Tea Colored Donuts

When’s the last time you picked up a children’s book? Last night? Last year? Several years ago? I’m an ardent follower of the blog, This Picture Book Life, where there’s always an intriguing read to discover. My friend Danielle covers picture books the way I cover tea, and today, we’re bringing our passions together with her review of Steve Antony’s Please, Mr. Panda and my recipe for Tea Colored Donuts!
So what’s a chubby panda got to do with tea time? For those of you familiar with Please, Mr. Panda, one would argue a lot, especially since this book is about having manners! Penguin, skunk, ostrich, whale…one by one, Mr. Panda retracts his donut offerings when encountered by rudeness. That is, until he comes across a polite little lemur who says “PLEASE.” And not only does the furry friend get one yummy treat–he ends up with all of them!
I don’t know what it is about kiddy baked goods, but something about them seems to cry out for color. Today, we’re not going to serve tea simply with donuts, but actually in them! If you’re looking for a natural alternative to food coloring, tea serves as a fantastic ingredient to add both color and flavor.

Knowing which tea to reach for, you can come up with a rainbow of shades in the kitchen. Keep in mind that tea works best as a colorant in water-based recipes. Here are a few variations that worked well for me in recreating Mr. Panda’s donuts:

Pink:  Hibiscus, lightly steeped

Green:  Matcha, with Spirulina added when going for a deeper green (like the swirl on top) 

Red: Hibiscus, strongly steeped (here, I added some powdered freeze-dried strawberry too)

Purple:  Pea Flower Tea, strongly steeped, then add several drops of lemon juice 

Blue:  Pea Flower Tea, strongly steeped

Light Brown/Tan:  Rooibos, powdered or strongly steeped

Yellow: Earl Grey, lightly steeped (here, I added some powdered freeze-dried peaches too)
These donuts end up like a cross between a yeast and cake donut. In this recipe, I use cake flour to create a light texture, buttermilk for tenderness, and nutmeg for a classic taste. For the best results, dip the donuts into the hot glaze quickly and not more than twice. 
If you want to make these with the kiddos, I would suggest mixing all the icing ingredients together (steeped tea, vanilla, powdered sugar) and skipping the last step of heating the icing over the stove. This way, you won’t have to worry about hot icing getting on any precious little hands. 
This icing recipe enhances many other baked goods when you want a bit of extra color, flavor, and protection from drying out. Bundt cakes, cupcakes, and petit fours will all work equally well here.Whatever you end up serving, remember that magic word! As Mr. Panda teaches us, an appreciated host is a generous one!

A special thanks to my good friend, Danielle of This Picture Book Life for introducing me to Steve Antony’s adorable book, Please, Mr. Panda! If you love picture books, please check out our other collaboration on Julie Paschkis’ Apple Cake, A Recipe for Love.

Tea Colored Donuts

Makes 6 large donuts.


{Baked Donuts}

1 Tbsp ground flax seed

3 Tbsp water

1/2 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups + 2 Tbsp cake flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temp

2 tsp vanilla

non-stick spray

{Tea Icing-for one color, please look at suggestions in post above}

2 Tbsp boiling water

1-2 tsp of loose tea, 1 tea bag, or 1 tsp of powdered tea

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup powdered sugar, sifted


6-cavity large donut pan

2 small bowls

2 mixing bowls

large ziplock bag


cooling rack

thin, dull tipped knife

small pot


1.  Make the Donuts. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease a 6-cavity large donut pan with non-stick spray. In a small bowl, mix together the flax seed and water. Beat these together vigorously until the flax seeds become emulsified.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, mix together the coconut oil, sugar, and flax water. Stir together vigorously until the mixture is homogenous and airy.

3.  Combine the dry donut ingredients in another bowl, and mix everything together so that the ingredients are evenly dispersed.

4.  In another small bowl, mix the vanilla into the buttermilk.

5.  Add half of the dry ingredients into the wet mixture, mix gently, then add half of the buttermilk mixture. Continue to mix with a few strokes, then add the other half of the dry ingredients, mix gently, and then the rest of the buttermilk. Mix everything together until you get a just-homogenous batter. Avoid over-mixing.

6.  Scoop the batter into a large ziplock bag, then use the scissors to cut a 1/2″ snip at one bottom corner of the bag. Pipe the batter into the cavities until they are filled to 1/4″ under the rim. When all the cavities have been filled, lightly shake the pan horizontally from side to side to even out the batter.

7.  Bake the donuts for 12-15 minutes, or until you notice golden brown edges on the donut and see that it has slightly pulled away from the pan. Avoid over baking.

8.  Cool the donut pan on a baking rack. Let the donuts cool in the pan for several minutes. When the pan has cooled down and can be handled, use a thin knife to ensure that the donuts have released from the pan. Ease the donuts out of the molds with a gentle tug.

9.  Make the Tea Icing. Steep 1-2 tsp of tea (leaves or powder) in 2 Tbsp of boiling water. Let the tea steep to a desired color intensity, knowing that the tea color will be slightly dulled once mixed with the powdered sugar. Remove the tea bag or steeped tea leaves, then add 1 cup of sifted powdered sugar to the colored tea. Mix until you get an evenly colored icing. Adjust colors based on the suggestions in the post above. Add any flavorings (a few drops of lemon juice, 1 tsp vanilla extract, and/or 1-2 Tbsp powdered freeze-dried fruit) to the hot tea before adding the powdered sugar. Heat the mixture over low heat for a minute or two until everything melds together. Carefully dip one side of each donut into the hot glaze, then set the donuts, glazed side up, on a cooling rack. If using sprinkles, decorate immediately and serve!

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Bonnie Eng

You are so welcome Jilianne! Hope the little ones end up loving them! 🙂

Chi @twopickypigs

This looks absolutely diving, Bonnie! I wouldn’t have realized it was tea-colored if you hadn’t mentioned. I love the color contrasts in that donut box. (can you send me one, please?)

Also I just moved my maleanabas.wordpress blog to a new site : twopickypigs.com , I’m co-writing it with my friend and things are looking super exciting. It feels so great to be free of the WordPress free sites haha.

Bonnie Eng

If I could send you one, I would Chi! Thanks for the updates…will be checking out your new site! 🙂

Bonnie Eng

Hey Hetal! It’s amazing how the hibiscus tea adds a tartness like lemon juice would. And that brilliant, ruby red color definitely makes for a good time! 🙂

Bonnie Eng

Hahah, well I wouldn’t say they are completely healthy, but healthier–yes! Thanks so much Tiffany!! 🙂

jen h.

I saw this book the other day in the bookstore with Westley! What a great collaborative idea. Love the update to your site!

Lokness @ The Missing Lokness

These donuts are very colorful! I am so impressed that tea can give that range of colors, and of course with unique flavors. What an awesome collaboration that you did with your friend! Those animal drawings are super adorable! I am sure everyone who reads the book would love a dozen of these donuts to come along too. 😉

MAJ. Jesse Carnes

How novel! The doughnuts made with Tea Flavouring. Hmmm.
Now Bonnie, you have me ruminating over all of these things. Let me see … you could even WRITE letters to friends while using strong pu’erh tea as a water-colour ink. Your ink would be quite piquant, but no fear, as you would never be compelled to “eat your words.”