This fun and delicious Rainbow Donuts recipe combines warm and fluffy, fried donuts that are dipped in a silky vanilla glaze, then piped with rainbow colored vanilla buttercream frosting on top! They're the perfect size donuts that taste fantastic, and are great to share with your friends, family, or coworkers this St. Patrick's Day or any time of the year!
Table of Contents
Let's Talk About the Recipe
This sweet breakfast treat was adapted from my easy homemade donuts recipe which has been a Beyond the Butter favorite! I even used the same 3 ½ inch donut cutter, then simply cut the donuts in half with a bench scraper to make the rainbow shape!
The key to this being a successful fried donut recipe is all in the ingredients (make sure that active dry yeast hasn't expired!), the prep work, and having patience and fun—especially with the decorating part! And at the end of it all are some really good tasting donuts! Enjoy!
Rise and Rest Times. While the actual making of this rainbow donuts recipe is a fairly simple process, they do require a rise time of 1 ½ hours (after the dough has been made) and a rest time (after the donuts have been cut out) of 1 hour.
Frying and Glazing the Donuts. This takes a little time (roughly 25 minutes), but as long as you've got your area prepped and ready, it will go smoothly!
Prepping the Decorations. Next is making and prepping the buttercream for decorating. If you plan to buy your frosting, then the making part will be a breeze. Coloring the frosting can get messy, so make sure to read my decorating tips below!
What Ingredients Are Needed?
To make the donuts you'll need:
- Active Dry Yeast. Make sure it hasn't expired!
- Warm Water
- Granulated Sugar
- Unsalted Butter. It's best at room temperature.
- 1 Large Egg + 1 Large Egg Yolk. You can keep the leftover egg whites for your scrambled eggs at breakfast!
- Vanilla Extract
- All-Purpose Flour. Plus extra for when you're rolling out the dough
- Canola or Vegetable Oil. You'll need enough to use for a deep fryer
For the vanilla glaze you'll need:
- Powdered Sugar. Don't skip the sifting!
- Milk. You can use any kind of dairy milk. I used 1%.
- Light Corn Syrup. Helps thicken the glaze and give it a little shine.
For the vanilla buttercream frosting you'll need:
- Unsalted Butter. Should be at room temperature.
- Powdered Sugar. Again, don't skip the sifting part!
- Vanilla Extract. You can use the clear vanilla extract if you're particular about keeping the frosting super white.
- Heavy Whipping Cream. Also known as heavy cream. Not to be confused with sweetened condensed milk or evaporated milk.
Can I Use Store-Bought Frosting to Decorate Donuts?
Yes, absolutely you can! Whenever I've used store-bought, I tend to go with Betty Crocker Vanilla Whipped Frosting, but choose what works best for you! I would just avoid any cream cheese frosting as it tends to not pipe as well.
For decorating the rainbow donuts, I suggest getting 2 containers of frosting just to be on the safe side.
Regardless of going homemade or store-bought—you'll probably end up with some extra which you can keep in the refrigerator to use for another treat or you can make more rainbow donuts!
Using a Deep Fryer to Make Homemade Donuts
While you definitely do not need to use a deep fryer to make these rainbow donuts, having one is quite nice! I got this Breville smart fryer last May and to be honest, it's been a total game changer. I no longer have to worry about keeping an eye on the temperature and it has a timer too. While it's on the pricier side, it's a good investment and it's easy to clean!
How to Decorate Your Rainbow Donuts
Decorating the donuts was probably my favorite part of this entire recipe! Although, I'll be honest, mixing up all the colors was my least my favorite part. As long as you prep everything though and keep your work area as clean as possible, it won't be that bad!
Plus you'll get to enjoy those tasty donuts when you're done!
To decorate your rainbow donuts you'll need the following items:
- Food Coloring. I used a combination of McCormick's Nature's Inspiration Food Coloring and Chefmaster Natural Food Coloring Kit.
- Small Bowls. I used 6 of my cereal bowls for this part, plus my mixing bowl for the white.
- Small Spatula. I rinsed mine off with hot water after mixing each color.
