These baked apple cider donuts are soft, cakey, and beyond flavorful, but they’re baked instead of fried to make them a bit simpler! Coated with cardamom sugar for a little crunch and floral spice, these donuts are a unique twist on the classic fall treat.
The bad news is that I haven’t been to an orchard all autumn and I feel like the worst basic. The good news is that my lack of orchard adventures has led to this very moment where I present my hot take on the apple cider donuts. They’re baked, they’re apple-y, they’re topped with cardamom sugar. Did you expect anything different?
With the holidays popping up right around the corner (which by the way, WHAT?), I wanted to create something simple. A recipe that could be made in one bowl if you really felt like it. We’ll get into braided pie crusts and tediously-piped sugar cookies soon, but for now, let’s just enjoy the simplicity that apple season can offer. This is the kind of recipe you make for a casual get-together. Or because someone is on their way over and you want a little plate of something waiting for them. Or you just need a dipper for some hot black coffee. They are chill, they’re a crowd-pleaser, they’re a conversation starter. They are absolutely the vibe I want to take into the holidays this year. Join me, will you?
A few details about these donuts
As much as I love pumpkin, apple is the real star of the show every autumn. I love the tart, almost floral flavor that apples give to desserts. This time, we’re going with a classic because there’s no way I’m visiting an orchard every time I want an apple cider donut. These donuts are a super simple, rustic dessert that is great for potlucks, casual parties, or even brunch. They are just lovely with a cup of tea or a hot toddy if you want to really lean into autumn.
The donuts have a denser crumb because they’re more of a muffin-type batter than something you would deep fry. As much as I love classic apple cider donuts, we all know that I only deep fry something once every two or three years. And yeah, like, donuts are delicious. But to be honest, if I’m going to take the time to fry something, it’s going to be schnitzel or a really good fried chicken sandwich situation. So, we’re keeping it easy this time around with a good ol’ donut pan and a secret ingredient. Let’s get into it!
The ingredient list
Aside from one special ingredient, everything else in this recipe is pretty basic! To make the baked apple cider donuts, you will need:
- Apple cider – we need the seasonal, local stuff you find in the produce section in the fall. You can also buy some from local orchards or farmer’s markets! We’re going to use this to make boiled cider, although you can always buy boiled cider if you prefer.
- Flour – you just need regular, all-purpose flour to make this recipe.
- Sugars – both white and brown to add a caramelized flavor.
- Milk – use whole milk or try buttermilk for a tangy flavor.
- Spices – cinnamon, cardamom, and apple or pumpkin pie spice.
- Baking basics – baking powder, baking soda, table salt, unsalted butter, an egg, and vanilla extract.
How to make this recipe
Maybe the best part of this recipe is that it’s basically the easiest ever. You can mix it up in one bowl if you really don’t want to wash an extra bowl. I get it.
- First, we’ll make the apple cider concentrate! Just simmer some good quality apple cider in a saucepan until you have a half cup of apple cider concentrate. More on this later!
- Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices in a medium bowl and set aside.
- Next, we’ll whisk up our wet ingredients: melted butter, brown sugar, white, sugar, an egg, and vanilla extract. Stir in the cooled apple cider concentrate.
- Mix in the dry ingredients and milk in two batches until you have a thick batter.
- Pipe the batter into the molds of a greased donut pan. Bake at 375°F for 8-9 minutes.
- Let the donuts cool for a few minutes, and then brush them lightly with butter. Coat with cardamom sugar. Enjoy while they are warm and fresh!
Let’s talk about boiled cider
The secret ingredient to make baked apple cider donuts taste super apple-y is boiled cider! It’s essentially just a concentrate that will add a ton of flavor without adding too much liquid and messing up the texture of our donuts. You can either make boiled cider or buy it online or at specialty baking stores. Do whatever is easiest for you!
I personally just make the boiled cider myself. You’ll need to get a high-quality cider, the kind that you find seasonally in the produce section. You can also use the kind that you find at farmer’s markets or at apple orchards! Just pour 1 ½ cups of the cider into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower to a rolling simmer and let reduce until you have ½ cup total. This should take between 40-50 minutes total. Let it cool for about 20 minutes. If there are any solids that float to the top (spices, pulp, etc.), don’t bother removing them. Just stir everything together before adding it to the batter.
