Celebrate Fall with Homemade Vegan Apple Cider Donuts

Baking these fall treats just became easier with tips from Erin McKenna.

After scrolling down my Instagram feed for approximately 30 seconds, I realized that a) I need to take a picture in front of fall foliage immediately and b) I need more apple cider donuts in my life. Even though some orchards are letting a limited number of guests in to devour their donuts and gulp down their ciders, I’m still feeling a little nervous about venturing out too often. So that left me with one option to satisfy my apple cider donut quota: make them at home. 

In a time where anxiety levels are high, one activity that does bring me peace and calmness is baking. Aside from having my apartment filled with the aromas of sweet treats, baking allows me to take a brief mental break from everything going on in the world. 

“Because you have to focus so much on measurements and following directions and really paying attention to the batter or the dough, your mind doesn't really have the space to be thinking about the other things,” said Erin McKenna, the namesake behind Erin McKenna’s Bakery (formally known as BabyCakes). “It’s sort of a meditative process where you really just are zoning in and allowing your brain a rest from the anxiety and the sadness or whatever the thoughts are that rotate constantly through your head.” 

Since Mckenna’s bakery is vegan and gluten-free (hello to my fellow gluten-sensitive pals), I knew she was the person I had to talk to about vegan apple cider donuts. 

The technique behind making them is rather simple as it’s just a matter of mixing all of your dry ingredients together and mixing all your wet ingredients together. Once I gathered everything I needed from the store, I popped in my earphones, turned on my self-care playlist and got started. 

McKenna said the bakery’s vegan apple cider donuts use their vanilla cake donut as a base, which is made with garbanzo bean and fava bean flour. What I found the coolest was that instead of eggs, they use unsweetened applesauce to bring the batter together and give it a thicker consistency—a trick I’m definitely going to use in the future. 

As I started mixing together the flour, vegan sugar, starch, salt, baking soda, and everything else that turned my counter into the Dust Bowl, I already felt more at ease than I did before. I wondered if, like McKenna, I too could open up a bakery with my very limited skills. 

“In 2003, I was working in fashion and was unhappy in the job so I would just go home and bake for myself because I have a big sweet tooth and that was just something that calmed me down and made me feel better,” she said. “I decided to quit my job and began to meditate about what my next life step would be and the idea for the bakery came to mind.”

There are so many stories like McKenna’s and, at the height of quarantine in March, people were baking enough sourdough bread to last a lifetime. I’m sure some genuinely enjoy the taste of sourdough bread and appreciate it for all its fermented goodness, but with others I wondered if baking it was just a way to successfully complete something constructive and stay sane.

“Baking is like starting a task, finishing it, and then having success because you are following directions exactly,” McKenna said. “It’s kind of like doing the dishes where you feel a sense of accomplishment after they’re done.” 

And as I dug deeper into the donut baking process, I longed for clean dishes. After I finished (messily) creating the batter, I continued with McKenna’s recipe and roughly 30 minutes later, I successfully turned my kitchen into a Hudson Valley orchard with a fresh batch of vegan apple cider glazed donuts. 

The dishes may have been dirty after I was done, but I will admit, I did feel accomplished that I baked something edible and delicious. 

Erin Mckenna's Vegan Apple Cider Donuts Recipe

Makes 12 donuts

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup of melted refined coconut oil or canola oil, plus more for brushing the trays 
  • 1 cup of vegan sugar
  • 3/4 cup of white or brown rice flour
  • 1/3 cup of garbanzo and fava bean flour (or use all brown rice flour)
  • 1/2 cup of potato starch
  • 1/4 cup of arrowroot
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of xanthan gum
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 6 tablespoons of unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup of hot water
  • 1/2 cup of apple cider
  • 1 cup of powdered sugar
  • Coconut milk

Instructions for Baking Donuts:
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Brush 2 six-mold donut trays with coconut oil and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, both flours, potato starch, arrowroot, baking powder, xanthan gum, salt, and baking soda. Add the coconut oil, applesauce, vanilla, and hot water and continue mixing with a rubber spatula just to combine.
3. Using a melon baller or tablespoon, drop 2 1/2 tablespoons of batter into each doughnut mold. Using a toothpick, spread the batter evenly around the molds.
4. Bake for 8 minutes, rotate, and continue baking until the doughnuts are golden brown (roughly 7 more minutes).
5. Let cool in the molds for 15 minutes before applying glaze. Run a knife around the doughnuts in the molds, lift them out and place them on a baking sheet.

Instructions for Making Apple Cider Glaze:
1. Mix powdered sugar and coconut milk in a bowl.
2. Add in apple cider to the mixture.
3. Coat donuts with glaze and finish off with cinnamon sugar. 

Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat!

Kristen Adaway is a former staff writer at Thrillist. Follow her @kristenadaway