The Taste Test: 23 Raised-Glazed Doughnuts from around the Twin Cities

Photo by Tj Turner

In the wee baker’s hours of a chilly Thursday morning, the intrepid Growler editorial team fanned out across the metro—from Hans’ Bakery in Anoka to Puffy Cream in Eagan, from YoYo in Minnetonka to the Donut Hut in Little Canada—in search of the perfect raised-glazed doughnut.

A classic raised-glazed, you see, is a thing of beauty. A glistening ring of golden, puffy dough, varnished with a thin layer of sugary glaze. There’s a lovely simplicity about it. Like a French omelette or a Czech Pilsner, the raised-glazed doughnut is a case study in how the right technique can make a few basic ingredients shine. 

We think it’s the perfect benchmark to test the mettle of our metro’s copious doughnut shops, because with no trendy toppings, the proof is all in the process. The makeup of the dough, how it’s mixed, how it’s left to rise, how long it’s fried, the temperature of the frying oil, and the heat of the doughnut when it’s glazed—all of these choices have a multiplying effect on the finished product.

And when we’d gathered doughnuts from 23 different shops together, we found a great deal of variation—from ethereal puffs of air with a gossamer glaze, to stodgy, dense doughnuts shellacked with sweetness. And somewhere in the middle, we crowned a Top Ten, and we’d be happy to start every Thursday morning with any one of them.

Judging Criteria

In fairness, we recognize that a single type of doughnut does not define a bakery. We’ve routinely enjoyed other creations at places that didn’t make the Top Ten in raised-glazed (the cake doughnuts at Sleepy V’s and A Baker’s Wife, the hand pies at Bogart’s, and the apple fritters at PJ Murphy’s come immediately to mind.)

We also recognize the variable nature of baking—maybe there’s a newbie on the fryer one day or the dough doesn’t set up quite right. One of the doughnuts in our tasting was completely raw inside, as were the backup samples we purchased (though we returned to that bakery the next day and found them properly cooked.) But c’est la nature with taste tests—one random sample might not be fully representative of a place, but they all got the same shot. 

Of course, personal taste in judging also comes into play. We devised a set of guidelines for the Platonic ideal of a raised-glazed doughnut that each entry would be judged against: a fluffy texture with a decent chew (not too dense), with a mellow and yeasty flavor to the dough, and topped with an assertive balancing sweetness.

No matter which criteria were chosen, they would necessarily exclude some otherwise tasty doughnuts from contention. For example, those from Bogart’s, Valley Pastries, and Granny Donuts were dinged for their density being closer to bread than a doughnut. That’s not to say they wouldn’t be a lovely choice if you prefer a heavier texture.

And holding the tasting on a Thursday excluded a few worthy contenders: Mel-O-Glaze was only open Friday–Sunday during January and Sun Street Breads does their excellent doughnuts on Wednesdays only. With all these caveats in mind, we were able to hone nearly two dozen samples down to a tremendous 10. From there, two doughnuts stood out above the rest.

Photo by Tj Turner

The Field

A Baker’s Wife’s Pastry Shop
Angel Food Bakery
Bogart’s Doughnut Co.
Cafe Donuts & Ice Cream
Cardigan Donuts
Cub Foods
Donut Hut
Glam Doll Donuts
Granny Donuts
Hans’ Bakery
Heights Bakery
Hi-Lo Diner
Lunds & Byerlys
Mojo Monkey Donuts
Old Fashioned Donut Shoppe
P.J. Murphy’s Bakery
Puffy Cream Donuts Plus
Sarah Jane’s Bakery
Sleepy V’s
SugaRush
Thirsty Whale Bakery
Valley Pastries
YoYo Donuts

The Finalists

(listed in alphabetical order)

Cafe Donuts & Ice Cream, Minneapolis

“Like a homegrown Dunkin’” our tasters said. A slimmer profile with a slighter raise, these Downtown doughnuts had a nice fry with a beautiful crunch, giving way to a spongy interior. A soft-spoken glaze completes a solid package.

 

Cardigan Donuts, Minneapolis

On the lighter side of things, the raised-glazed at Cardigan stand out with a pronounced yeasty character to the dough, and a lactic taste in the glaze that together add up to a nostalgic cereal-milk flavor. An airy texture and a wonderful sheen to the glaze.

 

Cub Foods

It’s always insightful to include a few volume chains or grocery stores in tastings like these. That’s where tons of people are getting their morning doughnut, and it’s nice to know when a factory-sized output still produces good results. To wit: Cub Foods pumps out a solid raised-glazed: hearty texture, a great sheen to the glaze, with the perfect level of sweetness.

 

The Donut Hut, Little Canada

Old-school is the key phrase here. Several of our tasters noted these doughnuts had a rustic, small-town feel to them. A great springy bounce to the texture. Minimal and sweet without being a sugar-bomb.

 

Glam Doll Donuts, Minneapolis

Who goes to Glam Doll just to get the plainest doughnut in the case? You should, that’s who. Their raised-glazed has a robust crunchiness to the exterior with a thicker coat of glaze. The inside is light and airy, giving the whole bite a really nice textural contrast.

 

Puffy Cream Donuts Plus, Eagan

Puffy is right. One of the lightest versions on the tasting, these airy and delicate doughnuts have a beautiful depth of flavor to them, and a subtle sweetness to the glaze. We could eat three without thinking twice.

 

Thirsty Whale Bakery, Minneapolis

Up in the Camden neighborhood, this well-regarded joint clearly has the goods. Their raised-glazed were on the underdone side of the spectrum, but they still achieved a wonderful chewiness and a gentle vanilla-tinged flavor to the aftertaste kept us coming back for more.

 

YoYo Donuts, Minnetonka

The appearance on these doughnuts are so perfect—shiny, unbroken glaze, perfectly shaped and uniformly fried—they looked more like a porcelain sculpture of a doughnut. And the flavor lived up to the visual promise—a hearty texture, with a good chew and mellow sweetness. 

The Runner Up

SugaRush, St. Paul

The final two came down to a minute personal preference—there’s just nothing that needs improvement about the raised-glazed at SugaRush. It features a robust, almost malty, yeast character to the chewy and springy dough and a thicker glaze amplifies the whole package. 

The Grand Champion

Old Fashioned Donut Shoppe, Crystal

When we arrived at Lamplighter Plaza in Crystal, none of the lights were on. In the morning dim, we could make out the words “Delicious Donuts” above the door. Inside, a no-frills shop, the total antithesis of the Instagram age.

But who needs cute branding or wild flavors with regular doughnuts this good? Their raised-glazed achieved a superb rise, almost croissant-like in appearance, with a tender chew from the exterior and a pillowy interior.

 
John Garland About John Garland

John Garland is the Deputy Editor at the Growler Magazine. Find him on twitter (@johnpgarland) or in every coffee shop on West 7th Street.

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