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Sugar Donut Muffins

Sugar Donut Muffins

While a donut with white frosting and a generous topping of rainbow sprinkles was never turned down, sugar donuts were always my favorite when I was a kid. I liked the subtle crunch of all that extra sugar on top of a light, fluffy donut. They’re still a top choice for me now, although I think they’ve lost their top ranking to plain, old-fashioned cake donuts.  These sugar-topped donut muffins combine the best features of these two types of donut in a package that is easy to make and far lower in fat than a deep-fried pastry because it is baked in the oven.

The muffins in question here are fairly plain, with just a hint of nutmeg and splash of vanilla. Once baked, they are rolled in sugar and left to set a bit before being served. The result is a muffin with a fairly crisp outer layer that is very similar to the coating on a sugar donut. Sugar donuts typically use a yeasted dough. These use a fairly typical muffin batter to produce what would be a cakey donut. I used oil in the batter to help keep the muffins moist inside, imitating their deep-fried namesakes.

The oil has a second function here, too.  It keeps the sides and base of the muffin soft – softer than using butter, since butter will caramelize with the muffin’s sugar while in the oven and eventually firm up the sides that are in contact with the muffin pan. This softness is important because it provides a good surface for sugar to stick to when you’re roling the muffins in sugar. Many donut muffin recipes that I’ve seen in the past call for a muffin to be dunked in butter before being rolled in sugar. This is effective, but not entirely necessary (especially since it adds quite a bit of fat to the recipe). Plenty of sugar will stick to a hot-from-the-oven muffin without applying any butter to its sides and base. I prefer to brush the top of the muffin with just a little bit of butter, then roll the whole thing in sugar. Be careful with your fingers when you handle the hot muffins, and place them on a wire cooling rack after dipping them to let the sugar fully adhere.

Sugar Donut Muffins
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking power
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup milk (low fat is fine)
1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar, for rolling

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a muffin tin with cooking spray or vegetable oil.
In a large bowl, beat together sugar and egg until light in color.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Pour into egg mixture and stir to combine. Pour in vegetable oil, milk and vanilla extract.
Divide batter evenly into 10 muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 full.
Bake for 15-18 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

While muffins are baking, melt butter and pour remaining sugar into a small bowl.
When muffins are done, lightly brush the top of each with some melted butter, remove from the pan and roll in sugar. Cool on a wire rack.

Makes 10 muffins.

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  • Laura
    September 26, 2008

    Yum. I can feel my hips expanding as I look at them. Do you think it would work to fill them with a teaspoon of raspberry jam before they bake and make a sort of jelly doughnut muffin?

  • trish
    September 26, 2008

    These look wonderful. I think this is Saturday morning breakfast – (the dab of jelly in the center sounds like a wonderful idea, too!).


  • Linda
    September 26, 2008

    Sounds like a recipe I’ve been looking for to bake for someone who likes muffins rolled in sugar. I think hers have buttermilk in them but otherwise these sound perfect! Thanks!

  • Bunny
    September 26, 2008

    I’ve made the donut muffins that you dunk in butter and roll in sugar, it’s nice to know that you don’t need the butter. And yes the jelly in the middle sounds great!

  • Lisa
    September 26, 2008

    We just had these for breakfast. YUM YUM YUM!!

    Notes: I DID add a dollop of raspberry jam when the cups were almost filled and then just added a tiny bit more batter to cover the jam (the batter is extremely thin, like cake batter). For some inexplicable reason muffins ALWAYS stick to my tin, no matter how well/poorly they are greased. The jam sank to the bottom and by the time I got them out of the pan they were extremely rough on the sides and bottom and to be sure the jam wouldn’t drip out everywhere I had to keep them upside down, it looked like there was just jam on the top that way. Before I set them down, I did brush the tops with butter and dip them in sugar and then put them right down on that sugary part. Kind of looked like some funky little cakes. (my tops were not round like Nic’s perfect ones. They were sort of flat with a little peak) Oh, and I left out the nutmeg.

    They were VERY tasty, though. Sweet! Make sure you like sweet breakfasts if you’re planning to eat this in the morning (I do!). The cake was so light and yummy that I’m going to make them as cupcakes and dip the tops in butter/colored sugar for my daughter to take to school for her birthday. YUM! Thanks again, Nic!!

  • Lien
    September 27, 2008

    Oooh, these look soooooo delicious. I love donuts, but hate deep frying… this is the perfect answer.I’d better print this out right away. THanks!!

  • trish
    September 27, 2008

    I’m having one of these for breakfast right now. Unlike Lisa’s batter, my batter was very thick like a typical muffin batter. Anyway – they are wonderful Nicole! Thanks for another great recipe.


  • Nicole
    September 27, 2008

    Lisa – I’m glad you liked the muffins, but the batter really shouldn’t be very thin. Sounds like Trish’s came out more the way they were supposed to. A mismeasurement somewhere along the way? Still, I’m pleased that they were tasty anyway!

