apple cider doughnuts

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It’s going to be 95 degrees here today, but I’m trying to force it to feel like fall anyway. It isn’t just the temperature; there are no trees here to change colors, the air is always dry and crisp, and the only place to buy pumpkins and apples is the grocery store. I often prefer living in the desert, even with months of over 100-degree days in the summer, but every fall, I miss upstate New York.

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I especially miss the cider mill I lived near when I was there, which was almost a fall festival of its own, every day. I loved stopping there and choosing one each of six different apple types, which made the best apple pies I’d ever eaten. In the weeks before Halloween, they’d cover most of the lot with pumpkins, not to mention the barrels of squash of every variety. Inside, you could watch them pulp the apples into cider on one side of the building, and on the other, they were frying doughnuts. Brushing fallen sugar off of our shirts after biting into fresh donuts became a yearly tradition.

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You can’t buy jugs of fresh cider here or the donuts made with it, but I can make my own doughnuts using pulpy storebought apple juice. By reducing the apple cider/juice until it’s syrupy, you can increase the apple flavor of the doughnuts without increasing the stickiness of the dough. Concentrating apple juice and frying apply donuts smells like fall, and, in a pinch, that will have to epitomize the season in the desert.

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One year ago: Burritos
Two years ago: Green Chile Rellenos
Three years ago: Stuffed Mushrooms with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Printer Friendly Recipe
Apple Cider Doughnuts (slightly adapted from The Hearth Restaurant via Smitten Kitchen)

Makes 18 doughnuts and 18 doughnut holes

Despite generally being anti-shortening, I tried it for frying this time. However, I wasn’t happy with it; it started smoking well before it reached proper frying temperature. The doughnuts also seemed to absorb more fat than usual.

1 cup apple cider
3½ cups (16.8 ounces) flour, plus additional for the work surface
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter, at room temperature
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
½ cup buttermilk
Vegetable oil or shortening for frying
Topping (optional): ½ cup granulated sugar + 2 teaspoons cinnamon

1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the apple cider to a simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until reduced to ¼ cup, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg.

2. Using an electric mixer on medium speed (with the paddle attachment, if using a standing mixer), beat the butter and granulated sugar until smooth, 1-2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time; continue to beat until the eggs are completely incorporated. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add half of the reduced apple cider and buttermilk, then all of the dry ingredients, then the remaining liquid ingredients, mixing just until combined.

3. Flour two sheets of parchment or wax paper; turn the dough out onto one floured sheet and cover with the second sheet. Roll the dough out to a thickness of ½-inch. Transfer the dough to the freezer until it is slightly hardened, about 20 minutes.

4. Using a floured 3-inch or 3½-inch doughnut cutter (or a round cutter plus a 1-inch round cutter or backside of a piping tip), cut out rings of dough. Place the cut doughnuts and doughnut holes onto one sheet of floured wax paper. Re-roll the scraps of dough, incorporating as little flour as possible. Refrigerate the doughnuts for 20 to 30 minutes.

5. Add oil or shortening to a deep-sided pan to measure a depth of about 3 inches. Heat over medium heat until the oil reaches 350°F. Place a wire rack over a baking sheet.

6. Carefully add three doughnuts and three holes to the oil; fry until golden brown, about 60 seconds. Flip the doughnuts and fry until the other side is golden, 30 to 60 seconds. Drain on the rack for one minute. Dip the top of the warm doughnuts into the cinnamon sugar mixture (if using) and serve immediately.

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  1. looks amazing!! I’ll have to give these a go soon! 😀

  2. Yum!!

  3. Do you think you can bake these instead of frying? I’m scared of deep frying lol. Thanks

  4. Yum! I need to make these soon!!

  5. Jackie H. says:

    You must have been reading my mind! I was just thinking I wanted to try to make my own apple cider donuts yesterday and today I open up my reader to find this post. Thank you!

  6. These remind me of the ones we get from a local orchard….sigh! SO GOOD!

  7. omg. I’m drooling. I’ve never made doughnuts before, but clearly I must. The weather has been hot here as well, but I’m still in the mood for all things apple!

  8. bridget says:

    Susan – Pans specially formulated for baking doughnuts seem to be all the rage these days, so you might want to check out one of those. I don’t know if the dough recipes are different though. For what it’s worth, these are very easy to fry because you’re working with just a few inches of oil, not a big pot of it.

  9. Thank you for frying. I was getting a little sick of the baked donut craze 😉

  10. those look so much better than the cider donughts they sell at the farmers’ market here. you could probably start a little buisness making these for north east transplants!

  11. Fall is my favorite season. It’s sad that you don’t get it out there. At least you made it yourself 🙂

  12. These look delicious!

  13. Being from the Northeast, I am never too far from a cider donut during the fall, but I have only found two farms that actually make their donuts from scratch. I bet these are even better! I have seen this recipe before, and I look forward to bringing cider donuts into my own kitchen.

  14. These cider donuts look so good! I feel for you, missing the Fall season in NY. I live in Central New York, where apples, cider and pumpkin farms are a plenty! As much as I hate the NY winters, I love the coming of Fall. I’ve never attempted to make my own donuts, but I might just have to give these a try – they’ll be a wonderful treat!

  15. Question: why both reducing the cider (which will dilute the flavor somewhat) just to add a fair amount of water via the buttermilk? Why not use dried buttermilk and uncooked cider, or at least less-cooked cider?

  16. bridget says:

    Evan – Reducing the cider will concentrate the flavors, not dilute them, as the water evaporates and leaves appleyness behind. Buttermilk has different properties than cider – the dairy and acidity of it tenderizes cakes and muffins.

  17. At this time of the year warm Apple Cider with spices is so good. Your doughnuts turned out really nice.

  18. Bridget,

    I’ve always thought that reductions concentrate flavors in the sense of “flavor per milliliter,” or pick your favorite density. But the apple smell produced by simmering cider, for example, comes from aromatic compounds leaving the cider and becoming airborne; i.e. the total amount of apple flavor in the liquid is reduced, though not as drastically as the amount of water is reduced. That’s why some modern chefs do reductions in a weak vacuum. Is that not the case?

    As for buttermilk, I wasn’t proposing leaving it out – just using dried buttermilk powder, which should have all the lactic acid, etc., of liquid buttermilk, but not come with any additional moisture. Thus it could be used in combination with unreduced cider, potentially giving more apple flavor.


  19. I should note that I guess the cider would still have to be reduced by 25% to maintain the total of 3/4 cup liquid.

  20. bridget says:

    Evan – That’s a good point. I haven’t seen many recipes developed around powdered buttermilk, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. I don’t get to make doughnuts too often, but next time, I might give that a try!

  21. Are you kidding me?!?!?! Why haven’t you made these for me before? I wasn’t aware you made doughnuts. I hear you will be in town for thanksgiving. Perhaps you can make me some of these for your favorite brother. : )

  22. *make some of these

  23. wrong blog, don’t know how i ended up here. thought i was at my sisters blog hahaha. sorry for the mix up. doughnuts look delicious nonetheless

  24. Dee Brown says:

    Miss cider donuts too. Lived in Clifton Park and went to Riverview Orchards all the time. Now in NC and wish I could get some shipped. Will try this recipe!! Thanks:-)

  25. These look delicious! If I wanted to serve these freshly fried, could I freeze them after cutting them out? Not much of a morning person, but a lot of a cider donut person… Thanks for the great recipes!

  26. bridget says:

    beth – Considering all the chilling steps in this recipe, I think it would be a great candidate for freezing before frying. Definitely try it and then update us here!