Plain Cake Doughnuts: History, Baking Tips, Serving Ideas, and Healthier Variations

Plain Cake Doughnuts: History, Baking Tips, Serving Ideas, and Healthier Variations

You can trace the origins of plain cake doughnuts to early Dutch settlers in North America during the 18th century. These settlers brought with them recipes for “olykoeks” (oil cakes), which are the precursors to today’s doughnuts. The traditional olykoeks were round or oval, fried pastries without holes.

By the mid-19th century, doughnut recipes began appearing in American cookbooks. One example is from Mary Randolph’s “The Virginia House-Wife” published in 1824, which includes instructions for making a cake doughnut using flour, sugar, eggs, and milk. These early recipes didn’t yet standardize the iconic ring shape we recognize today.

Rise in Popularity Through the Years

The plain cake doughnut gained widespread popularity in the early 20th century. During World War I, the Salvation Army’s “Doughnut Lassies” served them to soldiers on the front lines in France. This act introduced doughnuts to a larger audience and cemented their place in American culture.

By the 1920s, doughnut shops began to emerge across the United States. With the advent of automated doughnut machines, production increased, making doughnuts more accessible. Brands like Krispy Kreme, established in 1937, played significant roles in popularizing doughnuts nationwide.

In modern times, plain cake doughnuts remain a staple. They are celebrated every year on National Doughnut Day, first created by the Salvation Army in 1938 to honor the “Doughnut Lassies” and their contributions.

What Makes a Plain Cake Doughnut Special?

Ingredients Commonly Used

Plain cake doughnuts rely on a few key ingredients to achieve their distinctive texture and flavor. You’ll find that flour, sugar, and eggs form the foundation of the dough. Buttermilk or milk adds moisture, while baking powder acts as the leavening agent. A touch of vanilla extract provides a subtle hint of sweetness, and salt balances the flavors. Each of these ingredients plays a crucial role in creating the perfect doughnut.

Texture and Taste Profile

The texture of plain cake doughnuts is what sets them apart. Unlike yeast doughnuts, they have a denser, crumblier structure. This density comes from the use of baking powder rather than yeast, giving these doughnuts a cake-like consistency. When you take a bite, you’ll notice the exterior has a slight crispness, while the interior remains soft and light.

In terms of taste, plain cake doughnuts offer a subtly sweet flavor profile. The touch of vanilla and the natural sweetness from the sugar create a simple yet satisfying treat. Some recipes may include a hint of nutmeg or cinnamon, adding a warm, cozy note to the overall taste.

How to Bake Perfect Plain Cake Doughnuts

Choosing the Right Ingredients

Selecting quality ingredients ensures your plain cake doughnuts turn out delicious. Use all-purpose flour for a balanced texture. Granulated sugar adds sweetness, while eggs contribute to the dough’s structure. Buttermilk lends a slight tanginess and helps with leavening. Baking powder provides the necessary rise. Vanilla extract enhances the overall flavor, and a pinch of salt balances the sweetness.

  1. Preparation: Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C) and lightly grease your doughnut pan. This step ensures your doughnuts won’t stick and bake evenly.
  2. Mix Dry Ingredients: In a bowl, combine 2 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 cup of granulated sugar, 1.5 teaspoons baking powder, and 0.5 teaspoons of salt. Stir the mixture to distribute the ingredients evenly.
  3. Mix Wet Ingredients: In a separate bowl, whisk together 2 large eggs, 1 cup of buttermilk, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract until smooth.
  4. Combine Mixtures: Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture. Stir gently to avoid overmixing, which can result in dense doughnuts.
  5. Fill Doughnut Pan: Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, filling each cavity about two-thirds full. This prevents overflow and ensures a uniform shape.
  6. Bake: Place the pan in the preheated oven. Bake for 15-18 minutes until the doughnuts are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into one comes out clean.
  7. Cool: Allow the doughnuts to cool in the pan for about 5 minutes. Then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. This step helps them achieve the ideal texture.

Following these steps, you’ll bake perfect plain cake doughnuts with a rich flavor and delightful crunch.

Serving and Pairing Ideas for Plain Cake Doughnuts

Coffee and Beverage Pairings

Plain cake doughnuts pair perfectly with a variety of beverages. Classic coffee options, such as a freshly brewed cup of black coffee or a creamy cappuccino, enhance the doughnut’s flavor. If you prefer tea, choose robust varieties like Earl Grey or Assam. For a richer treat, pair with hot chocolate topped with a dash of cinnamon.

Creative Serving Suggestions

Elevate your plain cake doughnuts with creative serving ideas. Serve them warm with a dusting of powdered sugar or dip them in a sweet glaze for added flavor. For a gourmet touch, offer a selection of dipping sauces, like chocolate ganache or fruit compote. Create a dessert platter by pairing doughnuts with fresh berries, whipped cream, and a sprinkle of shaved dark chocolate.

Health Considerations

Nutritional Information

Plain cake doughnuts, typically made from flour, sugar, eggs, milk, and butter, offer a balance of macronutrients. On average, one plain cake doughnut (about 60g) contains around 225 calories, 10g of fat, 4g of protein, 30g of carbohydrates, and 1g of fiber. Sugar content usually totals approximately 15g. These figures vary based on specific recipes and preparation methods.

Healthier Variations

For a healthier option, consider these ingredient modifications. Replace white flour with whole wheat flour to increase fiber content, improving digestive health. Use natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup instead of refined sugar to lower the glycemic index and reduce blood sugar spikes. Opt for baking instead of frying to significantly cut down on fat content. Include Greek yogurt in the batter to boost protein levels, enhancing satiety and muscle repair.


Plain cake doughnuts are more than just a nostalgic treat; they’re a versatile and delightful addition to any occasion. Whether you’re enjoying them with a morning coffee or as part of a dessert platter, there’s no denying their charm. By experimenting with healthier ingredients, you can indulge without the guilt. So, gather your ingredients, fire up your oven, and start creating your perfect plain cake doughnuts today. Your taste buds will thank you!

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