Baked Salted Caramel Chocolate Doughnuts

I think by now you’re already well aware about my love—some might call it an obsession and maybe they’re right—with doughnuts. In case you didn’t already know, maybe these Baked Blueberry Crumb Doughnuts will convince you. Or these Baked Peanut Butter Chocolate Doughnuts topped with chopped peanuts and lots of chocolate. Finally, perhaps these Bourbon Blueberry Basil Doughnuts will do the trick. They’re perfectly boozy and sweet. It’s safe to say I’m addicted, but nothing to worry about because I have a number to a group on hand, just in case it ever gets to that point. Not that it ever would because I don’t see a problem with eating doughnuts by the dozen until you can’t eat anymore. That’s totally normal, right? Yeah, it’s normal. Doughnuts are meant to be eaten two at a time and frequently, at that. You can quote me on that. 

My love for doughnuts is so big that I actually created a special day for them. National Doughnut Day, which is on June 6th by the way (just around the corner), is a holiday that I created to celebrate the best dessert/treat/breakfast item ever invented. You’re welcome. Okay, so maybe I personally didn’t create the day itself (I totally should have though). I actually don’t know who did, but whoever declared June 6th National Doughnut Day, is a hero in my eyes. I’ll never forget you. Thank you random person I don’t know for making this special day possible. A monument should be built in your honor. National Doughnut Day? More like National Jonathan’s Favorite Holiday Let’s Celebrate by Eating Tons of Doughnuts Day. Or something like that. I’m still working on the name. 

So in honor of this special day, I decided to make doughnuts for the blog. Also, I began realizing that I hadn’t posted a doughnut recipe in a while. We can’t have that. That’s a really big problem. So I thought since I don’t have any chocolate doughnuts on here yet, I just needed to make a chocolate doughnut recipe. And what goes better with chocolate than salted caramel? Well, maybe crushed up salty pretzels because it’s the way it always should be. I baked these because I was too lazy to go through the entire process of making the dough, letting it rest, rolling out the dough and cutting them and then frying them. My head was hurting just thinking about it. I also didn’t fry them because I figured if I slapped on the work “Baked” right to the front of this recipe, it would instantly become healthy. So here I am with my healthy doughnuts, taunting you to make them and eat them. You can thank me later, right now, just go out and celebrate National Doughnut Day. 

Baked doughnuts are basically round cupcakes with a hole in it. The batter is much like a cake batter, so we’re going to start these by mixing together the wet ingredients. Then the dry, and then we’ll just combine the two. So in a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, vanilla extract and melted butter, until completely smooth. 


**Tip: If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, you can easily make your own buttermilk at home. For every cup of milk, add about 2 teaspoons of vinegar or fresh lemon juice. Stir and allow to sit for a few minutes. It’ll look curdled, but don’t worry, that’s okay. Then boom you have instant buttermilk.**

Set the wet ingredients off to the side. Forget about them for a few moments. Let’s now turn our attention to the dry ingredients. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar and cocoa powder. 


Then add the baking powder, baking soda, salt, espresso powder, and cinnamon. Stir the ingredients until evenly combined. Then make a well in the center of the bowl. That’s to make space for the wet ingredients. Just go with it. Trust me. You’ll have delicious doughnuts in no time. 



Pour in the wet ingredients, right into the center of the well you just made in the dry ingredients. Then carefully fold the two together until just combined. The flour should be moistened and there should be no lumps. Lumps be gone.

**Tip: Do not over-mix the batter at this point because it’ll result in dry and tough doughnuts. The less you stir or mix, the better. So just fold the ingredients until they’re combined.**


Grease a baked doughnut pan with cooking spray (if you have two doughnut pans, by all means, use both to make your life easier), then fill each cavity with doughnut batter, about ¾ of the way up. Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes or until a toothpick, inserted in the center, comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan, for a few minutes. 


Invert the doughnuts and transfer them to a wire rack to allow them to cool down completely.

