Baked Caramel Apple Donuts

caramel apple donuts

When you find yourself shopping online at 2AM, mini donut pans sound like a brilliant idea. That's not something your sharp witted, practical 12PM mind allows you to consider--especially when your husband begged you not to add anymore items to the kitchen. When you wake up the next morning with a confirmation that your donut pans have shipped, you might find yourself wondering what else you've ordered online...Japanese steak knives? (a wise purchase!) A leash for your invisible dog? (I've always wanted one!)

On the day these donut pans arrived, I immediately made a batch following the recipe included with the pans. BLECK! They tasted awful. Guess who had shopper's remorse?! After doing some serious searching, this simple recipe obliterated all the guilt associated with my donut pan purchase--Hello!! Baked Caramel Apple Donuts!!

While diving into my first few donuts, I thought they were awesome but the caramel topping was a bit on the thick/chewy side...An overnight stay on my kitchen counter produced the most amazingly moist caramel saturated donut. That's right! The caramel seeped INTO the donut.  I was also delighted to find that the appley goodness really came out during day two! A cakey donut that gets better on day two?!! Who would have thought? So yes. You should try these and I hope you have enough donuts on day two, so you can see what I mean ;)

p.s.- what if we put some fancy salt on top? OVERLOAD.

Let's get started!

Eggs mix with sugars in a bowl. Mix mix mix.

eggs & sugar

Peel the apples! I used Galas. Three of them.


Shred the apples with a grater. Watch your fingers.


Add the vanilla & oil into the eggs & sugar. Whisk.

oil vanilla

Stir in the flour, cinnamon & baking powder. Now add the shredded apples.

insert apple shreds here

Spoon the batter into well lubed donut pans! I used regular sized & minis. I'm adventurous!


After they are baked, let them cool on a cooling rack! I suggest you try a naked one.

cooling down

In a microwaveable bowl, add caramels & milk. Zap it in the microwave for a minute.

caramel candies

After a minute, stir! Then heat on 30 sec. intervals until melted!

after 1 min in microwave

Ahhhh heaven! Let's the fun begin. Watch out hot caramel. I dipped the mini donuts directly in the caramel.


With the regular sized donuts, I used a spoon and spread the caramel evenly on top.

caramel glazing

Come on...they are calling your name!!!


Eat me!

Baked Caramel Apple Donuts

makes about 12 regular sized donuts & 24 small ones

(recipe adapted from Rachael Ray Magazine)

  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 medium apples, peeled & shredded
  • 1 1/2 cup chewy caramel candies
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray donut pans with cooking spray & set aside. Whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar and granulated sugar until smooth. Whisk in oil and vanilla. Stir into the flour mixture until just combined; stir in the apples. Spoon the batter into the prepared donut pans until almost full. Baked until golden and a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out dry. It takes about 15-20 minutes. (Mind ended up taking 18)

In a small, microwaveable bowl, combine the caramel and milk. Microwave for 1 minute at medium power. then stir; repeat in 30 second intervals until melted and smooth. If making small donuts, dip them directly into the caramel. For larger donuts, spoon caramel topping on top!

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  • September 20, 2010

    I want to try a naked one!
    You've convinced me to buy these pans...I've been hemming and hawing and now I have a good reason (and a little $ on a Sur Le Table gift card always helps). xo

  • September 20, 2010

    Sounds and looks absolutely amazing!!

  • September 20, 2010

    OMG I did the exact same thing this weekend - I found those donut pans at Safeway and thought it would be a great idea to make them, and the recipe on the back tasted disgusting - the donuts were still whitish and tasted like cinnamon gooey dough bread. Gross! I can't wait to try this one instead.

  • September 20, 2010

    Damnit, Tracy, now I want those pans and need to bake donuts!!! Tell me you didn't buy the pans on the day we Leo's were not supposed to go near online shopping carts :p

  • September 21, 2010

    Now I need to buy a doughnut pan.

  • September 21, 2010

    OOOOO girl! Yum. That 1st pic is just fantastic!

    • September 22, 2010

      THANK YOU Michelle!!! ;)

  • September 21, 2010

    These look SO tasty. Droooool!

