Apple Cider Doughnut Cake Recipe

The 2.0 version of apple cider doughnuts.

Top down view of an apple cider doughnut cake with a slice taken out.

Serious Eats / María del Mar Sacasa

Why It Works

  • A Granny Smith apple is cooked in apple cider and then reduced to concentrate the apple flavor. 
  • Mace and nutmeg add that unmistakable apple cider doughnut flavor to the cake, while cinnamon is reserved for the cinnamon-sugar coating after it's baked.

With the end of summer comes the switch from pink and yellow peaches and garnet plums to apples in all their speckled and mottled varieties—gold and grassy green, blush pink and siren red lipstick. The wooden crates at the market stalls are overflowing with tart and crisp apples perfect for lattice-top pies and sweet little crab apples that look almost too precious to eat. But more often than not, I don't buy any apples. I head straight for the $1.00 cup of steaming cider and a cellophane baggie of apple cider doughnuts.

Tiny and chubby with a wrinkled belly button, the cakey doughnuts are covered in granulated sugar and a touch of cinnamon. They're irresistibly soft and I usually eat all but one, saving it for pre-bedtime snack when I'm tucked under blankets as the chill autumn wind seeps through a cracked window.

Since the doughnuts are so cake-like by nature, it was easy to turn them into an actual cake. This is a buttery cake, coated in the requisite cinnamon-sugar. Mace, the cobwebby exterior of nutmeg, is a must in this recipe as it adds that unmistakable doughnut flavor to the cake. There is no cinnamon in this cake other than in the coating because I find that it overwhelms the cake in general and the apple taste in particular. And now that we're on the subject, even though I love those farmers' market doughnuts, they're often wanting in apple cider flavor. Here, a tart apple is cooked in apple cider and then reduced to concentrate the flavor and make the cake live up to its name. How do you like them apples?

October 2012

Recipe Facts



Active: 30 mins
Total: 2 hrs
Serves: 10 to 12 servings

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For the Cake:

  • 9 tablespoons (4 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 1 large Granny Smith apple (about 8 ounces), peeled, cored, and roughly chopped

  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider

  • 1/2 cup milk, at room temperature

  • 2 1/2 cups (about 12 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mace

  • 3/4 cup (about 5 1/4 ounces) sugar

  • 1/2 cup (about 3 1/2 ounces) packed light brown sugar

  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Cinnamon Sugar Coating:

  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt


  1. For the Cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease a Bundt pan with 1 tablespoon butter.

  2. In a medium saucepan, bring chopped apple and cider to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until most of the cider has been absorbed and apples are easily smashed with a fork, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat, cool 5 minutes, then pulse in food processor until puréed. Measure out 1 cup apple mixture and stir in milk; set aside.

  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and mace; set aside.

  4. In a large bowl, beat remaining 8 tablespoons butter, sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add oil and beat until incorporated, about 1 minute.

  5. Decrease mixer speed to low and add flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with apple mixture, scraping down sides and bottom of bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Increase speed to medium and beat mixture just until combined, about 20 seconds. Add vanilla and beat once more, just to combine, about 10 seconds.

  6. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake until a cake tester inserted in cake comes out clean, rotating cake halfway through baking, 35 to 45 minutes. Transfer cake to wire cooling rack set inside baking sheet and cool in pan 10 minutes, then invert directly onto wire cooling rack.

  7. For the Cinnamon Sugar Coating: Combine sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a small bowl. Sprinkle warm cake with cinnamon sugar, using fingers to rub it onto sides.

  8. Cool cake completely, about 1 hour.

Special Equipment

Food processor, Bundt pan, stand mixer, silicone spatula, wire cooling rack


To unmold the cake from the Bundt pan after cooling, use your fingers to gently pull the cake away from the side of the pan. Next, place the wire cooling rack on top, then quickly flip the whole thing over, using oven mitts to protect your hands. Once it's flipped, let the cake sit a moment or two. Then remove the Bundt pan carefully.

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
378 Calories
15g Fat
56g Carbs
5g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 10 to 12
Amount per serving
Calories 378
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 15g 19%
Saturated Fat 6g 31%
Cholesterol 70mg 23%
Sodium 339mg 15%
Total Carbohydrate 56g 21%
Dietary Fiber 2g 5%
Total Sugars 32g
Protein 5g
Vitamin C 12mg 60%
Calcium 73mg 6%
Iron 2mg 10%
Potassium 133mg 3%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)