Apple Cider Spice Doughnuts

I bet every single one of you is thinking right now, “Hey, I wish those Our Best Bites gals would post some more treats! We haven’t had enough of those lately!” What’s that? You need doughnuts? I hear you loud and clear!

During the summer between high school and college, my well-meaning parents thought I should have something better to do than sit around and be super-annoying for three months, so I was forced to get a job. After the magic of high school graduation had faded and I was left penniless (or at least as penniless as a teenager with a roof over her head, food in the fridge, and gas in the car can be) and bored, I started working at the bakery of a local grocery store. Sounds fun, right? It so wasn’t–second only to apartment managing as the worst job I’ve ever had. However, one perk was that I could eat and take home as many of the baked goods that hadn’t sold that day as I wanted. It started with a bagel here, a piece of bread there. By the end, it was like, “Oh, I’ve only had 2 doughnuts today, another one isn’t a big deal!” It’s really good I was only there for three months or I would’ve gained the Freshman 15 30 before I even started.
Anyway, during this window of generous doughnut sampling, I discovered one thing: I like yeast doughnuts, but I love cake doughnuts. I love everything about them–the delicately dense, crumbly texture, the variety of flavors–blueberry! Devil’s food! Buttermilk! Spice!–I mean, really, what’s not to like? I also discovered that they’re called cake doughnuts, not because they’re baked like cake but rather that they use baking powder as the leavening agent rather than yeast. Next time someone accuses you of wasting time and not learning anything on the internet, you shoot THAT little factoid their way!
These cake doughnuts taste just like fall. Whip a batch up for a post-trick or treating snack, send some with your honey to work, or bring them to your kids’ Halloween parties. One AWESOME thing about these is that they keep well for even a few days after you make them (as long as you keep them sealed in an air-tight container or bag), so they don’t have to be eaten immediately. In fact, dare I say it, these are somehow better the next day (any Alton Browns out there want to take a stab at that one?), so you don’t have to be a hero and try and make these with a million other things going on.
Apple Cider Spice Doughnuts
1 c. apple cider, preferably fresh apple cider or something high-quality like Simply Apple
1 c. sugar
3 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/4 c. butter-flavored shortening
2 eggs
1/2 c. buttermilk
1 quart canola or peanut oil (for frying)
Spiced Sugar
Shake or whisk to combine:
3/4 c. white sugar
1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring the apple cider to a boil. Continue to cook over high heat for about 7-10 minutes or until it’s reduced to 1/4 c. Remove from heat and allow to cool (you can transfer it to a heat-safe cup and place in the refrigerator or freezer to make things move a little more quickly. Also, if you’re in a pinch, you can use 1/4 c. of undiluted apple juice concentrate).
While the cider is reducing, combine shortening and sugar in a large bowl and mix with an electric mixer on high for 2-3 minutes or until it’s light and fluffy (if you’re using a KitchenAid mixer, use the paddle beater). Add eggs one at a time, beating completely after each addition. Add reduced cider and buttermilk and beat until combined.
In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. Add flour mixture to the liquid mixture and beat until just blended. The dough will be very soft–it will be about the consistency of chocolate chip cookie dough (minus the chocolate chips, of course! 🙂 )
Apple Cider Spice Dough
Carefully lay a sheet of plastic wrap on top of a baking sheet. Transfer dough to the plastic wrap. Lightly flour a rolling pin and roll dough out to about 1/2″ thick. Top with another layer of plastic wrap and transfer the pan to the freezer for about 20 minutes or the refrigerator for 1 hour. While dough is chilling, you can prepare the spiced sugar topping.
When the dough has chilled, remove from the freezer/refrigerator. Using a round cookie cutter, cut circles out of the dough. Using a smaller cookie cutter (I only had a tiny heart or a tiny shamrock, but c’mon, aren’t these the cutest things you’ve ever seen??), cut the centers out of the circles and reserve the “holes” for little bite-sized pieces of apple-spiced goodness! Place cut dough pieces on a lightly floured baking sheet. When all the dough has been cut out, place the pan back in the refrigerator while you prepare the oil for frying.
In a large, deep saucepan or Dutch oven, heat 1 quart of oil over medium heat. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, go buy one–they’re not just handy for this recipe, but they are also a) fabulously cheap and b) ALWAYS useful. Anyway, using a candy thermometer, heat oil to 325 degrees. While oil is heating, line a plate or baking sheet with paper towels.
When the oil is hot, carefully place a few pieces of dough into the hot oil (don’t crowd the pan, but you can probably get away with cooking 3-4 at a time, at least). The dough will sink down and then rise to the surface. Check the bottom side; if it’s golden brown, flip the doughnut. If it’s still a little pale, give it another 30 seconds or so and then check it again. After you’ve flipped the doughnut, the other side will cook significantly faster, so keep an eye on them. All in all, they should take about 90 seconds-2 minutes to cook completely.
Remove doughnuts from hot oil with a heat-proof slotted spoon and transfer to paper towels, followed by a baking rack (if you need the paper towel space for more doughnuts).
What can I say, I couldn’t resist!
Repeat frying process with remaining dough and then with the holes–the doughnut holes will cook EXTREMELY quickly, so be careful not to burn them.
Place spiced sugar mix in a large Ziploc bag and then shake a few doughnuts at a time in the mixture.

Apple Cider Spice Doughnuts
Apple Cider Spice Doughnuts

Makes about 24-36 doughnuts (plus as many doughnut holes), depending on how big you cut the doughnuts and how many times you roll out the scraps.


