This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.

Pillowy perfection, these Old Fashioned Sour Cream Donuts are UNREAL. This cake donut recipe makes fried doughnuts with insides that are soft, tender and cakey, with crispy outsides, and a classic sweet glaze to finish it off!

Sour Cream Cake Donuts Sideview

This Sour Cream Cake Donut Recipe is so easy it’s kind of dangerous. The dough is straightforward to make, and after chilling it, heat up your fry oil to have perfect old-fashioned donuts in under 2 minutes! Finish it all off with my simple, classic donut glaze and you will wonder why you ever bought donuts instead of making them yourself! I smell trouble. Oh no…that’s just fryer oil heating up…

While attending the International Culinary Center (ICC), I had a secret fear of frying. Of course I mustered the courage to fry beignets, churros, and jelly donuts, but there were serious butterflies in my stomach. Fast forward 6 years through several line cook positions and being a pastry chef for Manhattan restaurants, and now I can confidently share all my secrets!

If you’re nervous, I’ve been there. We’ll fry these sour cream donuts as a team! Then you can move on to my glazed chocolate donuts, pumpkin donuts and this jelly donut recipe!

Why you will love these sour cream donuts:

  • A pillow of fried love: The texture on these donuts cannot be beat. They are both light and airy while having a slightly crispy outside. Divine.
  • The dough can be made in advance: You can make sour cream cake donuts up to three days ahead of time. They can be refrigerated at any stage in the process before frying so take the time you need for each stage. Just fry or freeze within three days!
  • Impressive but simple: I break down each step of these donuts into small details so you can say farewell to anxiety and hello to perfect homemade donuts every time! These donuts are the entryway to a beautiful world of fried desserts. Imagine the look on people’s faces when you tell them that the donut shop that provided the old-fashioned treat they’re eating was actually your kitchen!

Why do you put sour cream in donuts?

The fat in the sour cream helps keep these donuts soft and tender. All the moisture in the doughnuts is provided by the sour cream. It keeps the dough together without making it overly wet. When you have overly-wet dough, the donuts will have a gummy, tough texture. Sour cream is the perfect solution, maintaining a soft and tender crumb inside while allowing for the outside to crisp up.

Sour Cream Cake Donuts Blue Plate
Pumpkin Spice Cake Donuts interior texture
FREE! My Best Fall Dessert Recipes!
Subscribe for a pastry chef’s best Fall recipes straight to your inbox!

Ingredients needed for Sour Cream Donuts

  • All-Purpose Flour: I prefer to use all-purpose flour in the majority of my donut recipes because it has the perfect amount of gluten. This amount of gluten allows the dough to develop a strong network but remain tender and soft. Cake flour or pastry flour would also work in this recipe. But, to be totally candid, I’ve been using all-purpose for the last five years!
  • Granulated Sugar: Sugar is here for sweetness, but it also adds leavening when you beat it with the eggs. It helps create a soft, tender, and light texture that puff when fried.
  • Kosher Salt: Kosher salt is less salty than table salt and a teaspoon weighs less than other finer ground varieties. The salt seems like a lot but it is here to enhance the flavor of the dough.
  • Egg Yolks: The egg yolks are here to add fat, moisture and leavening. The fat from the yolk adds richness and shortens some of the gluten strands to keep the donuts cakey and tender. Beating in the eggs just enough will add a little or a lot of leavening depending on the desired texture. Eggs also emulsify the batter and keep everything texturally perfect.
  • Butter: Unsalted butter allows you to control the saltiness of the dough while still adding all the buttery goodness!
  • Sour Cream: This should go without saying here, but sour cream is essential in sour cream cake donuts. This provides all the moisture in the donuts, and is what will hold the dough together without making it too wet. A dough that is too wet will yield tough donuts.
  • Baking Powder: Double acting baking powder will react instantly when it is mixed with an acid, which is sour cream here, and then again when it is heated. Baking soda will not leaven these doughnuts as well, especially if making the dough a day or two in advance. It will react once and then it won’t have much leavening power left once it hits the oil.

