Featuring fried brioche glistening with a shimmering coat of sugar, the zesty tang of lemon, the creamy decadence of whipped cream, and the delicate dance of candied lemon peel, this Lemon Donut recipe is a bona fide breakfast revelation.
Whether you're planning a leisurely brunch with friends or need a delicious treat to surprise a coworker on their birthday, these lemon-filled donuts are certain to bring joy to your morning.
Imagine sinking your teeth into a golden-brown, delicately fried brioche donut, each bite yielding to a perfect contrast of textures. As your teeth break through the sugary outer layer, a rush of citrusy ecstasy washes over you. The dreamy lemon curd and whipped cream mixture hidden within melds seamlessly with the tender, airy crumb, creating a cheerful balance of sweet and tangy notes.
Adorning each lemon filled donut are glistening shards of candied lemon, a vibrant jewel-like garnish that not only adds a touch of visual enchantment but also elevates the flavor profile, infusing each bite with a delightful crunch and an extra burst of citrusy goodness.
So, are you ready to embark on a journey of lemony euphoria? It's time to roll up your sleeves and bring a little sunshine to the kitchen with my delectable lemon-filled donut recipe. 🌞🍋🍩
⭐ Why You’ll Love This Lemon Donut Recipe
Still not sure if these lemon curd donuts are right for you? Aside from being one of the cheeriest ways to start the day, they’re also:
- Tender-Crumbed & Creamy - If you’ve ever enjoyed a pillowy slice of brioche, you know just how marvelously soft and tender it can be. Now add a layer of flavor from frying, an extra hit of sweetness from a dress of sparkling sugar, the tartness of lemon curd, and the fluffiness of whipped cream. BOOM. That’s what you can expect from each lemon-filled doughnut. 🤤
- Light & Bright - Despite being richly creamy and oh-so-decadent, these lemon-filled doughnuts embody the bright essence of a lazy sunlit morning, kissed by citrusy notes and wrapped in layers of soft, pillowy dough.
- Made With Only 12 Ingredients - While they might taste like they’re filled with an ambrosia made from pure sunshine, I can assure you — these ingredients are all easily accessible.
As promised, you only need a few simple ingredients to make these lemon cream-filled donuts:
- Warm Water - “Warm” is the operative word here. Yeast is like Goldilocks — it doesn’t want the water too hot or too cold, rather just warm to the touch. If possible, use filtered water.
- Granulated Sugar - Plain white sugar has a neutral pH and a neutral flavor profile that works well in the yeasted dough. You can swap in organic cane sugar if you prefer, but don’t use brown sugar — it has too much liquid.
- Active Dry Yeast - While the packets are undeniably convenient, if you bake a lot, consider buying the yeast in bulk and keeping it tucked in your freezer. It’ll last long beyond the expiration date if you keep it extra chilly!
- Lemon Zest & Juice - Fresh lemon is essential to getting the brightest flavor. To get the most from your fruit, roll it on the countertop first, wash and dry it, zest it (being sure to only grab the bright yellow zest), and finally juice it.
- Large Eggs - Let them come to room temperature (or soak them in warm water for about 10 minutes) to make them easier to mix into the dough and easier to warm for the curd.
- Unsalted Butter + Salt - A touch of seasoning helps sweet things taste even sweeter, but I like the ability to control exactly how much salt goes in my bakes. If you only have salted butter, omit or reduce the amount of salt you add.
- Heavy Whipping Cream - Regular whipping cream will also work if it has a minimum of 30% milkfat. Just make sure it’s super cold in order to achieve billowy peaks of perfection!
- Candied Lemon - Optional, but lovely for garnish.
⏲️ Substitutions & Variations
While I love these lemon doughnuts just the way the recipe is written, that shouldn’t stop you from making tweaks to make them exactly the way you like. Here are a few fun variations and dietary adaptations to consider:
- Dairy-Free - Swap in your favorite vegan whipping cream and butter. Alternatively, feel free to fill the lemon doughnuts with pure lemon curd instead of lemon cream. The lemony flavor will be more pronounced in lemon curd doughnuts, but it’ll be delectable.
- Other Citrus - Instead of conventional lemon, try using Meyer lemons. You can also make lime cream-filled donuts if you prefer!
- Lemon Glazed Donuts - Add an extra layer of citrusy goodness with a simple lemon glaze made from powdered sugar and enough lemon juice to get a viscous consistency.
🛠️ Recommended Equipment
- Donut Essentials: A donut pan, donut cutter or doughnut pan is crucial for those wanting a baked lemon donut, but since we're making fried donuts, some hot oil will get you that sweet donut fix. Don't forget cooking spray or parchment paper to ensure easy release into the oil!
- Mixing Bowls: A large mixing bowl is needed for combining dry ingredients like baking powder and regular granulated sugar, while a medium bowl or small bowl should be set aside for mixing wet ingredients—think fresh lemon zest, lemon extract, and egg yolks for that bright lemon flavor.
