an overhead shot of crumb cake doughnuts on a cooling rack with a bowl of crumbs nearby

brioche crumb cake doughnuts (inspired by Entenmann’s)

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These fluffy, fried yeast-raised brioche crumb cake doughnuts are topped with a powder sugar glaze and crunchy crumb cake topping. Unlike most recipes for crumb cake doughnuts which use cake doughnuts as a base and bake in a doughnut pan with the crumb on top, these are are made with a deep fried brioche dough with flecks of vanilla bean and nutmeg throughout.

I’m super excited to share this recipe with you all. Jimmy brought all the extra doughnuts to work with him and said he even saw people going back for seconds, so you know they’re good.

This recipe’s origins are rooted in my deep and abiding love for Entenmann’s classic crumb cake doughnuts. True story: one time I read an article (headline) that said Entenmann’s factory was closing down and I immediately went out and bought 3 boxes of crumb doughnuts to stash in the freezer “for emergencies.” When Jimmy asked why there were 3 boxes of what he called “mediocre doughnuts” in the freezer, I showed him the article and he pointed out that actually just one of their factories was closing. D’oh!

Originally I set out to make a copycat recipe of the Entenmann’s crumb cake doughnuts, but I quickly realized a lot of people have done similar recipes already.

Besides, I didn’t want to have to buy a doughnut pan — and didn’t want to create a recipe that required you to buy a doughnut pan — so I switched gears and decided to make a recipe that’s an homage to the Entenmann’s crumb cake doughnut, made instead using a fried yeast-raised doughnut.

a stack of four doughnuts

cake doughnut vs. yeast-raised doughnut

A cake doughnut is leavened by aerating butter and sugar along with chemical leaveners like baking soda or baking powder and the texture is similar to cake, with a tender, moist, dense interior crumb. Like cakes, cake doughnuts are baked in molded pans.

A yeast-raised doughnut is made from a dough leavened with yeast, like a brioche dough (the same dough used for burger buns and cinnamon rolls). Yeast raised doughnuts are shaped by hand-rolling or by cutting. Yeast-raised doughnuts are deep fried, resulting in an airy, breadier interior crumb and a soft exterior crust.

the brioche dough

This brioche dough is loosely adapted from my friend Erin’s Thanksgiving doughnuts over on her blog, Cloudy Kitchen. It’s a lighter brioche as far as brioche doughs go, with just 17% butter (in baker’s percentage) and uses vanilla bean paste for stronger vanilla flavor and visible flecks of vanilla bean throughout.

I adapted her recipe to use instant yeast instead of active dry (my preference) and I’ve added nutmeg to to the dough to enhance the overall crumb cake vibe. If you only have active dry yeast, you can use the base dough recipe from Erin’s site instead, and then pop back over here for my glaze and crumb topping.

Brioche dough is best made with a stand mixer and dough hook. You have to knead it twice — first you knead together everything without the butter, and then you add the very, very soft butter very, very slowly so that the dough has time to incorporate it before you add more. If you add the butter right at the start it will coat the flour and prevent the gluten from forming. You don’t want that. You want to add the butter after the gluten has formed so it coats the gluten strands.

Once all the butter is incorporated you’ll chill the dough in the fridge for at least 3 hours before using. I usually leave it in the fridge overnight for a long cool rise which helps the dough develop a stronger flavor. Because the butter in the dough firms up in the fridge, brioche is easiest to handle when it’s still cold. It might double in size, but it also might not — the butter prevents a dramatic, bubbly rise.

There’s no need to let it warm up or come to room temperature before you roll it out. It’s better to do that when it’s cold, and let it come to room temperature during the final proofing stage.

a side view of rows of doughnuts in a box, each row leaning on the one behind it

The crumb cake topping

The tricky part of making a crumb cake topping for a fried doughnut is that, unlike the cake doughnut variations, the crumb can’t bake along with the doughnut. So I needed to figure out how to make a crumb that was safe to eat (raw flour needs to be heat treated), wouldn’t turn to mush when it came in contact with the glaze, and that wasn’t too chunky on top of a doughnut.

Trying to replicate the exact style of crumb Entenmann’s uses proved futile — their crumbs are perfect circles, which I assume are punched out of a sheet of dough or a long rope cut into tiny slices. Either way, it’s far too much work for a home baker, so for this recipe we’re using the classic crumb-making method of whisking a bunch of dry ingredients together in a bowl and then adding melted butter and mixing with a fork until crumbly.

Because crumb topping is usually designed to be baked, that’s exactly what we’re going to do here too. Not only does it help the crumbs firm up and get crunchy, it also heat treats the raw flour to make it safe to eat.

Line a sheet pan with a silicone mat, pour your crumb topping onto it, and bake for 10 minutes. Once it comes out of the oven and cools completely, you crumble it up even smaller. I even used a wire spider to sift out the biggest chunkiest crumbs and gave them a few pulses in my mini food processor.

