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.
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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.