Old-Fashioned Buttermilk Doughnuts
These old-fashioned buttermilk doughnuts are soft and tender, just like your favorite bakery glazed cake doughnuts! They require no yeast, and are easier to make at home than you might think.
If you’ve never fried your own doughnuts, it’s time to fix that! And this old-fashioned buttermilk doughnut recipe is the perfect beginner doughnut to start with. It requires ingredients you likely already have in your kitchen, and since there’s no yeast, the dough is a cinch to make.
These doughnuts fry up with a slightly crispy and cracked exterior, great for trapping puddles of the vanilla glaze. And inside, the doughnut is deliciously soft and cakey.
This recipe makes a perfect small batch of just 8 doughnuts— enough to share, or keep all to yourself!
What are old-fashioned doughnuts?
Old fashioned doughnuts (or donuts) are often called “cake doughnuts”). They are leavened with baking powder and not yeast. This recipe uses cake flour for an extra tender texture, buttermilk for flavor, and a pinch of nutmeg for a bit of something extra. And the simple vanilla glaze is the perfect tasty finish!
Ingredients you’ll need
Here’s everything required to make these old fashioned donuts (full recipe at the end of this article):
How to make old-fashioned buttermilk doughnuts
Making doughnuts at home requires a few steps, but all of them are easy! Here’s how to make this recipe:
- Prepare dough. Mix butter and sugar together until mixture is sandy. Add egg yolks and beat until pale and creamy. Sift dry ingredients together and add in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk. Mix until dough is uniform, it will be very sticky.
- Let it rest. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.
- Roll and cut doughnuts. Generously flour your work surface, and roll chilled dough to about 1/2-inch thick. Use a doughnut cutter (or 2 different sized round cutters) to cut out doughnuts.
- Fry doughnuts. Heat oil in a heavy bottom pot to 375°F (use a thermometer if you have one). Once oil is hot, fry in small batches for a few minutes on each side until golden brown. Use a slotted spoon or spider strainer to transfer to paper towels to drain.
- Cover with vanilla glaze. Whisk together powdered sugar, light corn syrup, vanilla and hot water to make a smooth glaze. Dip doughnuts into the glaze, covering both sides. Set them on a cooling rack set over a baking sheet to catch excess glaze, and let the doughnuts set up for about 10 minutes.
Tips for making doughnuts at home
- These doughnuts are best the day they are made, though they will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for several days.
- If desired, you can use sour cream instead of buttermilk. Increase amount to 1/2 cup.
- Nutmeg really adds something extra to these doughnuts, without drawing attention to itself! You’d won’t know it’s there, but you’d miss it if it wasn’t. While it is technically optional, it’s highly recommended. If you have it, freshly grated nutmeg is preferred.
- Fry doughnuts in a heavy-bottomed pot as it will distribute heat better, and make sure to fill it with at least 4 inches of oil so that the doughnuts have enough room to float.
- For best results, use a thermometer to help keep oil at 375°F. If you fry doughnuts in oil that is too cool, it’ll take longer and your doughnuts will soak up more oil. If the oil is too hot, you risk burning the doughnuts. Adding the doughnuts to the hot oil will cause the oil temperature to drop. Fry in small batches and adjust heat as needed.
- If you don’t have a thermometer, test the temperature with a single doughnut hole. If it immediately sizzles and rises to the surface, the oil is ready.
- Protect yourself! Wear an apron to protect your clothing from any splatters, and use a slotted spoon to gently ease the doughnuts into the hot oil, flip them over, and remove them.
- A toothpick is a handy tool for dipping and flipping the doughnuts in the glaze.
- When you are done, turn off the heat and let the oil cool to room temperature completely. Pour through a funnel into a container with a secure lid and discard (or save to re-use for frying later). Do not pour oil down the drain.
More doughnut recipes to try
Shop my favorite doughnut tools
This recipe was originally published in 2012, photos have been updated and slight improvements to the recipe have been made.
Old-Fashioned Buttermilk Doughnuts
For the doughnuts:
- 2 ¼ cup cake flour (255 grams)
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg (freshly ground preferred)
- ½ cup granulated sugar (100 grams)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter , cubed
- 2 large egg yolks
- ⅓ cup buttermilk (80 ml)
- Canola or vegetable oil , for frying
For the vanilla glaze:
- 3 ½ cup powdered sugar , sifted (350 grams)
- 1 ½ teaspoon light corn syrup
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅓ cup hot water (80 ml)
To make the doughnuts:
- In a bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together until mixture resembles coarse wet sand (see Notes). Add the egg yolks and mix until thick and pale yellow in color, about 3-4 minutes.
