Delicious glazed donuts are dangerously easy to make at home! Cut them out into letters to spell out a special message, or into fun, festive shapes.
Is there any better way to kick off someone's birthday than with a happy birthday message spelled out in donuts?! I think not!
Donuts are indisputably one of the most fun foods to ever grace the earth, and these alphabet donuts feel EXTRA fun!
Happy birthday donuts are a top tier way to start a birthday morning, but you could celebrate so many things with some alphabet donuts!
- Holidays (Christmas, halloween, easter, Mother's Day)
- Special occasions (retirements, first day of school, baby showers)
- Sentiments ("I love you" / "you're sweet" / "sorry for eating your leftovers")
- Questions ("marry me?" / "prom?")
All you need are some alphabet cookie cutters, and the sky's the limit with what you can spell with your donuts.
This dough is one of my favorites to make because it comes together so quickly and is so easy to work with. It is delightful!
I also really love this dough because you can pick if you want to make donuts right away, or you can start the dough the night before, cut them, and fry them the next morning. They fry up beautifully either way you do it!
To make them the same day, you'll let the cut donuts rise on your counter for 45 minutes-1 hour, then fry.
To make them the next day, you'll place the cut and tightly covered sheet pans of donut shapes in the fridge and allow them to rise in there while you sleep. The next morning, just take them out and let them sit at room temperature while you heat up the oil.
Choose your own timetable! I love dough recipes that are flexible!
One of my favorite dough-making "shortcuts" is to melt butter in a saucepan, then add the cold milk and heat it all to just the right temperature for the yeast. Lots of recipes call for melting butter, then waiting for it to cool, while also warming milk. Here you can knock it all out in one dish, all with the same temperature goal in mind! (I use the same trick for our favorite rolls ever.)
Cutting out Alphabet Donuts
I find donuts to be easier than cookies to cut out. Metal cookie cutters are definitely easier to use than plastic, and since the dough is puffier than sugar cookie dough, you'll want some with high sides.
Be sure your work surface is lightly floured, and dip your cutter into some flour as well. Then push the cutter down firmly, gently wiggle it from side to side, and the letter should pop right out when you lift the cutter. You may have to gently reshape the letter once it's out of the cutter.
I highly recommend doing two of each letter you're using in your message! That way, if something goes awry, you have a backup.
Once you've cut all you can from the dough, you can quickly knead the scraps together, give them a few minutes to rest, then roll it out again and keep cutting!
I kept it really simple with the icing and used a classic glaze (partially because that is my favorite!), but these can easily be doctored up with sprinkles or chocolate icing or whatever you want!
The recipe will make a lot of glaze. I find if you're doing smaller letters or shapes, you need more glaze to cover all the nooks and crannies. If yours are bigger, you may not need it all - but it is definitely easier to have extra than to run out while you're frying!
Tips For Homemade Donut Success
If you've never made donuts before, there is a bit of a learning curve. They are easy! But you'll want to keep a few things in mind to help the process go smoothly:
- Have everything in place before you start frying. You'll need: a paper towel-lined baking sheet to put your hot donuts on when they come out of the oil, your prepared glaze, and a wire rack placed on top of another baking sheet (to catch any drips) for the glazed donuts to dry. Line these three things up before you fry anything!
- Use a thermometer. Having oil at the right temperature is crucial! If it's too hot, you'll have donuts that are burnt on the outside and raw on the inside (gross!). If it's not hot enough, they'll be oil-logged (also gross!). You want your oil to be right around 375 degrees. I use my meat thermometer to check the temperature periodically.
- Glaze donuts as soon as they're cool enough to handle. You want the glaze to melt all over the donut for that classic glazed donut sheen. It needs to be hot for that to happen!
- Do a test batch. Have some scraps or extra cut donuts to fry and glaze first. That way you'll know your oil is a good temperature, and can nail down the process for glazing. (Plus, you can sample them!).
Homemade Happy Birthday Donuts!
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup whole milk
- One package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 2 quarts neutral oil for frying
For the Glaze
- 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the milk and heat just until warm, but not hot. It should feel like comfortable bath water. Remove saucepan from the heat and sprinkle the yeast over top. Set aside.Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat together the sugar, eggs, and salt. Pour in the warm yeast mixture and whisk to combine. Add half the flour and mix until combined. Switch to the dough hook and add the remaining flour. Knead on low speed for 4-5 minutes. The dough should be wet and soft, but not sticky. Dust with additional flour if needed. Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size - about 1 hour.Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll to a 1/2-inch thickness. Using well-floured cookie cutters, cut the donuts into your desired shapes. Scraps can be made into donut holes or you can gently knead them together, rest for a few minutes, and roll out and cut into additional shapes. Place cut donuts onto parchment lined baking sheets and cover.To make donuts the same day, allow donuts to rise at room temperature for 45 minutes-1 hour, until puffed up. Start heating the oil about 15 minutes before they finish rising.To make donuts the next day, place the covered baking sheets in the fridge and allow donuts to do their final rise in the fridge overnight. Anywhere from 8-10 hours will work, depending on the temperature of your refrigerator. Set baking sheets on the counter while the oil is heating up in the morning.Heat oil to 375 degrees in a large Dutch oven over medium. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. In a large bowl, whisk together the glaze ingredients and set by the paper towel lined baking sheet. Place a cooling rack on the other side of the bowl (this is where the glazed donuts will be set.) Carefully add the donuts to the hot oil, being careful not to overcrowd the pot. Once the bottoms are golden brown - about 45 seconds to a minute - use a slotted spoon to flip. Cook an additional 45 seconds to 1 minute, until golden brown all over. Smaller shapes and donut holes will cook more quickly. Remove to the prepared baking sheet. Once cool enough to handle, dip in the glaze and place on the cooling rack for the glaze to harden. Repeat until all the donuts have been fried and glazed.Homemade donuts are best consumed in the first few hours after making, but will keep at room temperature, loosely covered, for a couple of days.