Chocolate Old-Fashioned Donuts

Chocolate Old-Fashioned Donuts have a rich chocolate flavor and tender, moist crumb. The glaze adds a perfect touch of sweetness!

A tray of glazed chocolate old-fashioned donuts

These chocolate donuts have a crackly, craggy exterior that’s perfect for catching glaze, and a tender, moist inside that’s rich and chocolatey. They can go by several names–old-fashioned donuts, cake donuts, or sour cream donuts are all different labels for these soft, pleasantly dense pastries.

The dough is simple to make, and can be made up to two days before you wish to fry your chocolate donuts and stored in the refrigerator. Baking powder is the leavening agent that creates the rise while the donuts fry, so there’s no need to worry about yeast or letting the dough rise.

While some cake or old-fashioned donuts use buttermilk as a liquid ingredient, this recipe uses sour cream. Fat is an important part of creating soft, moist donuts, and will give you a less dry finished product. Make sure to use regular, full-fat sour cream instead of reduced-fat or fat-free.

Using egg yolks instead of a whole egg also helps out the texture, as does the fat in the Dutch-process cocoa powder. You can read more in the recipe notes about the differences between natural cocoa and Dutch-process cocoa.

Ingredients for Chocolate Donuts

  • Unsalted Butter — melted and cooled
  • White Sugar
  • Egg Yolks
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Sour Cream — I recommend using full-fat sour cream, as the fat will make your donuts softer and more moist.
  • Cake Flour — If you don’t have any on hand, you can make your own cake flour with just all-purpose flour and cornstarch!
  • Unsweetened Dutch-process Cocoa Powder — See the note below on the difference between natural cocoa and Dutch Process Cocoa
  • Baking Powder
  • Salt
  • Neutral-flavored oil — use an oil without a strong flavor that also has a high smoke point. Vegetable, canola, or peanut oil are all good options.

Tools for Making Chocolate Old-Fashioned Donuts

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  • Donut Cutter— While have a donut cutter like this makes uniform donuts quickly, you can also use things like wide-mouth jar lids and frosting couplers (or something a similar size).
  • Frying Thermometer— Monitoring the temperature of your oil is an important part of successful donuts. Thankfully frying thermometers (I have this one from Taylor) are inexpensive and don’t take up a ton of space in your drawers.
  • Rolling Pin–Any old rolling pin will do!
  • Ruler– In order to get your dough a uniform thickness (and thereby having donuts that cook evenly!), I recommend using a ruler to check before cutting your donuts.
A tray of glazed chocolate old-fashioned donuts

How to Make Chocolate Old-Fashioned Donuts

  • In a large mixing bowl, beat together the melted butter and sugar until they are mixed well.
  • Add the egg yolks and continue mixing until they are well combined and the mixture is smooth.
  • Place the sour cream and vanilla extract in the bowl and again mix until the mixture is smooth and cohesive.
  • In a separate, smaller bowl, mix together the dry ingredients- cake flour, Dutch-process cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until they are well combined. The dough should be fairly stiff, but still sticky and soft.
  • Place the donut batter on a sheet of plastic wrap and flatten it into a disc about 2″ thick. Wrap it well and refrigerate for at least an hours or up to 2 days.
  • Remove the chocolate donut dough from the refrigerator and place it on a floured surface. Roll it out to between 1/4″-3/8″ thick, then cut as many donuts as possible from the dough. Set the cut donuts aside.
  • Brush any excess flour off of the remaining dough and press it into a ball.
  • Repeat the rolling and cutting process until you’ve used all of the dough.

Frying the Chocolate Donuts

Set out all of your tools before you begin heating the oil. You’ll need a slotted or holed metal spoon, a frying thermometer, a 6 quart pot, and a cooling rack with a baking sheet underneath it to set the fried donuts on.

  • Place about 2 quarts of oil in a 5 or 6 quart pot.
  • Using a frying thermometer to monitor the oil temperature, heat it to between 350° and 375°.
  • Once your oil has reached the correct temperature, turn it down to medium-low to make sure it doesn’t over-heat. You will need to adjust and figure out the best setting for your burners.
  • Add 2-3 donuts at a time and fry them for 1 minute and 30 seconds.
  • Flip the donuts and fry them on the other side for another minute and a half, then remove them from the oil to the cooling rack.
  • Repeat the frying process with the rest of the donuts, making sure to keep the oil between 350° and 375°.
  • Allow the donuts to cool, then glaze them.

A word about donut holes….

When you’re cutting the donuts, you can either press the donut holes back into the rest of the dough, or you can fry them. They only need to be in the hot oil for 1-1 1/2 minutes. They make a perfect little snack to hand out while you wait for the rest of the donuts to fry.