The goal is to get a good ratio of small, dust-like crumbs and bigger, pea-sized crumbs so that your doughnut top is fully coated in the crumb topping. If you have all pea-sized crumbs you’ll have lots of gaps between crumbs and your doughnut will look a bit naked.

a box of doughnuts sits on a table. a doughnut with a bite taken out of it is on a plate nearby.

a few quick notes on crumb cake doughnuts

  • I used a 3.25″ round cutter for these doughnuts and a 1.25″ cutter for the doughnut holes (buy a set of color-coded cutters here). I tested bigger and smaller doughnuts, but found that a 3.25″ doughnut with 1.25″ hole created the ideal surface area and crumb-to-doughnut ratio. My initial test batch used a 3.5″ doughnut cutter but those doughnuts felt so huge and unwieldy — hard to fit in your mouth, especially once the crumb topping was added. If you go smaller, the crumbs overwhelm the top of the doughnut and hide the hole in the center.
  • Fry up the doughnut holes and any excess dough scraps and toss them in sugar or dip them in leftover glaze. Because you cut these doughnuts out of a a sheet of dough, you will end up with extra dough. You can knead it back into a ball, pop it back into the fridge, roll it out again and cut more doughnuts… OR you can just cut up the remaining dough scraps into some fun bite-sized shapes and drop them in the fryer. No dough has to go to waste!
  • Set your butter for the dough out to warm up the night before. The butter needs to be very soft — not a hint of chill or firmness to it. Otherwise it will take forever to incorporate into your dough and you don’t want to be standing at your mixer for an hour adding butter, do you?
  • Keep the dough cool. If your brioche dough gets too sticky to handle or starts to form air bubbles while you’re cutting it, that’s a sign that it’s warming up and the yeast is starting to get active again. Pop it on a sheet pan and stick it back in the fridge to chill. You want that yeast activity to happen after you’ve cut the doughnuts, not before.
  • Use minimal flour when rolling your dough out. One of my favorite things about a light brioche is that the dough is smooth and supple and stretchy, not sticky. You don’t want a ton of flour on the surface of your doughnuts, so use minimal flour only if needed. I try not to use any, but depending on the temperature in your kitchen you might need to use a light dusting.
  • Doughnuts are best enjoyed same-day.
a close up of a crumb topped doughnut

deep frying tips for beginners

  • Use a heavy-bottom pot for your frying. I use this all-clad stock pot but a dutch oven is also a great option. Basically just don’t use pots that are copper or aluminum.
  • My favorite thermometer to use while frying is one of these. The clamp holds the stem at an angle so you can be sure you’re getting the temperature in the center of the pot. Adjust your burner regularly to maintain 350F. You may even need to turn the burner completely off for a little bit.
  • DON’T WALK AWAY! Hot oil looks a lot like cold oil in the pot, it doesn’t start bubbling and boiling like water does. It will start bubbling once you add your doughnut dough. You might need a higher burner temp than you think to get it to the right temp, but once it’s at temp you’ll likely only need the burner on low-to-medium to maintain the right heat while frying.
  • Use a wide spider or slotted spoon to transfer your food in and out of the hot oil without splashing yourself.
  • Dispose of your oil properly — don’t pour it down the drain. Use a funnel to transfer the oil (once cool) back to the bottle it came in, then throw out the sealed container. There are great tips for how to reuse oil to reduce waste here.

yeast-raised brioche crumb cake doughnut FAQ

Can I bake these?

No, then you would end up with hamburger buns not doughnuts.

Can I use an air fryer?

I don’t know, I don’t have one and haven’t tested it. An air fryer is just a convection oven, so I assume you’ll end up with hamburger buns. You’ll need to add oil of some sort to create the fried effect. If you successfully pull these off in an air fryer, please let me know!

Why do I have so much extra crumb and glaze?

You’re going to end up with extra glaze and crumb topping because in order to dip the doughnuts in something, there has to be enough something to dip them in. My advice: save the extra crumb topping and use it on top of ice cream.

an overhead shot of crumb cake doughnuts on a cooling rack with a bowl of crumbs nearby

crumb cake brioche doughnuts

Rebecca
These fluffy yeast-raised brioche doughnuts are topped with a powder sugar glaze and crunchy crumb cake topping.
Yield: 18-20 doughnuts, 18-20 doughnut holes.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 40 mins
Resting Time 3 hrs
Total Time 4 hrs 40 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 18 doughnuts

Ingredients
  

Brioche donut dough

  • 560 grams all-purpose flour (approx 4⅔ cups, loosely scooped)
  • 50 grams sugar (4 TBSP)
  • 5 grams instant yeast (1⅔ tsp)
  • 3 grams diamond crystal kosher salt (1 tsp, use 2x as much of another brand)
  • 3 grams ground nutmeg (freshly grated, about ⅛ tsp)
  • 250 grams whole milk (lukewarm)
  • 2 large eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
  • 113 grams Very soft room temperature unsalted butter (1/2 cup)

