Donuts are actually a pretty traditional dish for celebrating Mardi Gras, which is also known as Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday, because a batch of donuts was a good way to use up ingredients like butter, sugar and other fats that were given up for observation of Lent. These Mardi Gras Mini Donuts are a nod to two Mardi Gras traditions: making donuts and King Cake, a colorful yeast cake that is a Louisiana favorite at Mardi Gras. They’re baked, not fried, and topped with a colorful purple, gold and green glaze that makes them festive enough for such a colorful holiday.
The donuts themselves aren’t too sweet and have a nice buttermilk and vanilla flavor to them. They’re soft and moist, not unlike cake donuts, but because they are baked the don’t have that same crisp outer shell that deep fried donuts have. It’s a small price to pay because these soft baked mini donuts are still delicious and just a little bit better for you. I used a mini donut pan, but you can use this recipe in a full sized donut pan and simply increase the baking time by 6-8 minutes or so if you want to bake larger donuts. The donuts should be completely cooled before glazing.
The glaze is a simple confectioners’ sugar glaze that is tinted with purple, gold and green – the traditional colors of mardi gras celebrations. Many king cakes use a white frosting or glaze and add the color with sprinkles, but these mini donuts are a lot more eye-catching when you tint the glaze itself. I flavored it with a touch of almond extract to make the flavor of the glaze pop and because it goes well with the vanilla of the donut. I opted for color blocks of glaze, but you can spread it on for larger blocks of color or drizzle the colors all over for an abstract pattern. Allow the glaze to set completely for at least 45-60 minutes before serving so it has time to firm up.
The donuts are best served on the day they are baked when they are at their freshest. The donuts will stay nice and moist for at least a day or two when stored in an airtight container, however, so they can be baked in advance if you need to streamline your baking process. I highly recommend using a piping bag or a ziploc bag to pipe your batter into the donut molds because it is significantly faster, easier and neater than trying to spoon the batter into place – especially in the mini donut molds.
Mardi Gras Mini Donuts
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
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla export
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1-2 tbsp milk
1/4 tsp almond extract
purple, green and yellow/gold food coloring
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 24 cavity mini donut pan.
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.
Scoop batter into a large zip lot plastic bag or a piping bag. Snip the corner off of the plastic bag and pipe batter into mini donut cavities, filling each about 3/4 full.
Bake for 11-12 minutes, until donuts spring back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
In a medium bowl, whisk together confectioners’ sugar, 1 tbsp milk and almond extract until thick and smooth. Add additional milk a teaspoon at a time to thin batter until it is a thick, spreadable consistency.
Divide evenly into three small bowls. Add a few drops of purple food coloring to one bowl, and add green and yellow to the others. Whisk until colors are vibrant and well distributed. Transfer into small ziploc bags. Working with one color at a time, snip the corner off the ziploc bag and drizzle onto the cooled donuts to create stripes or blocks or color. Repeat with remaining colors.
Allow glaze to set before serving.
Makes about 24.