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Jul 11, 2008 08:18 AM

Please help me understand the finer points of cake donuts.

I will start by saying that I love cake donuts. I can appreciate a warm Krispy Kreme or a good lemon-filled yeast donut as much as the next person, but for genuine instinctive comfort I would always desire a cake donut, perhaps because they are the kind of donut I most often ate as a child.

It recently occurred to me to start thinking more systematically about cake donuts--probably because I can't find the exact kind I want at my local donut shop--and it struck me that there are two distinct kind of cake donuts. This is very obvious (I think) so I don't know why it never occurred to me before.

Type 1 is a donut with more squared off edges, a craggy surface, rather crispy edges when fresh, and a serious heft to it. I've sometimes seen these called sour cream donuts, I think.

Type 2 is a donut that is puffier and rounded, like an innertube, with a smooth surface and a finer lighter crumb. The exterior seems to brown more than Type 1. Type 2 is the kind I really like, that I can't seem to find much (in Boston) these days. I especially love them covered in powdered sugar. Bonus points for nice nutmeggy flavor.

I suppose my questions are: Do you all agree with these categories of cake donuts? Are there names for the two types of donuts, or any major differences in how they are made? And is it just me or are good cake donuts becoming harder to find these days?

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  1. Type 1 I believe are in most parts called Old-Fashioneds... these are my favorite. The ones i love kind of have scalloped edges or look like cogs? They're best crisp on the outside and fluffier on the inside. The quality of these IMO rests heavily on the mix, but more importantly on the glaze that a particular place uses. Some just take fake, but the best are heaven. Man, I love these things... wish they agreed with me.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Emme

      I agree this kind is wonderful when they are right out of the fryer and the edges are almost lacy and super crisp. My local place does them very well with a honey glaze and they are delicious. I think my main issue with them is that I can't eat an entire donut without feeling ill afterwards. A very intense way to start the day for sure.

    2. Sounds like type 2 is more of what might be a true cake donut. If you travel a bit outside of Boston during the fall (perhaps west on Rt. 2/2A/119 etc or north toward NH) some of the apple cider stands sell cider donuts. These are cake donuts and are (says modestly) simply the best, most engaging expression of what a cake donut is all about. Must be the cider? Sometimes you see these donuts at church socials or church auctions.

      These donuts are also good to make at home... perhaps the internet or an old tyme cookbook will have a recipe or two. btw, the best cake donuts I have had (cider in fact) were done in an oven (baked)... not sure how but they were great.

      2 Replies
      1. re: jcr1

        Maybe they were baked in some sort of hinged form? Just guessing.

        We get cider donuts here on the NJ/NY border as well, and I look forward to getting them every fall. I always assumed that they were fried, they have a nice crisp surface, but are not greasy to the touch. The cider gives them a natural sweetness, not overly so, and a subtle hint of apple.

        1. re: jcr1

          Good idea, I definitely will scout out some cider donuts this fall! (This will be my first fall in Boston owning a car, so I haven't done a ton of exploring in that vein in the past.) I did have a cider donut or two when I lived in Ithaca, NY but I think they were poor specimens. Still tempting though, and I do love that tangy sweetness from the cider.

        2. butterfat... that's a great name! As for the cake donuts, you know, it's like you said, can't believe I've never thought about the two types of cake donuts.

          I think I had more of the "Type 2" cake donuts in my early years, but they were dry (probably just our neighborhood donut shop didn't excel in them). Also, the ones I remember best had pink frosting, just a small amount of kind of dry-ish candy-flavored stuff that didn't soak in like a glaze... more like they had frosted them after the donuts were completely cooled. There were others with powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar or chocolate frosting, but I always got the pink frosted ones.

          Then one day, probably in the mid- to late 70's, my parents discovered the old-fashioneds or sour cream donuts, and we never got the other kind again. I didn't really miss the dry pink donuts. I think because they were dry, I'd developed more of a taste for the raised donut. But my mom loved the sour cream donuts, so dad would bring home sour cream and raised.

          Later, when I bought my own donuts, I always chose raised over cake, thinking the cake donuts would be dry. Then I got married, and my husband introduced me to the Krispy Kreme glazed chocolate cake donuts, which are the shape you described as Type 1. These became my new fave because the glazing on them melts into the cake and keeps them moist, and they have a rich chocolate flavor instead of that sour cream/old-fashioned flavor.

          Anyway, looking at Krispy Kreme's website, they do seem to have the Type 2 that you like in three varieties... traditional, chocolate iced, and powdered sugar. I've also bought those little miniature powdered sugar covered donuts in, of all places, the Wal-Mart bakery section (because hubby said those were his favorite). And, surprisingly, those weren't dry. So, I now have a bone to pick with that pink-frosting havin', dry donut makin' shop my parents bought cake donuts at in the early 70's for making me think I didn't like cake donuts that much. I missed out on them for years because of that donut shop.

          2 Replies
          1. re: stephanieh

            butterfet -- I bet you like ice cream too? -- my favorite story about cake donuts happened at a Dunkin' Donuts, where I endeavored, in vain, to request ONLY cake donuts from the counter person. There weren't any behind her, as it turned out, but she had no idea what a cake donut was. If there weren't a line growing behind me, I was going to have a tutorial at the cash register.

            My mother used to make donuts at home, Type 1 I believe, and I like to think of them as the type of cake donut I don't see much anymore -- the sinker. It was dense, heavy, and so much better dipped in coffee. My favorite part was the donut hole.

            There used to be various donut shops doubling as lunch counters here in Westchester, but then greedy development took over and they are no more. I remember the day in NC I had my first Krispy Kreme and thought it was wonderful. Then they came to NY and they turned out to be a lightweight, both in quality and in the store's staying power.

            Fortunately, there are still bakeries here that have cake donuts. They are Type 2, no serious heft by any means, but tasty enough to not keep around on a regular basis. I like to get the cinammon and then spinkle confectioner's sugar over them. I also have a fond memory of a giant 'cruller' -- not the anemic yellow cruller but the huge donut stick -- I used to get from a pushcart vendor in lower Manhattan. A cruller and a medium coffee for a buck.

            Day old donuts aren't bad either. If the need arises, they're cheap and they can be respectfully nuked back to tasty. Also, Entenmann's, Hostess and Freihoffers will suffice.

            Me, like donuts? Nah. Well, they 'are' on my bucket list, along with ice cream.

            1. re: stephanieh

              just an fyi, the "old fashioneds/sour cream" at krispy kreme are total krap. they have no style or proper old fashioned taste to them at all. just a sugary overly iced blob, differently shaped than their traditional cake or yeast raised.