- Finishing Touches: Once your homemade lemon donuts are golden, let them cool on a wire rack lined with paper towels.
📖 How to Make Lemon-Filled Donuts: Step-by-Step Instructions
Before you get too intimidated by these lengthy instructions, remember that the work of making Lemon cream-filled brioche donuts is broken up over the course of 2 days. Here’s how it’s done:
Make Brioche Donuts
Step 1: Knead Dough. Mix together ingredients and knead, before adding salt and room temperature butter one tablespoon at a time.
Step 2: Continue kneading with the dough hook for another 5-8 minutes until the dough looks smooth and glossy and check for the window pane test.
Step 3: Shape & second rise. After the dough has rested overnight, it’s time to start shaping! Divide your dough using a sharp knife or a bench scraper into even pieces.
Step 4: Let the dough sit undisturbed in a warm spot to proof until they have doubled in size for about 1.5 -2 hours.
Step 5: Fry time! Fry the doughnut for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown before removing from the oil with a slotted spoon and placing on a cooling rack.
Step 6: Coat in Sugar: Place your fried doughnuts in a wide, small bowl filled with sugar. Roll freshly fried doughnuts in sugar before setting aside to cool on a wire rack.
Make Lemon Cream Filling
Step 1: Make Lemon Curd. Hop on over to my post to learn all the tips & tricks for making the perfect sweet, tart, and velvety homemade curd.
Step 2: Make Cream Filling. Whip heavy cream until you've reached soft peaks, then fold gently into your chilled lemon fruit curd.
Fill the center of the lemon donut until it feels heavy. Add a slice of candied lemons as garnish & repeat with the remaining donuts. Enjoy!
👩🏻🍳 Expert Tips/Expert baking tips
By following these expert tips, you'll be well on your way to crafting Lemon Donuts that are not only delicious but also a culinary masterpiece to be proud of:
- Fry the donuts in batches, ensuring there's enough space for them to expand. They should be golden brown on both sides, which typically takes about 2-3 minutes per side. Use a slotted spoon to flip them gently. Head on over to my guide for choosing the right oil to fry donuts for more information!
- After frying, place the donuts on a paper towel-lined rack to drain any excess oil to maintain their crispiness and prevent them from becoming greasy.
- When filling the donuts with the lemon curd and whipped cream mixture, use a pastry bag with a long, slender tip for precision. Insert the tip into the side of the donut and gently squeeze to fill without overfilling. Stop when they feel heavy and just a little bit of the filling slips out the filling hole.
- Lemon donuts are best enjoyed fresh on the same day they're made. The brioche texture is at its prime, and the flavors are most vibrant when they're still warm and inviting.
💭 Recipe FAQs
While there’s no single universal lemon filling for donuts, my recipe combines fluffy whipped chantilly cream and lusciously tangy lemon curd.
You can go ahead and permanently cross this question off the list — now you can have them whenever you want, right in the comfort of your own home!
Since we’re dealing with a cream filling that’s prone to spoilage, I suggest either keeping the unfilled brioche donuts at room temp in an airtight container, then whipping up the filling whenever you’re ready to enjoy.
If the filling is already prepped, just keep it in the fridge in a separate airtight container. If your lemon cream donuts are already assembled, they’re best eaten the same day, but can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
More Recipes You’ll Love
If you try this Lemon Donut Recipe, please leave a 🌟 review and share your creation with me on social media! You can find me on Instagram, Facebook, Youtube and Pinterest - for more delicious recipes sent straight to your inbox, sign up for my newsletter! 📧
Lemon Donut Recipe
- Piping Tip & Bag
- Slotted Spoon
- ¾ Cup (175 g) Warm Water
- ¼ Cup (50 g) Granulated Sugar
- 1 teaspoon Active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon Lemon Zest
- 3 ¾ Cup (500 g) All-Purpose flour
- 3 Large Eggs
- 1 ¼ teaspoon Salt
- ⅓ Cup + 1 Tablespoon (100 g) Unsalted Butter, room temperature
- 2 liters Canola oil, for frying
- ½ Cup (100 g) Granulated Sugar, for coating doughnuts
- ½ Cup & 2 Tablespoons (145 g) Lemon Juice
- 3 (g) Eggs
- 1 Egg Yolk
- ¾ Cup (150 g) Granulated Sugar
- ¼ teaspoon Sea Salt
- 1 Cup (225 g) Unsalted Butter, room temperature
- Mix together the warm water, sugar and yeast together in your stand mixer’s mixing bowl. Let this mixture rest undisturbed for 5-10 minutes until you start to see bubbles start to form on the surface.¾ Cup Warm Water, ¼ Cup Granulated Sugar, 1 teaspoon Active dry yeast
- Add your lemon zest, flour, and eggs to the active yeast mixture using the paddle attachment. After one minute of mixing on medium speed, the ingredients should be well combined. At this point, switch to using the dough hook attachment and knead for 6-8 minutes before adding salt and butter one tablespoon at a time. Continue kneading with the dough hook for another 5-8 minutes until the dough looks smooth and glossy and you notice that the dough is not sticking to the sides of the bowl. This means that your dough has been well developed and we can stop mixing.1 teaspoon Lemon Zest, 3 ¾ Cup All-Purpose flour, 3 Large Eggs, 1 ¼ teaspoon Salt, ⅓ Cup + 1 Tablespoon Unsalted Butter
- Place the dough in an oiled bowl and allow to proof for 1.5 to 2 hours covered in plastic wrap. You’re looking for the dough to have about doubled in size before moving on to the next step. If your kitchen tends to run quite cold, try to find a warm spot to leave the dough for this resting period. Then, remove the plastic wrap, and degas the dough by punching it down before recovering and placing in the fridge overnight. This overnight rest of about 12-14 hours is essential in order to develop flavor as the dough continues to ferment slowly within low temperatures.