  • September 21, 2010

    My stomach just punched me and said, "Get on it."

    • September 22, 2010

      your stomach is wise!

  • September 21, 2010

    I have a bunch of baked doughnut recipes that I want to try, but I think this one just jumped to the top of the list!

    • September 22, 2010

      hey! If you have any good ones, lemme know!

  • September 21, 2010

    Yum, those look perfect for fall.

  • September 21, 2010

    These.look.awesome. WANT.

  • September 21, 2010

    GET OUT!

    and stay out.

    these look crazy delicious.

    • September 22, 2010

      can i come back now? Please?

  • September 21, 2010

    Okay, so you have two different sized donut pans? I feel like I'm really missing out here! These look awesome!

    • September 22, 2010

      yes! I do. I couldn't decide on which one to get so I got two!!!

  • September 21, 2010

    Wow. I didn't even know donut pans existed. I guess if I thought really hard about it I would realize that they DO exist (just like Santa.) ;) These look awesome! Might have to get some new pans...

  • September 21, 2010

    This is just not a good idea for me. Caramel is even more difficult for me to resist than chocolate. I think the pans are adorable and a very smart purchase. You can tell Casey I said so.

    • September 22, 2010

      same here! I LOOOOOOOOOOOVE it. Especially when it's salted. I'll tell him that you said it's OK. Thanks, friend!

  • September 21, 2010

    I didn't know there was such a thing as a donut pan! Guess I'll add it to my ever-growing kitchen gadget wishlist :-)
    Btw, the donuts look delicious. I'll definitely have to try this soon, but maybe omit the apple and add some crumbled Heath bar on top. (hey, if you're going to break your diet you may as well go all the way!)

    • September 22, 2010

      whoa! That would be crazy good!!!!

  • Lily
    September 21, 2010

    I've never heard of donut pans before. Wow. Will need to get one.

  • September 21, 2010

    Wah! Why am I so poor right now?! These look incredible!

    • September 22, 2010

      save your pennies, girl!!! It will be worth it!

  • September 22, 2010

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I coincidentally needed a cake recipe that could be made in advance and this fits the bill quite nicely! Did I say thank you?

  • September 22, 2010

    First, I love the sweet autumn theme to these donuts and second, they are baked!!! Great job!

  • Laura
    September 22, 2010

    Holy cow! I think I heard them call my name, too. Years ago I used to make the donuts for a grocery store. Hundreds and hundreds of donuts, all night long. After spending a whole summer spackled in donut dough, I vowed - never again.

    That is, until now. Tracy, these donuts are irresistible. I must try this! Like they used to say in the commercial, "time to make the donuts!"

    • September 24, 2010

      heehee! I don't think I could ever tire of donuts...even after making hundreds and hundreds of them! Welcome back to donutland! We've missed you.

  • September 22, 2010

    Mmm. Caramel seepage. That sounds like a good thing.

    These look awesome1 I'm so glad you got your money's worth out of the pans!

  • September 23, 2010

    Wow. Yumtastic.

  • September 23, 2010

    OH! I'm uber excited! I didn't know about these pans and I'm going to buy them ASAP and make these donuts. THANX


  • September 23, 2010

    I just got both the large and mini donut pans, so I know what I'll make first! I would top them with chopped, salted peanuts - and maybe use Granny Smith apples instead of Gala (I love the tart apples with caramel and nuts!

    Thanks for the recipe!

    • September 24, 2010

      OOOH! I like the idea of salted peanuts on top!

  • Anna
    September 24, 2010

    Can't find my donut pan! you think I could attempt this with muffins pans? Or am I just plain crazy?

    • September 24, 2010

      You totally can because the original recipe was for MUFFINS! The alteration I made was 3 apples instead of 2. I don't know if that will really make a diff in the muffins. Also the cooking time might be a little longer. DO IT!!!!

  • September 26, 2010

    I just made these donuts today, and they turned out FABULOUS! Very delicious, and I feel like I'm trading in a fatty unhealthy deep fried donut from outside for an inside, decadent donut that's (probably) equally unhealthy but gives you way more for the buck in terms of taste. I substituted some of the oil for applesauce to make the donut a smidgen more healthy and still turned out great!!

