Out of the Frying Pan, Baked Goods Inspire: Pumpkin Cake Doughnuts

In the days before Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, we had a stretch of gorgeous, unseasonably balmy weather here in D.C. Last Saturday morning, I met up with several law school classmates and their children at nearby Turtle Park. It was a perfect autumn day: dry, sunny, warm, and hard to believe that the first effects of Sandy were slated to arrive in only 36 hours. I wanted to bring some baked goods, and I figured that Pumpkin Cake Doughnuts were perfect for the season. Plus, I could make them quickly in the morning and deliver them fresh to the park.

A while ago I bought some doughnut baking pans, and I had only used them once before -- to make a baked spice doughnut recipe from King Arthur Flour. I wasn't thrilled with the results and never made the recipe again. The pumpkin cake doughnut recipe is also from King Arthur Flour, and given how much I love pumpkin and cinnamon (together or apart), it was hard to resist. The recipe is easy. You beat together oil, eggs, sugar, canned pumpkin, spices (I didn't have pumpkin pie spice, so I used cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg), salt, and baking powder, and then stir in flour. You fill greased doughnut pans and bake.

The doughnuts came out orange colored. But while they are still warm, you toss them with cinnamon sugar, and the cinnamon-sugar coating dramatically toned down the outside color to a pleasing warm brown. I never buy cinnamon sugar, but at some point I got a free jar of cinnamon sugar from Penzey's (it includes sugar aged with a vanilla bean and both China Cassia cinnamon and Ceylon cinnamon), and so I used that instead of mixing my own. The recipe says you have to wait until the doughnuts are "no longer fragile" until coating them in cinnamon sugar, but I didn't have any problem doing this right after I released them from the pan.

These doughnuts are incredibly tasty. The texture is quite dense (and they are still orange on the inside!), but also very moist and tender. The coating of cinnamon sugar is the perfect (and I think necessary) finishing touch. My doughnuts were just barely done, and the soft texture of the interior was delectable. These are distinguishable from a fried doughnut, but I think that they are just as delicious. I would rank them above any pumpkin muffin or pumpkin bread that I've ever tried. They were a hit at the park with kids and adults alike, and even discerning six-year old Alexander eagerly ate an entire doughnut.

I'm sure these would also be tasty baked as muffins, but I honestly feel that my purchase of doughnut pans has been totally justified by this recipe alone. I will definitely be breaking out the doughnut pans more often to make these scrumptious treats!

Recipe: "Pumpkin Cake Doughnuts" from King Arthur Flour.

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