slice of donut cake in a baking pan

Honestly, what could be a better way to kick off fall than with a brown butter apple cider donut cake? This delectable treat features reduced apple cider (so you can actually taste it in every bite), nutty brown butter and a sweet spiced sugar topping that, along with a moist and soft texture, brings out that irresistible “donut” vibe. Whether you enjoy a slice with a hot cup of coffee for breakfast or as an after-dinner dessert in your sweatpants on the couch (dream scenario, IMO), you’re gonna love this one.

donut cake in a baking pan

Brown Butter Apple Cider Donut Cake Recipe

Oooh am I excited to share this cake recipe with you today! I feel like I’ve been in a bit of a rut lately when it comes to inspiration on the recipe development front, but this cake brought me back in the best of ways. Every single bite is loaded with apple cider and brown butter flavors, and there is a medley of textures to enjoy in each forkful. I cannot stress enough how much I love this cake, and that I think you will, too. It is, after all, fall y’all… and what better way to celebrate than with donut cake.

Here is what you can expect from this dreamboat dessert:

  • A soft, moist, tender crumb
  • Layers of flavor and texture throughout
  • A distinct combination of brown butter and apple cider that comes through in every bite
  • A great snacking cake that’s destined for both the breakfast and dessert tables
  • An easy cake to pack up and bring with you wherever you go (always a bonus)
slices of cake in a baking pan

Best Ingredients for This Cake

Most of the ingredients you’ll need for this cake are pantry-friendly or readily available at your grocery stores–nothing fancy or over-the-top needed here! Here is what you’ll need:

  • Apple cider (NOT apple cider vinegar or even apple juice, please. Apple cider is key to make this cake live its best life, as it has a more concentrated apple flavor and doesn’t have any added sugars that will overly sweeten the cake)
  • Unsalted butter (I used Vermont Creamery butter here and it was AMAZING. I don’t recommend using cultured butter in all baking recipes, but in the case of this recipe where you’re melting/browning the butter, it works so well)
  • Sour cream (full fat preferred!)
  • Vanilla extract (be sure to use pure vanilla extract, not imitation, for best results)
  • All-purpose flour, baking powder and baking soda
  • Salt (I recommend using kosher salt for the best level of flavoring)
  • Cinnamon and nutmeg, to get that cozy fall spice goodness
  • Eggs
  • Granulated sugar
slice of cake on a plate

How to Make Brown Butter Apple Cider Donut Cake

While the basic premise and ingredient list of this recipe is simple, you do want to pay special attention to this recipe because there are a lot of divided/ingredients and added elements that make this cake so, so good. As always, read through the entire recipe first, set out your ingredients ahead of time and follow the recipe as written (scroll to the bottom of this post for the FULL recipe) for best results. This is how we do:

  • Step One: Reduce the apple cider. Bring the cider to a boil in a saucepan, then reduce the heat and simmer until the cider is reduced by about half. Reserve some cider in a small bowl, and pour the rest into a separate bowl. Cool slightly, then whisk in sour cream and vanilla extract.
  • Step Two: Brown the butter. Add the butter to the saucepan (no need to clean it out first!). Heat and melt over medium heat, then continue to stir and cook until the butter smells nutty, foams up, then turns a rich amber color with brown flecks throughout. Set aside to cool slightly.
  • Step Three: Whisk the dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients until well-combined.
  • Step Four: Whisk the egg mixture. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with some sugar until a pale, frothy, silky mixture forms. Stream in some of the brown butter and whisk vigorously to combine.
  • Step Five: Make the batter. Whisk the dry ingredients into the egg mixture alternating with the cider-sour cream mixture until a smooth batter forms.
  • Step Six: Bake the cake. Pour the cake batter into the prepared 8×8-inch pan, then bake until deeply golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Poke the top of the cake all over with a toothpick, then pour 3 tablespoons of the reserved cider over the top. Cool 10 minutes.
  • Step Seven: Add the toppings. Combine the remaining reserved cider with the reserved brown butter, then brush the mixture over the top of the cake. Combine the remaining sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a bowl, then spoon and sprinkle it all over the top of the warm cake. Cool completely, then cut into squares and serve.

How To Serve This Cake

I recommend serving this cake as-is right after it cools. You can serve it with ice cream or whipped cream, but honestly it’s just so yummy on its own, too. You can try to slice into it while it’s still warm, but for clean squares and to avoid any gummy texture, it’s best to let it cool completely.

slice of cake on a plate with a forkful taken out

How to Store This Cake

You can store this cake tightly covered with plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 4 days. To freeze, allow the cake to cool completely, then either cover the entire pan with plastic wrap and foil, or cut the cake into squares and freeze the squares (each covered in plastic wrap and foil) individually. Thaw, covered, at room temperature until ready to serve.

Happy fall, my friends, and I hope you love every bite of brown-buttery, apple-cidery, donut-cakey deliciousness this treat has to offer.

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slice of cake on a plate

Brown Butter Apple Cider Donut Cake

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 4 reviews
  • Author: Stephanie
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 55 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
  • Yield: 9 servings 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Bake
  • Cuisine: American


A deliciously indulgent apple cider donut snacking cake baked with brown butter and sprinkled with a sweet spiced topping. The perfect fall treat!


Units Scale
  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider*
  • 9 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon plus 1 pinch of salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, divided
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided


  1. Preheat your oven to 325°F. Generously spray an 8×8-inch baking pan with cooking spray (optional: line the pan with parchment paper to easily remove the cooled cake from the pan later to cut it; spray the parchment with cooking spray, as well).
  2. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring apple cider to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes or until cider is reduced by half (about 3/4 cup). Pour 1/4 cup cider in a bowl or glass measuring cup; set aside. Pour remaining 1/2 cup cider into a small bowl; cool 5 minutes, then whisk in sour cream and vanilla extract. Set aside.
  3. In that same saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Once melted, continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes or until butter begins to smell nutty, foam up, then turn a deep amber color with brown flecks throughout. Remove from heat; set aside to cool slightly.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg until well-combined. Set aside.
  5. In a large bowl, vigorously whisk eggs and 3/4 cup sugar for about 2 minutes or until mixture is a pale yellow, frothy and thickened. Pour 1 tablespoon brown butter into a small bowl (reserve for later), then pour remaining 8 tablespoons butter into egg mixture, whisking constantly, until smooth.
  6. Whisk flour mixture into egg mixture in three additions, alternating with cider-sour cream mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Whisk just until batter is combined.
  7. Pour and spread batter into prepared pan. Bake for 38 to 43 minutes or until cake is deeply golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer cake in pan to a cooling rack; poke top of cake all over with a toothpick or cake tester, then spoon 3 tablespoons reserved cider over top of hot cake. Cool 10 minutes.
  8. In a small bowl, stir together remaining pinch salt, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg. Whisk together remaining 1 tablespoon cider with remaining 1 tablespoon butter until combined (if needed, heat mixture in microwave for a few seconds to re-melt butter). Brush mixture evenly over cake, then sprinkle generously with sugar mixture. Cool completely before slicing.
  9. Store leftover cake tightly covered at room temperature for up to 4 days.


  • *NOT apple cider vinegar or apple juice, please and thank you.
  • Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit.

More Fall Cake Recipes!