You say doughnut, I say… high school? Don’t worry, when I started documenting my Melbourne doughnut memoirs I had my “wait, what?!” moment, too. Thinking back over how my experience of doughnuts has evolved over time, my earliest memory is holding my dad’s hand in the line for cinnamon doughnuts at the Trash ’n’ Treasure. No matter my taste now, no doughnut smells better than one freshly cooked and rolled in cinnamon sugar! If cinnamon doughnuts represent the simplicity of childhood; then my high school years smell like sugar dough, are splashed with raspberry, and have all the gooey messiness of a jam doughnut.
We were a ‘clean’ food canteen; no chocolate bars, ice creams or lollies on offer but we did have two of the best bakery treats I had ever tasted: jam doughnuts and coffee scrolls. If you supplied Sacred Heart Girls College in Oakleigh with such deliciousness between 1993 - 1998 then all my high school friends want to know who you are. Seriously, get in touch. I have never tasted a better coffee scroll in my life and those doughnuts, they were divine.
But life goes on, we grow up and our sphere of experience expands. As I began to travel I started to hear rumours of a world beyond cinnamon sugar and jam. I’m not quite sure who first introduced me to Krispy Kremes but I recall buying a box on my way through Sydney airport to bring home for family and friends. This was how momentum for the Krispy Kreme doughnut was built in Melbourne. Someone would pass through Sydney and bring back all sorts of flavoured doughnuts – never mind that we had had Donut King since the 80s and Downyflakes decades before that - these were the real doughnuts, these were American.
When demand reached critical mass, Krispy Kreme opened a 24-hour drive through bakery in Narre Warren. Melburnians were drawn like magnets, blocking entrances to Fountain Gate with a line of cars that reached all the way back to the freeway off ramp. It took a long time for the craze to die down but eventually the franchise expanded to other locations and became readily available in 7Elevens. The masses were appeased.
In the last few years we have seen the rise of the gourmet doughnut. On a balmy 2014 evening at the Queen Vic Night Market when I was still new to Instagram, my cousin told me about this pop-up doughnut stand she wanted to show me, Doughboys. They were making doughnuts to order with the most incredible toppings and were known to sell out quickly. And here began my new romance with doughnuts and, quite possibly, Instagram.
As you can tell, I've always had a soft spot for doughnuts, so when I travelled recently to the West Coast of the USA I grabbed with both hands the opportunity to explore the Portland coffee an donut scene with Third Wave Tours. What was intended as a bit of a lark turned into one of the most engrossing tours I've experienced. Tour owner Lora Woodruff brilliantly demonstrated how the flavours of both coffee and doughnuts can be enhanced with the right pairing, for the first time in my life I found an appreciation for filter coffee and for a Melburnian that's remarkable. Melbourne isn't quite as sophisticated in its pairings yet but we're well on the way.
One or two new doughnut innovations have arrived on the scene in recent times to a frenzied response – Nutella filled and injection doughnuts come to mind – but for the most part Melbourne has remained fairly civilized. With notable exceptions, of course. We find it hard to resist a festival at the best of times, so who could forget the inaugural doughnut and beer festival In March where lines to get in snaked around the block and doughnuts were sold out before 1pm? Well, the organisers have girded their loins and come back for round 2, bigger and more organised and prepared than ever! The Donut Fest Winter Edition is running 19 – 20th August, features all your favourite vendors and is contributing locally through a donation per ticket sold to food charity FareShare.
Over the last week I’ve done my background checks and research and, what admittedly began as a Saturday afternoon cruffin search, turned into a grand doughnut adventure! Melbourne, originator of the hot jam Berliner, blooms with innovative doughy morsels. An exploration of the field reveals banoffee doughnuts, honey glazed, Homer-fied iced donuts, mars bar flavoured and lemon meringue.
This year alone I have visited eight doughnut shops. That sounds far too many but here you stand to benefit: we have made a greatest hits compilation of Melbourne Doughnuts to help you select a doughnuterie that suits your style. Because we all have to pick our favourites eventually, ours are below.