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Buttermilk Bar Doughnut Recipe

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Buttermilk Bars are a vanilla-infused classic craggy Old Fashioned Cake Donut minus the hole…so you get to eat the whole delicious donut! 

Last week a friend, who is from California, just like me…posted a photo on Facebook of a “Buttermilk Bar” donut that her sister brought back for her! If driving from California to Utah with a donut on your lap is not sisterly love… I don’t know what is! (Like seriously…is that not true love!)

Buttermilk Bar Donuts on a plate in the kitchen

That photo filled my mind with happy memories! Memories of early morning donut runs before school at the local donut stop! (It was actually called “The Donut Stop”…go figure!) My favorite was the Buttermilk Bar. A vanilla-infused classic old-fashioned doughnut without the hole…just one big glorious bar of Yum! (Big enough to share…but I’m not that good at sharing! Not when it comes to my carbs!)

Suddenly I had an absurd craving for a buttermilk bar doughnut! (That’s how I roll…see a carb…want a carb! I’m every advertiser’s dream!)  There was only one problem… I’ve never found an old-fashioned cake donut recipe I liked. Somehow I just couldn’t find that perfect recipe. One that fried up with that glorious craggy cake donut top in the donut shop! 

I’m not one to give up, so I did a lot of research and came up with the most amazing Buttermilk Bar Recipe! Let’s discuss a few tips before you begin.

Tips for making the Perfect Buttermilk Bar Donuts

  • Frying: You can use regular vegetable oil, but for the perfect Buttermilk Donuts, I recommend using melted Crisco Shortening. The donuts absorb less oil from Crisco than vegetable oil. They will also stay fresher longer. So, if possible use Shortening in place of vegetable oil. It’s a little more costly, but well worth it. Oil temperature is EVERYTHING when frying donuts! Too hot they’ll burn on the outside and remain doughy on the inside. Too cold and they become oil soaked. So make sure you have a thermometer and constantly check the temperature during frying. A temp of 330°-350° is the sweet spot for frying donuts.
  • Dough: This dough is very “sticky”! Chilling the dough 30 – 60 minutes is imperative to the success of this recipe. Do not over handle the dough. Over handling the dough will result in a tough donut rather than a light tender donut.
  • After Frying Donuts: The donuts will be soft after frying until they cool slightly. Regardless of their  golden color coming out of the fryer, they will need to be handled with care until they have cooled. I was actually really surprised by this. They’re extremely soft coming out of the fryer, however, once cooled they are easier to handle and work with. The outside with become firm and crispy.
  • Vanilla Bean Paste: The recipe calls for Vanilla Bean Paste, but regular vanilla extract can be substituted in its place. Vanilla bean paste is a blend of concentrated vanilla extract and vanilla bean powder, creating a paste much like maple syrup, with a more intense vanilla flavor and flecks of vanilla bean pod. If you can find it…I highly recommend using it in this recipe.

Now….let’s get baking!

How To Make Buttermilk Bar Donuts with Vanilla Bean Glaze

In a large bowl sift together 3 1/2 cups cake flour, 2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. 

TIP: If you don’t own a sifter, or want to simplify things, use a wire whisk to combine the dry ingredients. It replicates “sifting”. Using Cake Flour will make a lighter donut than all-purpose flour, because of the gluten content. However, you can substitute all-purpose flour for the cake flour.

Flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl

In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, add 1 cup granulated sugar, 2 Tablespoons Vanilla bean paste or extract, 2 Tablespoons shortening, and 2 Tablespoons melted butter. Mix on medium speed until fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

Sugar, melted butter, and vanilla bean paste in bowl of mixer.

You’ll have this beautiful creamy batter. See all those amazing flecks of vanilla bean from the vanilla bean paste. It’s amazing!

blended sugar and vanilla in mixing bowl

With the mixer on low, add 4 room temperature egg yolks, one at a time. Mix until well blended. Please note that only the egg yolks are used in this batter, not the entire egg. 

Adding room temperature egg yolks

Add 3/4 cup room temperature buttermilk. Continue mixing until well combined!

Okay confession time. I’m generally not a stickler for “room temperature” ingredients. However, for this recipe it makes a huge difference in the outcome, so I strongly advise making sure the eggs and buttermilk are at room temperature.

Adding room temperature buttermilk to wet ingredients.

With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients all at once, into the wet ingredients. Mix until combined. Make sure the mixer is on LOW! (If you don’t have that mixer on low…you best have a cleaning team on stand-by cause you’re gonna need it!) 

