This week’s goal is to make doughnuts. Deal? Let’s all make a commitment to each other to whip up a batch of our favorite doughnuts sometime this week. Whether you decide to fry the dough or bake them, it doesn’t really matter to me, just as long as doughnuts are involved in some way, shape or form. Lucky for us all, I have a fair amount of doughnut recipes on the blog to choose from (feel free to look through the doughnut tag and pick your favorite), but just in case none of those appeal to you, I have these Baked Chocolate Circus Doughnuts at your disposal.
Okay enough about that, now let’s talk about these doughnuts instead. I’m calling them circus doughnuts because people would eat them back in the day in circuses all the time. I’m kidding, that’s actually not right at all. I’m calling them circus doughnuts because of the homemade caramel corn on top, and because the sprinkles make me think of the circus for some reason. Am I crazy? Have I lost my mind? I’m sure the answer to both those questions is yes, but let’s not talk about that right now. The homemade caramel corn topping is really where it’s at. So if you’re not in the mood for doughnuts, then just make the caramel corn, I give you my blessing. That’s a great recipe all by itself. Add in your favorite nut to it to create a delicious snack or mid-day treat.
These doughnuts are meant to be fun. So the number one rule to remember is to have fun while you’re making them! The first thing we need to do is make the caramel for the popcorn. In a saucepan, combine the butter, corn syrup, salt and brown sugar.
**Note: Corn syrup gets a really bad rap, I get it. It’s not the most ideal, but you’re not eating the entire bottle of it. It’s just a tiny bit. It helps stabilize the caramel better. BUT if you are very adverse to using it, try swapping it out for honey or maple syrup. Both will give the caramel a slightly different taste though, so keep that in mind.**
Cook together until everything is melted and the caramel begins to boil, making sure to stir often. Then let it cook for about 3 minutes, untouched. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and baking soda. Continue to stir until the foaming subsides and the mixture gets thick and doubles in volume.
Immediately pour over the popcorn that you’ve placed on a lightly greased baking sheet. Give it a toss, working as fast as you can, with a rubber spatula, making sure to coat all of the popcorn well. Bake in a preheated 250 degree F oven for about 45 minutes, tossing the popcorn every 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
**Note: I cooked the popcorn on the stovetop in a large pot with a lid, with a bit of oil. Cook until the popping sound from the kernels subsides, making sure to give the pot a shake every now and then.**
Once the popcorn is done, turn your attention to the doughnuts. I’m making a basic chocolate baked doughnut. Which happens to be the same base for the Salted Caramel Pretzel Doughnuts and the Baked S’mores Doughnuts on the site!
It’s a really easy recipe that you just mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Then mix the wet ingredients together, pour into the dry ingredients, and stir with a spatula until just combined. They’re so awesome because you don’t need a mixer to make it!
Transfer the batter into a disposable piping bag with a large plain circle tip, and pipe out into two greased doughnut pans. You want to fill them up just about to the top of the pan. Bake until puffed up and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 12 to 15 minutes.
**Tip: If you don’t have a disposable piping bag, feel free to use a large plastic zip top bag with an end snipped off. It just makes it easier to fill the cavities of the doughnut pan.**
Allow the doughnuts to cool for about 10 minutes in the pan, before inverting onto a wire rack and allowing them to cool completely. Once cooled, take a sharp pairing knife and cut out a hole in the center of each doughnut, just in case the dough baked over.
Make a simple vanilla glaze by whisking together powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, salt and a bit of milk until the desired consistency is reached. If the glaze is too thick, add a bit more milk, a little at a time. It should be thin enough to pour but not too thin. If it does become too thin, add a tiny bit more powdered sugar to adjust the consistency.
Dip the doughnuts upside down into the glaze, or you can glaze them with a small offset spatula or butter knife by applying the glaze on top of each. I find that dipping them upside is really the best way to go about it. Then return the doughnut into a wire rack set over a baking sheet to catch the excess glaze drips.
While the glaze is still wet, decorate the doughnuts with the cooled caramel popcorn you made earlier and some fun sprinkles. I used this fun blend that I bought off of Sweetapolita (the sprinkles queen). But any and all sprinkles will work here. Try something new and exciting that you find online or at a baking supply store.
These doughnuts are also great without any sprinkles and just the caramel corn itself. They’d also be great with a chocolate glaze instead of vanilla, topped with the caramel corn….I mean, it’s all just magic here no matter what you decide to do.
These doughnuts, as with almost all doughnuts, are best when eaten the day you make them. If you’re not like me though, and just can’t polish off a dozen doughnuts in one sitting, you can wrap them in plastic or store them in a large airtight container and store them at room temperature for up to 2 days. That’s it. Give them a try though, or just make the caramel corn by itself and add some cashews or almonds and call it a day. I wouldn’t be mad at that at all.
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- ¼ cup popcorn kernels
- ¾ cup packed light brown sugar
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
- 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 1¾ cup cake flour
- 1¼ cup light brown sugar
- ⅔ cup cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¾ teaspoon espresso powder (optional)
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
- 2 large eggs
- ¾ cup buttermilk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon coffee liqueur (optional)
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 to 4 tablespoons milk
- fun sprinkles, for decorating
- Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Grease a large baking sheet with cooking spray, set aside.
- Pop the kernels with the oil, over medium-high heat, in a large pot with a lid on, until the kernels have popped and the noise has subsided. Give it a few shakes every once in a while. Once done, dump out the popcorn onto the prepared baking sheet.
- Set a large saucepan over medium high heat with the brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula, until the sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes. Cook for another 3 minutes without stirring.
- Remove the pan from the heat, add the vanilla and the baking soda and whisk rapidly until the caramel is foamy, light in color, and thickened. Immediately pour the caramel over the top of the popcorn. Working quickly, stir with a rubber spatula to coat the popcorn completely. Bake for about 45 minutes, stirring the popcorn every 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two doughnut pans with cooking spray. If you only have one, you'll have to bake the doughnuts in batches. Set to the side.
- To make the doughnuts, in a large bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, espresso powder and cinnamon. Make a well in the center of the bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, vanilla extract, coffee liqueur, and melted butter. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and fold until they're just combined. Do not over-mix.
- Fill the prepared doughnut pan about ¾ of the way up. Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool down in the pan. Transfer the doughnuts to a wire rack and allow to cool completely. If you only have one pan, keep baking the doughnuts in batch until all the batter is used. Allow to cool completely before glazing.
- To make the glaze, In a large bowl, combine the powdered sugar, butter, salt and vanilla extract. Whisk in enough of the milk as needed to create a glaze that is thin enough to coat doughnuts but not too thick.
- Dip the cooled doughnuts into the glaze and then top with the caramel corn and sprinkles of your choice. Place on the baking sheet once more to let the glaze set before eating. Leftovers can be wrapped in plastic and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days. Enjoy!