- Add the flour mixture to the bowl in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk, starting and ending with the dry ingredients, scraping the sides of the bowl down as necessary. The dough will be sticky.
- Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour and up to 24 hours.
- On a floured surface, roll out the chilled dough to about ½ inch thick. Use a doughnut cutter or two differently sized round cutters to cut out 3-4 inch doughnuts, dipping the cutters into flour as necessary to prevent sticking.
- Pour the oil into a heavy bottomed pot to at least 2-4 inches deep. Insert a thermometer and heat to 350°F over medium-high heat.
- Add the donuts to the heated oil a few at a time, careful not to overcrowd the pot. Fry on each side about 2 minutes until golden brown, and watch to make sure they don’t burn. Doughnut holes will fry about 1 minute on each side.
- Remove with a slotted spoon and set on paper towels to drain.
- Fry remaining doughnuts, adjusting heat as needed to maintain 350°F.
To make the glaze:
- Mix all ingredients in a bowl with a whisk until smooth. Dip each donut into the glaze, flipping to cover both sides, making sure they are covered completely. Place on a wire rack above a sheet pan to catch any excess glaze. Let sit for 10-20 minutes until glaze is set.
- Doughnuts are best the day they are made, but will keep in an air tight container at room temperature for a few days.
- The addition of nutmeg adds something extra to these doughnuts. You can leave it out, but I highly recommend you include it. If you have it, freshly ground nutmeg is preferred.
- If you have a larger mixer like I do, it can be hard to mix the butter and sugar together since it’s such a small amount. If you find that the beater isn’t reaching very well, you can do this step by hand with a fork. Mash butter and sugar together to make a coarse sandy mixture.
45 Comments on “Old-Fashioned Buttermilk Doughnuts”
Oh my, these look delish. And so ironic that you posted these today, because my co-worker and I were talking about old-fashioned donuts just YESTERDAY and how I needed to make them. Funny 🙂
I pinned this recipe and will be testing them out shortly!
They look fabulous! I’m thinking you could bake these too.
I squealed with joy when I saw this recipe! I LOVE old fashioned donuts, there’s nothing better. I’ve searched and searched for a recipe that looks promising, and I haven’t found one… ’til now!
They look fantastic, I am making these ASAP! Thank you for sharing 🙂
wow they look perfectly crispy on the outside and so moist and fluffy on the inside, this is just how I like them and I can’t wait to make them
Looks wonderful. and I love the old fashioned look.
Josh would love these!
Seriously feel like having some.
Oh my. My husband would faint from delight if I made these. Sour Cream Donuts are is fav!
Yum! I have a similar relationship with doughnuts and have been on a kick lately. I made some from a KAF recipe recently and was totally let down, so I have high hopes for these. It’s a snow day here and I’ve been trying to figure out what comfort food snack to make, and now I know. Thanks!
I love donuts. I love homemade donuts, most especially. The old fashioned variety is my fave too. Thanks for sharing! Have to try this out. Enjoy your pregnancy…how far along are you, I think a donut here and there will still be good for the little one, just don’t over indulge. 😉
I’m currently 26 weeks, getting closer! 🙂
I use the excuse that I’m nursing to indulge – I don’t know what I’m going to do when I don’t have that to fall back on anymore! 🙂 But these look absolutely amazing. I need them now.
If you have to indulge in doughnuts, they may as well be homemade–they’re absolutely 100% more delicious than store-bought. 🙂
We have been working on really rocking some gluten free doughnut recipes around here, but haven’t ever though of sour cream. It makes sense (I have gfree chocolate cake recipe) that calls for sour cream. So… we’ll be trying this one out. Thanks for the inspiration.
Did you have any success using gluten free flour? Its so expensive I hate to waste it, I have tried 3 recipes in the past week that were fails.
I have never tried gluten free flour in this, or any other recipe on my site. I would imagine adjustments would need to be made to achieve the same results. I’m sorry I’m no help.
I just spent a week babysitting my grandkids in Mo. I baked everyday. This would have been a great idea! Your blog is lovely!