Adding dry ingredients into the wet ingredients in the mixer.

Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the bowl making sure all the ingredients are incorporated. 

TIP: The dough will be very sticky, somewhere between a cookie dough and a thick cake batter. 

scraping dough down from the sides of the bowl

Place the sticky dough into a clean bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

TIP: I recommend an hour if possible. However, if you’re like me…you just want to get to the eating part, so at least a half hour in the chiller!

placing the dough in a clean bowl to chill

Heavily flour a work surface and your hands. Remove the dough from the bowl, and place it on your work surface. I love to use my “dough disc” for all my dough recipes. It works so well. Dough doesn’t stick to the canvas and the canvas holds the dusting of flour really well. It’s perfect for bread doughs, pie crust, etc.!

This isn’t a sponsored post… I’m just sharing the kitchen tools I like to use in the kitchen. There’s a link in my recipe card. I am an amazon affiliate, so I make a small commission if you purchase one through my link. Full disclosure. However, I’ve been using a dough disc for 25 years. It’s one of my essential kitchen tools.

placing dough on well floured work surface

Gently roll the dough around in the flour. Pat the dough into a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick and 3 1/2 inch wide. A short rectangle. The length isn’t really that important. Just make sure it’s at least a 1/2 inch thick. Also don’t be afraid to use extra flour if needed. This is a very sticky dough.

TIP: You can use a rolling pin to gently roll out the dough if that is easier.

Dough for buttermilk bars patted into a rectangle

Flour a bench scrapper and cut the rectangle into 3 1/2″ by 1 1/2″ by 1/2″ bars.  Score the top of each “bar”. (Scoring is not using “pick-up” lines on the dough…it’s an actual cooking term. Just thought I better clarify that!)

How to Score Dough 

To score the bars, dip the scrapper into flour, and VERY gently press the bench scraper down the center of each bar, making a light indentation. Be careful not to go too deep, or the bar will split in half during frying.

This will give your doughnut the perfect buttermilk bar craggy look down the center. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush your bars to remove excess flour.

Dough cut into bars and tops scored.

Fill a large, heavy pot with 6 cups of shortening. Once the shortening is melted you should have at least 2 inches of oil, if it’s not at least 2 inches, add more shortening.

TIP: I use a large sauce pan rather that a large heavy pot! Just to make sure I have enough shortening for this recipe. The smaller the pot the less Crisco you’ll have to use. It still took 6 cups. 4 in the beginning, and then I added two more cups towards the end of frying to bring the level back up to 2 inches.

Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pot and heat the shortening on medium-high heat until the temperature reaches 350 degrees, or a bit above. The temperature will drop when you add your doughnuts, but while frying, you want your temperature to stay right around 330° – 350°. You may have to adjust the heat to keep a steady temperature.

Line a cooling rack with a thick layer of paper towels, about 4 thick, and place it near where you’re cooking. (Not too near where you’re cooking. We aren’t attempting to call to the fire department.)

Once the oil is at the desired temperature, flour a very thin metal spatula, or even a fish spatula, and use it to carefully transfer the bar to the hot oil.

TIP: CAUTION!!! DO NOT DROP THE DONUT INTO THE HOT OIL!! This will cause splatters and potential burns! Please be very careful when working with HOT Oil!

Adding a buttermilk bar to the hot oil

Fry the bottom of the donut first! This allows the top to expand and create the craggy look desired, and specific to the “old-fashioned bar donut”.

Fry 1 to 2 minutes, gently flip the doughnut over and continue to fry for 1 to 2 minutes more.

I was so EXCITED when these were frying! That perfect texture on the outside of the donut had me giddy! Never before had a homemade old-fashioned donut turned out so beautifully! It was awesomely amazing!

Donut frying in hot oil.

When both sides are done, carefully transfer the doughnut, using the spatula, to the prepared cooling rack. You’re looking for that golden color and the beautiful split on the top! That right there…all those nooks and crannies…that is the Perfect Buttermilk Bar!

placing cooked donut on paper towel lined prepared cooling rack

Depending on the size of your pot, and how patient y’all are…you may fry more than one bar at a time. I started out frying one at a time…and then I upped my game and did two at a time. If you do this, watch that oil temp…two donuts drops the temperature more than one.

TIP: You may also find during frying that you need to add more Crisco or oil as the level will drop. If you do so, wait for the oil temperature to come back up to 350°.

