Homemade Baked Apple Donuts with Cinnamon Sugar

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!

Baked apple donuts with cinnamon sugar (vegan option) from forkknifeswoon.com

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.

apples on a tree

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!

Baked apple donuts with cinnamon sugar (vegan option) from forkknifeswoon.com

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.

rows of apple trees at an orchard

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:

  1. Combine the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Whisk together the wet ingredients together in another bowl.
  3. Fold the wet into the dry, until just mixed. The batter will be very thick.
  4. Pipe the batter into two buttered donut pans, as this recipe makes a perfect even dozen.
  5. 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.
  6. Add the donut topping. Dip each donut in melted butter, then roll in cinnamon sugar until well-coated. The more sugar clumps the better!
  7. Voila! Homemade apple donut goodness.

Find all the exact recipe measurements and full instructions below.

toddler picking apples
freshly picked apples on a white linen tablecloth

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.

Baked apple donuts with cinnamon sugar (vegan option) from forkknifeswoon.com

Equipment Notes

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 (vegan option) from forkknifeswoon.com

Baked Apple Donuts with Cinnamon Sugar FAQs

Can I make these baked donuts into muffins?

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.

How to store applesauce donuts:

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:

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, Laura

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Baked apple donuts with cinnamon sugar (vegan option) from forkknifeswoon.com

Baked Apple Donuts with Cinnamon Sugar


  • Author: Laura Bolton
  • Prep Time: 25
  • Cook Time: 15
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 12 Donuts 1x
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

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 (and a vegan option).


Ingredients

Scale

for the donuts:

  • 2 cups (240g) all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 11/2 tsp apple pie spice ¹
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (158g) unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup (60g) olive oil
  • 3/4 cup (180g) milk (or almond milk) ²
  • 1 Tbsp (15g) pure vanilla extract

for topping:

  • 4 Tbsp (57g) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled ²
  • 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon or pie spice

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400℉. Grease two donut pans with butter or baking spray. Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, apple pie spice, and salt until combined. Set aside.
  3. In another mixing bowl, whisk together the applesauce, olive oil, milk, and vanilla until smooth and combined.
  4. Fold the applesauce mixture into the dry ingredients, until just mixed and no streaks of flour remain.
  5. Transfer the batter to a large piping bag (or a ziploc bag), snip off the corner, and pipe the batter into the donut pans. Each donut mold will be filled almost to the top.
  6. Bake until golden brown, and a toothpick inserted into the center of each donut comes out clean, about 10-12 minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pans for 10 minutes before transferring to a baking rack to cool.
  8. When the donuts are cool enough to handle (15 minutes or so), add the melted butter and cinnamon-sugar mixture to two small shallow bowls.
  9. Dip each donut in the melted butter followed by the sugar topping until well-coated. Enjoy!!

Notes

¹ Make your own apple pie spice: mix 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground ginger, 1/4 tsp ground cloves, and 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg.

² For vegan apple donuts, substitute unsweetened almond milk (or another dairy-free milk of choice!) in the batter, and vegan butter in the topping. Note: if you’re measuring in grams, be sure to check the volume conversion, as different milks may vary in grams/cup. I often use Malk almond milk (170g).

These apple donuts are best the day of, but will keep for a day or two in an air-tight container at room-temperature.

  • Category: Baking, Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: baked apple donuts, apple donuts, cinnamon sugar, easy, egg free, vegan optional, applesauce, fall baking, healthy, olive oil, apple cake donuts

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33 Comments

  1. 10.1.21
    Patricia said:

    These are awesome donuts. Very light.

    • 10.1.21
      Laura said:

      Thank you so much, Patricia!!

  2. 9.16.21
    Abigail said:

    Wow, Laura! These are sooooo good! Fabulous for breakfast.
    And next time, I’m thinking about adding a dollop of fresh whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream and serving them for dessert!

    • 9.16.21
      Laura said:

      Thank you so much, Abigail!!

  3. 5.9.21
    Patrícia said:

    I’m really excited to prepare these apple donuts. Thank you for sharing this amazing recipe.

    • 5.9.21
      Laura said:

      Thanks, Patricia! Enjoy!

  4. 2.26.21
    Sana said:

    Hi -I made these today and while the flavor was great the batter was very thick and it was very difficult to pour it in the pan with the piping bag or even just to spoon it in. I feel the recipe needs more liquid. The only thing I changed from your recipe was that I put whole wheat flour instead of all purpose flour. Do you think whole-wheat flour absorbs more liquid and that’s why the batter was so thick?

    • 2.26.21
      Laura said:

      Hi, Sana! The batter is thick in the original recipe, but will definitely be thicker if you change the flour to whole wheat because yes, it does absorb more liquid than all-purpose. I haven’t tested this with ww flour so I’m not sure how exactly to adjust the ratios – you’ll need to play around and see 🙂

  5. 1.22.21
    Susan said:

    Flavor is good but I only got 9 donuts out of the recipe. I think there needs to be more liquid. My family was happy so that’s good!