The donuts look so tasty and perfect in the pictures! I have never attempted to make doughnuts before, but maybe with this recipe I could try! Thanks for sharing! 🙂
Just made the batter, in fridge now. I’ll let you know how I make out later—can’t wait.
Yummy!!!!! Need to measure 1/2 inch next time—-but still DELICIOUS. Taste is superb. You rock Annalise.
You rock Annalise!!!! These are yummy, taste is superb. next time I need to them 1/2 inch, I was a little short on these, but you can’t beat the flavor.
Recipe looks perfect! Just curious if you’ve tried baking them instead of frying? I’m wondering if they would come out totally different. I’m trying to stay away from fried foods 🙂
I haven’t tried it myself, but I imagine it would be possible, though it probably would change the results some. Give it a try and let me know how it goes!
do you have to use cake flour?? dying to make these tonight!
Sure, go ahead it will work in a pinch without changing the results too much.
Can these be made the night before?? Or should they be made morning-of for the best results??
They’re definitely best right after they’re made, but they were still enjoyable the next day and the day after that (I think, if they lasted that long!).
Can the dough be prepared the night before and chilled overnight in the fridge to be rolled out and fried in the morning? Thanks!
old fashioned’s are my favorite and I have never made doughnuts before – wow, what a great recipe and good instructions – these turned out great.doughnut shop taste and texture – thank you !
Old Fashioned’s are my favorite too! They’re the best. So glad you liked this recipe, thanks for the comment!
I followed the directions and I’m an expeirenced cook/baker. Mine fell apart into little pieces in the oil. I chilled the dough overnight…could that be the problem? Would AP flour stand up better?
The only thing I’m missing here is the perfect chocolate glaze for my favorite old fashioned donuts. 🙂 ty!
Same as above. Fell apart in a thousand pieces.
What a bummer, I’m sorry to hear this recipe didn’t work out for you. I’ve made this recipe so many times without any issues, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment here if you’d like me to help troubleshoot the issue!
I was confused. Made this recipe to the exact details. Ended up having to add much more liquid (Buttermilk) than stated. Also, even though I used fresh oil…they taste oil. I brought the Temperture up to 375+ and they cooked beautifully. But still had a very oily taste. Don’t know why. Funny thing is…we still ate them. Nomnom
I’ve been looking for an old fashioned donut recipe for so long it and seems like half of them use buttermilk and the other half uses sour cream. What’s the difference between the two? Thanks!
Annalise, am really wanting to make these for our Sunday brunch. Wondering if the dough chill time can be extended to overnight? Trying to save some morning time to be with family, and would find it so much more convenient to have all ready except for frying and frosting. Thanks for the wonderful recipe.
Absolutely! Such a great make-ahead idea!
I had them same problem – donuts crumbing in the oil. I live at 6,000 ft. Could altitude be a factor? We still ate them (even though they were ugly, haha) and they were delish!
I had the same problem as a few others. Dough was very dry. Added more buttermilk. They were a bit dense. I’m thinking add one egg white. Do you think that would make them too puffy?
I’ve never made donuts before. But I’m excited to make this recipe. It’s really simple it seems. I do hope mine don’t fall apart as some of the women I read about. There’s another recipe for regular donuts I’m gonna try as well. Thanks hun for sharin.
I had to add 1/2c of extra cream/buttermilk in addition to the 1/3c the recipe calls for, to get it to come together at all. I then turned the dough out on a cutting board and gently incorporated the rest of the crumbly bits. After an hour in the refrigerator it did roll out well and the donuts turned out great!
I made these doughnuts today and the texture was perfect and exactly what I expect from both the doughnut itself and the glaze, however I felt that the doughnut part lacked in that classic cake doughnut old fashioned flavor. I did add some vanilla to the batter, but it still lacked in flavor. Other that that I thought it turned out fairly well.
I have a question, so as a beginning baker I have learned that you can “chill proof” doughs that have yeast in it. (Chill the dough overnight)
For this recipe could I make it the day/night before, chill it overnight, and then make it the next morning?
Would it affect the texture and outcome of the doughnuts?
Hi Hayden! These doughnuts are leavened with baking powder, not yeast. So it’s a little different as baking powder loses its power over time. I think as long as you prepared the dough, chilled it, and made the doughnuts within 12 hours max you might be okay. But I haven’t tested it to say for sure.