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Sourdough discard cinnamon sugar cake donuts

Don’t throw out that sourdough starter! Use a cup’s worth and make the softest, most delicate cinnamon sugar cake donuts this side of the Mississippi.

Waste not, want not.

That’s what old people say. And in this case it’s waste not, want dough-nots. See what I did there?

With a heaping cup of sourdough discard on hand you can make a giant batch of these donuts which are by no other fitting description completely melt in your mouth devine.


The scoop on sourdough starter discard

If you stumbled in to this post you may not be sure what I mean by sourdough discard. For those of us who are embracing the movement back to healthy bread–real bread–that means making wild yeast leavened sourdough (<–that’s a link to my class where I teach sourdough baking) which is made with a starter.

Each day you take out half and feed your starter to keep it alive and active so it can make bread.

But throwing away that half of the starter feels wasteful, so a lot of people use it to add a tangy flavor to other baked goods–like these cake donuts.

Do these donuts taste like sourdough?

That’s a big negative. In fact, they just tasted like cake donuts to me but you have to keep in mind we aren’t using the starter to rise these donuts: Baking powder does the heavy lifting.

What’s the difference between a cake donut and a regular one?

Cake donuts are made from flour, eggs, sugar and a leavening agent like baking powder which gives them a cake-like crumbly texture.

“Regular” donuts like you would buy in most bakeries slathered in chocolate or glazed to the heavens are made with yeast and required to rise a couple of times before they are fried.

Can these donuts be baked instead of fried?

I didn’t test them baked because I am a donut purist. I use refined coconut oil and not vegetable oil for frying and never look back.

If you wanted to bake them, they would likely work okay. May have a tad of a flat side, but if you don’t mind that then that’s fine with me. I’d probably bake them around 375 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes but that’s just a guess.

What if I don’t have any sourdough starter? Can I make these anyway?

Yes! I would recommend adding something to make up the difference in moisture. Maybe a cup of sour cream or whole milk plain yogurt would be a good swap.

Sourdough cake donuts steps in pictures

four images of mixing the donut batter
  • Cream butter and sugar.
  • Add eggs, starter, vanilla and milk.
  • Add dry ingredients.
  • Allow dough to sit and “firm” slightly.
  • Roll out to 3/4″ thick then cut circles.
  • Fry 1 to 2 minutes per side, toss in cinnamon sugar.
donut batter rolled out and donuts cut ready for frying

Looking for a regular yeasted donut? Try this version or bake your next batch of apple cider donuts.

The Recipe

two cake donuts in a box

Sourdough discard cinnamon sugar cake donuts

So tender they melt in your mouth. These sourdough discard cake donuts will be a special treat!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 10 people
Author Rachel Ballard


For the cinnamon sugar

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar granulated or raw cane sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon

For the donuts

  • 8 tablespoons butter salted or unsalted and softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar coconut sugar would work too
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sourdough starter you can swap in sour cream or plain greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups refined coconut oil for frying


  • In a small bowl mix the sugar and cinnamon and set aside.
  • In a medium bowl use a hand mixer to cream the sugar and butter until light and fluffy.
  • Add the eggs, sourdough starter, vanilla and milk and mix well.
  • Add the flour, baking powder and salt and beat just until the dry ingredients are incorporated. Do not overmix.
  • Allow the dough to sit 2 to 3 minutes to firm slightly. The dough should be soft but workable.
  • Lightly flour your counter and turn out the dough. Dust the top with flour and roll about 3/4" thick.
  • Use a round cutter to cut circles about 3 inches wide and a smaller cutter to cut out the centers.
  • Heat the oil over medium high heat in a heavy pot or skillet to a depth of about 3 inches. Just deep enough that the donuts don't stick to the bottom until the oil reaches 375 degrees.
  • Add the donuts in batches of 3 or 4, turning when golden brown on one side–about 2 minutes. Cook 1 to 2 minutes more then transfer to the cinnamon sugar and toss to coat.
  • Serve warm or at room temperature and may also be frozen for up to 2 months.


Calories: 432kcalCarbohydrates: 61gProtein: 5gFat: 19gSaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 62mgSodium: 216mgPotassium: 183mgFiber: 2gSugar: 30gVitamin A: 344IUCalcium: 88mgIron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?Tag us on Instagram @feastandfarm and hashtag it #feastandfarm
Course Breakfast, Dessert

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  1. 5 stars
    This was a super easy recipe. The only thing different that I did was roll the dough into balls, covered with the cinnamon sugar coating, and baked in my muffin tins at 375 for 10 minutes. Mine came out more like bread than actual doughnuts but still tasted great.

    1. Yes the frying process changes the texture a bit but they are cake donuts and not yeasted so the texture will be more cake like. I’m glad you liked them. –Rachel

  2. 5 stars
    I am new to sourdough, I have made bagels, scones, pancakes and now doughnuts. Recipe is amazing!