And go ahead and buy the big ‘ol jug of apple cider, because on Monday Sara is going to show you how use the rest of it! And pop in this weekend for a little bonus post too!

woman in denim shirt holding a salad bowl
Meet The Author

Sara Wells

Sara Wells co-founded Our Best Bites in 2008. She is the author of three Bestselling Cook Books, Best Bites: 150 Family Favorite RecipesSavoring the Seasons with Our Best Bites, and 400 Calories or Less from Our Best Bites. Sara’s work has been featured in many local and national news outlets and publications such as Parenting MagazineBetter Homes & GardensFine CookingThe Rachel Ray Show and the New York Times.

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Questions & Reviews

  1. April–I'm so sorry I didn't get back to you until now! Yesterday was crazy. Anyway, regular shortening should be just fine. As far as frying goes, I've never friend in shortening, but I'm sure that will be just fine, too! 🙂

    Happy doughnutting! 🙂

  2. I was planning to make these tomorrow for an after trick-or-treating treat (as if we needed any more!), but didn't notice that I'd need butter shortening before I went to the store. Would regular butter (or shortening) work? And what are you thoughts on deep frying in melted shortening?

  3. Belle–You could for sure keep the cut dough in the fridge overnight. Anything to make it easier, right? 🙂

  4. so excited for these; darling & mighty tasty! I know you said chill dough for 1 hour, but could I chill longer (as in maybe overnight) and fry them in the morning? Or is that too long?


  5. I made these last night and they were delicious! My first try at donuts… thanks for giving me the confidence I needed to try them!!!

  6. I'm just now working on a blog post where I suggest serving Apple Cider Donuts, These ones are too cute with the heart centers.

  7. These look awesome! I am going to make these this weekend.
    I just have to say how excited I am that I discovered your blog! I have been facebooking it and sharing it on my message boards. Awesome job ladies! Keep it up!

  8. The hearts are such a fun addition to these great looking donuts! I am just not a fan of deep-fried food, so maybe you can come up with a way to bake these instead?! 🙂

  9. Holy Yum!!! Your doughnuts not only look irresistibly delicious, but they're beyond cute with those little heart cutouts!! What an ingenious idea! I just happen to have some apple cider sitting in my pantry and a full day ahead of me to play in my kitchen….you've made my day!! Thanks

  10. I cannot believe that you posted this today. I was just digging through my cookbooks to find exactly this! Saturday morning doughnuts!!!

  11. I want these doughnuts. Sadly have to wait until tomorrow to get real apple cider from the local fruit market. I can't wait!

  12. oh best bite girlies….these look wonderful. i am excited to compare these to my own, which i hope will be much better. and the heart holes…omigosh!….how cute is that? what i am looking all over for is a decadently delectable recipe for devil's food or chocolate cake donuts. there is a donut house near us that makes these and i could just faint away, they are so good. and i am NOT a big chocolate lover, but these babies…oh, man….they cross all boundaries. they even put chocolate frosting on them, which is gilding the lily in my book. but there you have it. can you PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE (urgent begging) find and test a chocolate donut that is beside its own self with deliciousness?

  13. Kate, these look AMAZING, and those little hearts are just sweet 🙂 Max says apple cider donuts are huge on the East Coast…why have I never seen them here? I'm thinking that's got to change 🙂

  14. Oh yum! I really need to stop checking out your blog! I'm going to gain 100 pounds during this pregnancy! 🙂


  15. Our local grocery store has glazed pumpkin spice cake donuts and apple spice cake donuts this time of year and I have the hardest time resisting them! I allow myself to buy one package of each or I'd be eating them all season long! They are so tasty!

  16. These sound SO GOOD! And I absolutely love the heart center- why has no one though of that before, I wonder?

  17. Holy crap, I have no hope for eating well this fall if I keep reading your blog! As if it's not bad enough that we're making your caramel popcorn weekly, now you post this?! Cake donuts are my favorite!

    *sign* I guess I'll learn to be fat and happy. 🙂

  18. I'm fairly new to your blog but I love it. These look great! We're making some this weekend for sure! The little heart cut outs are so cute! Thanks for sharing!

  19. Ohhh those look so yummy! I love the little heart cut-outs. I would have guessed they would have been unrecognizable after frying, but they're perfect little hearts! How cute. I told my hubby that I wanted to make cider and doughnuts an annual fall tradition but my adventures with yeast doughnuts seriously took ALL day long. These look so much easier, can't wait to try them!

  20. Jennie–not tacky at all! I loved reading your post! 🙂 I just hope the doughnuts live up to your expectations (and I'm a little nervous, I'll be honest!)

    Sarah–I added it to the post, but they make roughly 24-36 doughnuts (plus as many holes), depending on how big of a cutter you use and how many times you re-roll the scraps (I usually do the first roll-out and then roll once more. Like for everything. Unless I'm in desperate cookie-baking situations where I'm trying to eke out as many cookies as possible without making another batch of dough).

  21. These look really yummy! I have always been intimidated by doughnuts, but I might just have to try these!

  22. These look just like the ones at the Louisburg Cider Mill in Kansas. I can't wait to make them at home!!

  23. I saw a recipe for Apple cider doughnuts in the latest food network magazine and I've been wanting to give them a try! I this weekend is perfect timing!

  24. These look fantastic! How many would this recipe make, It may have said but I must have missed it.

    Love your blog!

  25. These sound soo good! I've been trying to do a fun baking project every weekend and these are top of the list for next week. Thanks!!

  26. You have no idea how far and wide I have searched for a recipe for apple cider donuts!!! I'm an avid baker/cook and have tried to recreate these many a time with no success. I write for Segullah and actually posted about this a month or two ago, so THANK YOU!!! You know what our family will be having for breakfast tomorrow!

    Sorry if linking to my post is tacky, but I thought you might want to read it.

  27. These look great. Thanks, I'm excited to try these. I know a lady who uses a shallow cooking skillet for making donuts, she says she can cook more at one time and uses less oil.