You’ve probably had doughnuts and coffee before, but I’ll bet you’ve never had them quite like this!
This towering beauty is made from layers of homemade sour cream doughnuts and a light, fluffy mocha whipped cream. Add a topping of shiny chocolate-coffee ganache and a few more doughnuts, and you have a gorgeously unique layer cake that’s the stuff of Homer Simpson’s dreams!
I first had the idea to construct a cake out of doughnuts back in February. At the time, I attempted it with store-bought mini doughnuts, whipped cream, and blood orange curd. It was a solid concept, but I hit a few snags during assembly, the cake looked sloppy, and it just wasn’t what I had in mind. (Here’s some photographic evidence of what a hot mess it was.)
I knew that when I made this cake again, homemade doughnuts were the way to go. The store-bought ones were a little large for the project, and it was expensive to buy as many as I needed to make a tall cake. Plus, the thick glaze that drenched the doughnuts made the cake very sweet and prevented the doughnuts from soaking up moisture from the whipped cream. So, while you can make this cake with store-bought minis, if you have the time, I recommend going the DIY route to save money and make sure you end up with plenty of doughnuts that are just the right size.
While frying doughnuts does add an extra step (…or ten…) to the recipe, it’s worth it when you taste these tender, nutmeg-scented sour cream doughnuts. The good news is that they’re a cakey doughnut recipe, as opposed to a yeast-based one, so you don’t have to worry about finicky yeast or multiple rises. Don’t say I never tried to make life easy for you! Plus, you’ll probably have extras left over for munching, and we all know kitchen munchability is one of the biggest factors in judging a successful dessert recipe.
You can fill the cake with whatever flavor of whipped cream you’d like. I was stuck on the doughnuts-and-coffee idea, so I added richly flavored cocoa powder and instant espresso powder to give it a robust mocha flavor that pairs perfectly with the subtly sweet doughnuts. If you’d like, you can omit the espresso to have just a plain chocolate whipped cream, or consider adding some cinnamon and nutmeg to make spiced chocolate cream. Other ideas include adding almond extract, going in a citrus direction by adding some lemon curd to the layers as well, or keeping things plain and simple with just a touch of vanilla paste.
The cake is finished with a shiny chocolate glaze with a hint of coffee flavor. The glaze drips down the sides of the cake just a little bit, to mimic the look of a chocolate-glazed doughnut. I had some extra mini doughnuts left over, so I dipped them in chocolate and coffee glaze (based on the glazes in this doughnut recipe) and a pinch of shimmering gold sprinkles—I used this Gold Shimmer Sugar from Pepper Creek Farms.
And if you’re wondering how it tastes, well, imagine soft, fluffy sour cream doughnuts softening into fluffy mocha cream. Just like ladyfingers get soft and cakey when assembled into tiramisu, these doughnuts develop a wonderfully moist and cakey texture after sitting overnight with the whipped cream. The cake slices cleanly and holds its shape well, and it really can be served just like any other layer cake.
I think you’ll love this unique take on the familiar doughnuts and coffee combination, and I’d love to hear what you think if you give it a try!
[And PS, can I please get tons of props for not once making a cops-and-doughnuts joke in this post? Willpower of steel over here, people.]
- 13.5 oz (3⅓ cups) cake flour
- 2¼ tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 5¼ oz (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
- 1½ oz butter
- 3 large egg yolks
- 6 oz (3/4 cup) sour cream
- 1 quart canola oil, for frying
- 4 oz heavy cream
- ½ tsp instant espresso powder
- 3 oz semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 3 cups heavy cream
- ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- 2 tsp instant espresso powder
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- Sift the cake flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg together in a bowl.
- Combine the granulated sugar and butter in the bowl of a large stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Cream them together until the sugar is moistened and it's the texture of wet sand. Add the egg yolks one at a time, and mix until the mixture is thick and light.
- Turn the mixer speed to low and add a third of the flour mixture. When it is mostly mixed in, and just a few streaks of flour remain, add half of the sour cream. Continue to alternate adding flour and sour cream until everything is added. Stop the mixer when there are just a few streaks of flour left and scrape down the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl. The dough will be sticky.
- Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover it with cling wrap, and refrigerate it for an hour to chill.
- Once chilled, lightly flour your work surface and roll out the dough until it is a little thicker than ¼". Cut out circles about 1-1/4" wide using a small circular cutter, then cut a hole in the center about ½" wide. (I used the top of a large piping tip, Ateco #807, to make these small holes. A small round fondant cutter would also work well.) Re-roll the scraps and continue cutting the doughnuts. I got about 90 small doughnuts from this batch.
- Pour the oil into a large saucepan until it's about 1½-2" deep. Insert a deep fry thermometer and heat the oil over medium heat until it is 325 F. During the frying process, you'll want to monitor this temperature carefully, and take the pan off the heat if it starts climbing too high. It's important that this temperature remain steady so your doughnuts cook properly, so try always to maintain around 325 F.
- Fry the doughnuts in small batches until they're puffed and golden, making sure not to overcrowd the pan. It should only take about 1 minute on each side. Cover a baking sheet with paper towel, and transfer the cooked doughnuts to the sheet to let the excess oil be absorbed. Continue until all of the doughnuts have been fried. Let them cool completely before assembling the cake.
- Pour the cream into a chilled mixing bowl. Sift the powdered sugar, cocoa and espresso powder over the cream, and add the vanilla extract. Whip until the cream holds firm peaks.
- Place a cake cardboard in the bottom of a 7-inch springform pan. Place a 4-inch acetate cake collar around the inside of the pan. If you don't have an acetate collar, you can form a tall ring with aluminum foil—you just need something to extend the top of the springform pan about 4 inches. You can also use a different size of springform pan, just be aware that you may not get the same number of layers if you make a larger cake.
- Spread a thin layer of mocha whipped cream on the bottom of the cake cardboard. Arrange a ring of doughnuts around the edge of the cardboard, then fill in the center with more doughnuts, cutting some if necessary to try and cover as much of the space as possible. Top this layer of doughnuts with a thick layer of mocha whipped cream, spreading it out almost to the edge of the cake. Add another layer of doughnuts, then continue to alternate layers of cream and doughnuts until you have four layers of doughnuts total.
- Top the top layer of doughnuts with more whipped cream, spreading it into a smooth, even layer on top. Cover the cake with a loose tent of plastic wrap, and refrigerate it overnight so the doughnuts soften and everything melds together.
- Pour the cream into a small saucepan and add the espresso powder, and turn the heat to medium-high. Place the chopped semi-sweet chocolate in a medium bowl nearby. Bring the cream to a simmer, so that bubbles appear along the side of the pan.
- Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate, and let it sit for one minute to soften the chocolate. Whisk them together gently until the mixture is shiny and smooth. Press a layer of cling wrap on top and let sit at room temperature until you're ready to use it.
- Unclasp the springform pan and remove the cake from the pan. Unwind the acetate cake collar or foil collar from the sides of the cake, and place the cake on your serving platter.
- If the ganache has firmed up too much to be easily pourable, warm it in the microwave in short 5- or 6-second intervals, whisking often, until it is liquid and flows easily. Pour it on top of the cake, and gently spread it to the edge of the cake so some of it drips down. Add sprinkles on top, if desired.
- Refrigerate the cake for about 20 minutes to set the ganache. Once set, top with additional small doughnuts, whipped cream, or any other garnishes if desired.
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