- After the dough has rested overnight – it’s time to start shaping! Divide your dough using a sharp knife or a bench scraper into 65 gram even pieces. Gently degas each piece by pressing on top of the ball with the heel of your hand before forming into a tight boule. Place each piece of dough onto a parchment lined baking tray where the parchment has been lightly sprayed with baking spray and cover with plastic wrap that has also been sprayed ( so the plastic wrap doesn't stick to the dough). Let the dough sit undisturbed in a warm spot to proof until they have doubled in size for about 1.5-2 hours.
- Approximately twenty minutes before the doughnuts have finished their final proof, it’s time to start heating your frying oil! Grab a large Dutch oven or your preferred container for frying. Add the oil, ensuring that you have at least 3 inches of height from the bottom of the Dutch oven to the top of the oil. Turning the stove on medium-high, heat the oil to 340° F. Prepare your sugar while the oil is heating – add sugar and mix to combine.2 liters Canola oil, ½ Cup Granulated Sugar
- I always do a “test” doughnut before moving on to the remaining doughnuts. Fry the test doughnut for 2-3 minutes on each side before removing from the oil with a slotted spoon and placing on a cooling rack lined with paper towels. Then, coat in sugar before letting cool completely. Continue this process by gently dropping four pieces of proofed dough into the oil at a time, making sure not to crowd the doughnuts too much! Make sure to check the temperature of the oil after each batch, in case you need to reheat the oil back to 340° F.
- In a saucepan, heat a few inches of water on medium and bring to a simmer
- With a non-metal whisk, whisk together all the ingredients other than the butter in a non-metal heatproof bowl, and place on top of the saucepan allowing the hot steam of the water to slowly heat the mixture.½ Cup & 2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice, 3 Eggs, 1 Egg Yolk, ¾ Cup Granulated Sugar, ¼ teaspoon Sea Salt
- Take care to continuously mix while the temperature raises and the mixture thickens. Remove bowl from heat once a thermometer reads 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Continue whisking mixture continuously in order to help it cool down.
- Once the temperature has lowered to 135 degrees, add ½ inch pieces of butter to the mixture.1 Cup Unsalted Butter
- Using an immersion blender or spatula, continue to blend until butter is fully incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap with the platic touching the curd and chill for a few hours.
- Whip heavy cream until you've reached soft peaks, then fold gently into your chilled lemon curd. Continue to gently fold the two ingredients together until they are homogenous and set aside for assembly!1 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream, 1 ½ Cups Lemon Curd
- Fill a piping bag with your lemon cream. Pierce the doughnut with the tip of the piping bag and fill the center of the doughnut with the cream. Add a slice of candied lemon on top and enjoy!Candied Lemon Slices
- Eat ‘em while they’re fresh! Technically, you can store doughnuts in an air-tight container in a dry, cool space for up to three days. This being said, I would highly recommend baking and enjoying these lemon cream donuts rather promptly after frying! Doughnuts are best straight from the fryer as they can dry out quite quickly.
- Don’t forget to proof your yeast. If the yeast/water/sugar mixture doesn’t start bubbling and foaming within 10-15 minutes, your yeast is dead. Don’t make the mistake of forging ahead anyway; the brioche dough will end up hard as a rock.
- DON’T skip the overnight rest. The dough continues to ferment slowly overnight within the low temperatures, which is essential to developing flavor.
- Use a thermometer to consistently check the oil’s temperature. It can rise and lower as you move through the frying process. Keep a close eye on the temperature to ensure it stays at 345ºF for even and consistent doughnuts.
- Be prepared before you start frying! After the second rise, this recipe moves quickly, so have your thermometer, a plate lined with paper towels, and your sugar coating ready before you begin frying.