  • September 30, 2010

    Those look completely amazing!! I like how they're baked instead of fried, I'll definitely try this recipe sometime!

  • October 5, 2010

    i think you've inspired me to invest in a doughnut pan! i'm sure i can find somewhere to store it...

    • October 6, 2010

      heehee! You can tuck it under your pillow- no one will notice!

  • mel
    October 6, 2010

    these look and sound wonderful! I wonder, tho, if I could bake these in a muffin pan? I know then technically they wouldn't be donuts but at this time of my life, I'm trying to downsize my kitchen (and house) and would like to not buy another specialty pan.

    • mel
      October 6, 2010

      oops.....sorry. I didn't read all of the replies and now I see that my question has already been addressed. off I go to find some caramels.

      • October 6, 2010

        :) Lemme know how it goes, Mel!!

  • October 14, 2010

    These look SO good! I've been lusting over that donut pan too... though I have some other baking pans I've never used (like the baker's edge).

  • October 15, 2010

    Yum! I ran out and purchased a pan tonight and baked these. They don't look the same (yours are much prettier) but taste delish. Thank you for sharing!

  • Mel
    October 16, 2010

    oooh Tracy, these were the best!! Made them as muffins, adding about another 5 minutes to the bake time. Ended up NOT making it to the store for those caramels but remembered I had some homemade caramel sauce in the fridge. While the muffins were still slightly warm I flipped them over, poked some holes in them with a skewer and drizzled some of that warmed sauce over them. The muffins were a little too delicate (and messy!) to eat out of hand, but on a plate with a dollop of whipped cream.......ooh, ooh, ooh! Husband stated that of all the desserts I've made, this was by far his favorite. Thanks so much for sharing the recipe.

  • October 18, 2010

    So many little time...

    First...I found you from Amy @ MomAdvice and the fabulous Notebook.

    Second...You are FUNNY...and TALENTED! I loved reading this ... and your pictures are so great!! (Okay...that was supposed to be "THIRDLY")

    and THIRD/FOURTH .... these sound amazing and I'm so going to make them some of the others, however, I might find myself in a bit of a tight spot if I bought yet another specialty pan.

    I'll be back. :)

    • October 19, 2010

      Welcome Jenn! Thank you for your kind words! I hope you make them and love them...and share them! xoxo

  • Roxanne
    October 28, 2010

    That is the most wonderful description of pure satisfaction of eating in sin!

  • December 1, 2010

    You grabbed my attention with the description of the caramel seeping into the donuts. What decadence!

  • Aviva
    April 16, 2011

    Love love love this recipe!
    Do you think I could do this in muffin pans as well?

  • April 16, 2011

    oh my goodness the humanity!! Now I HAVE to try this :( There goes the diet :P

  • April 27, 2011

    My mouth is watering like Pavlov's dog - can't wait to try these!

  • Bethany
    November 26, 2011

    I have made these twice; they were a hit with family and friends as well as myself! Love them; thanks for sharing!

    • November 26, 2011

      twice! wow!! so glad you liked them :)

  • Madeline
    January 11, 2012

    I just added this to my recipe book. Brilliant!

  • May 3, 2012

    These look amazing! I've just ordered my own donut tray and can't wait to try do my own. Thanks for the inspiration! :)

  • September 28, 2012

    I am going to make these for Thanksgiving!

  • October 21, 2013

    Just made these (you inspired me to add the mini pan to my Amazon wish list, and it arrived unexpectedly for my birthday!) and they're so good! I didn't have caramels and started looking at caramel glaze recipes - then I realized we had ice cream topping style caramel sauce in the fridge. Problem = solved! One thing I noticed is that they made 4 pans worth - more like 48 minis!

  • Leslie
    March 29, 2014

    Do you think that you could use this recipe in a donut machine? We have one of those little plug in machines and my sisters have been trying to desperately get me to use it.

    • Tracy
      March 29, 2014

      Hmmm. I'm not familiar with those machines! I would look at the proportions of the ingredients and see if you need to make any adjustments. Good luck!

  • Simon
    June 21, 2013

    Made this just minutes ago.. thanks for the great recipe!

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