Doughnuts are my favourite treat, so when an entire festival dedicated to the pastry is happening, you’d better believe that I’m going to be there! I went to the second annual Toronto Life Doughnut Festival last month and ate my way around Dufferin Mall where the event was held. 12 doughnut vendors from local bakeries and doughnut shops had booths set up throughout the mall and were offering samples to ticketholders (tickets were only $15 and not only did that buy your way into trying all 12 samples, you also got to leave with a half-dozen full-sized donuts of your choosing). Two of my favourite doughnut makers from last year’s festival were not in attendance this year (Jelly Modern Doughnuts and Glory Hole Doughnuts) but I suppose that’s because they’re so good and popular that they no longer need to participate for the exposure. Still, I was sad they weren’t there!). But I did get to sample from a couple of doughnut shops that I was already familiar with, and was mostly introduced to new ones. Here’s my review of all the doughnuts I tried, ranked in order from least favourite to most favourite. (Note: my list is actually only for 11 of the 12 vendors — Loukomania was at least an hour and a half late to the 4-hour event.)
11. Janchenko’s Bakery — Plum Ponchiki
“Polish-style doughnut with plum filling”
This was my least favourite doughnut. It was dense and chewy and the plum filling was more savoury than fruity. Not good at all, especially for a dessert.
10. Chef Jagger Gordon Catering — Sweet Tomato Basil Grilled Cheese Doughnut
“Savoury with tomato, basil and cheese topping”
This had a good flavour to it, but it wasn’t a doughnut. Though I appreciate the creativity, I think the chef went a little overboard with his interpretation of what a doughnut is. I like my doughnuts to taste like, well, DOUGHNUTS! As a savoury canapé, this was actually pretty good, but on this list it just didn’t make the cut.
9. Apiecalypse Now — Cinnamon Twist Doughnut
“Soft deep-fried doughnut tossed in cinnamon-sugar” (Vegan)
This was too dense and there wasn’t enough cinnamon flavour to balance out the chewy, thick dough.
8. Cheese Boutique — Nutella Bomba
“Italian-style doughnut with Nutella filling”
Oddly, they didn’t have any of their Nutella Bomba to sample even though that was the doughnut listed in the sampling passport, but they were available to choose for the takeaway 6-pack. I tried their lemon cream-filled bomba and it was the bomb! Very tasty indeed.
7. Sorelle and Co. — Powdered Organic Lemon-Filled Doughnut / Chocolate Mocha Doughnut
“Vanilla doughnut filled with organic lemon curd / Chocolate doughnut filled with vanilla frosting” (Vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free, preservative-free)
I sampled the Chocolate Mocha Doughnut (and took home the Lemon-Filled Doughnut) and they were both delicious, but their dough consistency was more like a cake than a doughnut, so they lost points for that. If this were a Top Ten list of cakes, they would have been a lot closer to #1, but these weren’t very “doughnutty” (they even looked more like mini cakes than doughnuts).
6. Tori’s Bakeshop — Vanilla Cake Doughnut
“Organic vanilla doughnut with vanilla icing” (Vegan, gluten-free, soy-free)
You probably recognize these doughnuts, this is a popular doughnut shop and their signature doughnut that they brought along to sample, the Vanilla Cake Doughnut, is very Instagram-worthy. It has a delicious flavour, and the only reason I didn’t rank it higher on my list is because it has that firmness and density that I associate with gluten-free baked goods.
5. Tre Mari Bakery — Maple Doughnut
“Vanilla doughnut with maple icing”
This doughnut was SO GOOD. It had the perfect consistency and flavour that I expect of a doughnut with just the right amount of softness that springs back after you bite into it, and the maple flavour was delicious. The reason I put this at #5 though, is because it tasted identical to Tim Hortons’ Maple Dip doughnut, and while that Timmie’s flavour is A+ and I buy it often, I would have expected a boutique bakery to offer something a little more original.
These next four doughnuts were difficult to rank and they were all close contenders for the top spot!
4. 10tation Catering — Sponge Toffee Crunch Doughnut
“Vanilla doughnut with sponge toffee crunch topping”
Sponge Toffeeeeeeeee! Mmm, this was a tasty doughnut.
3. Sunshine Doughnuts — Carnival Doughnut
“Cotton candy glaze with bubble-gum drizzle and crunchy topping”
Great consistency and flavour in the dough, and the topping was both pretty and delicious, with just the right amount of sweetness. (The sample size they offered was perfect, but I found that the full-size version I took home in my 6-pack was just a little too sweet.)
2. Daddy O Doughnuts — Reese’s Pieces / Red Velvet Cake Doughnut
“Yeast doughnut topped with chocolate ganache and Reese’s Pieces / Red Velvet Cake with cream cheese icing"
I sampled the Reese’s Pieces doughnut, and this was another doughnut that had the perfect consistency and flavour of dough, and the smooth chocolate ganache paired with crunchy peanut-butter candy topping was just right. (Also, peanut butter and chocolate are one of my favourite flavour pairings, so there were high expectations for this one!)
And now for my favourite doughnut of all…
1. Von Doughnuts — Caramel Salt ’N’ Pepa Doughnut
“Raised doughnut with caramel dip, dark chocolate drizzle, crushed peppercorns and sea salt”
This doughnut was amazing! Salted caramel is one of my favourite dessert flavours and this doughnut didn’t disappoint. The dough wasn’t as light as my #3 and #2 selections, but the combination of flavours and textures harmonized well nonetheless. Von Doughnuts for the win!
Based on my reviews, which doughnut do you think would be your favourite? I’m always on the hunt for the next great doughnut — do you have any doughnut shops or bakeries to recommend? Please share in the comments!