These are exactly what you want, and hope, them to be. They are muffins that have the remarkable texture and flavor of classic cake doughnuts, plus a generous glug of eggnog for good measure. In other words, a winter morning dream come true.
Doughnut muffins were actually one of the first ever — as in ever — baking recipes that I ever made, so I have very warm feelings toward them. That first batch came from Molly Wizenberg's recipe for Nutmeg Doughnut Muffins on her blog Orangette, which was in turn inspired by the OG doughnut muffins made by the fine folks at Downtown Bakery & Creamery in Healdsburg, CA.
These doughnut muffins are the best of all worlds: they are baked in regular muffin tins — no special equipment required — but they have that dense, but totally tender texture unique to cake doughnuts. The texture is partly a result of the higher liquid to flour ratio, partly the mixing in the dry and liquid ingredients by hand, and partly (I'm convinced) pure magic. A dunk in butter and powdered sugar completes the doughnut illusion.
For the holidays, I replaced the milk in the original recipe with creamy, nutmeg-scented eggnog and lowered the sugar to compensate for the sugar already in the 'nog. I've also made a few tweaks to the original instructions based on my experiences over years and my own personal preferences.
If you've never had doughnut muffins before — or even if you have! — you're in for a treat with this recipe. It's one to make on Christmas morning and hoard for the lazy days that follow. Don't forget to pour yourself a strong cup of coffee for the dunking urge that will certainly manifest upon first bite.
For the muffins:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly-grated nutmeg
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup whole-fat eggnog
For the topping:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup powdered sugar
Heat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle position. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with muffin liners.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter on medium-high speed until creamy, scraping down the sides as needed. Add the sugar and beat until light, fluffy, and creamy, again scraping down the sides as needed. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until the batter is smooth.
Remove the mixing bowl from the mixer and use a stiff spatula for these next steps. Add a quarter of the flour mixture to the bowl and mix until just barely combined. Mix in 1/3 of the eggnog until the batter smooths out again. Continue adding the flour mixture and the eggnog alternately, ending with the last quarter of the flour mixture. At this point, the batter will be fairly thick — somewhere between a liquidy batter and a stiff bread dough. Try not to over-mix, but make sure all the ingredients are fully incorporated.
Divide the batter between the muffin tins, filling each one almost to the top. Bake until the muffins have puffed up, are starting to brown around the edges, and a cake tester comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the muffins to a wire cooling rack.
When the muffins are cool enough to handle but still warm, melt the butter in a microwave-safe dish (or on the stovetop) and use a pastry brush to paint the tops of the muffins with butter (alternatively, you can dip the tops in the butter if you don't have a brush; I find it less messy to use a brush). Place the powdered sugar in a bowl and dip the tops of each muffin in the sugar. When done, dip each muffin in the powdered sugar a second time. If desired, you can unwrap the muffins, paint the bottom and sides with butter, and dip those in the powdered sugar as well.
Muffins are best when fresh from the oven, but are still very — addictively — good over the next day or two.
Make-Ahead Tip: The batter can be prepared ahead of time, covered, and refrigerated overnight for easy-peasy muffins in the morning.