Homemade baked apple donuts coated with a sweet and crunchy cinnamon sugar topping. These tender cake donuts are super moist and bursting with flavor from fresh applesauce, good olive oil, vanilla, and apple pie spice. Quick and easy to whip up for a fall breakfast treat, and made with just ten simple ingredients. Vegan friendly!
Cinnamon sugar apple donuts
My parents came to visit last weekend, and we did the most October-y things possible – going apple picking, decorating our front porch with colorful mums and pumpkins, and baking up not only an apple pie, but some homemade apple donuts with our bounty.
Just having them here is a treat in itself because we live so far away from each other now, but all of the seasonal cherries-on-top made my fall-loving heart oh, so, happy.
And still making me happy? These cinnamon sugar apple donuts on repeat. They’re not only delicious, with a moist and tender crumb, and sugary crunch on top, but incredibly quick and simple. Made with just 10 ingredients (that I bet you have on hand right now), they taste so much like everything to love about this season I almost can’t stand it.
Why you’ll love these easy apple donuts
Not only are these applesauce donuts sweet and flavorful, with a perfectly moist and tender, almost muffin-like texture, but they’re super easy to make. And since the recipe takes less than an hour to make from start to warm-from-the-oven, sugar coated goodness, you won’t have to get up at dawn to make them for breakfast.
Most apple donuts use apple cider for that wonderful, seasonal, apple flavor we all love – like in my homemade apple cinnamon rolls – but in this case, I opted to use fresh applesauce, which not only adds moisture and flavor, but speeds up the baking process (no cider to reduce), and makes these donuts egg-free (and easily vegan).
The ingredients you’ll need to make these baked apple donuts:
Perhaps I’m a lazy baker, but most of my favorite recipes – the ones I make over and over again – are full of simple ingredients we have on hand anyway, and that’s definitely true here. These are the ingredients you’ll need with tips on substitutions:
- flour: regular all-purpose flour forms the base of these donuts. For the best soft and fluffy texture, be sure to measure your flour carefully (and if possible use a baking scale), and gently mix just until no streaks of flour remain.
- granulated sugar: for sweetness. These donuts are not overly sweet on their own, but once they’re rolled in the cinnamon sugar topping, they’re irresistible.
- baking powder and soda: the combination adds just the right amount of lift and produces tender, round donuts.
- apple pie spice: a blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves pairs perfectly with sweet apples. I like to use a blend for simplicity (pumpkin pie spice works too) but you can also make your own!
- salt: to intensify all the other flavors. My favorite Kosher salt is Diamond Crystal.
- applesauce: unsweetened applesauce gives these donuts all their apple flavor. You can use store-bought or homemade.
- olive oil: I love to use olive oil in my baking, but you can use canola, vegetable, sunflower, or another neutral baking oil.
- milk: for moisture. I like the subtle nuttiness that almond milk adds, but you can use regular dairy or your favorite plant based milk for vegan apple donuts.
- vanilla: adds a lovely flavor boost.
And don’t forget melted butter, cinnamon, and sugar for the crunchy topping!
The best topping for apple donuts
A quick dip in melted butter, followed by a generous roll in cinnamon and sugar. That’s it!
You can also choose to top these with a glaze (I’ve made both maple and caramel versions), but I’m partial to good, old-fashioned cinnamon and sugar which tastes more like the classic apple cider donuts you’ll find at apple orchards and farm stands this time of year.
How to make homemade apple donuts
This recipe is about as low-maintenance as donuts get! Not only are these apple donuts healthier than their fried counterparts, but they take a lot less time to make than traditional, yeasted donuts. No kneading, rolling, rise time, or messy frying.
And they get bonus points for not requiring a mixer or unusual ingredients. You’ll need just two mixing bowls, and a handful of measuring cups and spoons (less if you measure by weight). You can start to finish make (and devour) these beauties in under an hour, so they’re great for even a last-minute weekend breakfast treat. Here’s how we make them:
- Combine the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.
- Whisk together the wet ingredients together in another bowl.
- Fold the wet into the dry, until just mixed. The batter will be very thick.
- Pipe the batter into two buttered donut pans, as this recipe makes a perfect even dozen.
- Bake! In just a few minutes these beauties will emerge from the oven. They should be golden brown and have a slight spring to them.
- Add the donut topping. Dip each donut in melted butter, then roll in cinnamon sugar until well-coated. The more sugar clumps the better!
- Voila! Homemade apple donut goodness.
Find all the exact recipe measurements and full instructions below.
What’s the difference between yeast donuts, cake donuts, and baked donuts?
Yeast donuts are the most traditional, with a light and airy honeycomb crumb and slight chew. They’re simpler in flavor, and not all that sugary apart from a sweet glaze on top. They rise thanks to yeast as the name implies, and are rolled out and cut before being fried.
Cake donuts – such as apple cider or old-fashioned donuts – rely on chemical leaveners (baking powder and/or soda) instead of yeast, resulting in an often less-structured batter. They’re generally much sweeter than traditional yeasted donuts, and come in many more flavor variations, and have a denser, more crumbly, cake-like texture.
And baked donuts forego the yeast and oil altogether and are baked in a donut pan. The texture is most similar to a slightly dense, very moist muffin, and in the case of these cinnamon sugar apple donuts, lots of apple and spice flavor.
All three styles are delicious in their own right, but I’m a sucker for the ease of baked donuts at home.
While this applesauce donut recipe is quite simple, you will need a few special kitchen items to make them.
- Grab yourself a pair of nonstick donut pans. This is the only specialty tool you’ll need for these donuts, and a set of two is pretty inexpensive and make homemade baked donuts a breeze.
- If you don’t want to commit to that, you can also make little apple donut holes in a mini muffin pan. See the recipe notes below for baking times!
- Once the wet and dry ingredients are mixed, and the baking powder and soda are activated, the batter will be thick. While you can absolutely spoon it into the pans, it’s much easier and cleaner to pipe the batter into the pans using a pastry piping bag (or a ziplock bag with the corner snipped off).
Baked Apple Donuts with Cinnamon Sugar FAQs
Sure! Instead of donut pans, you can bake these in a lightly buttered mini muffin pan at 400℉ for 9-11 minutes. You should have enough batter for about 30 mini “donut hole” muffins. Or, you can also bake them in a regular muffin pan starting at 400℉ for 8 minutes, then 350℉ for another 6-8 minutes, until the tops are gently domed and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
These apple donuts are best the day of, warm from the oven and freshly dipped in the cinnamon sugar topping. If you have extras, they will keep for 1-2 days in an air-tight container at room-temperature.
Looking for more tasty apple recipes? These are some of my favorites:
- Blackberry apple upside down cake
- Caramel apple crumb bars
- Cider baked apples
- Homemade apple hand pies
- Apple cider cinnamon rolls
- Cinnamon streusel apple muffins
If you make this baked apple donut recipe, be sure to tag me on Instagram with the hashtag #forkknifeswoon and leave a comment and rating below letting me know how you liked them! ★★★★★ Star ratings are especially helpful because they help others find my recipes too. xo, LauraPrint