The flavor & texture
While these donuts are absolutely incredible, they’re not quite like the kind you get at the orchard every autumn. Those are a bit lighter and decadent because they’re fried. This recipe is baked so the donuts are a bit denser and cake-like. They have an intense apple flavor thanks to the boiled cider. Then, we coat them in a cardamom and cinnamon sugar mixture to add a nice crunch and floral spice. I could truly eat an entire batch by myself. They’re almost a little too easy to make and eat. And trust me, you need them in your life.
Storage & Freezing
While baked apple cider donuts are best fresh, they are still good after a couple of days! If you have leftover donuts, you can simply just store them in an airtight container for two or three days on the counter. Make sure you wait until they’re completely cooled or the warmth from the donuts will cause condensation in the container and melt the sugar.
To freeze the donuts, just wrap each un-sugared donut with some parchment paper and store them in an airtight container. Freeze for up to two months. When you’re ready to eat them, let them defrost completely. Then, warm the donuts for a couple of minutes in a low-heat oven (around 200°F) and then brush them with butter. Finish the donuts by coating them in cardamom sugar.
About Apple pie spice
Apple pie spice is basically just a mixture of all of the spices that you would put in, you guessed it, apple pie. You can usually buy it in the grocery store, but sometimes it’s not available. In that case, you can just use pumpkin pie spice. It’s basically the same thing! Or, you can always just replace the apple pie spice with a mixture of warm spices that you like. Try adding more cinnamon or cardamom plus ginger, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, mace, and/or anise.
- If you don’t have a piping bag, just pipe with a Ziploc. Clip the bottom corner of a large Ziploc, fill it with the batter, and pipe as you would with a regular cloth piping bag.
- If you don’t have apple pie spice, you can also just use a combo of warm spices like cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice, and cardamom.
- The donuts dry out easily, so make sure that you take them out right when they’re ready. Start checking for doneness at around 8-9 minutes. They’re ready when an inserted toothpick comes out clean or with a couple of moist crumbs.
- Brush the donuts with butter while they’re warm but not hot. It helps the sugar stick to the donuts.
- These donuts are best while they are still warm but they still make good leftovers. You can microwave them for about 10 seconds to reheat, but keep in mind, the sugar will melt!
More apple baking recipes
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Baked Apple Cider Donuts with Cardamom Sugar
- Donut pan
Baked Apple Cider Donuts
- 1 1/2 c apple cider*
- 2 c all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder (1 tsp. at sea-level)
- 1/4 tsp baking soda (1/2 tsp. at sea-level)
- 1/2 tsp table salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp apple pie spice
- 1/4 tsp cardamom
- 1/4 c unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 c brown sugar
- 1/4 c white sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2/3 c whole milk
Cardamom Sugar Topping
- 1/2 c sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp cardamom
- 1/4 c unsalted butter, melted
Baked Apple Cider Donuts
- Pour the apple cider into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and then lower the heat to a rolling simmer. Let the cider simmer, stirring occasionally, until it reduces to a 1/2 cup. This should take between 40-50 minutes. Remove from heat, pour into a heat-proof bowl, and let cool until it's lukewarm.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a donut pan** with baking spray or neutral oil. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, apple pie spice, and cardamom. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter, brown sugar, white sugar, egg, and vanilla extract until smooth. Stir in the boiled cider until incorporated.
- Add half of the dry mixture to the wet mixture, followed by half of the milk. Repeat with the remaining ingredients, stirring just until mixed. The batter will be fairly thick. Using a piping bag, pipe the batter into the molds until it comes up about halfway.
- Bake the donuts for about 8-9 minutes, just until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let the donuts cool for about 5 minutes in a pan before transferring them to a cooling rack.
Cardamom Sugar Topping
- In a small, shallow bowl, stir together the sugar, cinnamon, and cardamom until combined.
- Brush the bottom of each donut with melted butter, and dip the donuts into the cardamom sugar. Repeat with the tops of the donuts. Serve immediately and enjoy!
xo Sara Lynn
*Song of the day: Campus by Vampire Weekend