  3. Hi, thanks for this recipe. I have a question about the frying. I’ve tried it twice now. 1sr time the oil was too hot. Lovely color and texture on the outside but totally raw inside. The second time I lowered the temp but found that even too hot. More lowering resulted in super oily dense donuts. Any tips? I love that this is a discard recipe and really want it to work😊

    1. Hey Vania, Well it sounds like you’re learning first hand the facts about frying: It’s way harder than people realize. I learned to fry from my mother and she taught me the visual cues to know when I’ve reached the right frying temperature and how to maintain it. But since most people don’t have that, I highly recommend getting a candy thermometer to add to your pot so you can see exactly what temperature you’re frying at.

      Donuts do best about 365 degrees. 375 is the highest we would want to go when frying and that’s more for things like french fries. Foods that take a long time to fry (like bone in fried chicken which takes about 45 minutes) we go for 360. If your temperature drops below 360-365 you’ll get that heavy, greasy final result. Above 370-375 and you’ll burn them before they get done inside. Both of which you’ve experienced.

      Remember not to overload the fryer to keep the temperature from dropping. No more than 2 or 3 donuts depending on the size of your frying vessel, and do get yourself a thermometer so you can better regulate your heat and know exactly where you are. –Rachel

  4. 5 stars
    My girls and I just tried this recipe as a baked donut. (I would have loved to fry them, but my gallbladder says no.) We cut the donuts and put them in our donut pans, then baked them at 375 degrees for 12 minutes. We brushed some melted butter on after cooling slightly and then rolled in cinnamon sugar. Two thumbs up from all five of us, including my donut-snob hubby! The flavor is awesome. We will be making these again. Thanks for the recipe!!

    1. @Kristen, Thank you for this!!! I’m a terrible fryer… and my daughter has been begging me to make donuts with Jane Dough for 2 years now. Looks like this is a winner!

  5. So so yummy! I shallow pan fried mine in duck fat and they were absolutely delicious, (though not the prettiest with my method). Thanks for putting this recipe together, I’ll definitely be coming back for it.

    1. You can, though it will be thicker and may require a bit more to reach the right consistency. You can use baking powder as written since powder is just a blend of baking soda and cornstarch. They will still rise just fine. –Rachel

  6. 5 stars
    Wondering if you can make the dough in advance/refrigerate overnight? (I’m actually trying this today – plan to take out of refrigerator and bring to room temp before cooking but was curious if anyone else had tried this?)

    1. Hey Rebecca, because these are leavened with baking powder that will rise and then collapse after it’s mixed. If you left that in the fridge all night you’d have a pancake batter in the morning that won’t rise when it’s fried. You won’t get the proper results. –Rachel

    2. @Rachel Ballard, they actually worked beautifully! Just as good as when I made them per the recipe a few months ago! They puffed right up when I put them in the oil and tasted exactly the same. I baked several as well to see how those would do. They were not as good as the fried donuts (ofc) but were puffy and delicious! And now I have a stomach ache from “taste testing” too many lol . . . .

  7. Wonderful recipe! I actually baked them and they turned out so good. Brushed the pan and the doughnuts with coconut oil and baked them for about 8 minutes at 375

    1. @Jessica, I will try this then. 4 cups of coconut oil is a lot of expense! Yumm…., I’m excited, thanks for letting us know!

  8. We made these once and loved them, then made them again and added fresh blueberries to the dough. It worked great! The only problem was a few of the outside blueberries escaped the dough during the frying process. However, I think if we hand rolled donut holes, that wouldn’t be an issue.

  9. Rachel could you do your recipe using grams? Or, do you know how many grams a cup of starter might be? Measuring with a cup gives different amounts depending on how much you stir down the starter. I can’t wait to try making these!

    1. I don’t have it in grams (but I am starting to do more that way). I never stir down discard so I’m not totally clear on the necessity of that? My discard is always super thin so there’s nothing to stir down, ya know? I’ll keep your request in mind moving forward. –Rachel

    2. @Rachel Ballard, Thank you! Some recipes say “stir down or deflate” the starter. I guess it’s like the difference of tamped down flour and sifted flour. My discard is on the thicker side so 1 cup straight out of the jar, all lovely and puffy, would be different than 1 cup more “deflated.” I’ll experiment and see what happens.

    3. @JWY, Hi there, I’m Grady and live in Germany. I havn’t tried this recipe yet but it’s on my list. To answer your question…1 cup starter messures about 240 Grams.
      I always have my struggle converting but I manage?. You just have to try and find out. Hope this will help a little. Grady

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About the Author

Rachel Ballard, RN, BSN brings more than 20 years of professional nursing expertise to Feast and Farm. With a love for nutrient dense foods that support wellness, she works to distill complex health information and current trends into recipes that fuel the best version of yourself. Read more about Rachel here.