Keep the dough cold. Roll and cut your dough quickly to keep the baking powder from starting to react with the sour cream.

Sour Cream Cake Donuts Cooling Rack

How to Make:

Use these instructions to make the perfect sour cream donuts every time! Further details can be found in the recipe card below!

Make the donut dough:

Step 1: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour,  baking powder and kosher salt to distribute. Set aside.

Step 2: Line a large mixing bowl with plastic wrap and then spray the surface of the plastic wrap with nonstick spray. Set this aside too.

Step 3: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the granulated sugar and butter on high speed until the butter has completely incorporated. There is too much sugar in proportion to butter to look “light and fluffy.”

Step 4: Add the egg yolks and continue to beat on high until the mixture lightens and the volume increases. This will take about 2 minutes. Stop and scrape down the mixture a few times to be sure it is all evenly incorporated.

Step 5: With the stand mixer on low, gradually add the dry ingredients to the bowl a large spoonful at a time alternating with spoonfuls of sour cream. Add the next spoonful when you only see a few large streaks of flour left in the bowl. I alternate almost nonstop between the two. Stop the mixer to scrape in the last bit of sour cream. Only mix until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated. You want to do this as quickly as possible so that not too much gluten develops, which will make tunnels in your donuts and also make them tough.

Step 6: Transfer the dough to the plastic wrap lined bowl. Spray the top of the dough with nonstick spray and then fold the edges of the plastic over the top to cover it. Refrigerate for 60 minutes. At this point, the dough can be held in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Portion and cut dough: 

Step 1: Line a half-sheet baking pan with parchment paper and spray the paper with nonstick spray. Set this aside.

Put bench flour on your counter. This dough is sticky, and a generously floured surface will work wonders for your ability to manipulate the dough.

Step 2: Lightly dust a work surface with flour. While the dough is still in the bowl, dust the top of the dough with flour. Turn the dough out onto your floured work surface, floured side down. Lightly dust the top with more flour.

Step 3: Working quickly to keep the dough cool, roll out the dough to ½ inch thick.

Step 4: Brush any excess flour from the top of the dough. Use 3-inch and 1 ¼ – inch ring cutters to cut the donuts and holes. You can use a donut cutter, biscuit cutter, cookie cutter, or even the rim of a glass! Lightly tap the cutters in flour before cutting each donut. Place the donuts and donut holes on the prepared sheet pan.

Step 5: Cover sheet pan with plastic wrap, but be sure not to let the plastic touch the top of the donuts. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes up to overnight at this step.

Make the glaze: 

Step 1: In a medium bowl whisk together the milk, powdered sugar and salt. Cover the glaze with plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent it from getting a skin. You can heat up the glaze over a pot of simmering water on the stove if you want it to be warm. I typically dip my donuts while they are still very hot, so I don’t need to do this.

Fry the donuts: 

Use canola oil or some other neutral tasting oil that has a high smoke point.

Step 1: Pour oil into a fryer or a Dutch oven, making sure the oil is at least 2 inches deep. Heat your oil to 350°F. Adjust your heat to keep the temperature between 350°- 360°F while frying. You will need a clip-on fry/candy thermometer for this. I heat my oil up to 360°F before adding a batch of donuts, because the cold dough will lower the temperature of the fryer oil.

Step 2: Gently place 3-5 donuts in the fryer, while keeping the remaining donuts in the fridge. The number you can fry at once depends on the size of your pot. You want the donuts to have room to move around and space to puff. Once they rise to the surface, cook for 30 seconds and then flip them with a slotted spoon. Fry until the bottom develops a nice golden brown color, about 80 seconds. Flip it again and then fry for another 80 seconds or until the color is a nice even golden brown. I usually test mine with a cake tester.

Pull it out of the oil, poke it and then pull the cake tester out. It should not have any streaks of dough or crumbs. Transfer to a wire rack set over a sheet pan or paper towels. Donut holes fry for 30 seconds then flip, then another 60 seconds, then flip, then another 40-60 seconds. They will puff up and be golden brown all over. 

