Serious Eats: Recipes

Sunday Brunch: Glazed Buttermilk Cake Doughnuts

When I was a child and my classmates would bring boxes of Krispy Kreme-style plain glazed doughnuts to school, I would pass altogether. Those sugary puffs of fat and air had nothing on the dense, wholesome-seeming cake doughnuts I adored, which looked and tasted so cakelike that indeed I found it hard to believe they were fried, as doughnuts were said to be. How could this ungreasy ring with its soft, close crumb have emerged from a cauldron of bubbling oil?

Alas, my dears—I have now seen it with my own eyes, and can say that it is so. Recently, I resolved to set aside a lifelong fear of deep frying at home. (My newlywed mother set the kitchen on fire making, yes, doughnuts before I was even born, but the story has a place of privilege in my psyche.) Fear conquered, I mixed up a batch of dough for glazed buttermilk cake doughnuts from Karen DeMasco's entrancing and reliable The Craft of Baking.

It doesn't look promising in its raw state, but as soon as you slip a thin disk of the sticky dough into hot oil it develops brown blisters on top, among other signs of transformation. When you flip the cake halfway through cooking, its glorious brown belly confirms that you are in fact making a perfect cake doughnut in your own kitchen. Minutes later, it sits on your cooling rack, demurely glazed and seemingly innocent of the oily fug that has settled over the room.

Although I expected the frying to be the challenging part of this process, a thermometer made it simple as can be. (If only my mother the child-bride had had one!) No, the moment I mentally vowed "I'm never making doughnuts again" came when I was handling the super-sticky dough, dipping and redipping my cutter and knife in flour. And the moment when I realized I would break my vow was when my husband sighed and said, "This is the best doughnut I have ever had. This is the best doughnut I have ever had! Can I take some to work?" A platter of freshly fried doughnuts will be welcomed with truly gratifying enthusiasm, if your friends and relations are normal human beings, and would be an especially amazing way to celebrate the end of the school year.

In case it doesn't go without saying, this recipe is not recommended for small or poorly ventilated apartments. Your cooking space will smell like funnel cake, and not really in a good way. Further note: I always use 2 tablespoons cornstarch plus 7/8 cup all purpose flour as the equivalent of 1 cup of cake flour.

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