  • meeso
    September 27, 2008

    Wowie, this is a recipe I have to try!

  • Robin
    September 27, 2008

    My mom made these when we were growing up. She had an old Betty Crocker cookbook that had the recipe only they were called “French Breakfast Puffs” or something like that. We loved them and I make them every once in a while for my kids.

  • Katie
    September 28, 2008

    Wow these sound fantatsic

  • ChelleR
    September 28, 2008

    Yesterday dawned grey, wet and cold. I came across this while surfing the web before breakfast. These were a wonderfully yummy addition to our breakfast.

  • dawn
    September 29, 2008

    Ohhh I am bookmarking this one. I have been craving sugar donuts, but don’t want to eat all that deep fried fat. These look just heavenly.

  • Lisa
    September 29, 2008

    I might have left out up to two tablespoons of flour (I remember I was being unusually inexact). Oops. It still shouldn’t have made that much difference. Oh well, I guess I’ll just HAVE to make them again and find out!! 🙂

  • Mary
    September 30, 2008

    Just like Robin, my mom used to make us these from the Betty Crocker cookbook and she called them Breakfast Puffs. It was so nice to see your recipe today – it brought back lovely memories of my mom and some wonderful breakfasts.

  • Jazzy
    September 30, 2008

    These look so tasty, can’t wait to try it!

  • jennywenny
    October 1, 2008

    Wow, I nearly didnt open the recipe as I was expecting cups and cups of oil! These look like a wonderful treat!

  • Natalie
    October 14, 2008

    Is there anything to replace ground nutmeg?
    Because I live in Beazil and we don’t have it here..

  • jack bauer
    October 26, 2008

    I made these. Really tasty.

  • Heidi
    October 29, 2008

    Nicole, I made these muffins and had several coworkers pronounce them literally the best muffins they’d ever eaten. I sent them to your site for the recipe!

  • Anonymous
    November 20, 2008

    My kids were asking for cupcakes, and I think this is the best recipe, thank u

  • Zeze
    November 20, 2008

    I like all your recipes, every time I try a new recipe it turns perfect 100%, thank u

  • Jen
    December 12, 2008

    Wow! These were great. I made them in a mini muffin tin and rolled them in cinnamon and sugar. I sent 8 dozen lil ones to work with my hubby, and they were gone in a few hours. Everyone thought they were the best donut holes ever! Thanks for a wonderful recipe!

  • Sophia
    January 5, 2009

    i am about to make these, and i have made them before, but i always like to roll them in cinnamon and sugar 🙂

  • Rachel
    February 2, 2009

    I made a batch today and they are absolutely wonderful! I tweaked the recipe just a tad and added some cinnamon to the rolling sugar.

  • ChuSin
    February 3, 2009

    Does the sugar mean icing sugar or caster sugar? Thanks!

  • Nicole
    February 3, 2009

    ChuSin – It means caster sugar.

  • ChuSin
    February 4, 2009

    Thankyou Nicole~ =))

  • Marianne
    February 24, 2009

    Amazing. I think they would also be wonderful with a dollop of good quality jam in the middle.

  • Amanda
    February 25, 2009

    These are wonderful! I had been wanting to make them forever, and finally did the other day. I made them again yesterday and sent them to work with my sister, since I ate most of them myself the first time… Every bit as good as I expected them to be! 🙂

  • Amy
    March 2, 2009

    ***** 5 stars
    I would definitely bake them again. Not too sweet nor bland but I will try to add some flavorings to add some defining flavor the next time I make them.

    My muffins turned out exactly the same as in the pictures featured.

  • I just baked us up a batch of these yummies! I made a little cinnamon sugar to roll them in. I love the nutmeg in them! Thanks, I’ll be sharing them on my blog soon too!

  • Sofia
    April 29, 2009

    These were great. They’re like sugar cookies in muffin form. 🙂 I added a little bit of cardamom to the batter, which worked out nicely.

  • Annie
    May 10, 2009

    I made these today and they were really good :] my mom loved them haha. I may have underbaked them as I would have liked them to be crispier, but the inside was perfect.

  • Karen
    May 27, 2009

    Do you think I could make these as mini muffins? Kind of a ‘doughnut popper’?

  • Tippy
    June 12, 2009

    My friend and I were discussing over plain old store bought banana bread muffins how we were both craving some really good sugar muffins. Yesterday, I found this recipe and instantly baked a batch up. I made them into mini muffins and they came out perfectly! They were absolutly delicious. I called up my friend and we had some good, no guilt, yummy sugar DONUT muffins. And as we both love donuts…it was great, lol. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe!

  • Leslie
    August 27, 2009

    ahhh heaven! I am going to have to give these a whirl!

  • The Little Teochew
    December 4, 2009

    Hi Nicole, I just made them yesterday and they were out of this world yum! Thank you!!!

  • summar
    December 23, 2009

    i tried my own gluten-free mini version of these this morning. they were delish! i will definitely put a little dab of jam in them next time.

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