Jam-filled baked donuts
On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
Five golden rings
The neighborhood caroling party anchored my family’s holiday traditions throughout my childhood: from hand-delivering invitations at every door to frantically finishing the decorations as the first guests arrived to watching all of the children disappear into the basement playroom immediately, it stayed the same every year. The grown-ups nibbled and chatted upstairs while the kids wreaked hopefully not too much havoc downstairs.
At some point in the evening, my mom sat down at the piano, my sisters and I handed out a mismatched set of songbooks, and the caroling began. Someone shouted a request and our motley choir gamely sang it, transitioning smoothly from Rudolph to Silent Night to Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Another set of sisters from up the street tried to organize everyone for the 12 days of Christmas, giving each person or family a day to sing so that the song bounced around the room. The plan never really fully succeeded, and my sisters and I may have been the weak link more than once, but Alexis and Sophie’s drawn out soprano rendition of “five goooooooolden rings” reverberated around the room.
These donuts try to live up to their prominent place in our carol and in my childhood memories, and I have to say that they do a pretty exceptional job. We start with an ethereally light donut made with cake flour and scented with cinnamon and nutmeg, fill it up with lots of jam, and spread a thick layer of browned butter-cream cheese frosting on top. If that doesn’t get you drooling, sprinkle some graham cracker crumbs over the whole mess.
I was stunned to discover that my mother’s kitchen didn’t include a donut pan, but we righted that wrong pretty fast. I’ve railed against single-use pans like this, but if it means that I can have tasty baked donuts whenever I want, I’ll make an exception for this one. If you’re still fighting the single-use-pan frenzy, try this in a muffin tin for a different take on a still-delicious treat.
Science tidbit: use cake flour in this recipe for ultimate softness. Milled very finely from low-protein wheat, it contains less gluten than your typical all-purpose flour and helps ensure tender, not chewy, baked goods. Cake flour also undergoes chlorine or heat treatment to modify the starches and make them more able to absorb water even in a high-sugar cake (or donut!) batter.
- 2 c. cake flour
- 1 c. sugar
- 1½ t. baking powder
- ¾ t. salt
- ¼ t. nutmeg
- ¼ t. cinnamon
- 5 T. butter
- 2 eggs
- ½ c. buttermilk
- ½ c. sour cream
- 1 t. vanilla
- ½ c. raspberry jam
- 3 T. butter
- ¼ c. cream cheese
- 1 c. powdered sugar
- 1 T. milk
- 2 sheets graham crackers, crushed, optional
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a donut pan.
- Brown all of the butter (one full stick) in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. When the milk solids brown and the butter smells nutty, remove it from the heat and let cool.
- Mix together the dry ingredients for the donuts in a large bowl. Combine the eggs, buttermilk, sour cream, vanilla, and ¼ c. browned butter in a separate bowl. Pour the wet ingredients into dry and stir until just combined.
- Transfer the donut batter into a pastry bag or large ziploc bag with a ¾" opening. Spoon the jam into another pastry bag or small ziploc bag with a ¼" opening.
- Pipe the donut batter in a thick circle in the bottom of each donut well. Top with a thin circle of raspberry jam, then another thick circle of donut batter. The wells should be ¾ full; add extra batter if needed.
- Bake for 11-14 minutes, until the top springs back when touched and a toothpick comes out clean except for jam. Cool 5 minutes in the pan, then remove from the pan and let cool completely, about 30 minutes.
- Make the frosting: measure 2 tablespoons browned butter. Mix well with the cream cheese, then beat in the powdered sugar until smooth. Mix in the milk, adding more milk or powdered sugar if needed to adjust the consistency.
- Spread the frosting thickly on each donut and top with crushed graham crackers.
Recipe adapted from Joy the Baker.