Step 3: Once the donut is just barely cool enough to handle, dip the donut in the glaze and place it back on the wire rack. Dipping a hot donut will give you a nice, even glaze that isn’t too thick or too thin!

Step 4: Store at room temperature in a container with the corner cracked overnight but they are best consumed the day they are fried…with coffee.

Sour Cream Cake Donuts Golden

How to fry sour cream donuts like a pro:

  • Monitor your oil temperature. 350°-360°F is your target range. Adjust your heat as it approaches the boundaries of this temperature range. 340°F is too cold. When the temperature is too cold, your donuts will be greasy. 380° F is too damn hot. The outside of the donuts at a temperature that is too hot will be dark and awful and the inside will still be gooey. 350°- 360° F is where you want to be! Don’t be afraid to turn off the stove. This is the great thing about frying. If the oil temperature isn’t where you want it, just wait. So liberating.
  • Do be careful. The oil looks so happy and peaceful in there, but I can assure you that oil at 350°F is VERY hot. I have the scars from work to prove it. Carefully use the slotted spoon, both to place the donut in the oil and to remove it. I gently drop it in the oil with my hand so that it slips inside, but I trained for a long time to have that level of courage, and it isn’t necessary.
  • Test for doneness: While time and color are great indicators of doneness, once you have honed in on maintaining the perfect oil temperature, a cake tester will be your best friend. Think of the first one like a tester pancake; if it’s a little raw or a little dark, no big deal. Adjust and carry on. Use your cake tester to be sure the inside is completely cooked.

Place your fried donuts on a cooling rack over a baking sheet or towels to catch the extra oil. This will keep the bottoms crispy.

  • Just a little scientific PSA: May I remind you that oil and water do not mix. When water gets into hot oil, it splatters violently. If this happens, back away. Quickly. To avoid this, dry all your utensils after rinsing them off. A properly wrapped dough will not have water collected on top, but if it does, blot it off before putting it in the oil.

Professional Tips for making sour cream donuts:

  • Keep the dough cold. Roll and cut your dough quickly to keep the baking powder from starting to react with the sour cream. It’s true that double-acting baking powder will react again when fried, but if we want the most leavening it’s best to keep it from reacting too early. Additionally keeping the dough cold will inhibit gluten formation, thus making the softest, most tender donuts.
  • Put bench flour on your counter. This dough is sticky, and a generously floured surface will work wonders for your ability to manipulate the dough.
  • Use canola oil or some other neutral tasting oil that has a high smoke point.
  • Place your fried donuts on a cooling rack over a baking sheet or towels to catch the extra oil. This will keep the bottoms crispy. There will be no soggy bottoms on our donuts!
  • Dip the donuts in the glaze while they are still warm so you don’t need to heat up your glaze. Some people use chopsticks for this step, but I use my fingers. Either way works, I just find it to be easier to use my hands and they have toughened up through the years in a fast-paced professional kitchen.
Old Fashioned Doughnuts Interior

Can you bake these sour cream donuts?

Sour Cream Cake Donuts Baked Not Fried
BAKED not FRIED = not as delicious

As this photo evidence shows, no. Do not bake these donuts. If this recipe is baked, the donuts will be dense with an unpleasant taste and texture. This is because baked donuts are actually cake. If optimal for baking, the batter would be more like cake batter and less like dough. This recipe baked instead of fried are far less delicious.

