How adorable are these donuts?! If you all are bored of making traditional gingerbread cookies, you should definitely give these Vegan Cream-Filled Gingerbread Donuts a try! These scrumptious donuts are air fried, filled with a spiced gingerbread cream, and covered with a sweet gingerbread glaze.
Okay, let me preface by saying these donuts are a bit of a labor of love. BUT the end result is so worth it. These air fried vegan yeast donuts are perfect for the holidays, winter, or Christmas baking. This post and recipe will show you exactly how to make these gingerbread donuts.
Prepping the Yeast
The first step to these vegan cream-filled gingerbread donuts is prepping the yeast. In order for yeast to rise, it needs to be ‘fed’. Yeast is activated by warming it and ‘feeding’ it with a little sugar. You’ll want to warm your almond milk in the microwave (or on the stovetop) until it’s warm to the touch but not scalding. If the milk is too hot, it will kill the yeast. A good test is to dab a bit of the warm milk on your wrist. If it’s not scalding, it should be close to the right temperature.
You’ll want to divide the warm milk and sugar in half and combine half of each into a small bowl. Once the sugar dissolves slightly, you can add in the yeast. It should bubble and froth up after a few minutes. If your yeast isn’t frothing up (like in the image above), then it’s likely not activated and it won’t rise the dough properly.
The First Rise
To make the dough, you’ll cream the remaining sugar and vegan butter together in a large bowl. Then, you’ll mix in the Just Egg (or Egg Replacer), spices, vanilla, coconut oil, and the frothy yeast mixture. Once combined, you’ll gradually want to mix in the flour (about 1 cup at a time), until the mixture forms a soft dough ball.
A note about the egg replacer: my preferred method for making these donuts is with Just Egg or Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacer. The texture is light and airy, yet rich. I’ve tried using a Flax Egg instead and the texture came out breadier. Not bad (and actually, my boyfriend really liked the texture), but it just doesn’t turn out as rich as the Just Egg.
Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead it for about 4-5 minutes until the exterior surface is smooth and no longer sticky. The dough will need to rise after being kneaded. You’ll want to oil a bowl (with a little melted vegan butter or cooking spray). Then place the dough ball into the bowl.
To keep the dough from drying out, cover the bowl with a damp, but not soaking wet, paper towel or tea towel. In order to rise, the dough needs to be placed in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours. I like to place mine in my microwave (make sure not to run it!) or in my oven (turned off).
The dough is done rising when you can poke it with your finger and the indention stays in the dough (see image above). Be sure to not over proof the dough! This will make the donuts have a less delicate texture.
Cutting Out the Gingerbread Donuts
After the first rise, turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface. With a rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangle (or a blob shape like I did, haha!) about 3/4 of an inch thick.
Using a gingerbread shaped cookie cutter, cut out your donuts. I got about 10 donuts out of my rolled out dough. And then I re-rolled the scraps to cut out 2-4 more donuts.
Transfer your cut out donuts to a parchment-lined baking pan and cover them back up with a damp towel. The donuts will need to rise for a second time, about 45 minutes until they are puffed up about double in size.
Gingerbread Pastry Cream
The first step to making the cream filling is to make a gingerbread spiced pastry cream. We’ll actually utilize this pastry cream in both the filling and the glaze. This is what will give these little vegan cream-filled donuts their bold gingerbread flavor.
Pastry cream is typically a custard that is thickened with eggs. To make a vegan version we’ll be using flour and coconut milk. I made my gingerbread pastry cream while the dough was proofing so it had time to set up in the fridge.
In a small saucepan, you’ll combine coconut milk, flour, sugar, molasses, gingerbread spices, and powdered sugar. Next, heat on medium-low heat, whisking continuously until the sugars dissolve and the mixture begins to thicken (about 10 minutes). To help the cream thicken before using it, place it in the fridge to cool for at least an hour. You could also place it in the freezer.
The Cream Filling
Now that the gingerbread pastry cream is made, the cream filling is very easy to whip up! You’ll want to beat vegan butter and powdered sugar together until it forms a frosting consistency. Then, you’ll add in 3 tablespoons of the gingerbread pastry cream. This cream filling is a bit looser than your traditional frosting consistency, but still nice and thick.
To fill the donuts, you can transfer the cream filling to a piping bag or a ziplock bag which you can cut the corner off of when you’re ready.
Filling the Gingerbread Donuts
I found the easiest way to fill, glaze and decorate the donuts was in the order below:
- Poke a hole in the top of the donut with a straw or chopstick.
- Fill the donuts with the piping bag.
- Then, glaze the donuts. Let the glaze harden for about 10 minutes.
- Decorate with the royal icing.
Royal Icing & Glaze
To make the glaze, you’ll first want to make the royal icing. Royal icing is typically made with eggs, but today we’re subbing in aquafaba. If you’d like to learn more about what aquafaba is and all of its great uses, this is a great article. Aquafaba is actually very readily available- you can use the liquid inside of a can of chickpeas!
You’ll mix half of the royal icing with the remainder of the gingerbread pastry cream you made earlier. Then you can use the other half of the royal icing to decorate the donuts with faces and what not!
