cannot simply have one donut recipe in one’s arsenal — paraphrased from the Dalai Lama, I believe.
As with many of my new recipe experiments, the idea was sparked by an ingredient surplus facing imminent perishability — in this case, 2% milk. Leftover from a comforting casserole of creamy, scalloped potatoes with ham, I had just shy of a cup remaining, and I am loathe to waste…LOATHE. Remembering that it has been a while since I had made donuts, and since my other donut recipe calls for Greek yogurt instead of milk, I consulted the wealth of knowledge (real and fake) that is the world wide web.
I happened upon this recipe, and I was intrigued! I had all of the ingredients, and, based on the pictures, I was reasonably sure that omitting the cinnamon and slightly adjusting the techniques would result in the textural reincarnation of my fav cake donuts. But, why stop there?
Revisiting my initial theme of COLOR EVERYWHERE, and incorporating another current food fad (namely, CAKE BATTER), I decided to knead in some teeny tiny rainbow nonpareils, which would dissolve into the dough as it chilled leaving streaks of fun colors, to yield a Funfetti-like appearance in the finished donuts. For the cake batter experience, I swapped the vanilla extract for some almond extract and a touch of butter extract — a truly magical combo….like Ron and Hermione.
Since my Sig. O. is a glazed donut fan, I did glaze some of the donuts with a simple vanilla glaze and some more nonpareils. But really, they’re super tasty au naturel.
Easy Cake Batter Donuts
YIELD: 7-8 small-ish donuts Adapted from: this recipe
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted & cooled 10 minutes
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, room temp
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon butter extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 cup 2% milk
2 tablespoons rainbow nonpareils
Glaze (optional): *prepare as donuts are cooling slightly after frying
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Small splash (scant 1/4 teaspoon) vanilla extract
The night before you plan to fry, prepare the dough. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the melted butter and granulated sugar, until sugar has dissolved. Whisk in egg, almond extract, and butter extract. In a separate bowl, use a fork or dry whisk to fluff together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold in dry ingredients, alternating with the milk, folding only until JUST combined. Fold in nonpareils using just a few quick strokes — color streaking is expected and encouraged. Form dough into a round disk, and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Chill dough overnight. *Note: if you have stinky or pungently flavored stuff in your fridge (chopped onions, anything Mexican, kimchi, etc.), place the wrapped dough inside a burped and sealed zip-top freezer bag for chilling.
1 hour prior to fry-time, remove the wrapped dough from the fridge, and allow dough to rest on counter. Heat ~1″ of neutral oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet, over medium heat. Sift a small amount of flour onto a clean countertop, place unwrapped dough on surface, and sift a tad more flour over the top. Use a rolling pin to roll out dough to ~1″ thickness – expect more color streaking. Use a round biscuit cutter (or a drinking glass, if, like me, you only have obscurely-shaped cookie cutters) to cut out 7-8 circles, gently patting together and re-rolling dough no more than once. If you want really pronounced donut holes, use a 1″ diameter round cutter to punch out the hole (keep the holes for frying, obvi); otherwise, just use your finger to poke through the center of the cut round and gently stretch a small hole into the middle.
To test oil, carefully drop a small dough scrap into the heated oil, and look to see if it sizzles instantly. Fry no more than 3 donuts at a time, making sure they don’t get too friendly in the oil. Fry for 1-2 minutes before flipping for an additional 1 minute, adjusting time to achieve desired level of brownness (I like mine a bit more crispy, i.e. darker). Use a slotted spoon to transfer fried donuts to wire racks set over paper towels to cool slightly while you fry their brethren.
After frying all of the donuts, whisk together the glaze ingredients, thinning with a tiny dash of milk, if needed, to achieve a thick-but-pourable consistency. Pour or spoon glaze over still-warm-but-slightly-cooled donuts, and sprinkle with additional nonpareils (glaze should semi-set within minutes). Serve immediately!