Recipe Substitutions

  • Sour Cream: I use a high-quality, full-fat sour cream because it is thicker and has a more tangy flavor. The fat in the sour cream helps keep these donuts soft and tender. You cannot decrease the fat and expect the same results. Will it work with low fat, yes.
  • Baking Powder: Double acting baking powder will react instantly when it is mixed with an acid, which is sour cream here, and then again when it is heated. I don’t recommend using baking soda instead of baking powder unless it is a donut emergency. Baking soda will not leaven these as well, especially if making the dough a day or two in advance. It will react once and then it won’t have much leavening power left once it hits the oil.
  • Egg Yolks: While you could use whole eggs instead of the egg yolks in this old fashioned sour cream cake donut recipe, the texture of the donuts will be impacted. You are adding moisture from the whites without fat and that is just going to make a tougher donut. Take the moment to separate them and then make a Lemon Berry Pavlova Cake with your spare egg whites for dessert.
Old Fashioned Doughnuts Closeup

Variations

  • Glaze: My classic donut glaze is unstoppable on these sour cream donuts. But, the world is your donut shop! If you want to mix it up, you could make a citrus variety, or even a coffee donut glaze. Let me know in the comments which glaze pairing ends up being your favorite!

Dip the donuts in the glaze while they are still warm so you don’t need to heat up your glaze

Storage

Fried, glazed cake donuts are best the day they are made and should be stored at room temperature uncovered. When stored in an airtight container, the glaze softens and they begin to taste a bit like oil. If storing longer than a day, store in a container with the corner slightly cracked as a vent for up to three days. They will slowly begin to dry out but they will still taste delicious! I do not recommend refrigerating or freezing fried cake donuts.

Old Fashioned Doughnuts Wholes Holes

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to chill the donut dough before frying?

Your dough will be much easier to handle and fry much better if you chill it twice during your process. Chill the dough prior to cutting for at least 60 minutes. Chill your dough after cutting for at least 30 minutes before frying. Chilling the dough also allows the gluten to relax, which will yield more tender, larger donuts.

Can you make sour cream cake donuts ahead?

You can make sour cream cake donuts up to three days ahead of time. They can be refrigerated at any stage in the process before frying so take the time you need for each stage. Just fry or freeze within three days!

Can I multiply this recipe?

I have tested this donut recipe in a professional bakery setting. You are only limited by the capacity of your particular mixer. I would strongly suggest measuring by weight when multiplying this recipe. Doughnut doughs are particularly sensitive to minute adjustments of flour and hydration. I scale all my recipes, but it is particularly important when making a larger batch.

What are cake donuts?

Cake donuts are fried donuts that are leavened with baking powder rather than yeast. They get their name because their texture is similar to cake but they are not simply fried cake batter! They typically use sour cream as the moisture resulting in a dough that is thick and rollable rather than pourable like cake batter.

What’s the difference between sour cream cake donuts and sour cream donuts?

There is no difference between sour cream cake donuts and sour cream donuts. Sour cream donuts are donuts that use sour cream in the dough. It adds just the right amount of moisture, a bit of fat and an acid for the baking powder to react with.

Can you freeze sour cream donuts?

I do not recommend freezing fried sour cream donuts. Instead, freeze the cut dough. This dough will keep for one month frozen. Gradually, over time the baking powder will lose its potency and they will not puff as much as when the dough was freshly made. Allow to thaw a few hours in the refrigerator and then fry away!

Can I fry sour cream cake donut dough from frozen?

I would not suggest frying from frozen. Rather thaw the cut donuts unwrapped in the refrigerator and then fry! It will only take an hour or so. The outsides will cook while the insides will remain raw.

Why won’t my old fashioned sour cream donuts crack?

The donut cracks happen naturally when they fry. Generally, they are more cracked on the side that is initially down in the oil. If you overworked the dough, they won’t crack as much. Each one cracks differently and to a different degree. Check your oil temperature and make sure the oil isn’t too cold. If the donut dough is cold and the oil is right around 350°F, they will crack. Another possibility for donuts not cracking is that your baking powder is too old, and is no longer reactive.

Chef Lindsey’s Recipe Tip

If you were to take away one tip from this post: stay calm and keep going. If the dough feels too sticky, add more bench flour. If your first donut comes out doughy and dark, lower the temperature and test with a cake tester as you move forward.

