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 less than 15 minutes in a hot 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.
Why this is the best gluten free cake donut recipe
These gluten free vanilla cake donuts are so simple to make, since they use basic pantry items like butter, gf flour, eggs, and sugar. If you can make muffins, you can make these donuts.
They’re soft and fluffy, way cheaper than store-bought gf donuts that aren’t easy to even find in a store, and the whole recipe takes less than 30 minutes from start to finish.
Gluten free cake donuts ingredient list
- Gluten free flour – I use Better Batter’s classic blend here, since it makes a stable, but tender donut that holds its shape and stays fresh.
- Cornstarch – I like to add a bit of cornstarch here since the additional starch helps add softness to the donuts. You can use arrowroot or potato starch in its place if you can’t have corn. If you’re using Cup4Cup gluten free flour as your all purpose gf flour, don’t add more cornstarch as it already has a high quantity of cornstarch. Just use 1/4 cup (36 g) more Cup4Cup in its place.
- Baking powder and baking soda – Since there’s no yeast in these donuts, baking powder and baking soda are the chemical leaveners that give lift to your donuts
- Salt – Salt balances the sweetness and enhances the vanilla flavor of these donuts.
- Nutmeg – Always use whole nutmeg and grate it on a very fine grater, like a microplane, for the best flavor. Adding nutmeg gives these donuts that bakery-style taste.
- Sugar – The granulated sugar in these donuts adds sweetness, of course, and is also a tenderizer.
- Butter – Butter adds flavor and tender crumb to your donuts, and is like a delivery system for flavor. We melt and cool the butter, rather than using it at room temperature, since otherwise the batter is too thick to pipe into the wells of the donut pan.
- Eggs – The two eggs provide lift and structure to your donuts.
- Yogurt – The acid in plain yogurt tenderizes the crumb, and helps make the cake donuts moist.
- Vanilla – Vanilla bean paste will give your donuts those gorgeous little flecks of vanilla beans, and add tons of vanilla flavor. If you don’t have it, just pure vanilla extract and they’ll still taste great!
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 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 hole from closing during baking your gf donuts
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.
More tips for making gluten free vanilla cake donuts
How you should be measuring gluten free flour
Always measure your gluten free flour (individual flours and blends) by weight, not volume. A simple digital kitchen scale that you zero out (by hitting the “tare” button) before you measure each ingredient, ensures that you don’t overmeasure your flour, creating dry, tough, baked goods, or under-measure it, leaving your donuts without enough structure to hold their shape after baking.
Using a piping bag for perfect gf doughnuts
Filling the wells by piping the dough into the wells of your prepared donut pan is the only way to evenly distribute the batter in the channels. If you don’t have a pastry bag with a proper open piping tip, you can just pile your donut batter into a plastic zip top bag, seal the bag, and snip off a bottom corner of the bag.
Don’t overfill your donut pan
You want your donuts to rise up out of the pan about the same height as the deepest part of each well in the donut pan. If you overfill the wells, your donuts will spill over into other cavities and ruin the donut shape.
And don’t let your gluten free cake doughnuts overbake
You want to be sure to bake your donuts long enough that they are baked through and will hold their shape as they cool, but if you overbake them, the texture will be more dense. Bake as directed, and they’ll firm up as they cool.
How to store GF vanilla cake doughnuts, so they stay fresh
One of the benefits of using an all purpose gluten free flour blend that contains xanthan gum is that your baked goods will stay fresh longer, as xanthan gum holds moisture. Your donuts will stay fresh for at least 2 days if you store them in a single layer in a sealed container (glass or plastic) at room temperature. You’re best off storing them unglazed, as the glaze will absorb moisture in the container and begin to weep, or leak liquid.
Can I freeze gluten free vanilla donuts?
Yes! These donuts freeze quite well if they’re unglazed. Just place them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and freeze them fully. Then, transfer them carefully to a freezer-safe container or bag and close it tightly. Defrost at room temperature.
Gluten free vanilla cake donuts: Ingredients and substitutions
Dairy free, gluten free vanilla cake donuts
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.
