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A stack of old fashioned sour cream doughnuts, one with a bite taken.

High Altitude Old-Fashioned Sour Cream Cake Doughnuts

Heather Smoke
Making homemade doughnuts has never been easier - or more delicious - than these old fashioned sour cream cake doughnuts! They're soft and fluffy inside with a slightly crisp exterior that's coated in vanilla icing.

All recipes on Curly Girl Kitchen are developed for high altitude at 5,280 feet.

5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Chill Time 1 hr 30 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 20 mins
Course Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings2 dozen doughnuts + holes


  • Electric Mixer (Stand or Hand-Held)
  • Large Heavy Bottomed Saucepan, for frying
  • Skimmer
  • Instant Read Thermometer
  • Large Baking Sheets + Parchment Paper
  • Cooling Racks
  • Rolling Pin and Doughnut Cutter
  • Mixing Bowls, Measuring Cups, Measuring Spoons



  • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 5 large egg yolks (save the whites for another use)
  • 1 ½ cups full-fat sour cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 ¾ cups (20 oz) cake flour, spooned and leveled (plus extra for rolling)
  • 3 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp coarse Kosher salt (if using table salt, use half the amount)
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg or cardamom, optional
  • 2 qts vegetable oil, for frying


  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • ½ tsp coarse Kosher salt (if using table salt, use half the amount)
  • ¾ cup whole milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract


Making the Doughnut Dough

  • In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the sugar, butter and egg yolks for 2 minutes until smooth. Scrape the bowl down and beat in the sour cream and vanilla until smooth.
  • In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
    When measuring the flour, either weigh out 20 ounces, or be sure to use the "spoon and sweep" method for measuring the flour. Do not use the measuring cup to scoop the flour, which will pack too much in, resulting in a drier doughnut.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet and use a spoon or spatula to stir together into a thick, sticky dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  • Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Dust your counter generously with flour, scrape the chilled dough onto the flour, and flour the top of the dough as well. Use your hands or a rolling pin to roll the dough out to about 1/2 inch thick.
  • Grease a doughnut cutter with non-stick baking spray (or butter or shortening), then dip it in flour, so the flour sticks. Cut as many doughnuts and holes as you can, dipping the cutter in flour between each cut. Gather and press together all the scraps, roll them out again, and continue cutting doughnuts. You should be able to get about 2 dozen doughnuts and holes.
    Note, this is an extremely sticky dough, so don't be afraid to use enough flour on the doughnut cutter to keep it from sticking. You may have to shake the cutter to get the cut doughnuts and holes to fall out.
  • Place all of the doughnuts and holes on the parchment lined baking sheet. Set the baking sheets in the refrigerator to chill the cut doughnuts for 30 minutes.
    If you like, you can complete all the steps up to this one, cover the baking sheets with plastic wrap, refrigerate the cut doughnuts overnight, and fry the doughnuts in the morning.

Frying the Doughnuts

  • While the doughnuts are chilling, you can start heating the oil over medium heat. Pour the oil into a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. I used a saucepan that's about 12 inches wide and 5 inches deep. You need to use enough oil, both so that the doughnuts "float" on the oil while frying, as well as to help maintain a steady temperature, which you can't do with too little oil. Heat the oil to between 350-360 degrees Fahrenheit, checking the temperature with an instant read thermometer.
    If your oil is too cold, the doughnuts will absorb oil and end up tasting greasy. If it's too hot, they'll brown too quickly. It's better to heat the oil fairly slowly to maintain a steady temperature, and to check it frequently throughout the frying process, so you can adjust the temperature as needed. Note that when you first drop the doughnuts in, the temperature of the oil will also drop, so just keep checking to try to maintain a steady temperature.
  • Place a cooling rack over a large baking sheet for draining the doughnuts.
  • When you're ready to start frying, fry the doughnuts in batches, about 4-5 doughnuts at a time. Carefully lower them into the oil; they will initially sink to the bottom of the pan for a few seconds. When they rise to the surface, fry them for 30 seconds. Flip them over (I like to use chopsticks for flipping doughnuts) and fry for about 1 minute, then flip them again and fry for 1 more minute.
    Again, the temperature of your oil is important. These cooking times may vary if your oil is hotter or colder. The fried doughnuts should be a medium golden brown color all over. Use your judgement if they seem to be getting too dark, and go ahead and scoop them out of the oil.
  • Use your skimmer to transfer the doughnuts to the cooling rack to drain, and continue frying the remainder of the doughnuts and holes. The holes may not need to fry for quite as long.
  • You may see cracks and other uneven areas on the surface of your doughnuts, and this is completely normal for sour cream cake doughnuts. The cracks are perfect for soaking up the sweet glaze.

Dip in Icing

  • In a bowl, whisk together all of the icing ingredients until smooth. This may seem like a LOT of icing, but some of it will end up dripping off the doughnuts after you dip them.
  • While the doughnuts are still hot, dip them in the icing, thoroughly coating both sides. Lightly shake off the excess, then place on a cooling rack to set.
  • The icing will set in just a few minutes, and you can enjoy the doughnuts right away.


Cool leftover doughnuts completely, and store in an airtight container.  Unlike yeast doughnuts which become stale after 1 day, sour cream cake doughnuts will still taste fantastic for at least 2 days after you make them.
Keyword Cake Doughnuts, Donuts, Doughnuts, Sour Cream
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