- Gloves. Seriously, kitchen prep gloves are a MUST if you want to avoid getting all the food dye over your hands! I like to use Wegman's brand of latex-free disposable kitchen prep gloves.
- Piping Bags. I only had large piping bags left in the house when I created the video tutorial below. Small piping bags are definitely better because you're not using that much frosting.
- Small Decorating Tip. I used the No. 12 Wilton round piping tip from their Master Decorating Piping Set.
Divide the frosting. I chose red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple for my rainbow colors, and used the white frosting for the clouds. Divide the frosting into 7 bowls, using the mixing bowl as the 7th bowl for the white frosting because you'll just be moving that into a piping bag.
For red, orange, and yellow I used more frosting, maybe ⅓ - ½ cup each. For the remaining colors, I used less—about ¼ cup. I like to air on the side of more is better in this situation, so if you feel like it's not going to be enough—add a little more frosting!
Coloring the Frosting. Achieving each bright rainbow color didn't take much dye—except for the red. I suggest starting off with a small amount of the food coloring and add more as you go.
I used one small spatula to mix the color with the frosting, then I rinsed it in hot water before moving on to the next color.
Transferring the Frosting to Piping Bags. Place a piping bag into a pint glass, then pull the top of the bag over and around the outside of the glass (kind of like a wedding veil). Fill with one of your frosting colors. Repeat until you've done all the rainbow colors.
I prefer to do this rather than hold the piping bag in my hand because I always end up creating a mess that way. You don't need to use any piping tips for the rainbow colors either! Just snip a little part of the bottom of the bag off when you're ready to start decorating.
For the white frosting clouds, I did use the Wilton No. 12 round decorating tip from their Master Decorating Tip Set. If you would like to try out a different decorating tip or skip it all together, go for it!
If you skip the piping tip for the clouds, you'll want to cut the bag a little higher up to give you a rounder opening.
Decorating the Donuts. As you'll see in this short and sweet video tutorial below, I started with the red, then added the orange, followed by yellow, green, blue, and purple. If you mess up along the way, don't worry about it!
Use your piping bag tip to push the frosting back to where you want it to go or, like I did in this video (with the yellow), just pipe right over the top of it!
Finally, take your piping bag with the white frosting and make your swirled clouds. I piped them on just like I pipe the tops of cupcakes.
Again, if you mess up a little—don't sweat it! They're rainbows and clouds—no two are alike!
- Prep time noted for this rainbow donuts recipe includes 30 minutes prep, 1 ½ hours rise time, and 1 hour rest for the dough.
- Cook time noted for the recipe is only for the frying of the donuts.
- Not noted in the recipe is the prep time to make the vanilla butter cream frosting (20 minutes), and the prep time for decorating the rainbow donuts (35 minutes).
- Prep and cook times are approximate and may differ based on the tools used and level of experience.
- After frying the donuts, do NOT pour the oil down the drain. I know this is probably old news to many of you, but I still need to say it. Wait for it to completely cool and then pour it into a glass jar, these Toss-It! Bags, or reuse it! I like to place the oil in this Oggi 4 quart grease can after I'm done using it. It comes with a strainer and keeps it clean and tightly covered until I use it again.
Enjoy These Other Breakfast Sweets!
