From humble beginnings, the doughnut, like many other baked goods, has had a bit of a facelift in recent times.
While many bakeries are still very much providing the classics, behind the scenes a growing appetite for gourmet doughnuts has been bubbling away.
Those large ballooned goodies towering above their traditional counterparts topped with the most delectable ingredients and sometimes filled to the brim with delicious fillings is what I’m talking about.
Now the doughnut isn’t the first baked good to experience a makeover. To begin with, it was the cupcake which saw a rise in popularity in early 2010, shortly followed by the French macaron with fancy flavours, colourings and toppings being added to the universal French confection.
But what is it about these large mouth-watering items made popular by pop culture TV shows like The Simpsons and large international brands like Krispy Kreme and Dunkin’ Donuts that make them so appealing? Diversity.
Serving since 1950
Having served the city of Dundee since 1950, the team at Clark’s Bakery know a thing or two about delicious doughnuts.
Dan Bunce, operations manager, estimates it generates around 2,000 doughnuts every week which are then dispatched and delivered to their seven premises across the city.
He said: “Since the start of lockdown we’ve sold 22,000 cakes. Our top selling doughnut was fudge, then chocolate, jam and custard. We’re going through around 2,000 doughnuts a day. Our custard one is definitely the most popular with customers throughout the year and everything is prepared fresh every morning.
“We have one guy who preps all the doughnuts, makes all the mix up and punches all the holes in them. Once they are rested they then get picked up by the nightshift team who then fry them. After they are have cooled down they are finished and then put out for our customers at around 4/5am.
“We have seven bakeries and a butchery so they go out to all of these stores across Dundee. We have a store opening in Arbroath in four weeks’ time. This will be our first premises outwith Dundee but we wanted to venture out to a local community and Arbroath came out on top. In the next two years we’ve got our large site opening up on the Kingsway in around a year and the next venture out of Dundee will be Perth.”
Looking to trends in the USA and Canada, the countries Dan refers to as “the home of doughnuts”, Clark’s Bakery watch the market closely to see what flavours are proving continuously popular.
Dan added: “It’s all about experimenting and following trends. We follow a lot of American and Canadian businesses as they seem to be more ahead of everyone with doughnut trends. These businesses will be at the forefront of trying out different things and we’ll put our own Scottish twist on them.
“The Nutella ones have been extremely and you do get those more premium ones which we also do, and I think that will be at the forefront of our cakes in the future – making more premium ones. We were thinking of creating our own doughnut but we’ve held back on it due to current circumstances. One of our main doughnut makers is always trying new things and we will trial different flavours he comes up with.”
Launching her business in October 2018, Nicole McLennan of Perk Coffee & Doughnuts in Inverness has triumphed in bringing the gourmet treat to the city, and as a result of recent events, has finally launched her delivery service – to great success, too, with more than 150 orders in one weekend.
She said: “Delivery was really introduced when lockdown happened. It has always been something we’ve been looking to do. We’re technically a takeaway as the premises is so small, and we could have stayed open, but we thought if we delivered at the weekend then we should try that. I would have been chuffed to have got 30 orders, but we ended up with 150 on the first weekend.
“We’re playing it week by week and we’re keen to keep it on. We go as far as Fort William, Nairn, Elgin and more. The plan is to run it one weekend a month as we offer it every weekend just now and choose the locations, too.”
Catering for all
Changing the menu monthly, Nicole says coming up with the different flavours is one of the best parts of the job. Accommodating for the rise in vegan diets, she is also proud to offer two vegan options for her growing clientele.
“We change the menu every month. I’ve always got ideas of flavours I want to try so we’ve played around with them a lot,” said Nicole.
I would have been chuffed to have got 30 orders, but we ended up with 150 on the first weekend.”
Nicole McLennan, owner of Perk Coffee & Doughnuts
“Customers also write to us and ask us to try different ones so we’ll try them out. Biscoff was one we put on the menu on month two of opening and it has stayed on the menu consistently since because it is so popular. I’ve had some bakers come up with amazing ideas and we play about with things I like, things we’ve seen on social media or in magazine and it all spins from there.
“There’s six doughnuts per month and two are vegan. We’re offering four in store just now because of lockdown, but customers can get all six online.”
Bumper supersized doughnuts
And the only thing better than a single doughnut is a giant stack of doughnuts all layered on top of one another and covered in fondant icing.
Offering those looking for something different to a cake, the celebration stacks Nicole creates are works of art, crafting every element by hand.
She said: “They are like a supersized doughnut and can have two to four layers. It’s a big base one and get smaller as they go up. We have a Harry Potter one which a lot of people go for, we decorate the top to how the customer wants.
“We started getting a few requests for it and a friend of mine was getting married and asked if I could do wedding doughnuts for her. I messed around with fondant and taught myself what I could. I had a baker who used to work for me from Greenland and she was an amazing pastry chef and taught me everything I know, too, as her skills were incredible. I’ve done a baby Yoda as well. We now do loads of personalised stuff.”