Egg free, gluten free vanilla cake donuts
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.
Corn free, gluten free vanilla cake donuts
In place of cornstarch, try using arrowroot powder or potato starch. Be sure that your confectioners’ sugar is made without corn, too.
More decorating ideas for gluten free cake donuts
- gf sprinkles (in the batter or topping)
- chocolate glaze once the donuts are cool, like we use on our gluten free chocolate cake donuts
- fold some chopped, freeze dried fruit into the batter (just an ounce!)
- sprinkle some chopped nuts on top of the glaze
- decorate the glaze with some candy pieces
- instead of just a sugar coating, make it a cinnamon sugar coating
- after the donuts have cooled a bit, coat them everywhere in powdered sugar
Are doughnuts gluten free?
No, regular doughnuts are generally made with wheat flour, which necessarily contains gluten. You can enjoy gluten free donuts of all kinds, though, of course, when you make them with a gluten free flour, using a gluten free donut recipe, like this one.
What’s the difference between gluten free cake doughnuts and regular doughnuts?
“Regular” donuts are made with yeast granules, a natural leavener. They’re deep-fried in oil. These cake donuts are made using chemical leaveners in the form of baking powder and baking soda, and they’re baked, not fried.
Are gluten free cake donuts healthier than regular donuts?
Not really. The only main difference in how healthy cake donuts are as compared to yeasted donuts is that cake donuts are baked, not deep fried in oil. But if donuts are fried properly in oil that’s hot enough, they don’t absorb much oil anyway.
Do you gluten free vanilla cake doughnuts have yeast?
No, cake donuts are made with baking powder and/or baking soda, not yeast.
Can gluten free cake donuts be fried?
No, cake donuts are made with a batter, not a dough, that can be shaped and fried. If you’d like to “air fry” them, which is really just baking them in a small, high-powdered convection oven, you can do so in a donut pan, but they won’t keep their shape without the pan.
What’s the best gluten free flour blend for this vanilla cake donut recipe?
I use Better Batter’s classic gluten free flour blend here, with some added cornstarch. This recipe also works really well with Cup4Cup in place of the Better Batter and the cornstarch, for a total of 1 3/4 cups or 245 grams of Cup4Cup.
Do I have to use a donut pan for these gf donuts?
You need some sort of pan with wells to make this recipe. You can use a doughnut pan, as I have here, but you could probably also use a muffin pan.
Can I double this gluten free donut recipe?
Yes! You can double this recipe and make 24 donuts. You’ll need 2 pans, though, each with 12 donut wells, so the batter doesn’t have to sit around. If you only have 1 pan, you could make one batch of the recipe twice, rather than doubling the batter.
Can I top my homemade gluten free donuts with sprinkles?
Sure! They’ll need something to stick to, though, like the glaze. Be sure to add your sprinkles right after the glaze, before the glaze has had a chance to dry or they won’t stick.
Why did my gf vanilla cake donuts come out dry?
You may have: overbaked them, overmeasured your flour, or use an unbalanced gluten free flour blend.
Why aren’t my gluten free donuts poofing up?
Are your baking soda and baking powder fresh? If they’re outside their freshness date, they are probably not good any more, and didn’t activate.
How do you keep homemade gluten free donuts soft?
Once the donuts are cool, adding the glaze will keep the tops of your donuts fresh by sealing in moisture. If you don’t glaze them, placing them in a sealed glass or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid will help keep them fresh.
Gluten Free Vanilla Cake Donuts Recipe
Gluten Free Vanilla Cake Donuts
- 1 12-well donut pan
For the donuts
- 1 ½ cups all purpose gluten free flour blend (I used Better Batter; please click thru for appropriate blends)
- ¾ teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter melted and cooled
- 2 eggs at room temperature, beaten
- ¾ cup plain yogurt at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract)
For the (optional) glaze
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 2 to 4 teaspoons milk or buttermilk
For the (optional) sugar coating
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
- ½ cup 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 the pan from the oven, and allow the donuts to cool in the pan for 5 minutes.
For 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.
For 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.
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