Easy Apple Cider Donuts Recipe

Here's a little secret: with not too much effort, an oven, and a dash of apple-pie spices, it can be autumn in your kitchen any day of the year. Wholesome, sprinkled with sugar, and rich with tart apple flavor, apple cider donuts are the perfect cozy comfort food. And as it turns out, the best part of fall farm trips (let's be real, it's not lugging around a pumpkin) can be recreated without any of the fuss of frying, or even boiling apples down for that concentrated hit of apple cider.

These donuts are perfectly proportioned and not too heavy from being weighed down by frying grease. That doesn't mean they're not decadent, though. In fact, they're brushed in butter and rolled in a healthy layer of cinnamon sugar. And they get their deep apple flavor from apple cider concentrate, which you can make at home from boiling down apple cider to a reduced, flavor-packed apple syrup — but why would you? Save a half hour and buy the concentrate instead.

The only piece of special equipment you'll need for this recipe is a non-stick donut pan. Without all that cutting, shaping, and frying required of other recipes, these donuts get their shape from a light batter and a rise in the oven in those donut-shaped recesses.

Gather your ingredients for apple cider donuts

First, make sure the oven is preheating to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and that you have all your ingredients together and ready to go as a mise en place. This will make everything easier later, we promise. The donuts themselves are a combo of flour, brown sugar, egg, and a little bit of milk and butter. Baking soda and powder give the batter that quick inflation in the oven and make all the difference between apple cider pancakes and the domed, curvy rings we're looking for.

The sugar in this recipe has been cut back a little bit to make room for the sweetness of that apple cider concentrate, which is highly sweet on its own but with the added sour and caramel taste of apples. Vanilla and warming spices — including cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove — take the donuts into comforting fall dessert territory. When the donuts themselves come out of the oven hot, you'll then brush them with more butter and roll them in plain sugar with cinnamon for that crunchy final sparkle.

Bring wet ingredients to room temperature

It's important to bring your wet ingredients to room temperature before you combine them with the flour and other dry ingredients. Let the egg, milk, and even the pre-melted butter sit out until they are no longer cool to the touch. 

Yes, this may take a little bit of extra planning and time, but this move isn't just for funsies. Softened butter and room temperature egg tend to mix into other ingredients more easily and will disperse more evenly, say the folks at Cook's Illustrated. This seriously cuts back on the mixing time that can give baked goods an unpleasant rubbery feel when it's done for too long and the batter gets overmixed.

Once everything's at the right temperature, whisk together your dry ingredients. That's the flour, baking soda, baking powder, 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients: 2 tablespoons melted butter, egg, dark brown sugar, milk, vanilla extract, and apple cider concentrate.

Let the batter sit before baking

Once you've mixed the wet and dry ingredients separately, it's time to combine them by pouring the wet ingredients into the dry and then combining the two. Stop mixing as soon as they're just incorporated with one another. And don't be alarmed if you see bubbles starting to form already. This is a lighter, runnier batter, and the bubbles are just your baking soda and powder reacting the way they're supposed to. 

This recipe works best when you give that batter a little time to sit and rest before moving on to the next step. According to Kitchn, some batters need time to sit undisturbed for the gluten and starch molecules to do their thing. In this case, we noticed that donuts made right away after mixing just didn't rise as high as the donuts made after the batter sat out for 5 to 10 minutes. The air bubbles in the donuts made from rested batter were more numerous and the donut itself held a taller, domed shape.

Spraying the pan down is key for easy apple cider donuts

Although you'll be using a nonstick donut pan if you follow our directions, it's still a good idea to spray or brush down the pan with some cooking spray or butter to achieve the best finish on your donuts. You can also rest assured that the donuts will almost certainly come out of the pan with no trouble at all.

Doing this extra little step makes for a slightly crispier outside to the finished product, almost like what you would see in a more traditional fried donut. We even sprayed down the top of the donuts once we piped the batter in to make sure a thin layer of fat fully surrounded our batter.

Pipe the dough with a freezer bag

Don't have a piping bag? That's okay, we didn't either. There's a hack for most things in the kitchen and turns out piping bags are no exception. So, if you don't have one, reach instead for a standard freezer bag, either in a quart or gallon size.

