When the days begin to turn frosty and the leaves golden and crunchy, I crave pumpkiny baked things – muffins and cakes and loaves, typically, but I’m always lured by photos of pumpkin cake doughnuts, tossed while still warm in cinnamon sugar. I can’t imagine a better snack to warm your hands after a walk in the woods or a few hours of leaf-raking. Good news – they’re far easier to make than you might think.
These cake doughnuts aren’t yeasted, so if you suffer an aversion to yeast doughs, fear not. This is as simple a dough to mix together as they come. It’s then patted out, cut and fried. (If you don’t have a doughnut cutter – I bought mine at a garage sale for 25 cents – use a glass rim and then a shot glass to cut out the middle. Even your finger works.) A regular pot with a couple inches of canola oil – my choice because of its high smoke point, neutral flavour and heart-healthy fats – will cook them quickly.
The trick is to get the oil to the right temperature – I dip a scrap of bread into the oil and when bubbles sizzle up around it, it’s ready – if the oil is too hot and the doughnuts brown too quickly, they may not cook all the way through; if the oil is cool and the doughnuts take forever to cook, they’ll absorb too much oil and be heavy and greasy. The best way to figure it out is by doing it – after a few trial doughnuts, you’ll get the hang of it. And you’ll make plenty of people happy as you learn.
Pumpkin Spice Cake Doughnuts
adapted from Bon Appétit
2 Tbsp. butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup canned pure pumpkin
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup buttermilk or sour milk
canola oil (for frying)
In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until well blended; beat in the egg and vanilla, then pumpkin puree. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and salt and add half to the butter mixture, beating just until combined. Beat in the buttermilk, then the remaining flour mixture.
Cover and let the dough sit for an hour. When ready to make doughnuts, heat a couple inches of canola oil in a heavy pot until hot but not smoking (about 365˚F on a candy or deep fry thermometer); on a floured surface roll or pat the dough out 1/2-inch thick and cut with a doughnut cutter. Cook a couple at a time for a minute per side, until golden. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
If you like, toss warm doughnuts in cinnamon-sugar, or dip in a glaze made with 1 cup icing sugar and 2 Tbsp. cream or maple syrup.