These gluten free vanilla cake donuts are soft, moist and tender, and bake up in minutes. They’re basically the perfect vanilla donut.
This donut recipe is easy to mix in one bowl and has enough leaveners to bake perfectly light and tender in just 12 minutes in a 350°F oven. It’s sweet and flavorful enough to enjoy plain right out of the oven, or with a simple vanilla glaze or a sugar coating that crackles once it’s cool.
What are cake donuts?
Cake donuts are a type of quick bread, made with chemical leaveners like baking powder and baking soda instead of yeast. They’re baked in the oven in a donut pan, but they aren’t exactly like cupcakes or muffins since they’re less chewy than cupcakes and lighter in texture than muffins.
Cake donuts aren’t exactly yeasted donuts, either, which are fried instead of baked. Proper yeasted donuts are light in the center, and crisp-tender on the outside since they’re deep-fried.
These gluten free vanilla cake donuts have quite a lot of chemical leaveners in them, but not so much that it affects the taste. Plus, they have 2 eggs in 12 standard-size donuts for extra rise and tenderness.
Instead of using milk in the batter, this recipe calls for plain yogurt. That adds flavor and a makes for a light, open crumb.
Cake donuts can be any flavor, really. These vanilla donuts are a lovely, basic donut. We also have at least 9 other recipes for perfect gluten free donuts here on the blog.
Sugar-coating or glaze
These donuts are full of flavor all on their own, without any topping. Keep them plain, and it’s very easy to freeze them for serving later.
There are two topping options in the recipe below: a glaze and a sugar-coating. A simple confectioners’ sugar glaze is a classic choice for these simple vanilla donuts.
The donuts must cool in the pan for about 5 minutes before you invert them onto a wire rack to cool completely before glazing them. Otherwise, some of the glaze will melt into the donuts and the rest will run right off.
If you’d like these baked cake donuts to taste more like they’ve been fried, go for the sugar-coating. You’ll want to let the donuts cool in the pan for 5 minutes, invert them onto a wire rack, and work with them still warm.
Just dip them in some melted butter (nondairy butter works just fine here) and then in sugar. When the donuts are still warm, the sugar will harden into a light shell as the coating cools.
How to prevent the donut hole from closing during baking
I have owned many, many donut pans over the years, in nearly every shape and size, from nearly every brand. I’ve found that the very best pan, the only pan that actually makes donuts with holes that don’t swell shut during baking, is the 6-well standard-size nonstick donut pan from Wilton (affiliate link—feel free to shop around).
The batter that you place in each well of the donut pan cannot extend above the center of each well of the pan. Otherwise, the donut hole will close up and not extend all the way through the donut once it’s baked.
If that center column doesn’t rise up at least two-thirds of the depth of each well, you will only be able to make flat, skinny donuts if you want the hole to extend all the way through. The Wilton brand nonstick pans are the only pans I’ve found that with a center column of the proper height.
I do have a trick for filling the wells a bit higher with batter while still preserving the donut hole…
Just moisten the pointer finger of your dominant hand, and run it all around the center column of each well. That will force the batter away from the center and toward the edge of the pan.
Since the batter is thick, it won’t run back toward the center. As the donuts bake from the outside in, they’ll creep slowly toward the center without closing the hole.
Ingredients and substitutions
In place of the butter in the recipe below (both in the batter and for the sugar coating), try using any of the following: Melt brand vegan butter, Spectrum nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening, or Earth Balance buttery sticks.
In place of the plain yogurt, you can use dairy-free plain yogurt. So Delicious brand sells a good plain nondairy yogurt.
In place of the eggs in this recipe, you can try using your favorite egg replacement. A boiled flax egg tends to work best, but it’s a lot of work. You can also try one “chia egg” (1 tablespoon ground white chia seeds + 1 tablespoon lukewarm water, mixed and allowed to gel) for each egg.
In place of cornstarch, try using arrowroot powder or potato starch.
Gluten Free Vanilla Cake Donuts
For the Donuts
1 1/2 cups (210 g) all purpose gluten free flour (I used Better Batter)
3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)
1/4 cup (36 g) cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
8 tablespoons (112 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs (100 g, weighed out of shell) at room temperature, beaten
3/4 cup (193 g) plain yogurt, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract)
For the (optional) glaze
1 cup (115 g) confectioners’ sugar
2 to 4 teaspoons milk or buttermilk
For the (optional) sugar coating
4 tablespoons (56 g) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease a standard-size donut pan and set it aside.
In a large bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, kosher salt, nutmeg, and sugar, and whisk to combine well. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients, add the butter, eggs, yogurt, and vanilla, and mix until just combined. Fill the prepared wells of the donut pan until nearly full. For perfectly shaped donuts, place the donut batter into a piping bag fitted with a large, open tip, and pipe the batter into the wells. Wet the pointer finger of your dominant hand and run it along the center of each well of the donut pan to force the batter toward the perimeter of each well. This will help the donut hole from closing during baking.
Place in the center of the preheated oven and bake for about 12 minutes or until the donuts are set and just lightly browned. Remove from the oven, and allow the donuts to cool in the pan for 5 minutes.
If you’re planning to use the optional glaze, transfer the donuts to a wire rack to cool completely. In a small bowl, place the confectioners’ sugar and 2 teaspoons of milk, and mix well. Add more milk by the half-teaspoon until you have a smooth but thickly pourable glaze. Working quickly, dip the top of each cooled donut in the glaze, turn back and forth a bit to coat well, invert the donut so the glaze is facing upward, and place on a flat surface to set.
If you’re using the optional sugar-coating, invert the donuts onto a wire rack while they’re still warm. Dip each donut carefully in the melted butter and then press into the granulated sugar before replacing on the wire rack. The sugar coating will harden as it cools.
Adapted from the Yeast-Free Glazed Plain Doughnuts on page 42 of Gluten Free on a Shoestring Quick & Easy. Originally published on the blog in 2015. Video, some text, some photos, and optional sugar-coating all new.