Freezing the Donuts
To freeze them with the glaze on, place the donuts (uncovered) on a baking sheet into the freezer for 10 minutes. This is just enough time for the glaze to harden so it won’t stick to the plastic wrap when wrapping them up. Make sure to tightly wrap the donuts to prevent any freezer burn. I like to wrap mine is plastic wrap and then place them in an airtight freezer bag.
I don’t recommend freezing these donuts with the cream filling already inside. When you go to reheat them, the filling will dissolve completely and won’t have the same texture.
Do these take a bit of time to make? Yes. Is it completely worth it? YES! Whether you spell them doughnuts or donuts, these Vegan Cream-Filled Gingerbread Donuts are fluffy, spiced, and so fun to make. These would make a great baking activity to do with kids or family this holiday season. They’re like a fun fancy version of holiday / Christmas cookies!
If you’re looking for more fun vegan treats to make, you should check out these recipes!
- 1 cup almond milk, divided in two, warm but not hot to the touch
- ⅓ cup of granulated sugar , divided in two
- 2 ¼ tsp active dry yeast, or one package
- ¼ cup Just Egg * see notes for substitutions
- ¼ cup coconut oil , melted
- ¼ cup softened vegan butter , salted - I used Earth Balance Buttery Sticks
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground ginger
- ⅛ tsp ground clove
- 4 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- (optional) ⅛ tsp salt , if not using salted vegan butter
Gingerbread Pastry Cream
- 1 cup full fat coconut milk
- 4 tbsp all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup of granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp molasses
- ½ tsp ginger
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- ⅛ tsp clove and nutmeg
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- 2 tbsp vegan butter, I used Earth Balance Buttery Sticks
- 1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 3 tbsp gingerbread pastry cream (above)
Royal Icing & Glaze
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 2-3 tbsp Aquafaba, or chickpea brine
- 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
- 1 tsp vanilla
Make the Dough
- Divide the almond milk and sugar in half. Combine ½ cup of the warm almond milk and half of the sugar into a small bowl. Mix until the sugar dissolves slightly. Add the yeast and let the mixture sit for 10 minutes. The yeast should begin to bubble and froth up after a few minutes.
- In another large bowl, cream the remaining sugar with the vegan butter. Add the Just Egg, the remaining almond milk, and coconut oil. Add the vanilla extract, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, clove, and salt (if using). Add the frothy yeast mixture. Mix to combine.
- Add the flour to the liquid mixture, 1 cup at a time, stirring until it forms a soft dough. You should be able to easily form a ball with the dough, but it shouldn’t be too sticky to the touch.
- Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead for 4 minutes until the outer surface is smooth. Oil a bowl and place the ball in it. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel or paper towel, and let rise for about 1 ½ hours or double in size.
Gingerbread Pastry Cream
- While the dough rises, in a small saucepan, combine the ingredients for the gingerbread pastry cream. Heat on medium-low heat, whisking continuously until the sugars dissolve and the mixture begins to thicken (about 10 minutes).
- Remove from the heat and place in the fridge to cool for at least an hour.
The Cream Filling
- In a medium-sized bowl, cream the vegan butter with the powdered sugar until frosting-like consistency forms. Add in 3 tablespoons of the gingerbread pastry cream and mix until well combined and fluffy.
- Cover and place in the fridge until ready to fill the donuts.
The Royal Icing & Glaze
- Mix the powdered sugar, cream of tartar, vanilla, and aquafaba together until it forms a very thick but still pourable paste-like consistency. Divide in half.
- Mix one half of the royal icing with the remaining gingerbread pastry cream to make the donut glaze.
- Cover the glaze and the remaining royal icing with a damp cloth and set aside until ready to glaze the donuts.
Make the Donuts
- After rising, the dough is ready to roll out when you poke it and the indention keeps its shape.
- Transfer the dough to a floured surface and roll it out into a rectangle about ¾ of an inch thick. Using a gingerbread person-shaped cookie cutter, cut the dough.
- Place the cut donuts on a parchment-lined baking sheet and cover with a tea towel. Let rise again until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
- Preheat your air fryer to 350 degrees F.
- Line your air fryer basket with parchment paper and spray with oil. Place the donuts about 2 inches apart from each other in the basket. You may need to do multiple batches to cook all of the donuts depending on your air fryer's size. Spray the tops of the donuts with more oil.
- Air fry for 6 minutes. Then remove from the basket and let cool on a wire rack.
Decorate the Donuts
- Once the donuts are cooled, using a chopstick or straw, poke a hole into the top of the donuts. Spoon the cream filling into a piping bag, and fill each of the donuts by squeezing the filling into the top of the donuts. It's okay if some of the filling comes out of the top of the donut.
- Glaze the donuts by dipping one side into the gingerbread glaze. Let the glaze harden before decorating. To speed this up, you can place the donuts into the freezer for 5 minutes.
- Spoon the remaining royal icing into the piping bag and decorate the donuts as you’d like. (Faces are cute!)
- These donuts are best on the first day. You can easily freeze these, but I'd recommend freezing them before filling them with the gingerbread cream.
- You could also substitute Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacer.
- Prep the donuts by placing them on a greased baking sheet.
- Spray the tops of the donuts with cooking spray.
- Bake for 13-15 minutes. They should be golden on top but still soft, not crispy.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 261Total Fat: 15gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gSodium: 156mgCarbohydrates: 30gFiber: 1gSugar: 23gProtein: 2g
Nutritional info is an estimate.
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