Grandma’s Best Donuts

These old fashioned cake donuts are crispy on the outside and give way to a perfectly soft and cakey center, making these an amazing breakfast treat!

The BEST old fashioned cake donut recipe!

Oh my word, you guys. I know that I gave myself the title of donut (doughnut?) queen, but really, the title goes to my grandma. I’m just the donut princess.

My grandma created the best dang donut recipe ever and I’ve been dying to share it with you. Anytime I make it, I get shot straight back to my childhood. Visiting my grandma on vacation, waiting impatiently for her to fry up these unbelievable donuts, and then eating them until I’d make myself sick. She would often serve the donuts plain, straight from the fryer. I prefer them tossed in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar, but powdered sugar or a glaze works great as well.

The BEST old fashioned cake donut recipe!

These are cake donuts, which means there is no wait time! The donuts have baking powder in them to help them rise, instead of yeast. You’ll love these donuts because they are so easy!

I know many people don’t like to fry, so here are my best tips. Invest in a thermometer! They cost about five dollars and are worth every penny. You want to keep your oil at a consistent temperature so that your donuts don’t get too greasy. Greasy donuts means your oil isn’t hot enough! 375 degrees is perfect for these donuts.

The BEST old fashioned cake donut recipe!

After you’ve fried the donuts, you can keep the oil covered for a week or two and fry other sweet things. If you don’t think you’ll re-use the oil, just let it cool completely and then use a funnel to pour it right back into your empty oil container or an empty milk jug. I try to keep a few empty milk jugs under my kitchen sink or in my pantry for used up oil. Close the jug up tight and then toss it in your garbage can on garbage day. It’s a pretty simple way to deal with all that leftover oil!

The BEST old fashioned cake donut recipe!

My grandma is well known for these amazing donuts and everyone wants the recipe. It makes me happy every time I serve these to my kids, because I know that one day they’ll make them for their own kids and remember lazy Saturday mornings helping me roll out the dough and cut the donuts!

These are best served hot from the fryer, but you can keep them for a few days as long as you seal them up tightly.  When hot from the grease, the outsides are crispy and the insides are perfectly soft and cakey. It doesn’t get better than these donuts, guys!

The BEST old fashioned cake donut recipe!

PrintPrint Recipe

The BEST Cake Donuts

This recipe from my grandma is an all time favorite! I've changed it just a bit by swapping out the shortening for butter, but you can certainly use shortening if you prefer. If you don't have a stand mixer, you can mix everything by hand and knead the dough on a floured surface.

Yield: 1 dozen donuts and holes

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes


2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 cups flour (may need more)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
Oil, for frying
Cinnamon Sugar mix for coating the donuts (1/2 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon)


In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, beat together the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg.
In a separate bowl, combine the remaining dry ingredients.
Alternate adding the milk and flour mixture until everything is well combined. Knead for just a couple of minutes. If the dough is too sticky to roll out, add more flour until it's workable.
Roll the dough out on a floured surface until about 1/4 inch thick. Use a donut cutter to cut donuts.
Add to a pot of 375 degree oil, just a few donuts at a time so as not to crowd the pan, and fry until golden, about 2 minutes each side.
Drain on a paper towel lined plate before tossing in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar.
Serve immediately.

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43 Responses to “Grandma’s Best Donuts”

  1. Stacy | Wicked Good Kitchen February 17, 2014 @ 5:31 am (#

    Lovely, Karly! Pinned to group boards at Pinterest!


  2. Belinda@themoonblushbaker February 17, 2014 @ 5:52 am (#

    Definitely looks like a killer recipe. You grand mother sure knew her science when it comes to these beauties love it!


  3. tanya February 17, 2014 @ 6:13 am (#

    Wow Karly, these really do look like the best doughnuts ever! Perfectly soft with just the right amount of sugar!


  4. Rachel @ Baked by Rachel February 17, 2014 @ 6:33 am (#

    These look fantastic!! And I of course love that they’re fried :)


  5. Cookbook Queen February 17, 2014 @ 6:55 am (#

    Perfection. I’ll take twenty-eight please.


  6. DessertForTwo February 17, 2014 @ 7:14 am (#

    Yep, I’m going to need 2 dozen of these stat. Pinned!


