Introducing Arley Cakes! - Mini Brown-Butter + Pistachio Donuts

We are so excited to be adding Arley Arrington of Arley Cakes to our list of recurring contributors! She is a baker who hails from Charlottesville, VA, and who is winning over hearts and stomachs with her amazing recipes. 

She'll be sharing new recipes with Catalyst on a recurring basis that are delicious, attainable, and most importantly, appropriate for celebrations! For the DIY couple that doesn't want to break the bank, her treats just might be the perfect alternative to the large traditional wedding cake. 

Welcome, Arley! Now let's bake!

Arley Cakes mini brown-butter and pistachio donuts in a pan

Mini Brown-Butter + Pistachio Donuts

These donuts were a product of the 2-foot blizzard of January 2016, and the weekend of snow-day baking that naturally ensued. However, I highly recommend that you don’t wait for an excuse to make them. Get your life.

This recipe is long, and might be intimidating, but really, it’s four general steps: make a yeasted donut batter & let it rise, brown the butter, fry the donuts, make the glaze. It’ll be worth it, I pinky promise.

Makes ~ one dozen mini donuts.



½ cup warm milk

1 ¼ teaspoons yeast

2 tablespoons sugar

1 egg

3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

½ teaspoon salt

2 ¼ cup flour


½ cup butter

1 ½ cup confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons milk

Salted pistachios, roughly chopped

Make the donut batter, and let it rise.

  1. Whisk yeast and sugar into warm milk, let sit for 10 minutes. It will begin to foam, while the yeast wakes up.
  2. Whisk egg and add to yeast mixture, along with butter and salt.
  3. Slowly add in flour, starting with a whisk, gradually kneading the flour in with your hands when it becomes too thick to stir.
  4. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, or until the dough begins to push back while you are shaping it, moving as if it is alive. (spoooooky, scary!)
  5. Cov er the dough in a greased bowl, and allow it to rise for an hour or so, until it is doubled in size. This will happen easiest in a fairly warm environment.

Brown the butter.

  1. Melt butter in a small pan over medium heat. To get it brown, cook for about 5-7 minutes, constantly swirling the butter. As the butter begins to burn on the bottom, be sure to keep stirring to keep it from browning unevenly. When the butter has browned, and has a nice nutty aroma, set aside.

Fry the donuts.

  1. Heat a deep fryer to 350 degrees. (Or heat vegetable oil in a deep pan, using a candy thermometer).
  2. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough to ½ inch thickness. Use a donut cutter to cut out donuts. Gather scraps to roll out again and cut more donuts. Repeat the process until no dough remains.
  3. Fry a few donuts at a time for 5-6 minutes, flipping halfway through. If you allow the oil to get too hot, you’ll burn the outside and have a gooey inside. If the donuts are cooking too fast on the outside, adjust the heat as necessary.
  4. Allow the donuts to cool for a moment, as you continue the glaze. Lay them on paper towel, to absorb some of the oil.

Make the glaze.

  1. Add the confectioner’s sugar, vanilla, and milk to the pan of browned butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until it is just about to boil.
  2. Dip each donut in the glaze. After the glaze has cooled a touch, pour more glaze over each donut.
  3. Sprinkle donuts with pistachios (quick! Before the glaze cools and hardens.)
  4. Serve to your friends, post a gram for your enemies. <3


Arley Arrington is the owner of Arley Cakes, which provides unique baked goods for celebrations, events, or just because you need a pie! Arley hopes to someday open a bakery that empowers women from low-income neighborhoods by providing job opportunities and mentoring. She also works as the baker at Brookville Restaurant