Breakfast Breads, Living in Sugar

Old Fashioned Buttermilk Donuts

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Hi there! Man has this week slipped away from me. I keep meaning to post, then I loose motivation. Has that happened to you recently? I think if I could bake and someone else could blog about the baking, that would be ideal 🙂 Mostly kidding. What I’m not kidding about this week though, is donuts. Old Fashioned Buttermilk donuts to be exact.

Old Fashioned Buttermilk Donuts with donut holes

History of Donuts (or doughnuts, or sufganiyot, or paczi…)

Donuts, as they will hence forth be called, have a long and distinguished history. Mostly an american history as Dutch settlers introduced doughnuts to the U.S. when they ended up in Manhattan, then known as New Amsterdam. They called these doughnut predecessors “olykoeks,” or oily cakes, which were fried in pork fat. Formed by dropping dough off the end of a spoon, their name evolved to “oliebollen,” or oily balls, thanks to their irregular round shape. (source)

Old Fashioned Buttermilk Donuts on a sheet pan

Thankfully, the name transitioned to doughnuts because of the shape of the dough after frying — dough knots. Then undoubtedly, shifted to donuts because we Americans like to shorten everything as much as possible. Time is money after all.

So where did that darn hole come from?

Most likely, the hold was a matter of temperature, frying and done-ness. As donuts evolved the dough became richer and more dense. This meant longer frying times in order to cook them all the way through. Most likely, a cook was frustrated one day and stamped out the center in order to cook the donuts evenly and quickly all the way through. Thus we can ever be grateful for the culinary delights that are donut holes.

Next came the wonders of machines, and deep fat fryers so that donuts would soon take over the pastry landscape in america. Capitalism at it finest.

Today, many of our beloved donut shops are closed and we can no longer enjoy the delights of a warm glazed donut. Never fear, I’m here to help. You too can have the fried delights right in your kitchen in under…say 2 hours. 🙂

Old Fashioned Buttermilk Donuts close up

This particular recipe also does not call for yeast, so if you are out of yeast like me, you can still triumph in donuts!

Fry, baby Fry!

The trickiest part of donuts is in the frying. I highly recommend a thermometer for frying and if you have one, a deep fat fryer would be fantastic. My kitchen doesn’t run to one of those, so I used a heavy cast iron pot to fry my donuts.

The fry thermometer I use
The fry thermometer I use

A proper draining rig is also a necessary item for these old fashioned buttermilk donuts. I use a cooling rack set upside-down over paper towels on a sheet pan. The excess oil will be wicked away so the donuts don’t sit and absorb the oil while cooling.

Lets talk about dough

This dough gets it’s rise from the chemical reaction between the baking soda, baking powder and buttermilk (hence the name). The buttermilk not only helps provide the lift, but also gives a bit of a tang to the dough so you have that old fashioned donut taste.

As they are cake donuts, the rest for the dough is important for the chemical reaction to take place so that they puff while cooked. The dough will be more dense than a yeast donut and will therefore sink when placed in the fry oil, but never fear, they will float after a few seconds.

Old Fashioned Buttermilk Donuts on wax paper

Cooking time will vary based on your oil temp, your pot, your dough — but the donuts shouldn’t be in the oil for longer than 2 and a half minutes. Any longer and the donuts will start to absorb the oil and create greasy donuts. not very tasty.

Once fried, I transfer my donuts on their draining rig to a warm oven (about 200F) until I am ready to glaze and eat them. Donuts are best the day that they are made. They will last, unglazed, in an airtight container for about a day or two. But this recipe makes such a small amount (6-8 donuts) that I don’t expect them to last that long. 🙂

Old Fashioned Buttermilk Donuts being dipped

I hope this gives you the encouragement to try these old fashioned buttermilk donuts at home! They are tasty and there’s something satisfying about making them from scratch.

See ya next time!

XO, Danielle

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Old Fashioned Buttermilk Donuts

Classic cake donuts get a bit of a twist with added buttermilk. Mixed in minutes & easy to fry you'll be in donut heaven in no time!

Course Breakfast
Cuisine American
Keyword Donuts, old fashioned
Prep Time 10 minutes
Resting time 1 hour
Author Danielle


  • 1 1/4 Cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1 Cup Cake Flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg; freshly grated if possible
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar granulated
  • 1/2 Cup buttermilk you can also use 1 cup of milk + 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp butter melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Canola or peanut oil for frying
  • confectioners sugar for dusting or thick vanilla glaze

For the Glaze:

  • 2 cups Powdered Sugar
  • 1 tsp light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp hot water plus more as needed


  1. In a large bowl, sift together flours, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt. In another large bowl, using an electric mixer or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the egg and sugar on medium speed until creamy and pale. Add the buttermilk (or subsitute), melted butter, and vanilla. Mix to combine.
  2. Add the flour mixture and mix until the dough just comes together.
  3. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to an hour, but no less than 30 minutes.
  4. When ready to fry, line a baking sheet with paper towels and place a cooling rack upside down on top of the towels. Heat oven to 200F.
  5. Pour oil into a deep heavy bottom saute pan (at least 2 inches deep) and heat over medium high heat until it reads 360F on a deep fry thermometer.
  6. Roll out dough on a floured surface approx a 1/2 inch thick. Using a 3 inch round cutter, cut as many donuts out as you can. using a smaller 1 inch cutter, cut the donut holes out.
  7. Carefully fry 2-5 donuts (depending on the size of your pot) at a time. Donuts should sink and then rise to the top of the oil. Fry 1.5 minutes, then flip and fry 1 minute longer. Remove to draining rig & return the oil to 360 after each batch.
  8. Place fried Donuts in warm oven until ready to serve.
  9. To serve, dust with powdered sugar or dip in the thick vanilla glaze.

To make the glaze:

  1. Place all ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add more hot water until desired consistency is reached. Glaze donuts right away

Recipe Notes

Donuts are best served the day they are made. Donuts can be stored for up to a day, unglazed in an airtight container.

You can re-use your fry oil. Allow it to cool then strain through cheese cloth and store at room temperature.

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