  7. DessertForTwo February 17, 2014 @ 7:15 am (#

    Wait, I have a question. Can you tell me about how many times you save your oil? And do you have a good method for saving frying oil?


    • Karly replied: — February 18th, 2014 @ 10:42 am


      Well, now I feel all pressured and scared. You JUST said that you love to fry, so probably you’re better at this than me. I hope I don’t give you the wrong answer. ;)

      So, I reuse oil (unless it was used for fish…that gets tossed) quite a few times. I used to leave a pot of oil on my stove at all times and it would stay there for months before I’d change it out. As long as it’s covered and it doesn’t smell (you’d know if it was bad!), then it’s good. I don’t fry nearly as often anymore though, so I will strain it into the original container if it’s empty or into an empty milk or water jug and stick it in a cabinet for future use. Just sniff it before you reuse it. Also, I don’t mix savory and sweet within the same batch of oil. The oil from these donuts will only be used for something sweet or not at all.

      Do I get an A? :)


  8. Erin | The Law Student's Wife February 17, 2014 @ 9:55 am (#

    NO ONE knows like grandma! I love cherished family recipes like these…and of course I love donuts/doughnuts too.
    Confession: I actually have a thermometer (bought it when determined to make homemade fish and chips) but have yet to bust it out. These sweet treats look like the perfect excuse :)


    • Karly replied: — February 18th, 2014 @ 10:37 am

      @Erin | The Law Student’s Wife,

      I don’t always use mine, but it really does make a difference. Apparently it’s too difficult for me to dig around in the drawer and clip it on the pot every. single. time. ;)


  9. Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar February 17, 2014 @ 11:56 am (#

    Recipes from Grandma are so special. This looks lovely!


  10. Linda February 17, 2014 @ 2:46 pm (#

    When I make things my grandmother or mother made it takes me right back to a place in time when things were good. Their food was made with love. These do look amazing. I’d love it if you linked these at What’d You Do This Weekend.

    Have a great week,


  11. Joanne February 17, 2014 @ 3:58 pm (#

    I really just need to get over my fear of deep frying. Like, ASAP. Because…not sure I can live another day without these.


  12. Jocelyn @BruCrew Life February 17, 2014 @ 5:32 pm (#

    These look absolutely amazing. You are the donut queen/princess for sure!!! I just love that this is your grandma’s recipe! I must have about eleventy four now!!!


  13. Kayle (The Cooking Actress) February 17, 2014 @ 7:27 pm (#

    Fried doughnuts are the shiiiznit!! Your grandma was clearly an epic font of wisdom and skill!!



  14. Marcie February 17, 2014 @ 8:48 pm (#

    What a special recipe for you to share, Karly! These look and sound divine, and when I want fried donuts, I’m making these. Pinning!


  15. Nancy February 17, 2014 @ 9:22 pm (#

    I have a recipe like this one that I have been using for years. In fact, I made them last week and my kids and grandkids couldn’t eat them fast enough. Pure comfort food.


  16. Wow, I have been thinking about doughnuts lately so much and these fit the bill! Is it bad I want to glaze them then sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top! LOL


  17. Ashton February 17, 2014 @ 10:21 pm (#

    omgomgomgomg. Just YES! I am so making these on Saturday. Just you wait and see! Can I confess something? I’m no stranger to frying or donuts, but I’ve never made cake donuts and I’ve always wanted to!! I have just been TOO LAZY to look up a recipe and see how they’re made.

    And see? Laziness pays off. I waited long enough that a recipe just showed up in my reader for me. Voila :)


    • Karly replied: — February 18th, 2014 @ 10:36 am


      Oh, I hope you try these! I always reach for a yeast donut, unless it’s these cake donuts! They win every time! :)


  18. Stephanie February 17, 2014 @ 11:34 pm (#

    Nothing ever beats a Grandma recipe!


  19. katie February 18, 2014 @ 11:02 am (#

    Why can’t you live closer to me? These look and sound amazing!!!


  20. Layla @ Brunch Time Baker February 18, 2014 @ 1:40 pm (#

    There’s nothing better than granny’s recipes! these donuts look AMAZING!


  21. Anna@CrunchyCreamySweet February 18, 2014 @ 2:09 pm (#

    Family recipes are the best! These donuts would totally rock my world! Pinned!