**Tip: If you find that the centers of your doughnuts, have baked over and there is no center, cut away that hole in the center to make them look like classic doughnuts with a hole in the middle.**

**Note: It’s crucial that the doughnuts be cooled completely because it’ll allow the icing to stick to them. If the doughnuts are too hot, the icing would begin to melt and would not stay on. A cooled down doughnut is your friend.**

While the doughnuts cool down, turn your attention to making the delicious icing. We’re going to be making a salted caramel icing. It might seem a little difficult to you because of the idea of making salted caramel from scratch, but it’s actually quite easy. The only tip I have to offer is that you need to work fast and be alert whenever you’re working with homemade caramel. 

If you need a tutorial on how to make salted caramel from scratch, you’re in luck because I just so happen to talk about my love affair with salted caramel in another post. Click here to get the recipe for Salted Caramel Dark Chocolate Cookies

Anyhow, it’s time to make salted caramel icing. In a medium bowl, combine the powered sugar, heavy cream, vanilla, and some of our homemade salted caramel sauce. 



Add as much or as little of the salted caramel as you’d like. Whisk until completely smooth and somewhat thin. It should be thinner than cake frosting but thick enough that it doesn’t just run off the doughnuts.

**Tip: If you do find that your glaze is too thick, add a splash of heavy cream or milk to thin it out. Add a teaspoon at a time and whisk until desired consistency is reached. Also, if you find that your glaze is too thin, add a bit more powered sugar to thicken it.**

In a separate bowl, crush the pretzels into small chunks and pieces. Dip the doughnuts (upside down) into the salted caramel glaze and then dunk into the chopped pretzels. 

**Tip: Make sure you do the pretzel step right away because you need the glaze to still be wet so that the pretzels have something to stick on to. If you wait too long, the glaze will set and harden and then the pretzels wont have anything to stick to.**


Keep on dipping and dunking the doughnuts until they’re all coated. Place on a wire rack and forget about them for a few minutes to allow the glaze to set. This will most definitely be the hardest part of the recipe. I mean, having to wait a little bit longer before you can dive right in with your mouth and devour all of them in sight? That sounds horrible. I’m torturing you. 

If you want to be really decadent and go a little overboard, you can drizzle a bit more salted caramel directly onto the finished doughnuts. It’s completely up to you. I think it’ll add a nice touch but it will definitely make them a lot more rich in flavor. 

You can store any leftover doughnuts—although I don’t know how you’ll possibly have any leftover because these are so delicious you’ll probably eat ALL OF THEM—but just for the sake of argument, if you do have leftovers, you can store them at room temperature covered with plastic wrap or stored in an airtight container, in a single layer. They’ll keep for about 2 to 3 days. But you won’t really have to worry about that because they wont make it past the first day. I guarantee it. 

If you’re not really feeling the pretzels—like you love pretzels but don’t really want them on top of your salted caramel chocolate pretzels—then you can feel free to switch it out for something else. Top them with another delicious crunchy treat like chopped peanuts or chocolate sprinkles. Or you can just leave them plain with only the salted caramel glaze and caramel drizzle. That’ll work too. Sure, it’s a little boring but you know what, I won’t judge you. (Okay, I’ll judge you a little bit). 


You can’t really freeze these doughnuts and save them for later. They’re just not built that way, I’m sorry, but I think that’s a good thing, because that just means you have to eat them all now. After all, you’ve gone through all that trouble making homemade doughnuts, the least you can do is eat them. You don’t have to worry about feeling too guilty, because even though they look super sinful (they are super sinful) they’re at least not fried, like traditional doughnuts. The fact that these are baked just means you can eat a few more without beating yourself up for it. Doughnuts should always be eaten without guilt because they’re the best thing ever invented. I’m Jonathan Melendez, and I approve this message. Go out and celebrate National Doughnut (Donut) Day by making these awesome doughnuts. Or just go out and eat lots of doughnuts in general, homemade or not. It doesn’t matter. Just as long as you eat a doughnut (and one for me). Enjoy! 