Sour Cream Cake Donuts Delicious Stack
4.97 from 65 ratings

Old Fashioned Sour Cream Cake Donuts

These Old Fashioned Sour Cream Donuts are tender and cakey on the inside with a crispy outside that's topped with a classic sweet glaze.
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Chill Time: 2 hours
Total: 3 hours
Servings: 13 Donuts

Ingredients 
 

For the Donuts:

For the Glaze:

Instructions 

Make the donut dough:

  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour,  baking powder and kosher salt to distribute. Set aside.
  • Line a large mixing bowl with plastic wrap and then spray the surface of the plastic wrap with nonstick spray. Set this aside too.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the granulated sugar and butter on high speed until the butter has completely incorporated. There is too much sugar in proportion to butter to look “light and fluffy.”
  • Add the egg yolks and continue to beat on high until the mixture lightens and the volume increases. This will take about 2 minutes. Stop and scrape down the mixture a few times to be sure it is all evenly incorporated.
  • With the stand mixer on low, gradually add the dry ingredients to the bowl a large spoonful at a time alternating with spoonfuls of sour cream. Add the next spoonful when you only see a few large streaks of flour left in the bowl. I alternate almost nonstop between the two. Stop the mixer to scrape in the last bit of sour cream. Only mix until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated. You want to do this as quickly as possible so that not too much gluten develops, which will make tunnels in your donuts and also make them tough.
  • Transfer the dough to the plastic wrap lined bowl. Spray the top of the dough with nonstick spray and then fold the edges of the plastic over the top to cover it. Refrigerate for 60 minutes. At this point, the dough can be held in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Portion and cut dough:

  • Line a half-sheet baking pan with parchment paper and spray the paper with nonstick spray. Set this aside.
  • Lightly dust a work surface with flour. While the dough is still in the bowl, dust the top of the dough with flour. Turn the dough out onto your floured work surface, floured side down. Lightly dust the top with more flour.
  • Working quickly to keep the dough cool, roll out the dough to ½ inch thick.
  • Brush any excess flour from the top of the dough. Use 3-inch and 1 ¼ – inch ring cutters to cut the donuts and holes. You can use a donut cutter, biscuit cutter, cookie cutter, or even the rim of a glass! Lightly tap the cutters in flour before cutting each donut. Place the donuts and donut holes on the prepared sheet pan.
  • Cover sheet pan with plastic wrap, but be sure not to let the plastic touch the top of the donuts. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes up to overnight at this step.

Make the glaze:

  • In a medium bowl whisk together the milk, powdered sugar and salt. Cover the glaze with plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent it from getting a skin. You can heat up the glaze over a pot of simmering water on the stove if you want it to be warm. I typically dip my donuts while they are still very hot, so I don’t need to do this.

Fry the donuts:

  • Pour oil into a fryer or a Dutch oven, making sure the oil is at least 2 inches deep. Heat your oil to 350°F. Adjust your heat to keep the temperature between 350°- 360°F while frying. You will need a clip-on fry/candy thermometer for this. I heat my oil up to 360°F before adding a batch of donuts, because the cold dough will lower the temperature of the fryer oil.
  • Gently place 3-5 donuts in the fryer, while keeping the remaining donuts in the fridge. The number you can fry at once depends on the size of your pot. You want the donuts to have room to move around and space to puff. Once they rise to the surface, cook for 30 seconds and then flip them with a slotted spoon. Fry until the bottom develops a nice golden brown color, about 80 seconds. Flip it again and then fry for another 80 seconds or until the color is a nice even golden brown. I usually test mine with a cake tester. Pull it out of the oil, poke it and then pull the cake tester out. It should not have any streaks of dough or crumbs. Transfer to a wire rack set over a sheet pan or paper towels. Donut holes fry for 30 seconds then flip, then another 60 seconds, then flip, then another 40-60 seconds. They will puff up and be golden brown all over.
  • Once the donut is just barely cool enough to handle, dip the donut in the glaze and place it back on the wire rack. Dipping a hot donut will give you a nice, even glaze that isn’t too thick or too thin!
  • Store at room temperature in a container with the corner cracked overnight but they are best consumed the day they are fried…with coffee.