  22. Chelsea @chelseasmessyapron February 18, 2014 @ 4:08 pm (#

    These totally look like the best doughnuts ever. Having serious doughnut cravings now!!


  23. Aimee @ ShugarySweets February 19, 2014 @ 6:23 am (#

    You totally are the donut queen! These look awesome Karly!


  24. Leiann February 23, 2014 @ 7:36 pm (#

    Hi karly-
    Can I bake these donuts?



    • Karly replied: — February 25th, 2014 @ 9:01 am


      I’ve never tried it myself, but it may work. If you do try, let me know!


  25. Rekha February 25, 2014 @ 2:44 am (#

    Hello! here from foodgawker. Love family recipes and these donut looks truly awesome :-) Thank you for sharing the recipe


    • Karly replied: — February 25th, 2014 @ 8:56 am


      Thanks for stopping by!


  26. dina February 25, 2014 @ 8:20 am (#

    i love doughnuts. they look great!


  27. Inga May 3, 2014 @ 8:17 am (#

    Is it just me or what? Never tried making fried doughnuts before (tried baked ones once – for me they turned out more like bagels not doughnuts). So taste was ok, but they went all flaky kinda, hard to explain, but top part (the side first out of oil) looked as if air was just trying to escape and pushed all crust off the doughnut. And it was crispy and oily. Nothing like the perfectly smooth doughnuts in your pictures. I was dipping them in chocolate and in places the crusty thing actually stayed in chocolate instead of chocolate sticking to doughnut. And my daughter said previous (bagel kinda) doughnuts were nicer. ;( Don’t think i’m gonna try these (or previous ones) again. Still looking for easy recipe to impress my kids who love shop bought doughnuts. Just wondering what did i do wrong? Did everything like recipe. Oh yeah, dough was all sticky and not the kind you can roll out, so i just flattened it with my hands. Still puzzled.


    • Karly replied: — May 4th, 2014 @ 9:41 am

      Hi @Inga,

      Sorry you had trouble with these. You should definitely be able to roll the dough out with these. It shouldn’t be sticky. Sounds like you might have needed more flour.


      • Jordan replied: — July 2nd, 2014 @ 3:04 pm

        @Karly, hey igna
        the issue you may have had was that the dough was In fact too sticky. your didn’t have enough flour to absorb the moisture and stuff in the dough, so when submerged in fat it started to fall apart. Karly mentions adding more flour, do that and knead a bit more should fix that issue completely for you. Hope that helps! :)


  28. Carina May 4, 2014 @ 5:12 pm (#

    I just made these because I just moved overseas and my husband had been craving donuts. They are absolutely delicious. I will certainly be making them frequently. Thank you.


    • Carina replied: — May 5th, 2014 @ 8:43 am

      @Carina, I noticed the person who posted before me was having trouble with the dough being too sticky. I also had that problem and just added more flour as needed. I made small ones and bigger ones. For the bigger ones I didn’t make the center hole big enough and they didn’t fry well enough as the smaller ones did. None of the less they were all still very delicious.


      • Karly replied: — May 6th, 2014 @ 11:12 am

        Hi @Carina,

        I’ve updated the recipe to add more flour if the dough is too sticky. Sorry you also had trouble with it!


  29. Jordan July 2, 2014 @ 3:07 pm (#

    I actually have a question about saving the dough and adapting the flavour. I was wondering if you ever tried making these into chocolate flavour? Also could you make these and freeze the dough? I am going to try these this weekend and play around with it. Sounds delicous though :) thanks!


    • Karly replied: — July 7th, 2014 @ 9:02 am

      Hi @Jordan,

      Sorry I’m late to reply to this! It was a busy weekend. :)

      I haven’t played with this recipe, but I would imagine you could add add in cocoa powder and just adjust the flour as needed! I bet they’d be delicious with the Special Dark powder from Hershey’s.

      I also haven’t tried freezing the dough, so I’m not sure how well that would work. If you try, I’d treat it like any other yeast dough and freeze accordingly.

      Good luck!


  30. Deb September 21, 2014 @ 4:01 pm (#

    I was searching to find a recipe for my elderly mother who wants the dense consistency of an old fashioned cake doughnut but which can be baked instead of fried. However, the misleading name of your blog is “buns in my oven” and it came up with the search I assumed they would in fact be baked, how disappointing to read that they are, in fact friend and certainly not out of your oven!


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