A tray of glazed chocolate old-fashioned donuts

Glazing the Chocolate Donuts

  • To make the glaze for the chocolate donuts, heat 1/4 cup of whole milk in a small saucepan until it’s steaming.
  • Add 2 cups of sifted powdered sugar and 1 tsp. of vanilla extract to the milk and whisk them together until you have a smooth, runny glaze.
  • Dip one side of a donut in the glaze, then flip it over to coat the second side.
  • Remove the donut from the glaze and allow the excess to drip back into the pan.
  • Set the donut back on the cooling rack and allow the glaze to cool.
  • Repeat until all of the donuts are glazed.
The inside crumb of a chocolate old-fashioned donut.

Recipe Notes and Tips

Dutch-process Cocoa Powder vs. Natural Cocoa Powder

Here’s a great read that overviews the scientific, nitty gritty details of Dutch-process cocoa powder vs. natural cocoa powder. However, what you need to know is that natural cocoa has a much lower fat content than Dutch process and will make your chocolate donuts dryer.

Natural cocoa is also acidic, whereas Dutch-process is alkaline. This means that they interact with rising agents differently. Because baking soda needs an acidic ingredient to create a reaction and activate it, it’s usually used in recipes with natural cocoa.

However, baking powder works better with alkaline, or neutral ingredients, which means it works best when paired with Dutch-process cocoa powder, like in this donut recipe.

Can I Substitute All-purpose Flour for Cake Flour?

Cake flour is a perfect flour for baked or fried goods that you want to stay soft and tender. because it has a lower gluten (which is a protein) count, it won’t make your recipe chewy or dry.

If you don’t have any cake flour on hand, you can make your own using all-purpose flour and cornstarch! Simply remove 2 tablespoons (18 g) of flour from each cup (140 g) and replace it with cornstarch. Whisk them together and sift the mixture three times to be sure that the cornstarch is completely distributed.

You can now use this mixture as a cup-for-cup replacement for cake flour.

A tray of glazed chocolate old-fashioned donuts

Other Cake Donut Recipes:

Almond Poppyseed Donuts
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Chocolate Old-Fashioned Donuts


  • Author: Rebecca Neidhart

Description

Chocolate Old-Fashioned Donuts have a rich chocolate flavor and moist, dense crumb. The glaze adds a perfect touch of sweetness!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 3 Tbsp. (42 g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup  (132 g) sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup (160 g) sour cream
  • 3 cups (336 g) cake flour
  • 1/2 cup (48 g) unsweetened Dutch-process cococa powder
  • 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt

For the Glaze:

  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Instructions

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the melted butter and sugar until they are mixed well. Add the egg yolks and continue mixing until they are well combined and the mixture is smooth. Place the sour cream and vanilla extract in the bowl and again mix until the mixture is smooth and cohesive.

In a separate, smaller bowl, mix together the dry ingredients- cake flour, Dutch-process cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until they are well combined. The dough should be fairly stiff, but still sticky and soft.

Place the donut batter on a sheet of plastic wrap and flatten it into a disc about 2″ thick. Wrap it well and refrigerate for at least an hours or up to 2 days.

Remove the chocolate donut dough from the refrigerator and place it on a floured surface. Roll it out to between 1/4″-3/8″ thick, then cut as many donuts as possible from the dough. Set the cut donuts aside.

Brush any excess flour off of the remaining dough and press it into a ball. Repeat the rolling and cutting process until you’ve used all of the dough.

Frying the Chocolate Donuts

Set out all of your tools before you begin heating the oil. You’ll need a slotted or holed metal spoon, a frying thermometer, a 6 quart pot, and a cooling rack with a baking sheet underneath it to set the fried donuts on.

Place about 2 quarts of oil in a 5 or 6 quart pot.

Using a frying thermometer to monitor the oil temperature, heat it to between 350° and 375°.

Once your oil has reached the correct temperature, turn it down to medium-low to make sure it doesn’t over-heat. You will need to adjust and figure out the best setting for your burners.

Add 2-3 donuts at a time and fry them for 1 minute and 30 seconds.

Flip the donuts and fry them on the other side for another minute and a half, then remove them from the oil to the cooling rack.

Repeat the frying process with the rest of the donuts, making sure to keep the oil between 350° and 375°.

Allow the donuts to cool, then glaze them.

Glazing the Donuts:

To make the glaze for the chocolate donuts, heat 1/4 cup of whole milk in a small saucepan until it’s steaming. Add 2 cups of sifted powdered sugar and 1 tsp. of vanilla extract to the milk and whisk them together until you have a smooth, runny glaze.

Dip one side of a donut in the glaze, then flip it over to coat the second side. Remove the donut from the glaze and allow the excess to drip back into the pan.

Set the donut back on the cooling rack and allow the glaze to cool. Repeat until all of the donuts are glazed.

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