Homemade pumpkin cake doughnuts from Our Best BitesSo a few years ago, I posted a recipe for apple cider doughnuts. Every time I made them, they came out great, but there were a lot of people who had various problems with them, so I decided I was going to re-work the recipe and figure out where people were going wrong.

So…I put it on my calendar and had big plans to remake and repost it this month. Heck, I still might if my kitchen can handle Armageddon II…making doughnuts is not a tidy process, especially when you’re me and you throw all caution to the wind in the kitchen, and then hit the drive-thru for dinner because you can’t handle the thought of dirtying another dish. But I digress.

As I was researching apple cider doughnuts (hush, it’s a real thing), I came across this old-fashioned pumpkin cake doughnut in one of my FAVORITE cookbooks, the Top Pot Doughnuts cookbook. And I thought to myself, “Self, in a world filled with apples and pumpkins, in the month of October, pumpkins always win.” So…I tried them out. And they were amazing. Share-worthy. Repeatable. Family tradition-esque.

I’m not going to lie, this is trickier than your average recipe–the ingredients and instructions are not really suggestions here. If you come back and say, “So I followed the recipe exactly,  but these totally flopped! I did use bread flour instead of cake flour, and I used butter instead of shortening and I don’t believe in candy thermometers, so I just kind of winged it on the oil temperature!”, I’m not giving you any of my extra doughnuts.

You’re going to need cake flour, baking powder (make sure it’s fresh–this is your only leavening ingredient), table salt, ground nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice, sugar, shortening or lard (lard is trans-fat free, shortening is vegetarian; pick your poison), egg yolks, sour cream, canned pumpkin, and oil for frying (I recommend peanut oil because it has a very high smoke point and it’s odorless/flavorless; canola also has a high smoke point, but at high temps, it can start to smell/taste like fish, which, unless you’re into fish-flavored doughnuts, might not be your thing.

pumpkin doughnut ingredients

For the doughnuts, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg (I grate my own because it’s so pretty and it smells so good, plus, it lasts a lot longer than ground nutmeg!),

grated nutmeg

and pumpkin pie spice in a medium bowl and set aside.

spices in flour

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the sugar

sugar for doughnuts

and shortening for 1 minute on medium speed. Add the egg yolks and mix for 1 minute; the mixture will be light yellow and thick.

Have your flour mixture, sour cream, and pumpkin ready. Add roughly 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix until combined. Add the sour cream and mix until combined. Add another 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix until combined. Add the pumpkin, mix until combined, then add the final 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix until just combined. The dough should be wet and sticky like cookie dough.

pumpkin spice doughnut dough

Transfer the dough to a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 45 minutes, but up to 24 hours.

Before frying the doughnuts, make the glaze. In a medium bowl, add all the glaze ingredients except for the milk.

pumpkin doughnut glaze

Slowly add the hot milk, whisking constantly, until the mixture is smooth. Set aside. This step can also be done in the bowl of a stand mixer, but I found it just as easy to do it by hand.

Heat at least 2 inches of oil in a heavy duty pot or Dutch oven to 325 degrees (use a candy thermometer!)

While the oil is heating, sprinkle some additional flour onto a work surface. This is where things get a little tricky. I found that while I was rolling the doughnuts, I probably incorporated about an additional 1/2 cup of flour into the dough because it’s very sticky. However, this will vary depending on your climate, elevation, humidity, etc., so I’m hesitant to give an exact amount of how much additional flour to use. That said, the dough should be soft and silky, but workable. It should pull back very slightly when you push it and it shouldn’t stick to your hands and fingers at all. Dip the cutter into flour each time you cut a doughnut and be sure the work surface is well-floured. If you find the dough is sticking to your work surface or your cutters, it’s okay–just incorporate some of the flour into the dough and roll or pat it out again (once you get it to where it should be, the dough will be very easy to work with).


Don’t be scared of the flour. Place the dough on the floured work surface and flour your hands and a rolling pin. Place the dough on the floured work surface.

pumpkin doughnut dough

Roll the dough out to about 3/4″ thickness and then flip it over (which shouldn’t be hard because your work surface was so well-floured) and roll it down to 1/2″.

rolled pumpkin doughnut dough

Dip a 2 1/2″ biscuit or doughnut cutter into some flour and then cut the doughnuts.

cutting pumpkin doughnutsobbhomemadedonuts-13

Re-roll and cut the scraps until either the dough becomes too springy or you run out of dough. I don’t have a doughnut cutter (goodness knows that’s pretty much the last thing in the universe that I need), so I use the heart from this mini cookie cutter set to cut out the centers.

cut pumpkin douhghnuts

When the oil reaches 325, shake off excess flour from the cut dough pieces and carefully add them to the pot, a few at a time (depending on the size of your pot–just don’t crowd the pot and you’ll be fine). Once the doughnuts float to the surface, fry for about 15 seconds and then flip them. Fry for 75-90 seconds or until they’re golden brown and cracked, then flip back to the first side and fry for another 60-75 seconds or until golden brown. Transfer to a paper towel-lined tray or plate and repeat with the remaining dough.