  6. 12.24.20
    Becky said:

    What do you mean by fresh applesauce? Applesauce from a jar or homemade applesauce?

    • 12.24.20
      Laura said:

      Hi, Becky! The recipe calls for unsweetened applesauce, you can use jarred or homemade. Enjoy!

  7. 12.19.20
    Luciana said:

    Loved the donuts!

  8. 11.25.20
    Jeff W. said:

    Easy to make and always delish..These are my go-to donut recipe..Thanks!

    • 11.25.20
      Laura said:

      Thank you so much, Jeff!!

  9. 10.12.20
    Casey said:

    Can this be made into a cake??? I am needing a dairy free smash cake recipe for my nephew and he loves these donuts!

  10. 10.6.20
    Rohit Gangwani said:

    Thanks so much for this healthy yummy recipe! I used half cup whole wheat flour and the rest of 3/4th cup flour was white flour. I wish to know if I can use date syrup to make the recipe sugar free or is sugar necessary as an ingredient for the science of baking donuts? Also, why did we use 4 tbsp oil since applesauce is an alternative to oil and fats in baking? Can I skip on oil and fats and add in more applesauce instead? One more question, for some reason I was not satisfied because I wanted the flavor and taste of apples to be easily detectable but it wasn’t so can that be achieved by simply adding in more applesauce or will it affect the chemistry and fail the donuts? Thanks so much and sorry for too many questions! : )

    • 10.6.20
      Rohit Gangwani said:

      P.S. I used coconut milk so it was great overall. I used a clean syringe to inject glaze in warm donuts and it worked to improve the sweetness. Glaze was made differently, 1 tsp caramel, 1 tsp brown jaggery, diluted with coconut milk and added some vanilla essence.

    • 10.6.20
      Laura said:

      Hi, Rohit! Happy to hear that your substitutions were successful! I have not tried using date syrup or removing the oil in these donuts so I don’t know if that will work. Definitely let me know if you try it! If you’re looking for even more apple flavor you could probably try adding some grated apple to the batter (I wouldn’t just add more applesauce without adjusting the other ingredients). Hope that helps! 🙂

  11. 10.5.20

    Thanks, A good recipe! The grandgirls loved them! I overfilled the donut pan a little too much on some, they turned into muffin tops! But everyone liked them alot.

  12. 5.24.20
    Rachel said:

    Loved this recipe! Reminds me of the cider donuts we get in fall from an apple orchard near us. We used only 1 tsp vanilla extract, and used 1/2 cup greek yogurt mixed with 1/4 cup water in place of the milk because we were out of milk. We also don’t have donut pans so we made “donut holes” by putting the dough in mini muffin pans. Baked for 11 minutes and they were amazing!

  13. 4.29.20
    Paige Lauren said:

    This recipe looks great! What can I do if I do not have a donut pan? Can I pipe them then refrigerate them so they keep their shape while baking?

    • 4.30.20
      Laura said:

      I don’t think the batter will hold up without a pan, but you can use a muffin tin! Mini muffins would probably cook around the same time, and regular sized muffins will take a little bit longer. I would probably also drop the temperature down to 375 degrees. Hope that helps! 🙂

  14. 4.25.20
    Erin said:

    Delicious and incredibly easy, thank you for posting!

  15. 4.5.20
    Sandy said:

    Any idea if substituting the applesauce with grated apple would work? Not sure if I would lose out on moisture. Unfortunately the only ingredient I dont have is applesauce and getting groceries these days can be tricky.

    Thanks!

    • 4.5.20
      Laura said:

      Hi Sandy! I haven’t tried this so I’m not sure if it would work. The flavor would be there, but the applesauce also adds a lot of moisture so you might need to up the milk to compensate. Start with maybe an extra tablespoon? I totally support not going to the store right now for extra ingredients! I’m doing the same thing. You could also try using pumpkin puree or mashed banana if you have those on hand. The flavor will obviously be different, but still yummy. Hope that helps!

  16. 2.23.20
    Shay said:

    These donuts were easy to make and the taste and texture were fantastic! Thank you for such an excellent recipe. I’ll be making these again soon.

    • 2.24.20
      Laura said:

      Thanks so much, Shay!! 🙂

  17. 11.6.19
    Louise said:

    I made these on Saturday morning for a weekend treat, but they didn’t last past Saturday afternoon! Everyone loved them. They were positively delicious!
    Thanks also for explaining the differences between yeast, cake and baked donuts. I learned something new about that, too 🙂

    • 11.8.19
      Laura said:

      So, so happy to hear that! They don’t last long in our house either 🙂

  18. 11.4.19
    Chocoviv said:

    Such delicious looking donuts…

Hi! I'm Laura, the food-obsessed cook, writer, and photographer behind Fork Knife Swoon, where you'll find mostly sweet, seasonal recipes and stories from my Northern Virginia kitchen.

All photography and content copyright Laura Bolton ©2021.