Video

Notes

Presentation – To get a clean glaze coating, dip your donuts while they are still warm!
Flavor Tips –  I use a high-quality, full-fat sour cream because it is thicker and has a more tangy flavor. The fat in the sour cream helps keep these donuts soft and tender. It provides the perfect amount of moisture necessary to make the texture of the doughnuts divine.
Technique – Keep the dough cold. Roll and cut it quickly to keep the baking powder from starting to react with the sour cream. It’s true that double-acting baking powder will react again when fried, but if we want the most leavening it’s best to keep it from reacting too early. Additionally keeping the dough cold will inhibit gluten formation, thus making the softest, most tender donuts.
Helpful Tools – Yes, a stand mixer is extremely helpful for these donuts, as it helps you keep incorporating your ingredients while not over-developing your gluten. The real MVP of this recipe is the clip-on fry thermometer, which helps keep your fry oil at the perfect temperature in the pot.
Variations – Once you’ve mastered these donuts, you have an excellent base recipe for a lot of experimentation. If you want to go in a fruity direction, check out my Strawberry Lemon Cake Donuts, and if you’re feeling festive my Pumpkin Spice Cake Donuts will give you the measurements for your favorite spices. You can also always mix up the glaze!
Storage – Old fashioned sour cream cake donuts are best the day they are made but will keep three days at room temperature. I do not recommend refrigerating or freezing fried cake donuts.

Nutrition

Calories: 453kcal | Carbohydrates: 85g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 99mg | Sodium: 634mg | Potassium: 225mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 50g | Vitamin A: 368IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 133mg | Iron: 2mg
Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Calories: 453
Like this? Leave a comment below!

Before You Go!

I hope you enjoyed this professional chef tested recipe. Check out our other delicious, chef-developed donut recipes!

Hi, I’m Chef Lindsey!

I am the baker, recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind Chef Lindsey Farr. I believe in delicious homemade food and the power of dessert!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




158 Comments

  1. This recipe has been a joy to work with, but I have an excess of dough! Like could easily roll out another 9 or so.

    I’m gonna experiment with a quick re-chill and roll but I’m anticipating the leftovers (like laminated biscuits) will be on the tougher side. Any tips for repurposing the dough? It seems extremely wasteful to have so much leftover.

    1. hi bee! You might have rolled yours a little thinner than mine, but a chill and reroll will still make delightful doughnuts. In the restaurants I allowed cooks 1 re-reroll before needed to toss the dough. I always cut out extra doughnut holes rather than re-rolling. You can also cut the reroll or scraps into pieces and fry those. I used leftovers to make this doughnut bread pudding! I hope that helps!

    1. Hi Marco! I have not yet tested this particular recipe with gluten-free flour, and I prefer to recommend things from first person experience. Please report back your findings and happy frying!

  2. Hey Lindsey, I’ve made these donuts a couple of times and they’re absolutely amazing! Just wondering if I could freeze the dough once I’ve made it?

    1. Hi Rachel! Absolutely! Freeze them after cutting. I would not, however, recommend frying them from frozen. You will have overcooked outsides and raw insides. Let thaw in the refrigerator 30-45 minutes before frying.

  3. 5 stars
    Hi! I’ve been wanting to make donuts for awhile, we live overseas and the best we have here is Dunkin’ 😆. These were great!! Mine had a strong oil flavor, based on other comments I️ think my oil was too low after putting in the cold dough, so I’ll start it higher next time! These were so easy to make since you can chill for awhile after each step. I️ only fried 2 and froze the rest so excited to make them again! Thanks!!

    1. Hi Danielle! Yes, try with a higher oil temperature next time! I’m excited to hear how they turn out, and happy you have a Dunkin’ replacement!

  4. 5 stars
    Our favorite local donut truck closed last year so we’ve been trying to make donuts at home. These were SUCH a hit! YUM!

  5. 5 stars
    Talk about delicious! A batch of these does not last long around here. 🙂 We’ll be making this again and again!