Make Doughnuts Glow in the Dark With One Secret Ingredient


There have been some crazy food trends this year, with unicorn- and mermaid-inspired foods filling up feeds around the world.

If I had to pick one, however, the most creative Insta-famous food I've seen is glow-in-the-dark doughnuts. I immediately wanted to learn to make them myself and — with the help of this post — you can, too!!

Let's start with the doughnuts

These are buttermilk cake doughnuts, one of my favorite classic doughnut flavors. They're not overly sweet and have a subtle tang from the buttermilk in every bite.

Since the doughnuts aren't overly sweet, they're also a very good vehicle for glaze and toppings. While the glowing glaze is enough decoration, you can also add a few sprinkles to your batch and I won't tell anyone.

The dough is easy to make and comes together very quickly. It does need to be refrigerated for about an hour before rolling it out, which makes the dough easier to handle. You'll need to generously flour your work surface to keep the soft dough from sticking. I also recommend keeping a bench scraper handy to help move the dough around. 

You'll also need is a 3" doughnut cutter, which are easy to find online and in kitchen stores. These round cutters cut both the doughnut and the hole in one swift motion.

If you don't have a doughnut cutter, simply use a large and a small round cookie or biscuit cutter . Be sure to fry up the doughnut holes (I did!), too. 

A good frying temperature for doughnuts is 355-360 F, which allows the donuts to cook completely without getting them too dark on the outside. Fry the donuts in small batches — adding uncooked dough changes the temperature of the oil quickly. Keep a thermometer in your pot if possible to help maintain a steady temperature. 

Turning donuts to glo-nuts

Glow-in-the-dark doughnuts are all about the icing, and there's one secret ingredient that makes them glow: tonic water.

Quinine is the ingredient that makes tonic water a tonic, as it was originally added in high doses to help prevent malaria. These days, it's added in smaller quantities to give the fizzy water its unique flavor. The important thing to know about quinine, is that it glows blue under a black light!

If tonic water isn't your favorite drink, don't worry. There's more than enough sugar in the icing to cover its bitterness, and adding a hint of vanilla gives it a little more flavor.

I've given a range of amounts in the icing recipe, so you can decide the consistency. A thicker glaze will glow brighter, but a thinner glaze will give you better overall coverage when it comes to eating your finished doughnuts.

Once they're frosted, put the doughnuts under a black light and let the "oohs" and "aahs" come out! 

One more note: You don't have to make doughnuts from scratch to enjoy the glow-in-the-dark effect on your pastries. You can buy plain doughnuts and simply add the glaze to finish them off. This is a great tip if you want a big batch of donuts for a party or other event, and don't want to spend all day over the fryer.

Get the right lighting

These donuts glow under black lights, not in daylight or under ordinary lights, so keep that in mind when you plan to make them. You can pick up black lights online or at party stores.

To get the maximum effect, put the lights directly over your donuts. Don't forget that a thick layer of icing will get you the most dramatic results. 

Buttermilk glonuts recipe

Makes about 10-12 doughnuts and 10-12 holes


  • 3½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoons salt 
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 cups (approximate) vegetable oil for frying

For the frosting:

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 4-6 tablespoons tonic water
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Step 1:

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a measuring cup or a medium bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, melted butter and vanilla extract.

Pour buttermilk mixture in with the dry ingredients and stir until a thick dough forms. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 45-60 minutes.

Step 2:

On a well floured surface, press out the dough until it is no more than ½" thick. Use a floured doughnut cutter to cut the dough into rounds.

Set the donuts and holes aside on a lightly floured plate or surface (like a baking sheet). Gather the scraps and repeat the process. The yield will vary slightly based on the size of your cutter. 

Step 3:

In a large saucepan, bring about 4" of oil to 355-360 F. Carefully drop doughnuts one or two at a time (depending on the size of your pot) and cook for about three minutes per side, until deep golden brown.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the doughnuts to a paper towel–lined rack to drain and cool. Repeat with remaining doughnuts and holes. 

Step 4:

Prepare the frosting by whisking together 3 cups powdered sugar, 4 tablespoons tonic water and vanilla extract until thick and smooth. If necessary, add additional tonic water to thin icing.

Dip cooled donuts in icing and set on a wire rack until frosting is set. Turn on black lights to serve!

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Make Doughnuts Glow in the Dark With One Secret Ingredient