To easily fill a plastic freezer bag with little mess and maximum stability, find a cup or bowl that the edge of the bag can roughly fold over. Place the bag inside and fold the edges over the rim, ensuring the bag won't go anywhere. This also means that you can zip it up at the end without any batter clogging up the closure. Just fill it up, gently press out any extra air, zip the bag closed, and cut the tip off of one bottom corner. And, voila! You have an at-home piping bag! It won't give you the fine control or specialized shapes that a standard piping bag and tip will, but it works just fine for our donut purposes here.

Fill up donut tin halfway with donut batter

These little donuts need a lot of room to grow, so when you're piping the batter in, be sure to give them extra space. It may seem counterintuitive but only fill the donut pan cups barely halfway, making a ring at the very bottom with your bag. They'll fluff up and dome in the oven, turning airy and sweet in the process. 

But if they're over-filled, the batter will puff up and try to meet at the center of the donut, while the seam around the edge of the cup will show through obviously. It's not the end of the world if this happens, of course, but be moderate with your piping and this process will yield even, round donuts with uniform holes.

Brush the baked apple cider donuts with butter

Once you've popped the batter in the oven and taken them back out after 10 or so minutes, let them cool just enough to handle. The donuts are done when you press on them lightly and they spring back. As the donuts bake, prepare the topping by whisking the granulated sugar with the rest of the cinnamon in a shallow bowl. Have a generous amount of melted butter and a pastry brush ready, too. 

Remove the donuts from the pan and use a pastry brush to swipe butter on every surface — yes, even the middle — of the warm donuts. The butter will allow for the cinnamon-sugar coating to stick and it will also impart an extra layer of flavor and moisture to the final product. Ultimately, that extra bit of butter helps to make apple cider donuts the rich, delicious treat that they are.

Dunk donuts in cinnamon sugar for a finishing touch

This last touch is what really makes an apple cider donut the festive and recognizable classic that they are. While brushing donuts with butter, remember to have a shallow bowl with a cup of white sugar and 1 ½ teaspoons of cinnamon whisked together ready to coat the buttery donuts.

After you've brushed it with butter, place the donut into the cinnamon sugar and twist it gently to coat one side and to also bring sugar into the middle of the donut. Flip it and repeat, taking care to gather the sugar at the bottom center of the bowl before dunking if you're running low. 

Your final product would have a thin coating of sparkly, crunchy sugar ready to stick to your fingers as you polish off every last bite. Needless to say, these donuts are best enjoyed fresh!

Easy Apple Cider Donuts Recipe
4.9 from 7 ratings
With not too much effort, an oven, and a dash of apple-pie spices, it can be autumn in your kitchen any day of the year with these comforting apple cider donuts
Prep Time
20
minutes
Cook Time
10
minutes
Servings
12
donuts
finished donut bitten
Total time: 30 minutes
Ingredients
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground clove
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, plus 4-6 more for topping
  • ¾ cup apple cider concentrate
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup milk, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons of melted butter, egg, dark brown sugar, milk, vanilla extract, and apple cider concentrate.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
  5. Set aside at room temperature and let sit 5-10 minutes.
  6. Spray donut tin with cooking spray.
  7. Fold a sturdy plastic freezer bag (gallon or quart-sized) over a measuring cup or another container with a wide opening. Spoon the batter in. Zip up the bag, pressing extra air out as you go. Cut the tip off of one corner, leaving an opening no bigger than a dime.
  8. Pipe donut batter into donut tin, filling each donut cavity up halfway.
  9. Bake for 10 minutes. The donuts are done when you press on them lightly and they spring back.
  10. As the donuts bake, prepare the topping by whisking granulated sugar with the rest of the cinnamon in a shallow bowl.
  11. Melt the rest of the butter.
  12. When donuts are done and cool enough to handle, brush them with butter and then dip them in the cinnamon-sugar mixture, making sure to coat both sides.
  13. Serve and eat right away.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 202
Total Fat 2.9 g
Saturated Fat 1.6 g
Trans Fat 0.1 g
Cholesterol 19.4 mg
Total Carbohydrates 41.4 g
Dietary Fiber 0.9 g
Total Sugars 24.6 g
Sodium 178.9 mg
Protein 3.0 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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