Baked Salted Caramel Chocolate Doughnuts

These baked chocolate doughnuts are topped with a salted caramel glaze and sprinkled with chopped salty pretzel pieces. It's the perfect excuse to eat dessert for breakfast!
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Total Time 37 minutes


For the doughnuts

  • cup cake flour
  • cup light brown sugar
  • 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

For salted caramel

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the salted caramel glaze

  • 2 cups powered sugar
  • 5 tablespoons salted caramel
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon heavy cream
  • 2 cups salted pretzels crushed (for topping)


  • 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 salted caramel: Heat a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. Combine the granulated sugar and water and cook until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, without stirring or moving the pan. Boil until the syrup is a deep amber color, about 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully pour in the heavy cream while whisking. The mixture will bubble and get all crazy. It might even start to seize, but don't worry, just keep whisking. If need be, return the sauce to a low heat and whisk until the lumps are dissolved. Stir in the unsalted butter, and salt. Transfer to a heat-safe bowl and allow to cool down completely. 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, salted caramel, heavy cream and vanilla extract. Whisk until completely smooth. If you find that the glaze is too thick, add a bit more heavy cream, a little at a time, until the desired consistency is reached.
  • Dunk the baked doughnuts into the glaze to coat, then dip them into the crushed pretzels. Place back on the the wire racks to allow the glaze to set before eating. Leftovers can be stored at room temperature covered tightly with plastic wrap or in an airtight container, for up to 3 days. Enjoy!


yields: 18 to 20 doughnuts
Author: The Candid Appetite

Join the Conversation

  1. I am instantly obsessed with this website. I, too love to combine photography and baking among other things. To be able to capture delicious food in such a creatively tantalizing way. It’s like my eyes get to enjoy it as much as my tummy will. Kudos!!!

  2. These look SO GOOD!! Gah!! That flavour!

  3. I’ve got to get myself one of those pretty little donut pans. I roll out and fry up donuts once a year as a family tradition. But it is exhausting as you mentioned. Since I haven’t celebrated on June 6th in the past (thanks for that holiday btw) I will make an exceptional effort to make up for lost time tomorrow. Starting with these. Which look amazing. Amazingly like dessert. But I’m pinning them to my breakfast board anyway 🙂

    1. You definitely need a baked doughnut pan! What are you waiting for?!?! You’ve got tons of baked doughnuts to eat! (P.S. They’re totally breakfast!)

  4. I’m drooling so terribly all over my keyboard. I do have a question for you though – for the most part I hate (loathe) dark coated pans and seem to burn anything I cook in them. How do you like your doughnut pan and how do you keep the doughnuts from getting too dark? Guess that was two questions.

    1. Thank you Maeve! I actually really like this Wilton Doughnut Pan. The doughnuts don’t get too dark at all. Just a little cooking spray and they slide right off. I’ve been using it for a few months now, and haven’t had any problems with it yet! I say, give it a try!

      1. Well, you’ve sold me! (Also you’ve sold me on a waffle iron) The only thing I ‘might’ do differently about these doughnuts is put crushed potato chips on top. maybe. probably. or both.

        Please keep baking!

        1. STOP IT. Crushed potato chips sounds AMAZING! You’re on it.

  5. huntfortheverybest says:

    they look delicious!

  6. These are the craziest doughnuts I have ever seen! Love the flavor combo, you just convinced me to order a doughnut pan!

  7. realfoodbydad says:

    So happy I found your blog, these are simply amazing. Love how they’re made, love the flavors, everything about them, period.

  8. Whoa, these are incredible…is it acceptable to eat the whole batch on my own?

    1. Someone has to do it, Phoebe…is it acceptable if I join you?

  9. Ohmygoodness.These sound amazing.

  10. what kind of cocoa did you use?

    1. Just unsweetened cocoa powder!

      1. thanks 🙂 they look pretty dark so i thought they might’ve been made with dutch processed.

  11. alifalla says:

    I just made these donuts lastt night and they were absolutely amazing!! Kinda a pain to make and it takes awhile but definitely worth it!! Great recipe!!

  12. Just wondering what exactly Cake Flour is? In here in Aussie, we got Self raising flour and just Plain flour.
    Also would the instant coffee powder and liquor meant to add bitterness rich chocolatey taste or would it make it more like a mocha taste? ps: Your stuff is yummylicious, love your photostyling.

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