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This tender Gluten-Free Apple Cider Donut Cake is flavored with apple cider and coated in cinnamon sugar. So not only does it taste like an apple cider doughnut, it looks like one too!
An Easy Donut Cake Recipe
During the fall when apples are in season, one of the traditions in my area is to visit the local apple orchard and get a crinkly bag filled with fresh donuts. They are made right there with the orchard’s own apple cider and the smell is divine. After our last trip, I decided to re-create the experience at home. My kiddos would be the taste testers and judge whether I’d hit the mark!
As you probably know, there are two kinds of donuts – yeast or raised donuts. My Air Fryer Gluten-Free Glazed Donuts are an example of yeasted donuts. Since apple cider donuts are a type of cake donut, then it only makes sense to turn them into one giant donut – an apple cider donut cake! And of course, I made my cake gluten-free so that I could have some.
I served warm slices of fresh donut cake to my family and they all said the flavor and texture of this confection reminded them of the orchard. Success! I hope you make this gluten-free bundt cake and get in on some of this goodness.
What is Apple Cider Donut Cake?
A donut cake is exactly what it sounds like: a ring-shaped cake baked in a bundt pan with a tender texture similar to cake donuts. The donut-like batter is baked in a bundt pan, then coated in butter and cinnamon sugar to give it that sweet, crisp exterior. It really tastes like an apple cider doughnut, which makes it a treat you can enjoy for breakfast or dessert!
What Makes this Cake so Good?
- Tastes like fall. With all the best flavors of fall, you are sure to love this gluten free apple bundt cake. Using fresh apples cider makes it taste just like fresh cider donuts from the orchard.
- Easy to make: It’s a fuss-free cake, and you don’t even need a mixer.
- Moist and tender gluten free cake. It is made with apple cider and applesauce to keep it nice and soft and not a bit dry with tons of apple flavor.
- You can use individual flours or starches or a blend. I have successfully tested this recipe with both a mixture of brown rice flours, potato starch, ad tapioca starch plus xanthan gum, and simply using Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour.
- Crunchy cinnamon sugar topping. Then the cinnamon sugar gives it a sweet, crisp coating.
Other than picking up some apple cider, this cake is made with items that most home bakers keep in their pantry.
For the gluten free apple cake
- Gluten free flour: Made with a fairly basic blend of brown rice flour, tapioca starch, and potato starch, plus xanthan gum. It has also been tested using Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour, omitting the xanthan gum.
- Oat flour: You can buy certified gluten free oat flour. Or toss gluten free oats in a blender and pulse until they become a fine powder.
- Granulated sugar
- Baking powder
- Baking soda
- Apple cider: Definitely use apple cider, not apple juice. And try to use fresh apple cider from a local orchard or one that is in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. This is not meant for one of those processed, clear ciders or a sparkling cider as you will not get that same fresh apple taste.
- Unsweetened applesauce: Adds more moisture and apple flavor.
- Vegetable oil: Or another neutral-flavored oil such as canola or safflower.
- Large eggs: It’s best to let them come to room temperature.
- Vanilla extract
For the cinnamon sugar topping
- Melted butter: I recommend unsalted.
Can I use apple juice instead of apple cider?
Apple juice and apple cider are technically two different things. Both are the juice of pressed fresh apples. But apple cider is brown and almost opaque, with a deep tangy apple flavor. Apple juice is basically apple cider that has been filtered to remove the pulp. This leaves it with a paler color that is nearly transparent, as well as a lighter, more crisp flavor.
For this recipe, I used apple cider, which is what gives the apple cider doughnut cake the best, most authentic flavor.
You can use apple juice as the liquid. However, if you are truly craving the flavor of a real donut, then apple cider is the way to go. And I don’t mean sparkling cider or hard cider. You’ll want to use the real stuff from a local apple orchard or the refrigerated section of your local grocery store.
How to Make This Gluten Free Donut Cake
This impressive cake is actually quite simple to make. Greasing the pan is really the most critical part, and then there are just a few simple instructions.
Prepare the pan: Preheat your oven to 350°F and grease your bundt pan very well. A thick coating of Crisco shortening is the most effective option for this. While I prefer to not use a lot of shortening, this is one case where it is quite important.
Make the batter: Sift or whisk the flours and starches, sugar, cinnamon, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large mixing bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the apple cider, applesauce, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla extract. Then pour the wet mixture to the dry and whisk until just combined, being careful not to overmix the batter.
Bake the cake: Pour the batter into the greased bundt pan and bake for 45-50 minutes. A toothpick inserted near the center will come out nearly clean (perhaps with just a few small crumbs).
Cool and coat with cinnamon sugar. Remove the apple cider donut cake from the oven and cool in the bundt pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. As it cools, mix the sugar and cinnamon together for the topping. While still warm, turn the cake out onto a plate. Use a pastry brush to coat the cake with melted butter, then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Serve warm or at room temperature.
How to Keep Your Gluten Free Bundt Cake from Sticking
For a regular bundt cake, the recommendation is always to spray the pan with one of the special non-stick sprays meant for baking that have flour in them. Obviously, if you are gluten-free you can’t do that. So an alternative recommendation is to butter and flour the pan. But I have not found gluten-free flours to work as well for this as standard all-purpose flour.
And unlike making a layer cake like Gluten Free Strawberries and Cream Cake or a sponge cake for Flourless Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake Roll, parchment paper isn’t really an option in a bundt pan.
Therefore, I actually find that good old Crisco shortening tends to be the most effective choice for greasing a bundt pan when making a gluten-free bundt cake. Yes, shortening. I don’t love to use a lot of it either, but I swear it’s the thing that works.