In a separate bowl combine the ingredients for the Vanilla Bean Glaze. Mix 2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted to remove lumps, 2 tablespoons vanilla bean paste, and 1/4 cup very hot water. 

Making the vanilla glaze in a bowl

Mix until smooth and creamy.

Vanilla Bean Glaze in a bowl

Dunk the slightly cooled buttermilk bar into the Vanilla Bean Glaze.

I just love those specks and flecks of vanilla beans.  Traditionally only the tops of the buttermilk bars are dipped in glaze. I find this is the perfect amount of glaze for these delicious bars of delight.

dunking buttermilk bar in vanilla bean glaze

Place the dipped Buttermilk Bars on a rack and allow the glaze to “set”. It will take about 3–5 minutes for the glaze to set.

Buttermilk bars on a cooling rack after being dipped in vanilla bean glaze.

That’s a row of happiness my friends! Now for the fun part! Let’s get to eatin’ one of these Epic Old Fashioned Vanilla Buttermilk Bar Donut! HOORAY!!!

Buttermilk Bar Donut close up.

Wanna take a look inside? Ohhhhh….let’s!

They’re not “grease soaked”… just super moist and tender. The flakes of vanilla bean are throughout the donut. The outside is gently crispy and flakey. The glaze isn’t too thick…it’s just right. Goldie Locks would be eating these babies!

Donut cracked open so inside is exposed.

You know there’s only one problem with my job. When I write up a post for a recipe…and I know how good it is… I instantly start to crave it. 

From the first bite… the warmth of vanilla washed over me like warm sunshine on a summer day. A lot of Old Fashioned donut recipes call for nutmeg. I wouldn’t do it. I love that this one doesn’t. I say “Let that vanilla shine”! It’s truly the star of the show! There’s also the subtle tang of the buttermilk. It’s truly the perfect homemade donut!

Buttermilk Donuts on a plate

These were even better than I had hoped! There’s something special about an old-fashioned cake donut that’s fresh and warm.

You just can’t get find that anywhere else but straight out of your kitchen! I can’t wait to make these again…and again…and again! 

If you love this recipe and these spectacular Buttermilk Donuts you might enjoy these other Breakfast Recipes.

Great Breakfast Recipe Idea’s

Thanks so much for stopping by! Hope you love this recipe as much as I did! It’s worth the extra effort to whip up a batch of these doughnuts.

I’d love to have you join me on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. I’m there under “Norine’s Nest”. The printable recipe is below. Enjoy!

Happy Nesting!

Photo of Norine with her signature
Yield: 18 doughnuts

Buttermilk Bar Donuts Recipe

Buttermilk Bar Donuts on a plate in the kitchen

Buttermilk Bars are a vanilla-infused classic craggy Old Fashioned Cake Donut minus the you get to eat the whole delicious donut! 

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Additional Time 30 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes



  • 3 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 2 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp vanilla paste (or extract)
  • 2 tbsp shortening
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 4 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature

Vanilla Bean Glaze

  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 2 tbsp vanilla bean paste (or extract)
  • 1/4 cup warm water


  1. Sift, or whisk, the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar, vanilla, shortening, and melted butter, on medium speed until creamy. About 3 minutes. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl of the mixer.
  3. With the mixer on low, add the room temperature yolks, one at a time. Stop to scrape down the bowl as necessary. Add the room temperature buttermilk. Continue to mix until well combined.
  4. With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients all at once. Mix until ingredients are just combined. Using a rubber spatula incorporate all the ingredients and any flour that is still stuck to the side of the mixing bowl. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl. The dough will be very sticky. Somewhere between a cookie dough and cake batter. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes. Minimum of 30 minutes.
  5. Heavily flour a work surface and your hands. Remove the dough from the bowl, place it on your work surface and gently roll the dough around to lightly cover it with flour. Pat the dough into a rectangle about 1/2 " thick, and 3 1/2 "wide. Add more flour to work surface if needed. The dough is extremely soft so don't be afraid to use extra flour. Flour a bench scraper or small spatula, and cut the rectangle into 3 1/2" by 1 1/2" by 1/2" bars. Once you have cut all of your bars, dip the scraper or spatula in flour again, and VERY gently press the bench scraper down the center of each bar, making a light indentation. This will give your doughnut the famous buttermilk bar look. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush your bars to remove any excess flour if necessary.
  6. Fill a large, heavy pot with 6 cups of shortening. Once melted this should equal about 2" of oil in the pan. If not add more shortening. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pot and heat the shortening on medium-high heat until the temperature reaches 350°.
  7. Line a cooling rack with a thick layer of paper towels, about 4 thick.
  8. Once the oil is at 350°, flour a very thin metal spatula or fish spatula, use it to carefully transfer a bar to the hot oil. Start frying with the doughnut bottom side down. This will allow the top to puff and achieve the look of a buttermilk bar. Fry the bar for 1 to 2 minutes. Using the metal spatula or a pair of chop sticks, gently and carefully flip the doughnut over and continue to fry for 1 to 2 minutes more. When both sides are done, you will know by the color, carefully transfer the doughnut to the prepared cooling rack with the spatula.
  9. Let the bars come to room temperature before glazing.
  10. To make the glaze whisk the powder sugar, vanilla paste or extract with boiling water until shiny and smooth.
  11. Dunk each bar, top side down into the glaze. Set on a cooling rack until glaze sets. About 4-5 minutes.

