James Beard Award-winning Cookbook Author

Recipe and Tips: Chocolate Cake Doughnuts

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Baking in America

These are very chocolaty doughnuts, and the recipe comes from my book, Baking in America.

Questions from my Readers: Measuring Flour

I received an email from two avid bakers who had baked several yeast breads from the book with great success and then moved on to this recipe.  They said that in their hands the dough became quite firm even before they had added all of the dry ingredients.  Well, the baking wizard needed to get to the bottom of this.

I went back to my original notes and manuscript and found no errors.  So there was only one thing to do: Make the doughnuts again.  The dough turned out exactly as I had described and the doughnuts were light-textured and scrumptious.  I am guessing the problem my baker friends had was because they used too much flour; so I have modified the measurements by providing weights.  You will hear this plea from me often: For greatest accuracy, please weigh your ingredients.

Recipe Tips

When all of the dry ingredients are stirred into the dough, you will find that the dough is quite wet and  you may think it is not firm enough to work with, but it will be. Chilling the dough makes it firm and exceedingly manageable.

You will need a doughnut cutter about 3 to 3 1/2-inches in diameter with a 3/4-inch hole. Or you can cut the doughnuts with a 3 1/2-inch round cutter and a 1-inch cutter for the holes.  These are cutters I use.

Be sure to use fresh vegetable oil for the deep frying. Peanut oil is my first choice because it has a higher smoking point than most oils.  Grapeseed and safflower oils are good, too.  I don’t use canola oil because it is highly refined.  You will also need a deep fry/candy thermometer or digital probe thermometer to monitor the temperature of the oil.


Chocolate Doughnuts

Greg Patent
These are very chocolaty doughnuts
Course Dessert, Light Snack
Cuisine American
Servings 15 doughnuts


  • Heavy 5- to 7-quart pot. A cast-iron Dutch oven or enameled cast-iron pan is ideal.
  • Candy thermometer



  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour spooned into the cups and leveled; 9 ounces by weight
  • 2 cups 2 cups cake flour spooned into the cups and leveled; 7 ounces by weight
  • 1/2 cup non-alkalized unsweetened cocoa I use Hershey’s
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 3/4 stick
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 quarts oil for deep fat frying


  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped 4 squares
  • 2 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped 2 squares
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter 1/2 stick
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar (6 ounces), plus more if needed
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


Doughnut Dough

  • Sift both flours, cocoa, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon together three times; set aside. In the photo, the dry ingredients are in the sifter ready for a third pass through the sifter’s mesh.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, buttermilk, melted butter, and vanilla until very smooth
  • Add the flour mixture gradually to the cocoa mixture, stirring each addition in very gently with a rubber spatula only until the ingredients are well combined. The dough will be quite soft and wet. It is important not to beat the batter or the doughnuts will be tough.
  • Scrape down the sides of the bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least1 hour or as long as overnight.
  • Lightly dust your work surface with flour and scrape the chilled dough onto the flour.
  • Sprinkle with additional flour and gently roll or pat the dough to a 1/2-inch thickness. Check frequently to be sure the dough isn’t sticking to your surface.
  • With a floured doughnut cutter or two floured round cutters of different sizes, cut out doughnuts and holes; reserve the holes if you wish.
  • Gently gather the scraps together (including holes if you don't wish to fry them as doughnut holes), flour lightly, and repeat the patting and cutting of the dough. You should have 15 to 18 large doughnuts and holes.
  • Line a large baking sheet with silicone baking pan liner or cooking parchment, and place the doughnuts about 1-inch apart on the pan.
  • Put the doughnut holes, if using, among the doughnuts.
  • Cover loosely with a kitchen towel, and let the doughnuts rest at room temperature while the oil heats up. If you’re not going to cook the doughnuts within the hour, refrigerate them for up to 3 hours. Bring them to room temperature before frying.
  • Pour the oil into a heavy 5- to 7-quart pot. A cast-iron Dutch oven or enameled cast-iron pan is ideal. Attach a candy thermometer or digital probe thermometer to the side of the pan and heat the oil to 375 degrees over medium-high heat. This may take 30 to 40 minutes.
  • Place a large cooling rack over a large baking sheet with a rim and set aside.
  • When the oil is ready, carefully lift one of the doughnuts off its pan and slip it into the hot oil. Cook 4 or 5 doughnuts at  a time, for a total of about 2 minutes, turn them over every 30 seconds or so (wooden chopsticks work well), until the doughnut are puffed, cooked through, and a deep brown color.
  • Remove them from the fat with a slotted spatula, allowing the excess oil to drain back into the pot. Place the doughnuts on the rack to drain further.
  • Be sure the temperature of the oil does not drop below 365 degrees during frying, or the doughnuts will absorb too much oil. Return the temperature of the oil to 375 degrees before continuing with the cooking. Fry the doughnut holes last.
  • You can serve the doughnuts warm or wait until they’ve reached room temperature.
  • Here’s a size comparison between a raw and cooked doughnut.


  • Melt the chocolates with the butter in a small heavy saucepan over very low heat, stirring occasionally.
  • Whisk the mixture until smooth, and stir in the milk and salt.
  • Remove the pan from heat and whisk in the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla.
  • The glaze should be pourable but not runny. Adjust the consistency with more confectioners’ sugar, if necessary.
  • Dip each doughnut into the glaze to coat one side, invert the doughnut, and set it on a wire rack with its glazed side up. Let stand until the glaze has set.
  • When you open  a doughnut and look at its texture, you’ll see it is airy and light.
  • These are best when very fresh. Make them when you know they’ll all be eaten within a few hours.


2 thoughts on “Recipe and Tips: Chocolate Cake Doughnuts”

  • Hi, Greg,

    I often find myself adding too much flour to recipes in the rolling out step, as opposed to the mixing step. Do you see that happening often?

    • I think that’s a common thing, Nora. My advice is to use enough to prevent sticking and to brush off excess flour before cutting or shaping. Hope that helps.

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