Could whisky and doughnuts be the perfect pairing?
Teaming up with the owners of an Instagram account dedicated to pairing whiskies and doughnuts for the Spirit of Speyside Festival a few years back, Covid-19 put a hold on this year’s event. However, that hasn’t stopped Nicole from diversifying and partnering with a local bar to bring a similar event to to fruition
“Whisky & Donuts started off as an Instagram page which was set up by a group of friends, Johnny Baldaray who lives in America, pairing whisky and doughnuts together, said Nicole.
“People were looking for recommendations and Johnny came over for the Spirit of Speyside Festival a few years ago and got in touch with me to see if I wanted to partner up with him and host a tasting together. My background is in whisky so it was a great thing to team up on. This year we had another few booked in and he was going to come over again, but coronavirus has put a spanner in the works. The Malt Room are our neighbours so we decided to try out a few online events with them. To begin with we were just doing local deliveries, but we’re now posting them across the UK as south as London.
“We have plans on getting another kitchen to up our production. Everything is made in the shop and it is a small premises so to fulfil bigger orders we need more space. We’ll hopefully try and reorganise the shop to get some tables in there, too.”
Social media as a driver
In Aberdeen, Kendall Thow of Simply Donuts established her at-home business in May 2019 using social media to get the word out.
Focusing on Instagram and Facebook, creative Kendall from Virginia, USA, is a professional photographer and also works for charity Integrate Scotland. She releases monthly doughnuts which sees customers frantically log on to her site to bag themselves a box.
Selling out most months, Kendall, who initially sold 60 per month, now sells around 500 doughnuts and offers two or three flavours including her classic braided vanilla bean glazed doughnut.
She said: “I have a huge background in social media as I’ve run my own businesses for 11 years. There’s a lot of word of mouth and when it comes to food, it is always based on what it looks like – I love pretty food. Social media is a great way to show how beautiful they can be. It has been a huge boost to my business.
“I had no idea who, if anyone was going to buy my doughnuts and the boxes I use worked better ordering them monthly. I was selling around 60 a month initially and it worked well around my family life and work.
“It’s a lot of work behind the scenes and now that it has progressed and I’m selling out consistently, there’s a lot more to do. There’s a lot of flavour testing and tweaking. Now I’m doing close to 500 a month so it is quite crazy. The doughnut days I do are 400 over the month, and I also do other orders, too.”
Passionate about helping others and ensuring her doughnuts are as Fairtrade and ethical as possible, Kendall researches and ensures every ingredient going into her products is helping someone elsewhere.
She said: “When it comes to the ingredients I use in my doughnuts, I really want every single thing that goes into them to be a product that on the other end is helping people. I don’t want to put anything in them that is causing people harm. I always think with the ingredients ‘is this helping people?’. I’m very passionate about the cocoa industry and ending cocoa slavery.
“I’ve always wanted to do something that would help people or the world. Doughnuts was never on my radar of something I’d be doing. If you’d asked me to bake six years ago it would look so different from now. Doughnuts fell onto my lap. All of a sudden the realisation of how I could help women in the city or female cocoa farmers in Africa could be something I could do with my business.”
Flavour is everything
Creating unique flavours which include strawberry crumble with a raspberry, Merlot and black pepper jam drizzle and chocolate and hazelnut with a coffee drizzle, trialling these unique flavours is one of Kendall’s favourite parts of her job.
“Often flavour combinations will pop into my mind. I try and keep it really seasonal, use local produce and use ingredients that are growing that month, said Kendall.
“In winter there’s a lot more jams used. I make what I want to eat. I started off doing two different doughs so based on reaching the most amount of people, it just made more sense to go make it vegan.
“I would love to see it as a standalone store. I know there are heaps of great coffee shops already, but I would love to be a social enterprise either helping women in the area who are in tough times and need a help and provide job training for them, or, somewhere that supports farming cooperatives around the world. Either way I’d love to have a place centred around helping people and bringing people together.”
Fisher & Donaldson – Dundee and Kirkcaldy
Best known for their world-famous fudge doughnuts, this Royal Warrant-holding fifth generation bakery specialises in homemade goodies.
The family business currently has seven shops and cafes in St Andrews, Cupar and Dundee, and all of the products are handmade in Fife.
Harry Gow – Keith to Brora
With around 18 stores scattered across the Inverness area, Harry Gow is one of the areas most popular bakeries. The family run business has passed through five generations and offers a whole range of baked goods.
They also make a giant dream ring which is great for a special occasion.
Tantrum Doughnuts – Glasgow
It wouldn’t be a doughnut round-up if Tantrum Doughnuts wasn’t included. Based in Glasgow the firm was established in 2015 and now boasts two stores in the city.
With flavours including pistachio and hibiscus, maple and brown butter, creme brulee, milk ‘n’ cookies, cafe au lait, chocolate millionaire and peanut butter and jam to name a few, there’s plenty to stock up on and try.
For more in this series…