donut pan idea no. 56: monkey bread donuts

Donuts on a Friday! These are monkey bread donuts, and they are killer. I have to admit, I'd never heard of monkey bread until it started showing up on some blogs I read here and there, and then The Kitchn ran an article on 15 different ways to make monkey bread (I'd love to make this savory version of it, it looks so delicious), and then it really caught my attention.

This is like a morning bun on crack, or at least with a crackle. The hard-ish caramelized coating is what helps keep these donuts together and what makes them taste so damn good. The assembly of these donuts would be really fun to do with kids, but the baking and subsequent removal of them from the pans intact takes a bit of art, so be careful and click on "read more" below to read more!

I adapted this recipe from America's Test Kitchen. I used store-bought biscuits instead of their biscuit dough to save me a whole lot of time, but you could go ahead and start from scratch if you'd like! This recipe yields about 18 donuts, but I stopped at a dozen because I know we would eat them all within 24 hours. We're a morning bun kind of family.

For the monkey bread donuts you will need 2 rolls of non-flaky biscuits, 1 1/3 c. brown sugar, 3 tsp. cinnamon, 1 stick (8 tbsp.) butter, 1 c. powdered sugar and 2 tbsp. milk. You will also need baking spray like Baker's Joy for the pans.

Start by preheating your oven to 350º and whisking together the brown sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl. Set the sugar mixture aside.

Next, melt the butter over low heat. While that is melting, cut each biscuit into nine pieces as shown below.

Spray your pans with baking spray, and when the butter is completely melted and slightly cooled, get everything ready to start assembling the monkey bread donuts. 

Take one piece of biscuit dough and dip it in the melted butter. Shake it off, then roll the dough in the sugar mixture to cover completely. Make sure you don't skimp, the sugar is what will hold these donuts together!

Place seven or eight pieces tightly around each donut pan cavity. This will be the first layer. You're not done yet!

This next part is important, because I tried making a pan full of single-layered monkey bread donuts and they didn't stay together. You need to add a second layer of sugar-coated biscuit pieces. They should be staggered on top of the first layer to cover the seams. You don't need to cover every seam, but use at least three second-layer pieces per donut.

Here's another super-important step. When you are ready to bake your donuts, place each donut pan on a baking sheet. I make these on very little sleep, and we ended up with a smoky, terrible mess while I was baking them because the butter and sugar dripped down to the bottom of my hot oven and it got a little chaotic over here for a while. Hopefully baking sheets below will help you avoid this situation!

Bake the donuts for about 25-35 minutes, keeping an eye on them starting at 20. You want the edges to be bubbling furiously and the tops to be a deep caramel brown. You are going for good caramelization here. If you take them out and the biscuit dough seems too soft, bake further in three minute increments until you've got a nice, well done monkey bread donut.

Note: Around 10 minutes in you should check to see if any of the second layer of dough has fallen into the middle of the donuts. If it has, carefully try to stack it back up out of the middle. Gotta keep that hole clear!

When they are done, they should look like this. Remove the pans from the oven and place on a dish towel on your counter. Let them cool for about ten minutes. 

At this point, you have to use your intuition to make sure they are set up fairly well by having let them sit in the pans for ten minutes, but not all the way cooled or they won't come out of the pans easily. 

Using two hands, start gently twisting the donuts in the pan, using your fingers to keep all of the pieces together. If a donut is spinning easily in the pan and you can lift it out easily without it coming apart, take it out and set it face down on a plate. If you set it bottom down the caramel will stick to the plate and that's not good. Use a big spoon to carefully pry at it if you need a little help. If it you are taking them out and they aren't staying together, set them back in the pan for a minute or two more and try again.

Again, you don't want them to totally set up in the donut pans unless you've already removed them once or twisted them a bunch so they don't stick to the bottom of the pans.

Check out that awesome caramel action!

Now for the overkill. Whisk together the milk and powdered sugar to make a glaze. You can add a little extra milk if needed if you like your glaze thinner. Drizzle over the donuts. Amazing!

I'm feeling a little guilty about all the sugary donut projects I've done lately, and am thinking of working on some of my savory or inedible ideas again soon. I don't know what would hold these particular donuts together without sugar, but I'd still like to give that savory monkey bread recipe a try.

Have a great weekend! xoxo


  1. Oh I made pumpkin pull-apart bread (monkey bread?) in cupcake pans a while back, and this reminded me of it. It's about the time of year to make them again. They're so delicious.

  2. this is pure genius! there used to be a place near my house that made the best monkey bread. but they stopped and i've been sad about it ever since. this may be just the kick in the pants i need to actually try making some.

    1. Maybe October's pie should have a monkey bread crust! Just kidding, that sounds awful. Is it a west coast thing? Seriously I lived 43 years before I had ever heard the term "monkey bread"! :)

  3. ooo yeah! now those look divine!! following along over at feedly (no pun intended!) have a beautiful week xxxx

    1. Hi Jane! Thank you, and thank you for reading! I hope you are having a great week, too!

  4. oh my goodness, this is brilliant!!! Just saw this today on Nosh on It! Happy holidays!


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