Kitchn Love Letters

I Can’t Have Fresh Apple Cider Doughnuts, but I Can Make This Cake

published Nov 5, 2019
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Credit: Christine Gallary

During the two years I lived in New England, I feasted on as many lobster rolls, fried clams, and ice cream as I could, but my favorite time of year for food was fall, when apple picking season arrived. There’s nothing more picturesque than strolling through apple orchards, munching on a fresh-picked apple, with leaves swirling around. But the absolute best food was at the end of the apple picking adventure — that’s when you picked up some freshly fried apple cider doughnuts.

These cinnamon-sugar-dusted beauties were crisp on the outside and tasted of apple cider and spices inside. They’re one of the things I miss most now that I am back in California. Every fall I found myself missing those tasty beauties, which are mostly unavailable here. But recently I found a recipe for a cake that tastes just like an apple cider doughnut.

The Apple Cider Bundt Cake Is Peak Fall

María del Mar Cuadra on Serious Eats created this Bundt cake version of a cider doughnut way back in 2012, and I knew even then I just had to try it. It calls for cooking a tart apple in apple cider, then pureéing that to put into the cake batter. The finished cake is generously dusted all over with cinnamon sugar.

I made the cake and it totally lived up to its expectations, even satisfying my Boston-raised husband. The tender cake inside tasted like spiced cider, and the sugary coating added the perfect level of crunch. Our house smelled amazing and we vowed to make this cake every fall.

Then my daughter was born and prep-heavy baking projects like this began taking a back seat to simpler dishes. I often thought wistfully about this cake, wishing I had the time to dedicate to it. Finally I decided to make it again — but cut out some of the steps by using applesauce in place of the purée. And it was a success! I threw one together with store-bought applesauce and our house was in apple cider doughnut heaven again, and we haven’t looked back.

Credit: Christine Gallary

Over the years, I’ve tinkered with this recipe and made some minor adjustments, clarifying and simplifying some things.

  • Use an 8-cup Bundt cake pan. The recipe doesn’t specify what size, but I make it in an 8-cup Bundt pan (if you’re not sure how big yours is, measure with water).
  • Skip the apple and apple cider. Skip the cooking and puréeing of the apple with apple cider, and just use one cup of unsweetened applesauce. It will save time and dishwashing.
  • It’s okay if you don’t have mace. Ground mace is a less frequently used spice, so if you don’t have it, just sub with more ground nutmeg instead.
  • Use half the cinnamon sugar. You don’t need the full amount of cinnamon sugar called for. I typically make half the stated amount, and it’s plenty.
  • Increase the bake time. The recipe calls for a bake time of 35 to 45 minutes, but a number of readers have commented that it takes closer to 50 minutes for it to cook through, and I agree.
  • Brush the cake with melted butter so the sugar sticks. Brush the bottom of the cake with butter when it comes out of the oven and then sprinkle on some of the spiced sugar. Let it cool 45 minutes, then flip the cake out onto a rack. Brush the rest of the cake with more melted butter, and sprinkle with the remaining spiced sugar.

This tribute to New England has become a beloved family favorite. We haven’t lived in the Northeast for 10 years now, but apple cider doughnuts will always have my heart — and I’ll always have this cake.

At Kitchn, our editors develop and debut brand-new recipes on the site every single week. But at home, we also have our own tried-and-true dishes that we make over and over again — because quite simply? We love them. Kitchn Love Letters is a series that shares our favorite, over-and-over recipes.