Nutrition Information:


18 servings

Serving Size:

1 bar

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 236Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 46mgSodium: 318mgCarbohydrates: 45gFiber: 0gSugar: 24gProtein: 3g

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Friday 31st of May 2024

First time on your site and am excited to try this recipe as I am a California girl who loves buttermilk bars also. My question is whether you think I could use coconut oil in place of the shortening in both the ingredients and the frying? Simply because I stopped using shortening a long time ago and have a giant tub of coconut oil at the moment. I realize it would likely impart a slight coconut flavor, but I am not opposed to that. Do you think it's properties are similar enough to use here?


Monday 24th of June 2024

@[email protected], thank you for your response. If I try it, I'll let you know how it works out.

[email protected]

Friday 7th of June 2024

Hi Joyce! First...Welcome to my NEST! Sorry for my late response. I've been at the hospital for the past few weeks with my husband. In total honesty I have not made these with Coconut oil and I'm not completely comfortable saying whether it will work or not. If it were me, I would do a half batch and try the coconut oil to see if it will work. I would think it would...but fried foods tend to be picky about what oil they want to "fry" in! Sorry I can't be more help. Norine


Sunday 3rd of March 2024

These look absolutely delicious. I lways loved the Tim Horton chocolate walnut bars that look similar - except color of course. I am not trying to change your recipe but I am diabetic 2 and cannot handle 45g carbs/bar, especially since I know I will eat 2! Maybe I can help other diabetics who want these gems. Norine statess AP flour can be swapped, but I need to use almond flour. Cake flour is 137g carb/cup, AP 96g/cup but Almond flour is 4g/cup. I know mine are not likely to taste as good, but hopefully, just different. Also, I can live w/o glaze but if made w/Swerve Confectionerss sugar free I think these can be brought down fron 45g carb to less than 25g. Still not great for me, but what the heck - I gotta try!

[email protected]

Tuesday 12th of March 2024

Hi Dale! I ALWAYS appreciate when people share ways to change one of my recipes to fit their needs and the needs of others. Thank you so much! Hope you enjoyed this treat! Norine


Thursday 18th of January 2024

I'm going to try this recipe. I'm wondering about the shortening in the recipe. The butter is melted but I'm not sure how to include the shortening. Are you suggesting Crisco here too and just add it as a solid? Thanks they look delicious/

[email protected]

Tuesday 23rd of January 2024

Hi Elaine! I'm assuming you are referring to the 2 Tablespoons of shortening? That is placed in the mixer with the melted butter and combined. The 6 cups of shortening are placed in a large pot and heated for frying the donuts. I hope this clarifies things a little bit better. Sorry for any confusion. Norine

Cora Huckeba

Friday 12th of January 2024

You won’t believe how excited my hubby and I are to try this! Right near our high school in Yucaipa, CA the donut place would make these yummy bars. Every time we travel to Cali we stop by for a dozen donuts. I have asked for them as a Christmas or bday present but they won’t deliver. Sad. THANK YOU!

[email protected]

Tuesday 16th of January 2024

Hi Cora! This is such a great recipe for us "Cali" girls who grew up on delicious Buttermilk Bar Doughnuts! Thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoy this recipe! Norine


Saturday 4th of November 2023

Can they be air fried instead? I can’t tolerate fried foods

[email protected]

Monday 6th of November 2023

Hi Mary! I have not air fried these donuts. You could try, but this isn't a typical "baked" dough. Sorry I can't be of more help. Norine

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