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).
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.
what’s in these baked apple donuts?
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 made these donuts egg-free (and easily vegan).
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:
- All-purpose flour
- Baking powder
- Baking soda
- Apple or pumpkin pie spice (or you can make your own!)
- Unsweetened applesauce
- Olive oil
- Milk or almond milk
- Vanilla extract
And don’t forget melted butter, cinnamon, and sugar for the crunchy topping!
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.
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.
- Combine the wet ingredients together in another bowl.
- Fold the wet into the dry, until just mixed. The batter will be nice and thick.
- Pipe the batter into two buttered donut pans, as this recipe makes a perfect even dozen. This is the only specialty tool you’ll need for these donuts, and a set of two is pretty inexpensive. Alternatively, you can make donut “holes” in a mini muffin tin. I like to use a piping bag (or a ziploc) to make things quicker, easier, and less messy!
- Bake! In about ten 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.
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.