February 26, 2021

Apple Cider Doughnut Cake

Recipe: Tara O'Brady

“Through the months with everyone home, I established a habit of keeping a treat on the kitchen counter — a jar of cookies, some muffins or, most frequently, a sturdy snacking cake under a glass dome,” says cookbook author and food writer Tara O’Brady. “Think banana oat bread, carrot cake studded with candied ginger and raisins, or this doughnut-adjacent dream that actually improves as it sits. Basic, everyday cakes are a reliable source of comfort in an unreliable time. This one has a spiced-sugar crust, a tender crumb, and the full, evocative character of apple cider.”


  • Butter for greasing pans, or nonstick spray
  • 1 3⁄4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1⁄2 tsp baking powder
  • 1⁄2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1⁄2 tsp ground cinnamon, divided
  • 3⁄4 tsp ground nutmeg, divided
  • 1 tsp medium-grain kosher salt
  • 1  cup unsalted butter
  • 2  cups apple cider
  • 1⁄2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 1⁄3 cups sugar, divided
  • 1⁄2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 3 eggs
  • Seeds scraped from vanilla bean, or 2 tsp vanilla extract


Yield: Makes 2 loaves

Make Cake Batter

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two 81⁄2″ x 41⁄2″ loaf pans and line with parchment paper on long sides.
  2. In medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, 1 tsp of ground cinnamon, 1⁄2 tsp of nutmeg and salt.
  3. In medium saucepan over medium heat, gently melt butter, stirring regularly. Cook until butter foams, then begins to turn golden brown and aromatic, 6 to 7 minutes. Pour into large bowl.
  4. Measure out 3 tbsp to small bowl and keep aside. In same saucepan for butter, simmer apple cider until reduced by half. Pull off heat and stir in applesauce.
  5. Into large bowl, whisk 1 cup of sugar and light brown sugar with brown butter. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  6. Stir in vanilla seeds. Stir in half of dry ingredients, followed by apple cider mixture, then rest of dry ingredients.

Bake Cake

  1. Divide batter between prepared pans and bake until golden and bouncy when prodded at middle, and when toothpick inserted in same spot comes out clean, around 55 minutes. Cool in pans on rack for 15 minutes.

Finish Cake

  1. Stir together remaining 1⁄3 cup of sugar with 1⁄2 tsp of cinnamon and 1⁄4 tsp of nutmeg in quarter-sheet pan or rimmed plate. Rewarm reserved brown butter, if needed.
  2. Carefully lift one loaf from its pan; it will still be warm. With pastry brush, dab brown butter on one side and lay that side into spiced sugar. Repeat, brushing sides and then carefully rolling in sugar until loaf is completely coated. Repeat with second loaf, then cool on rack, now set over pan to catch any loose sugar.
Author: Tara O’Brady

House & Home January/February 2021