- 5 Ingredient Butterscotch Bundt Rolls
- Baked Chocolate Pistachio Donuts
- Blueberry Swirl Coffee Cake
- Bakery Style Lemon Blueberry Streusel Muffins
- Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Coffee Cake
- 2 ¼ teaspoon Active Dry Yeast
- ¾ cup Warm Water
- ⅓ cup Granulated Sugar
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- ¼ cup Unsalted Butter (room temperature)
- 1 Large Egg (room temperature)
- 1 Large Egg Yolk (room temperature)
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 3 cups All-Purpose Flour (plus any additional flour for rolling out the dough for cutting later)
- Canola or Vegetable Oil (for frying the donuts in deep fryer)
- 1 ¼ cup Sifted Powdered Sugar
- ⅛ cup Milk (any dairy type (I used 1%))
- ⅛ cup Light Corn Syrup
- 1 ½ teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 1 cup Unsalted Butter (room temperature)
- 4 ½ cups Sifted Powdered Sugar
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- ¼ cup Heavy Cream
- Combine the packet of active dry yeast and the warm water in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer that's fitted with the dough hook attachment. Let the yeast proof (or sit) for 10 minutes.2 ¼ teaspoon Active Dry Yeast, ¾ cup Warm Water
- Add in the granulated sugar, salt, unsalted butter, egg, egg yolk, vanilla extract, and all-purpose flour, then set the mixer speed to low and knead the mixture until the dough forms together. It should pull away from the sides of the bowl easily when ready. If you find that it's still really sticky, you can add 1 tablespoon of flour until the dough is soft and still slightly sticky.⅓ cup Granulated Sugar, ½ teaspoon Salt, ¼ cup Unsalted Butter, 1 Large Egg, 1 Large Egg Yolk, 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract, 3 cups All-Purpose Flour
- Transfer the dough over to a lightly greased, medium size bowl, flipping it over once to coat the entire ball of dough. Cover tightly with plastic wrap (do NOT use aluminum foil) and place in a warm, draft free spot for about 1 ½ hours or until it's almost doubled in size.
- Gently punch the dough down in the center, then turn it out on to a clean and lightly floured surface. Knead the dough 6-7 times or until it turns into a smooth ball with the same texture throughout.
- Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to about a ½ inch thickness rectangle. Coat your 3 ½ inch donut cutter with some all-purpose flour, then cut out the donuts. Using a bench scraper, cut each donut in half to get the rainbow shape. Then place them onto a parchment lined baking sheet, spacing them out about 1 inch a part. Repeat this step until all the dough has been used. With any small pieces of leftover dough, you can roll it into donut holes.
- Cover the baking sheet with a clean tea or dish towel and allow the donuts to rest for 1 hour or until they've almost doubled in size.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the sifted powdered sugar, milk, light corn syrup, and vanilla extract until well blended and smooth.1 ¼ cup Sifted Powdered Sugar, ⅛ cup Milk, ⅛ cup Light Corn Syrup, 1 ½ teaspoon Vanilla Extract
vanilla buttercream frosting
- Using your hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the unsalted butter on medium-high speed until completely smooth (about 2-3 minutes).1 cup Unsalted Butter
- Switching the speed to low, add in the sifted powdered sugar one cup at a time until blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.4 ½ cups Sifted Powdered Sugar
- Add the vanilla extract and heavy cream, and mix until blended and smooth.1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract, ¼ cup Heavy Cream
frying the donuts
- Line a baking sheet with about 2 layers of paper towels. Next to it place your bowl of vanilla glaze, then beside it place another paper towel lined baking sheet with a wire cooling rack placed over the top. This will be where you place the glazed donuts.
- Fill the deep fryer with either canola or vegetable oil to the max fill line. Then set your deep fryer for a temperature of 365ºF and your timer for 1 minute, 30 seconds. Mine beeps when it reaches temperature. If using a deep skillet or large stock pot, see notes.Canola or Vegetable Oil
- Place 3-4 rainbow donuts in the grill basket and fry for 1 minute, 30 seconds on each side, turning them over with either tongs or a slotted spoon. You want the donuts to be a nice medium golden brown color.
- When the donuts are ready, carefully remove the grill basket and place the donuts onto the paper towel lined baking sheet to let any excess oil drain off. You can also remove the donuts from the grill basket using tongs if you'd rather not remove the basket.
- Using tongs, take one donut from the baking sheet and immediately dip it into the vanilla glaze and place it onto the next paper towel lined baking sheet with a wire cooling rack on top to allow any excess glaze to drip off.
- Repeat steps 3-5 until all the donuts have been deep fried and coated in the vanilla glaze.
- Let the donuts cool slightly before piping the buttercream on (otherwise it may melt it a little).
decorating the donuts
- Divide the frosting into 7 piping bags (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and white). You'll only need a piping tip for the white which will be for the clouds. I used the Wilton No. 12 round decorating tip for this.For the rainbow color piping bags you can simple snip a little part of the bottom off before you're ready to decorate the donuts.
- Start by piping the red color first, followed by orange, then yellow, green, blue, and lastly purple.
- Then pipe on the clouds, like you're piping little cupcakes.