Cupcakes are so 2008. This year, doughnuts rule. However, we’ve come a long way from stripped-down classics such as sugar-powdered and chocolate-frosted. Many bakers are working with exotic ingredients, eye-catching designs and unexpected savory elements to give Homer Simpson’s favorite food a modern twist. Sometimes simplicity rules, though. It’s hard to argue with a golden, fresh-from-the-fryer glazed doughnut when it’s done right.
From old-school favorites to forward-thinking newcomers, we’re eating our way through area bakeries on a quest to find the best doughnut. Every week for a dozen weeks we’ll visit two shops to test up to a dozen doughnuts from each one, depending on what they have in stock when we visit.
A single winner will be selected from each bakery; it will then compete in the final rounds for the distinction of being named our favorite doughnut in the Washington area. Check back with GOG Blog each week to see the results.
For nearly a century, this Mount Pleasant mainstay has been turning out a broad variety of baked goods, from breads and doughnuts to cakes and cookies. Though it’s often knocked in reviews for surly service, that hasn’t stopped it from becoming a neighborhood institution.
Address: 3221 Mount Pleasant St. NW. 202-265-1169. www.Hellersbakery.com.
Hours: Sundays and Mondays 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The lineup: On the day we visited, seven variations on two themes were in the case: glazed, glazed twist, glazed cake, glazed with sprinkles, chocolate frosted, chocolate frosted with sprinkles and Boston cream.
Price: 85 cents-$1 per doughnut. ($10.45 for an assorted dozen.)
The look: Frill-free and bluntly executed, these well-sized doughnuts aren’t winning any beauty contests.
(Average weight: 4.6 ounces.)
Price per ounce: 19-30 cents.
How do they taste? Unevenly fried and sloppily finished off, these are little better than what you’ll find at your local supermarket. Though some of them possess a charming simplicity, others were inexcusably substandard. (Average score: 4.1 out of 10.)
Best of the bunch: Glazed twist, a solid take on a classic. Fluffy and soft, it’s the kind of doughnut that goes well with a plastic-foam cup full of commercial-grade coffee. (Average score: 4.9.)
Worst of the bunch: A tie between the chocolate frosted with sprinkles and the glazed with sprinkles. Both were too sweet, while the chocolate frosting tasted as if Betty Crocker had made it. (Average score: 3.4.)
Restaurateur Aaron Gordon has tried his hand at fro-yo (Tangy Sweet), cupcakes (Red Velvet) and salad (the now-defunct Rabbit). Now he’s getting into the doughnut game with this slender Dupont Circle bakery decorated with 1980s-style custom graffiti and a sticker-laden white boombox.
Address: 2029 P St. NW. 202-822-6200. www.zekesdcdonutz.com.
Hours: Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The lineup: The day we visited, a dozen options were in the case, including passion fruit glazed with cacao nibs, mango with curried milk crunchies, Wake Me Up Before You Go Go mocha, chocolate glazed with chocolate-caramel pearls, peanut butter and bacon, Vanilla Ice, lemon curd, the raspberry-jelly-filled Little Red Corvette, Sexy Mexy, Ferrero Rocher, dulce de leche and maple glazed with cinnamon sprinkles.
Price: $2.30-$2.70 per doughnut. (Buy a dozen, get one free.)
The look: Large and modern, with lots of bells and whistles: crunchies, sprinkles, zigzags of icing and house-made fillings. (Average weight: 2.9 ounces.)
Price per ounce: 45-71 cents.
How do they taste? These were the best and the worst that we tried this week. Highlights included the sweetly tart homemade raspberry jelly in the Little Red Corvette, and a creamy lemon curd-filled doughnut with a simple snowfall of confectioners’ sugar on top. Conversely, the undercooked bacon atop a peanut butter-frosted doughnut was refund-worthy. One big-picture issue: Large air pockets in almost every doughnut made them dense in parts rather than fluffy.
(Average score: 5.1 out of 10.)
Best of the bunch: Ferrero Rocher. Dusted with golden flakes, this generously proportioned chocolate frosted doughnut with hazelnut filling tastes just like its namesake candy. Decadent and divine. (Average score: 6.7.)
Worst of the bunch: Sexy Mexy was offensive in every sense of the word. The Red-Hots-meet-Jell-O-chocolate-pudding filling inspired groans of distaste and a scramble for napkins to spit it into. (Average score: 2.4.)