Baked Almond Cake Donuts or Muffins (grain-free)

By Ann Fulton

No messy frying step needed for deliciously satisfying, grain-free donuts. No donut pan? No problem. The recipe can be made as muffins instead! 
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No messy frying step needed for deliciously satisfying, grain-free donuts. No donut pan? No problem. The recipe can be made as muffins instead! 


I have a clear vision of the best donut I ever ate. It was from a cafe called Philz during a visit to Los Angeles several years ago.

My family and I stopped in to grab an early morning coffee, and the lightly glazed donuts tempted us from a glass dome beside the cash register. 

A textural harmony of light and airy with a bit of cakey denseness, the donut was sweet, but not overly so, and basically my idea of pure donut perfection. Had I not been told, I never would have guessed it was vegan and gluten-free. 

It was a reminder that ingredients-even untraditional ones-can come together in all sorts of delicious ways. 

Curiously, I recently read that, in many cultures, donuts are thought to bring good luck, as the round shape symbolizes coming full circle.

So while a new year often brings talk of resolutions, many of which involve giving up treats we enjoy, I decided to offer a treat to embrace and feel good about. 

I must point out that this donut is not a replica of the cafe donut I occasionally dream about. That one was over-sized and fried, whereas this one is baked and the portion size is more restrained. (Perfect for those who like to eat two!) And though my donut is gluten-free, it is not vegan. 

The flavor is mildly nutty with undertones of vanilla and maple. The super-fine grind of blanched almond flour creates a tender, light crumb, and the eggs supply a bit of heft. Importantly, these gems are not in the least bit dry. 

Although these donuts aren’t overly decadent, they do offer a truly simple, homemade fix that my family enjoys. 

While the cafe donut was glazed, I offer a few easy alternatives: a two-ingredient maple icing (my favorite), a cinnamon sugar sprinkle, Nutella…or nothing at all. My husband is a fan of the unadorned donut. Until recently my sons preferred Nutella, but more recently they’ve opted for the maple icing. 

No messy frying step needed for deliciously satisfying, grain-free donuts. No donut pan? No problem. The recipe can be made as muffins instead! 


As mentioned, the end of one year and the start of another typically comes with talk of resolutions, diets, and the notion that we should be giving up things. But in one way or another, we gave up a lot last year.

As such, it seemed like far more fun to come up with a list of things to enjoy, along with some lucky reasons why.

So as I sign off with wishes for a year filled with health, happiness, and good fortune, I leave you with my lucky list!

Foods to enjoy in the new year…and why:  

  • Donuts: the ring shape is said to be symbolic of coming “full circle.”
  • In Spain, a new year is traditionally kicked off with 12 grapes. The idea is to eat one sweet grape for each month of the coming year.
  • Noodles: in China, ancient superstition says dictates that, the longer the noodle, the longer the life. Fun fact: that’s also why people slurp their noodles. Biting them will break them into shorter pieces.
  • Pork is a fixture in my hometown of Lancaster County, where it has long been linked with wealth and prosperity. Superstition suggests that because pigs root around with their snouts moving in a forward motion, whereas chickens scratch backwards, pork symbolizes progress. (More on poultry later.)
  • For its promise of luck, longevity, and money, sauerkraut makes the list, too. According to Pennsylvania Dutch folklore, long shreds of cabbage represent long life, and the more shreds piled on the plate, the greater the prosperity.
  • Though legend claims that poultry isn’t as lucky as pork on New Year’s Day – the wings suggest luck may fly away – breaking the wishbone is lucky. Also, ancient Romans saw chickens as predictors of the future and good luck omens. So, enjoy chicken any other day and save the wishbone!
  • When lentils are soaked in water, they expand, and that makes them a symbol of prosperity.
  • Cornbread’s golden color represents wealth and a golden year ahead.
  • According to legend, eating a whole fish brings forth a wholesome, good year. In Asian and Northern European countries, the sheer magnitude of fish in the sea is also associated with abundance. 
  • Fortune cookies have long been associated with luck, hope, and prosperity…and it’s always so much fun to crack them open and share the message hiding within. 
  • Black-eyed peas have been consumed for luck in the south for generations, often in the traditional dish known as Hoppin’ John. Many theories exist as to why they are lucky, like the dried beans loosely resemble coins and that their expansion, when cooked, symbolizes increasing wealth.
  • Have you wondered why greens, like collards, are frequently served with those black-eyed peas? Green is symbolic of money, and consuming them is thought to bring financial luck in the year ahead.
  • In northern Europe where it is plentiful, herring is served to encourage bounty and prosperity. Herring is also said to be a sign of future fortune because the fish’s silver skin resembles coins.
  • In Greece, pomegranates are not consumed, but instead crushed on the threshold of one’s home for the promise of good luck. (To avoid a messy stain, I might liken those ruby-colored arils to precious gems, which suggest good fortune and eat the sweet fruit instead!)