Glaze

  • 240 grams powdered sugar (2 cups, you may need a bit more)
  • ½ tsp vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
  • 6 TBSP whole milk (you may need an additional 1-2 TBSP)

Crumb Cake Topping

  • 120 grams flour (1 cup, loosely scooped)
  • 100 grams brown sugar (½ cup)
  • 30 grams powdered sugar (¼ cup, plus more for dusting)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • tsp nutmeg (freshly grated)
  • 80 grams butter (6 TBSP, melted)

For frying

  • Neutral oil (deep enough for the doughnuts to float and be flipped without splashing or hitting the bottom)

Instructions

Brioche Donut Dough

  • Whisk milk, egg, and vanilla together in a liquid measuring cup and set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine flour, sugar, salt, and nutmeg. Whisk to combine, then sprinkle yeast on top.
  • With the mixer running on low, slowly pour in the warm milk mixture (should take about 30 seconds). Continue mixing on low 2-3 minutes, until the dough has mostly come together (there might still be some dry bits, that's okay). Increase the speed to medium and knead for 5 more minutes until the dough is soft and smooth.
  • Return the mixer to low speed and add the butter 1 TBSP at a time, letting each piece fully incorporate before adding the next. This can take several minutes so, be patient and don't rush it. Once all of the butter has been added, increase the speed to medium and knead for another 5 minutes until the dough is very smooth, stretchy, and soft.
  • Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a lightly greased bowl to rise in the fridge for at least 3 hours, or as long as overnight (12-14 hours).
    (This is a good time to make your crumb topping!)
  • When the dough has doubled in size, turn it out onto a clean counter top. Deflate it gently with the pads of your fingers, then use a rolling pin to roll it out until it's ½" thick.
  • Use a big and a small round cutter to cut doughnut shapes out of the dough. Transfer doughnuts and doughnut holes to a lined sheet pan to rest. Use the smaller cutter to punch additional doughnut holes out of the scrap dough.
  • Cover the doughnuts on the sheet pan and let rise until slightly puffy. They should spring back with you poke them. This can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour depending on temperature, so be patient. You've got a pretty big window of time to get them fried once they're ready, and you can always pop them back in the fridge if they get too puffy.
  • Bring a pot of oil to 350°F. Arrange a cooling rack over a sheet pan and set aside.
  • Start by frying the doughnut holes as testers. 3-4 minutes total. Then fry the doughnuts, 3 minutes per side.
  • Transfer finished doughnuts to the cooling rack. They will be quite dark and the outsides will seem very crispy when they come out of the oil, but they'll soften up as they sit.
  • Let cool completely before glazing.

Crumb Cake Topping

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a sheet pan with a silicone baking mat and set aside.
  • Combine dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Break up any lumps in the brown sugar with your fingers or a fork. Pour half of the melted butter into the dry ingredients and stir with a fork until it starts to form crumbles. Then add remaining butter and continue mixing with a fork until the biggest crumbles are the size of raisins.
  • Spread the crumbs on the sheet pan in an even layer. Bake 8-10 minutes, then let cool completely. The crumbs will still be soft when they come out, but will harden as they cool.
  • Place crumbs in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the biggest ones are the size of peas. Pour the crumbs through a wire spider if needed to sift out the smaller ones and continue pulsing only the large ones.
  • Transfer crumbs to a wide shallow bowl, toss with 1-2 TBSP powdered sugar, and set aside.

Doughnut Glaze

  • Whisk together powdered sugar and milk until well combined. Add additional 1-2 TBSP milk as needed to achieve desired consistency.

Crumb Cake Doughnut Assembly

  • Dip each doughnut in the glaze. Use two fingers inside the doughnut hole to lift it out of the glaze, allowing as much glaze as possible to drop off into the bowl. Give it a few shakes if you need to.
  • Dip the doughnut into the shallow bowl of crumbs, pressing firmly and moving it around a bit to get fully coated. Transfer the doughnut back to the cooling rack and let the glaze set.

Notes

  • Brioche dough recipe adapted from Cloudy Kitchen.
  • Doughnuts are best enjoyed same day.
  • Fry up your doughnut holes and dough scraps first to check the oil temperature and times before you fry your whole dougnuts. 
  • See blog post for notes on safe frying.
Love this recipe?Leave a comment and let me know!
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Christine K

5 stars
READ THE WHOLE THING AND TRUST THE PROCESS! If you do, you will have yummy doughnuts that are more than worth the time. It is beautiful dough. Highly recommend a candy thermometer so the oil isn’t too hot. A couple of the doughnuts were darker than I would have liked but still delish with the glaze and crumb. Will be making again.