By: Justin & Kayla Butts Photos by: Rachel Benavides
Who is your sweetheart? They come in all shapes and sizes – we have some little sweethearts at home who are always hungry, and always ready for donuts. They don’t mind taste-testing our many donut experiments. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.
Your sweetheart may be a big, burly man or an enchanting young lady; an elderly grandmother or a young father; an old flame or a new romance. One thing is for sure: Every sweetheart loves donuts!
We experimented with many recipes to find the right balance between sweetness, density, and depth of flavor. We also wanted a donut that was easy and fast to prepare, but versatile enough to deliver a variety of flavors.
We discovered that cake donuts (baked in the oven rather than fried) offered the best flavor and versatility, but at a highly reduced calorie count! By baking instead of frying your donuts, you can serve them more often … and eat more of them when you do.
We begin with a master donut recipe of endless versatility. You can prepare these donuts and dust them with powdered or cinnamon sugar, or modify the master recipe to the variation you like best.
Balancing a few key ingredients is paramount in achieving the desired texture and taste of these cake donuts. The slight acidity in buttermilk helps leaven the donut and contrasts the sweetness of the toppings. For lighter, fluffier donuts, try cake flour; though we prefer a more substantial crumb and opted for all-purpose. Granulated sugar by itself lacks depth of flavor, while using only brown sugar leads to tough donuts. Use a mixture of granulated and brown sugar for just the right texture and sweetness.
Our toppings come from local ingredients ripening at this moment in the garden: carrots, rosemary and lemon, and bananas. Overly ripened bananas give our Bananas Foster donuts a rich and compelling sweetness. Find them in a friend’s backyard or from a local farmer’s market. We slather them in cream cheese icing spiced with rum to mimic the rummy vanilla ice cream in the popular dessert.
Earthy rosemary and tart lemon marry beautifully together in some of our favorite pasta, bread, and dessert. These flavors are so good on donuts, it’s surprising they are not donut staples. The rosemary counters the acidity of the lemon, resulting in a complexity your typical run-of-the-mill donut lacks.
Make your sweetheart feel especially loved this Valentine’s Day with these wonderful treats. Nothing says “I love you” better than fresh, homemade donuts. Come to think of it, when you make these homemade donuts for your special someone, the real sweetheart is you!
Master Cake Donut
Makes 1 Dozen
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
1/2 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prep two standard donut pans with non-stick baking spray. In a large bowl, whisk all of the dry ingredients and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to medium; add eggs and vanilla, beating until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in two batches, alternating with milk, and beat just until combined.
Spoon batter into donut pans, filling about 3/4 full.
Bake until tops of donuts spring back when lightly pressed, about 10 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Carrot Cake Variation: Complete steps 1 and 2 as above, increasing cinnamon to 1 teaspoon and omitting the nutmeg. Add 1/2 cup grated carrots, 8 oz crushed pineapple that has been strained, and 1/3 cup shredded sweetened coconut to the prepared batter and stir to mix. Spoon mixture into prepared pans and bake as instructed in step 4. In a separate bowl, beat 4 ounces softened cream cheese, 1/4 cup softened butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 cup powdered sugar until no lumps remain. Top cooled donuts with cream cheese glaze, shredded coconut, and roasted, chopped walnuts.
Rosemary Lemon: Substituting spices for 2 tbsp lemon zest and 1 tbsp minced rosemary, complete steps 1-4 as above. While donuts are baking, prepare rosemary lemon glaze as follows: heat 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1/4 cup water, and 1 large sprig rosemary over medium heat. Remove from heat as soon as mixture starts to boil. Add 2 tbsp unsalted butter and let cool to room temperature. Stir in 2 cups powdered sugar and 1 tbsp lemon zest, and drizzle over donuts. Garnish with candied lemon rind.
Bananas Foster: Complete step 1 as above. Add 2 over-ripened bananas to butter and proceed with steps 2-4 as above. In a medium sized bowl, combine 3 ounces cream cheese, 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, 1 tbsp softened butter, 1 tbsp milk, and 1 tbsp rum (or rum extract). Drizzle donuts with rum glaze and top with roasted pecans and spun sugar.