No messy frying step needed for deliciously satisfying, grain-free donuts. No donut pan? No problem. The recipe can be made as muffins instead! 

This recipe is ideal for those who appreciate a small batch, although the recipe is easy to double (as pictured). Unfrosted, the baked and cooled donuts do freeze well.

No messy frying step needed for deliciously satisfying, grain-free donuts. No donut pan? No problem. The recipe can be made as muffins instead! 

Frying is messy. Baking is easier and can be quite tasty, too. These donuts will also satisfying a wide variety of eating styles as they are gluten- and grain-free, naturally sweetened, and oil-free.



Baked Almond Cake Donuts (or Muffins)
Yield: 6 donuts or muffins (recipe is easy to double)
Nothing against the fluffier, yeasted counterparts, but there’s something so satisfying about a cake donut. And when there's no messy frying involved and the donuts offer grain-free appeal and easy icing options (or no icing at all), what's not to love?
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ cup (80g) pure maple syrup
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (improves rise and texture)
  • 1 cup (112g) blanched super-fine almond flour (as opposed to coarser almond meal)
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Optional toppings: coarse sugar or cinnamon sugar, Nutella (or a similar chocolate hazelnut spread), maple cream cheese*

Preheat the oven to 300℉. (That’s a little lower than usual-not a typo.) Grease a 6-cup donut or jumbo muffin pan and set aside. (You may use a regular muffin pan. You will simply need to add a few minutes to the bake time.)

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, and then stir in the remaining wet ingredients. Add the dry ingredients, and stir until smooth. Transfer the batter to the donut or muffin pan, evenly filling the cups, and sprinkle with coarse or cinnamon sugar, if using.

Bake for 10-15 minutes and remove the pan as soon as the donuts are just firm in the center. (Check after 10 minutes, adding time, as needed, until you know how long these take in your oven. In my oven, the donuts take 13 minutes and the jumbo muffins take 15 minutes. Precise time will vary slightly based on oven and pan used.)

Cool for several minutes and then remove to a cooling rack. Eat, as is, or frost as desired once completely cool.

Storage: The donuts will stay fresh for 3-4 days when stored in an airtight container either in the refrigerator or at room temperature. If frosted with an ingredient that requires refrigeration, like cream cheese, opt for the fridge. Unfrosted, the baked and cooled donuts freeze well, too.


*For easy maple cream cheese frosting, mix 1-2 tablespoons pure maple syrup (or to taste) into ¼ cup of softened cream cheese. Refrigerate until ready to use.

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  1. Margrethe

    Hi have you tried making the almond donuts with an egg substitute? Like flax seed? Or gelatin (beef)
    Curious. My husband and I can’t consume eggs.
    Thank you,

    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Margrethe, I haven’t made the donuts with an egg substitute, although I’ve used the neat egg in similar baked goods with very good results. I don’t want to guarantee that a flax egg would work well because I haven’t tried, but I’m optimistic. If you try, I’d love to know how you make out.

  2. Erin Post author

    Ok I just came back to report that these are amazinnnnnng!! I have a weird aversion to almond flour and typically avoid it at all costs – but gave these a try and they are delish! I coated them with just the tiniest bit of Nutella while warm and it melted for the perfect topping!

    1. Ann Post author

      Thanks for coming back to report, Erin! I’m so happy they were a hit despite your usual almond flour aversion. Love that!

  3. Elizabeth Post author

    These are amazing! I made them today in prep for the morning and now they might not make it until then. Delicious!