I can't believe they're not doughnuts

Someday, I'd like to be able to watch The Food Network from the comfort of my own living room. In the meantime, however, I take every opportunity to watch it from the living rooms of others. The Abbott family den in Orillia is a particularly inviting spot from which to conduct marathon Food Network viewings.

During one of these sessions, over one of those Thanksgiving/Christmas/Easter family holidays, I was watching Chef At Home Michael Smith prepare a vegetarian egg dish. Adding fennel seed to the beaten eggs, he noted that people tend to associate this flavour with Italian sausage. Tuck that away and see if you're not thinking of sausage the next time you're eating something with fennel seed, because he's completely right.

As a general rule, I don't condone pretending to be something you're not. But if you're a muffin masquerading as a doughnut, then all bets are off. The muffins pictured above are premised on this idea that certain spices and herbs trigger a memory of certain foods. In this case, a dash of nutmeg is mixed into a fluffy muffin batter to evoke the flavour of a cake doughnut. A dip in melted butter and a roll in cinnamon or powdered sugar complete the disguise.

These muffins are at their peak deliciousness directly from the oven, even if it involves some hot potato-like tossing to avoid burnt fingers during the dipping process. I didn't even bother dipping the rest of the batch until I had polished off my first one!

Apparently lacking so much as a creative stirrup bone in our bodies, we always called them Muffins That Taste Like Doughnuts, a name that calls to mind that maladroitly named margarine I Can't Believe It's Not Butter.

Muffins That Taste Like Doughnuts


1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 rounded teaspoon nutmeg


3-4 tablespoons butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
2/3 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and lightly grease a muffin tin or silicone muffin mould.

In a medium bowl, beat together the butter and mascarpone cheese. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until smooth.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg.

Add the milk to the butter and sugar mixture, followed by the dry ingredients, and mix just until combined.

Spoon the batter into prepared muffin tins and bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Allow muffins to cool for 5 minutes in the pan before moving them to a cooling rack.

In the meantime, prepare the topping. In one small bowl, pour the melted butter. In a second small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon. Once you are able to hold the muffins, dip the top of each in the first bowl of melted butter and then the second bowl of cinnamon sugar. Once dipped, place the muffins upright on the cooling rack.

Yields 6 muffins.

Notes: I've seen versions of this muffin that use icing sugar instead of cinnamon sugar, and others still that coat the entire muffin in melted butter and sugar. Pick your favourite!

Source: Cobbled together from a number of recipes floating about, including a family favourite.