While the doughnuts are still hot, dip the side with the deepest cracks deeply into the pumpkin glaze.

Homemade pumpkin cake doughnuts from Our Best Bites

Allow to cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before serving. Makes 12-15 doughnuts.

Homemade pumpkin spice cake doughnuts from Our Best Bites




  1. 1
    Jessica M says:

    Oh yummy! Now I have to try these…you have totally appealed to my sentimental side. My mom used to cut out the middle of doughnuts with a heart shape! I think it is high time I invest in the heart shape and carry on the tradition. Thanks for the memories and the recipe!

  2. 2

    I will definately have to try these. But we also love your apple cider doughnuts. I make them every Christmas morning. So I’m interested in the rework. But I have never had a problem with the recipe :)

  3. 3
    Gina C. says:

    These look delicious! Is there a way to check and make sure your baking powder is still good, or should I just buy a new container if it’s been sitting around for a while?

  4. 4
    Jennifer says:

    Palm shortening is trans fat free AND vegetarian! I use it because I don’t really like the taste of lard in baked goods. It is labeled Non-hydrogenated shortening, and is sold in Whole Foods type stores. :)

  5. 5
    Mary says:

    These look so good. Do you think this recipe would work in a donut maker if you decreased the amount of flour so the batter is looser? I would try it either way.

  6. 6

    My, my, my! They look perfect. Now I’m craving donuts!

  7. 7
    Kaylene says:

    So do we use the cake flour for the rolling out as well?

  8. 8
    Cyndy says:

    So you say stick to the ingredients, but does that preclude me from using a cake flour substitute (flour with cornstarch)? These look so yummy, I want to make them right now, but I just bought doughnuts this morning for my daughter to take to school for her birthday and bought extras for the family. :(

    • 8.1

      The thing with real-deal cake flour is that it’s much finer and has a lower protein content than all-purpose flour, which is what’s going to give you that awesome cake doughnut texture, you know? So you can try it, but I can’t guarantee their awesomeness. :)

  9. 9
    Cami says:

    Oh, I can’t wait to try these!!!

  10. 10

    Wow those look great! Thanks for all the detailed instructions on the recipe.

  11. 11
    Elizabeth Brigham says:

    Where did you buy your cake platter? It’s beautiful!

  12. 12
    Erika says:

    Oh my gosh, canola oil DOES taste like fish when it’s too hot!!! I always thought it was just me. This validates so many issues I have with fish, my mom’s bad fried chicken and canola oil. This has been a very helpful session :)

  13. 13

    This recipe is absolutely fabulous! I love old fashioned donuts!

  14. 14
    Thesha says:

    Thank you, these look totally amazing! Bring on Fall!

  15. 15
    lejarie says:

    I wonder what would happen if I just baked these instead of frying them? Would they be edible?

  16. 16
    Carmen says:

    Hey Kate! Those look awesome. Also, I had a crazy dream last night that we were hanging out in your kitchen and you making me muffins and smoothies. They were delicious. Aaaaand I’m pretty sure that’s kinda creepy, but I’m basically a huge fan of this blog. Maybe I can meet you IRL someday and it wouldn’t be so weird.

  17. 17
    Morgan says:

    These doughnuts look divine. I actually own this cookbook, but I have yet to make anything out of it. Silly right?

  18. 18
    anna says:

    JUST made these! So so yummy! They will be a new fall tradition!

  19. 19
    Holly says:

    These look so pretty! I’ve never tried making my own… my dad makes what we call “fry cake” donuts and this is the first year in 25 years I don’t get to have any this fall because my husband and I moved. Maybe I’ll have to try these. Thanks for the recipe!

  20. 20
    Corene Swisher says:

    These look to-die-for! But, they also look time-consuming. I wish I could stop by with coffee and share yours. :)

  21. 21
    Kirsten Smith says:

    Can you bake these using a donut pan? If not do you have any recipes for baked donuts? Thanks!

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