At once fluffy and crispy and sweet and savoury, the humble doughnut has made significant strides in Waterloo Region as a delectable and artisanal treat – but one which has never lost its delicious sense of humour and food fun.
Historically, “doughnut” is a 19th-century American term for what the Dutch called an “olykoeks,” a scrumptious bit of pastry dough that’s deep-fried in oil. Whether the yeast variety or the cake variety, this classic sweet has held its own over centuries – and today in the region it’s experiencing a rejuvenation among food lovers looking for a more crafted doughnut experience with small-batch baking and inventive flavours beyond what the national chains can offer, including some vegan and gluten-free varieties.
Here’s a round-up of some favourite doughnut shops. Please check with individual doughnut makers for availability, hours of opening and store access, especially during the pandemic.
Albert’s Doughnuts Bake Shop, Cambridge
Albert Warzecha started Albert’s Doughnuts on Dundas Street South a few years ago. His father was a trained baker in Poland, and so is Albert. His experience and nuanced “feel for the dough” are critical to making perfect doughnuts, whether classic or gourmet.
The inventive array of doughnuts, forming a colourful palate of pastry in the display case, are a wonder to behold: there are nearly three dozen varieties, from simple Melted Glaze and Cinnamon-Sugar Twist to Oreo Crumble and Rainbow Sprinkles. Holidays like Easter will see doughnuts dressed up with crushed chocolate and candy Easter eggs.
“Our best-selling doughnuts are our apple fritters and blueberry fritters,” says Albert’s son Bart Warzecha, who helps with the business. “The fritters are definitely customers’ most popular choices.”
With over three decades of baking experience, Warzecha takes doughnuts seriously – in doing so, he makes the casual treat seriously delicious.
Debrodniks Donuts, Kitchener and Waterloo
Perhaps an original among gourmet doughnut-makers, Debrodniks Donuts started off as a small shop in Waterloo near Laurier, moved to a commercial area as a Kitchener pop-up and, with booming popularity, landed in their current location in Forest Glen Plaza. There are plans for an expansion to a store near Conestoga Mall.
The doughnut menu is updated regularly and can include about 20 varieties, including (currently) PB and Chocolate and a series of strawberry-rhubarb-, lemon- and blueberry-filled paczki, the classic of central Europe.
Line-ups, even before Covid-19, were out the door; social media will let you know that Debrodniks Donuts sells out fast.
Lady Glaze Doughnuts, Kitchener
Opened in November, 2019, Lady Glaze Doughnuts in Belmont Village has, at least pre-Covid-19, seating for about 30 people. Today, they’re getting their big fluffy donuts out there
via take-out, walk-in and for enjoying on the Village’s open community-patio – as well, they deliver in wide radius too.
“Our doughnuts, the glazes and fillings and ingredients, are made fresh from scratch each day,” says co-owner Trudy Koen.
The selection of anywhere between 15 to 18 yeast-doughnut varieties follows the seasons, and the doughnut-makers use no preservatives, no corn syrup, no hydrogenated oils, no artificial ingredients, adds Coen.
“There are savoury doughnuts, too, like Chorizo Long-John and Fried Chicken Sandwich on an Everything doughnut,” she says.
Red Eye Café and Donuts, Cambridge
It’s another great little family business: Red Eye was the brainchild of Conestoga College culinary grad Megan Dron and her partner Larry Dron. Her culinary interest was inspired by her grandmother’s cooking in Newfoundland, says the St. Johns-born Dron.
When they opened a few years ago, doughnut demand was instantly overwhelming, thanks to an aficionado posting early on Facebook, according to Megan.
“We didn’t even have a sign yet, but that weekend people were lined up to get in, and we only had two trays of doughnuts ready,” she says.
An immediately busy opening day, if surprisingly so, is a good thing. Today, the 30-seat (pre-Covid) café serves espresso-based beverages and light lunches too, but Dron’s métier is the doughnut: the café carries about 15 varieties. There’s always a dozen or so yeast doughnuts and several gluten-free, vegan doughnuts.
Just imagine, among July flavours, Banana Split, Kit Kat and Key Lime Pie. They sell out and instagram posts remind you that it’s first come, first served.
Sadly, Unity Baking in Cambridge has closed, as has Malasada World – both of which had helped the city become something of a smaller doughnut hub.
Norris Bakery in Kitchener, a baker dating about four decades, prepares several varieties of doughnuts.
A few minutes’ drive to the northwest will take you to Elmira Donuts and Deli and a dozen varieties including a Black Forest filled doughnut. A claim to fame is their homage to cake doughnuts of a bygone era: the Cherry Cruller and the once-popular Walnut Crunch.
Zero Waste Bulk in Uptown Waterloo will return to selling their doughnuts in the near future.
Sittler’s Home Baking in Conestogo has been a destination for their cream-filled “Short Johns” for years. It’s a doughnut with whipped cream, and it’s the only kind they sell.
In Ayr, Lucio’s Bakery specializes in Portuguese sweets and savouries including éclairs; their doughnuts, though, are a bestseller. A sweet indulgence, two varieties are available: vanilla custard or chocolate-custard filled.
At the time of this writing, The Walper Hotel was gearing up for an August 14 re-open. Pre-Covid, they prepared freshly made doughnuts – one of the cook’s grandmother’s recipes – on Friday mornings in the Barrister’s Lounge. Let’s hope they make a return to the real-doughnut pantheon.