When I was growing up, my father would take us to get fresh hot doughnuts from Krispy Kreme every Sunday. The cake doughnuts, covered in peanuts or dipped in sprinkles, were always my favorite. And to this day, I crave cake doughnuts.
Fast forward 20 years to the time when both my sister and I lived in the same New York neighborhood. There was a fantastic bakery nearby where the counters were piled high with zucchini bread, apple walnut muffins, whoopie pies.
As a cook myself, I loved the setup as much as the pastries. It was an open commissary kitchen with a walk-up counter for ordering. As you waited in line, you could watch the bakers make all manner of homespun baked goods. Among the array of deliciousness displayed on the counter was what looked like a mini muffin coated in cinnamon and sugar. The texture of the crumb inside was less dense and more cake than muffin, and it had a cinnamon flavor and a pop of nutmeg. It was called a "puff," or at least that is what my sister and I called it. A puff with a double-shot cappuccino was morning heaven.
My sister moved out the neighborhood years before I, too, relocated. Because the bakery is no longer close, I decided that I should try to re-create those puffs. A Google search brought up dozens of images for what resembled the mini bites of heaven, but it was amazing how the actual recipes varied greatly and how few delivered.
Finally, I hit upon a recipe with more sugar and more milk making a thinner, more cake-like batter. I increased the cinnamon and nutmeg and added a pinch of lemony cardamom to round out the warm spices — and frankly, just because I love cardamom. The advantage of the sweeter lighter cake is that they will last up to three days in an air-tight container. In fact, I think that they are better the next day, making them ideal for a Father's Day breakfast. Make them on Saturday and serve them on Sunday.
These are so good that I often make them for dessert and serve them with a dark chocolate dipping sauce.
Baked Cinnamon-Sugar Doughnut Puffs with Dark Chocolate Dipping Sauce
Start to finish: 45 minutes
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups granulated white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 generous teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 scant teaspoon ground nutmeg, preferably fresh ground
Pinch of cardamom
½ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons pure vanilla
½ cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
Dark Chocolate Dipping Sauce
6 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate (chips or chopped block chocolate)
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon Bourbon (or liqueur such as Kahlua, Frangelico, etc.,), optional
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons granulated sugar, if desired
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and salt into a large bowl. In a second bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, butter and vanilla. Add wet mixture to dry and stir a little at a time until combined.
Spoon the batter into prepared mini muffin tins or regular muffin tins. The easiest way to do this is by transferring the batter (which is fairly thin) to a liquid measuring cup and pouring into tin.
Bake for 16-18 minutes for minis, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffin comes out clean. The tops of the muffins will look dry and slightly nubby.
In a second shallow bowl, mix sugar, cinnamon and sea salt together.
When "puffs" are done, remove from muffin tin after about 2-3 minutes and place on cooling rack. Let cool on the rack for about 1 minute. While the muffins are still warm, swirl them entirely in cinnamon-sugar mixture.
Place muffin back on cooling rack to cool. Eat when cool with or without chocolate dipping sauce, and place any leftovers in an airtight container.
They will keep for 3 days.
For dipping sauce: Make the chocolate sauce up to 2 days in advance. Heat cream to almost boiling, remove from heat and add chocolate. Stir until melted and well combined. Add liquor and vanilla, stirring constantly. If you like it a little sweeter, add sugar, otherwise leave as is. The doughnuts are covered in cinnamon sugar, so I like the chocolate sauce without any added sugar.
Cover with plastic wrap and set aside, or refrigerate.
Nutrition information per serving: 676 calories; 201 calories from fat; 22 g fat (13 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 109 mg cholesterol; 360 mg sodium; 113 g carbohydrate; 9 g fiber; 77 g sugar; 9 g protein.
Elizabeth Karmel is a barbecue and Southern foods expert. She is the chef and pitmaster at online retailer CarolinaCueToGo.com and author of three books, including "Taming the Flame."