Can we live in a world where you can have donuts for breakfast, and call it healthy? Where you can sink your teeth into frosted, tender pastry before noon and not feel regret afterward? I’m going to say yes because this recipe is definitely for a donut and it’s unquestionably healthier than regular donuts. I give you: Healthy Baked Cherry Almond Coffee Cake Donuts.
My recipe development mindset was motivated by memories of a favorite cherry coffee cake and my love of donuts. I thought it might be worth a try to combine them. The best parts about the coffee cake were the crumbly streusel that melts in your mouth and the layer of cherry pie filling in the middle. And the best part about donuts is that they’re fried and frosted, am I right?
So how do you make a coffee-cake-style donut healthy? Here was my plan of attack:
- Replace the syrupy sweet cherry pie filling with plain canned tart cherries in water
- Use mostly whole wheat pastry flour instead of 100% all-purpose flour
- Replace eggs with pureed cherries, dairy-free (vegan) yogurt, and almond butter
- Replace butter with vegan butter
- Bake ’em don’t fry ’em
It’s not perfect of course. It’s still got plenty of sugar and frosting, but it’s a step in the right donut direction and it’s vegan!
Almond is a natural flavor fit with cherries so I decided to highlight that as well. And I wasn’t kidding around. This recipe gets its almond goodness four ways:
- almond butter
- almond milk yogurt
- almond extract
- sliced almonds
The top is smooth, with pale pink frosting made from tart cherry juice. The crumbly bottom is where the coffee cake bit comes in. And the moist, tender middle pairs them perfectly together.
- Whole wheat pastry flour: this is different than regular whole wheat flour. It’s still a whole grain and offers up more fiber than all-purpose flour. But it’s lighter than whole wheat flour so baked goods like quick breads and muffins (and donuts!) don’t end up as dense.
- Soymilk: there are a lot of plant milks out there but soymilk remains my favorite because of its protein content. It’s the most similar to cow’s milk and has more protein than almond milk, oat milk, etc.
- Vegan yogurt: I used Kitehill plain almond milk yogurt because it’s yummy and it’s got a decent amount of protein for a non-dairy yogurt. Read the labels on vegan yogurts if you’re subbing them for regular yogurt. The protein content often just doesn’t compare.
- Almond butter: I used the Kirkland brand because that’s what I have at home. My main criteria for almond butter is that the only thing on the ingredient list should be: almonds.
- Canned red tart cherries in water: this is not cherry pie filling. It’s just plain old tart cherries canned in water and you can find it on the canned fruit aisle. My store carries two brands: Kroger or Oregon Specialty Fruit. I prefer the tang of tart cherries (also called pie cherries) but sweet cherries would work just fine in this recipe too. If you have trouble finding the canned cherries, check the freezer section. I can regularly find frozen tart and sweet cherries at my stores. You’ll just need to defrost them first and save the juice.
- Vegan butter: I used Earth Balance Buttery Sticks.
But how much better are these vegan donuts than a regular donut, really? Let’s compare to some classic favorites from a national chain and a local shop.
|Healthy Baked Cherry Almond Coffee Cake Donut||Starbucks Glazed
(Old fashioned donut)
|Top Pot Feather Boa (Cake donut)|
|Fat||6 g||27 g||29 g|
|Saturated fat||1 g||13 g||15 g|
|Protein||5 g||5 g||5 g|
|Carbohydrate||60 g||56 g||72 g|
|Cholesterol||0 mg||20 mg||35 mg|
|Sodium||150 mg||410 mg||600 mg|
|Fiber||4 g||1 g||3 g|
|Sugar||38 g||30 g||43 g|
Overall, my version is lower in calories, fat, saturated fat, and sodium, but also higher in fiber. And mine is cholesterol-free, which makes sense because it doesn’t have any animal products in it. Protein and sugar are pretty equal across the board.
A quick note about the sugar value. That number represents added sugar content plus natural sugar content in the product, but some sugars are more concerning than others. We don’t need to worry about natural sugars like those in fruit.
I happen to know my sugar grams are coming from sugar, of course, but also the cherries. Since Starbucks makes their nutrition facts and ingredient lists available, I can tell you their donut contains sugar, dextrose, and corn syrup solids.
Also, if even 300 calories for one donut offends your sensibilities, I’ve got a couple of suggestions. To lower the calories, consider leaving off one added component like the streusel, frosting, or sliced almonds. You’ll still have a very tasty product that can stand on its own deliciously without embellishments.
Let’s assume you exercise portion control and don’t devour all 12 donuts in one sitting. How best to store leftover donuts? That’s a good question. After I made my first batch, I put them in a plastic container with a lid and left them on the counter overnight. That was a mistake. In the morning they were damp and dreary. The moisture from the donuts condensed inside the plastic box and everything was mushy. So I decided to do a sciency donut-storing experiment to see if I could get a better result.
I stored the donuts:
- on a plate on the counter, uncovered
- in a plastic container with the lid slightly ajar instead of sealed all the way
- loosely wrapped in foil on the counter
- loosely wrapped in foil in the refrigerator
The winner? Option 2. They were still fresh and soft but not soggy, which was ideal.
So if the arrival of spring has you in a pale pink mood, your breakfast routine needs an almond-scented pick-me-up, or you’re just trying to use up the last of the &#%@! vegan yogurt that’s been hanging around in the fridge, I’d encourage you to try this recipe, and enjoy every bite. No regrets.