What’s the Difference Between Cake Doughnuts and Yeast Doughnuts?

Updated: Dec. 07, 2023

Recipes for cake doughnuts and yeast doughnuts rely on different leavening agents. The result? Each doughnut has its own uniquely aglazing texture.

Whether you’re hosting a Sunday brunch or bringing a sweet treat into the office to share( like simple homemade sugar doughnuts), doughnuts reign supreme. But not all doughnuts are one and the same! Yes, of course, they can have different toppings or fillings, but the differences begin with their structure.

Most people are either cake doughnut fans or yeast doughnut fans. Here are the key differences that make these two doughnuts unique.

History of Doughnuts

While both yeast doughnuts and cake doughnuts have a storied past, it was yeast doughnuts that came to the table first. Cake doughnuts are made with baking powder, a chemical leavening agent which is not found naturally. Yeast, however, has been accessible for centuries.

Once baking powder became available, cake doughnuts became more popular. Women of the Salvation Army served doughnuts to soldiers during World War I to offer them a treat that reminded them of home. The popularity of doughnuts skyrocketed as new technology to make them became available in the 1920s and 1930s. Not long after that, the popular doughnut chain Krispy Kreme opened in 1937, and Dunkin’ opened its doors in 1955. Learn how to make old-fashioned donuts at home.

The Difference Between Cake and Yeast Doughnuts

DonutsGarrett Aitken/Getty Images

While cake doughnuts and yeast doughnuts are both delicious, they are made with different ingredients and unique methods. It’s helpful to understand how to make doughnuts to know just what makes them different.

Yeast Doughnuts

For yeast doughnuts, it’s all in the name—the key ingredient is yeast. The texture of yeast doughnuts is lighter and fluffier. And that’s all due to the yeast-risen dough. Flour gives strength to the dough, sugar adds a touch of sweetness and eggs, milk and melted butter give the doughnuts structure, moisture and flavor.

After the dough has risen and is cut, yeast doughnuts are proofed again before being fried in oil, resulting in a smooth, pillowy treat. Then, they’re topped with a glaze or icing and dressed up with sprinkles. Yeast doughnuts can also be left without a hole cut in the middle to be stuffed with cream filling or to make jelly doughnuts. The flavor of yeast doughnuts on their own is subtle, but the toppings and fillings take them to the next level.

Also, try this gluten-free doughnut recipe to recreate crispy, light doughnuts at home.

Cake Doughnuts

While yeast is the leavening agent in yeast doughnuts, cake doughnuts rely on baking powder. Cake doughnuts are typically made with a mixture of butter, sugar, eggs, flour and baking powder. The ingredients are combined to form a thick batter-like dough, which is chilled for two hours before being kneaded, rolled out and cut into circles. The dough is then fried and the doughnuts are either glazed, iced or rolled in powdered sugar or fine granulated sugar. Depending on the recipe, cake doughnuts can also be baked and are typically the best option if you need a gluten-free doughnut recipe.

The texture of cake doughnuts is different from yeast doughnuts because of the method. They have a crisp golden outside, with a soft, chewy interior crumb. The versatility for flavor is generally greater with this type of doughnut because you can add other ingredients such as cider for apple cider doughnuts, cocoa for chocolate cake doughnuts or even blueberries for a blueberry doughnut.

Our Best Doughnut Recipes
1 / 19