Your best bet is to use your fingers or a paper towel and really work the shortening into the crevices. One option is to try coating it in sugar, but I did not try that here so I can’t confirm it will work for this cake.
Then after the donut cake comes out of the oven, let it cool in the pan on the rack for 15 to 20 minutes before turning it out. While you don’t want it to be so hot that it crumbles, but you also want to let it cool completely so that the shortening firms up and makes it stick.
If you turn the pan over and find that it doesn’t slide out easily, give it a few more minutes. You can also help it along by using a small offset spatula to loosen up if you have a couple of spots that seem to be sticking just a bit. But don’t go too crazy or you’ll just make the cake crumbly and messy.
More Tips for Success
- Making oat flour: While you can buy oat flour, you can make your own by placing your oats in a blender and blitzing it into a powder. I do like to sift this prior to adding it to a recipe to get rid of any hard bits that may be left or whole oats that didn’t get broken down.
- Sift the dry ingredients: You can whisk together the dry ingredients. However, to ensure they are mixed well and lightened up, I actually prefer to sift them through a mesh sieve into a large bowl.
- Get the perfect coating: You will want to brush the cake with melted butter and sprinkle on the cinnamon sugar while it is warm or at least at room temperature. If the cake is cold, the butter will harden, and not as much cinnamon sugar will stick. You really want it to stick so you get the same effect as rolling a freshly fried donut in cinnamon sugar.
Storing Leftover Donut Cake
This cake keeps for a few days at room temperature. To extend the life a couple of extra days, you can put it in the fridge. This may cause it to dry out just a bit. It’s nothing a dollop of whipped cream can’t fix.
Can I Freeze It?
This bundt cake also freezes well. I’d just recommend freezing before you add the topping and letting it thaw slowly. First, start thawing it in the fridge till it is no longer frozen solid. Then bring it to room temperature before putting on the melted butter and cinnamon sugar.
Donut cake is obviously perfect for dessert, but it’s great for breakfast or brunch too. Have a slice with a mug of hot apple cider or a pumpkin spice latte. You’ll definitely enjoy it after a day of pumpkin picking or other fun fall activities. It is the perfect way to end a crisp autumn day.
- Add a scoop of ice cream. Serve it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or double up on the apple goodness with No-Churn Caramel Apple Ice Cream.
- Have it with a cocktail. If you are opening that bottle of apple cider, then pour mix up some I had some cider from when I made this recipe for a Spiced Apple Cider Moscow Mules.
- Give it a glaze or sauce: Try drizzling the apple cider donut cake with caramel sauce or the maple glaze from this Gluten Free Pumpkin Bread.
- Spread some frosting: While I love the cinnamon sugar coating, you can always cover it with Vanilla Frosting then sprinkle with some cinnamon.
Serve it for Thanksgiving. Enjoy it instead of pie with some of these alternative turkey-day desserts:
- Gluten Free Chocolate Pumpkin Cake
- Gluten Free Cranberry Orange Coffee Cake
- Pumpkin Cheesecake Flourless Chocolate Cake Roll
- Gluten Free Hummingbird Cake
Shop the Recipe
BUNDT PAN: I like to make this cake in the classic bundt cake pan, but you can certainly get one of the fancy ones. You’ll want to make sure it is a 10- to 12-cup bundt pan.
Nordic Ware ProForm Bundt, 12 Cup, Gray
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Gluten Free Apple Cider Donut Cake
For the cake:
- 1 cup brown rice flour (*see note)
- 1/2 cup tapioca starch
- 1/3 cup potato starch
- 1 1/2 cups oat flour (*see note)
- 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup apple cider
- 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil , such as canola or safflower
- 3 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the topping:
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter , melted
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- Preheat your oven to 350°F
- Coat your bundt pan very well with shortening being sure to get into every crevice.
- Into a large mixing bowl, sif together the brown rice flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, oat flour, xanthan gum, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- In another bowl, combine the apple cider, applesauce, oil, eggs, and vanilla extract. Whisk together until combined.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk until just combined. Be careful not to overmix.
- Pour the batter into the greased bundt pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out nearly clean (perhaps with just a few small crumbs).
- Cool in the pan on a cooling rack for 15 minutes.
- While it cools, mix the sugar and cinnamon together for the topping.
- Turn the cake out onto a plate and brush with melted butter, then sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar, coating all sides as best as possible.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.
AWESOME RECIPE! Directions are easy to follow and the cake came out great. The cake cooks up well and is moist and flavorful. I can’t even tell it’s gluten free. I used the individua flours but I appreciate that a one to one option was included in the notes. This recipe is a keeper!
I am so happy you enjoyed it! I often start with the 1 to 1 mix in recipes, but I know some people like the individual flours.
Can quick cooking oats be used for making the oat flour? Thanks.
Yes, that should work fine.
This looks amazing! Any ideas on adequate substitutes for the eggs? Making for a friend with an egg sensitivity.
Honestly, I have not baked much using egg substitute, but many of my vegan friends use a flax egg or chia egg – https://minimalistbaker.com/make-chia-egg/ or https://minimalistbaker.com/how-to-make-a-flax-egg/
This recipe looks and sounds soooo good – I used to love apple cider donuts too until the gluten problem was discovered. But I also have a problem with oats, even if they are certified gluten free. I can eat the other flours you listed. Do you have any suggestions for oat substitutes – maybe quinoa flakes ground into flour or sorghum flour? Thanks very much for any help you can give.
Hi Ines! I haven’t tried this, but I did see that quinoa flakes blended into a flour typically gives similar results to oat flours. Here is some info – https://glutenfreeonashoestring.com/gluten-free-oat-substitute/
Let me know how it works!