How to Make Cake Doughnuts

Is a fry pan full of bubbling cake doughnuts not a joy to behold, my friends? If not, I put it to you that you are dead. Or vegan.

Oh, I kid. You know, baseball players get a very bad rap. They’re not respected as athletes, though it’s widely claimed that the act of merely hitting the ball is the most difficult single feat in all of sports. Something similar can be said about doughnut making. It’s considered a rather plebian act by pastry standards. Yet frying doughnuts well — and consistently — is one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done in the realm of cooking. But more on that later.

Start by assembling your ingredients. Combine your dry ingredients in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.

Stir them all together, then add the very soft butter.

Stir on low for a minute or so to fully incorporate the fat.

Next, combine all your (warm) wet ingredients, including sour cream, into a pouring device and give them a good whisking.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients in the mixer and run the machine on medium-low for 30 seconds or so. Scrape the bowl down.

Don’t think you need to scrape? Have a look at this, PLENTY of dry stuff down there:

Mix another 30 seconds, scrape, then a final 30 and scrape once more for good measure. The batter should be mostly smooth and shiny:

Allow it to sit for 10 minutes while you bring your oil up to temperature. ALWAYS have a fire extinguisher at the ready when you fry. Notice that you want enough oil in the pan to cover the bulb of your thermometer while still leaving plenty of headroom (the oil level will rise when the doughnuts go in. Heat the oil to 380 degrees Fahrenheit.

For those interested in seeing how a professional cake doughnut apparatus works, I’ll start by using my Belshaw Type K Depositor. These things are expensive when they’re new (anything for business is), but can often be found used for about $100. Notice the end of the depositor goes right into the hot oil (to prevent the batter ring from changing shape as it falls).

I put in half a dozen, and the rings slowly float up to the top (note: if your oil is too deep the doughnuts will flip on their way up, and the torsion will cause cracks…one more argument for shallow oil).

Let the doughnuts fry for 45 seconds on one side, until you see little bubbly spots beginning to emerge on the undersides:

Then give them a turn with tongs (pros use drumsticks to turn a whole fryer full of rings one after the other, but I don’t recommend that for home). Fry for another 45 seconds…

…and remove to a screen for draining. There. Pretty close to perfect rings.

Now then, if you don’t happen to have a Belshaw Type K Depositor lying around, you can still make cake doughnuts the old-fashioned way, as so-called “drop” doughnuts. Just scoop up about a tablespoon and with your other finger (mine is clicking a photo just now), push the dollop into the oil. Repeat until the pan is mostly full. (Did I say ALWAYS pay careful attention to your oil temperature? Do.)

You’ll want to fry them until they’re a little darker than the doughnuts, since they’ll be a bit thicker. Say 1 minute per side.

The result will not be perfect rings, but they will be these, which, trust me friends, do not stink.

18 thoughts on “How to Make Cake Doughnuts”

    1. Hi Olivia,

      I’m used to readers showing me at least a little basic courtesy when they ask me for things. Try again and I’ll be happy to show you where to find the recipe.

      – Joe

          1. I actually found it before you replied. Sorry! I just had a hard time finding the message I sent ya! Gonna test these out before making them at work. Thanks again!

  1. Thanks for your detail instructions, Joe. Yesterday I bought a Belshaw and tried my hand at making this recipe. It was awesome. I made the mistake of using the amount of ingredients from the “drops” so I only got four or so. They turned out great, but I definitely needed more batter because a lot of air was getting in when I deposited the batter.

    Mine didn’t look at perfect as yours, but with time I hope to get that appearance.

    I had one question for you. I have a doughnut cookbook that has great recipes, but the portions are for rolling out the cake doughnuts. Do you know what I would do to turn them into a batter?

    1. Hey Clay!

      So glad to hear that — except for the too few doughnuts part of course. In my experience you need to load a hand extruder with at least two pounds of batter. You need the extra weight to push the batter through, so quadruple the quantities you see, scaling back the baking powder by about 15% when you get there.

      As for the other recipes, all you need to do is add more liquid until the batter is about the same consistency as mine: a thick paste. That’s it!

      Have fun!

      – Joe

      1. Thanks, Joe!

        I was so excited that I made a big batch late last night — my neighborhood might have to appear on Biggest Loser — and it worked great. I solved a huge problem that I didn’t know I had with my fryer. I had been trusting the fryer’s thermostat and the oil temp was way low. Switched to stove top and it did the trick because it could help me reach the ideal temp.

        Though it seems to be a bigger pain to manage, I think I’ll switch to the stove top frying for now.

        I love the site. It’s helped me a ton.

        1. So glad to hear that, Clay! And very glad to help. Glad that you figured out what was going wrong. I had the same problem once…those fryers need to be calibrated every so often. Full steam ahead! 😉

          – Joe

  2. I have decided to purchase a Belshaw K series donut depositor! I’m sooo excited!..but have a strange question..Is the pancake depositor and donut depositor the same? I can’t seem to find any answer on the internet? Please help!

    1. Hi Paige!

      The basic technology is the same though the little plunger head is different. You want something doughnut-specific for sure!

      – Joe

  3. Hey Joe!

    I tried out this recipe last night (delicious!). I didn’t realize until after I made a batch that you suggest using 4x batch with a belshaw dispenser–the batter seemed “thick”. Do you think the problem might be the fact that there just wasn’t enough batter, my experience using a dispenser is very new.

    Thanks for any help!


    1. Hey Shannon!

      That’s exactly what the problem is. For a commercial dropper you need the weight of the batter on top to push it through. So I’m sure it did seem thick since there was so little of it. The problem with it is that if it gets much thinner then doughnuts start taking up too much oil in the fryer and get greasy. So try again with more and let me know!


      – Joe

  4. “Notice the end of the depositor goes directly into the oil.”

    How did I overlook this?! Is this the reason my donuts come out in a million different shapes? I’ve read elsewhere online to keep the dispenser an inch and a half away from the surface of the oil. I can’t wait to get home and try this technique!

    1. Hey Kaitlin!

      I’ll be curious to see if it makes a difference. In general I keep the edge of the depositor right on the surface. Some doughnut makers I know always have the depositor tip submerged by half an inch or more. But more than an inch of falling can give the batter ring time to wobble!

      Let me know the results!


      – Joe

  5. Hi Joe,
    The link to the ingredients does not work anymore. Any chance I can still get the recipe?

    Also, what are your thoughts on:

    Using a hand help dropper?

    Doing a shallow fry in say a wok?


    1. Hey John!

      I was switching hosts today so the link may have been broken temporarily. It should be working now, however.

      Nothing wrong with a hand-held drop, but I’d use a deep skillet instead of a wok if you you. Not only is it a lot more stable, it’ll have an even depth with a more even temperature. Have fun and let me know what you think!

      – Joe

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