This year, two doughnut bakeries have debuted with what appears to be a similar purpose: to produce beautiful, photo-friendly creations made by name-brand chefs.
There’s Du’s Donuts, the Williamsburg shop from the chef with a mad-scientist rep Wylie Dufresne, and then there’s Sugar Factory Artisanal Donuts Coffee and Bar, from a restaurant embraced by celebrities. To beef up the food world cred, Sugar Factory brought on chef Max Santiago, who helped launch the upscale doughnut craze in Miami.
Doughnuts from the two bakeries are totally different, though both feature striking colors, elaborate designs, and flavors that wouldn’t have been caught dead in a Dunkin ten years ago: It’s doughnuts for the Instagram era.
At the end of the day, people eat with their mouths, not with their eyes. Eater staff picked up doughnuts from both bakeries to compare taste, texture, and whether they’re actually worth purchasing in the name of likes on social media.
Overall, the consensus is that these of-the-moment treats truly take the definition of doughnut and stretch it as far as it goes. Cream, glitter, and a Jolly Rancher-level of brightness in flavor ultimately made it less of a doughnut showdown and more of a practice in pastry gymnastics. “When did doughnuts get so complicated?” one taster said.
Herein, Eater New York staffers rated the newcomers on the most important factors for baked treats, awarding the stand-outs, from the bad to the less so.
The Definitive Worst
Sugar Factory’s Charcoal + Maple + Bacon + Bourbon
In what world does a pastry that one eats as a special treat need a kick of something that’s supposed to be faux-healthy like charcoal? This Sugar Factory creation unilaterally elicited reactions of distaste. Despite its elaborate look and advertisement of ingredients with bold flavors (maple! bacon! bourbon!), it tasted like....nothing? “It almost feels like a bagel from the store,” one taster says. “It’s like a Thomas’s bagel.” “It doesn’t feel quite totally done,” another noted. “It needs salt.” This doughnut also had the worst appearance-to-taste ratio. With its glam-and-glitter look, it was among the most standout doughnuts in the roster. Alas, do not believe any Instagram posts of this beast; it was practically inedible.
Best Facsimile of the Ingredient in the Name
Du’s Banana Graham
The banana doughnut with a smattering of graham crackers on top was among the better options in the crew. It tasted like an actual banana-flavored thing — almost like the vegan banana milks that have been coming up lately. “It’s almost like a banana bread,” one taster said, “but the way you want a banana bread to be.”
Most Likely to be Sold at School Bake Sale
Sugar Factory’s Old Fashioned Blueberry Crumb Coffee Cake
“This feels like someone had a family recipe for years, and nobody had the guts to tell her that it wasn’t good,” one taster said. It was dry and “boring as hell.” The look, though lovely, did not match the gravity and drama of other options, making it a poor pick for the Instagram-hungry, too. However, everybody noted that this doughnut would maybe be ok with some ice cream on top.
Not Really a Doughnut But Kind of Good Anyway
Sugar Factory’s Baked Samoa “Cookie” Girl Scout Favorite (vegan)
Vegan doughnuts can in fact be delicious, as demonstrated by East Williamsburg shop Dun-Well, but this particular creation barely qualifies as a doughnut, either yeast or cake. With an almond butter base, the coconut-chocolate concoction resembled a cakey bread. “This is fantastic,” a taster said. “It’s not a doughnut. But it’s fantastic.”
Not Really a Doughnut and Also Sort of Awful
Sugar Factory’s Tiramisu
The heaviest doughnut of the bunch was filled with a mascarpone cream that claimed to be spiked with espresso and Kahlua. Unfortunately, that cream soaked into the dough so much that tasters said it felt and tasted uncooked. As a result, it lost all semblance of what one expects of a doughnut — a handheld treat that can be eaten with ease. “It’s almost slimy,” a taster said. “It feels like a plated pastry,” another tasted said. “It got soggy. Even though it’s not raw, it feels like raw dough.” People refused to take more than one bite, while others scoffed at taking one at all. “It looks like a booger,” one person said.
Kind of a Doughnut, or Maybe Some Savory Molecular Gastronomy BS
“It tastes like vegetable ash.” “It feels like something that should be savory, but it’s on something incredibly fucking sweet.” “It tastes like toothpaste, like something for children.” Pretty, though.
Best Doughnut if You’re on a Diet Because Actually You Will Only Want One Bite
Du’s Peach Melba
“Oh my god, it’s like a Jolly Rancher — it’s so intense,” one taster said. Others called it “super artificial,” and “like candy.” The bright, fruity flavor was so intense that another tasted declared that a tiny sliver was enough. “I can’t imagine finishing the whole one.” “It’s like a punishment. It’s so unappetizing.” A lone dissenter insisted that this doughnut was delicious and has since defended this particular doughnut with aplomb. “It’s the only one that has a high sugar content, but it’s also aggressively tart,” he said. “It’s for someone who likes that balance of sweet and tart.”
Most Solid Instagram-to-Taste Ratio
Sugar Factory’s Rainbow Pride
Here is yet another company profiting off some semblance of LGBTQ pride with a glittery, funfetti-looking rainbow product. It’s colorful and shiny and beautiful, and it turns out, it tastes decent. “It’s great; it’s like bread product with icing on it,” one taster said. “I hate that I like it that much,” another one said. Others were less stellar on the texture, saying it lacked airiness. But the doughnut, picture up top, was one of the most stunning options — giving this doughnut the best ‘Gram-friendly-to-taste ratio.
Maybe Just Pick This One if Your Friends Make You Go to Either of These Places
Du’s Honey Fennel Pollen and Sugar Factory’s Disco Tahitian Vanilla Bean and Buttermilk
Somehow, the best bet of both of these doughnuts were the ones that also seemed to try the least. The milky white-colored honey fennel pollen from Du’s was declared “really good,” partly because it’s “uncomplicated.” “They are not trying to masquerade as something else,” one taster said. It was also rich while also not being overwhelmed with sweetness.
The “disco” one from Sugar Factory — named as such presumably for the splattering of glitter — similarly was the least lousy of the bunch due to its simplicity. It ended up being enjoyable partly because of its lack of extra toppings and fillings. After taste after taste attempts at artisanal, it felt like a blessing to just have vanilla.
“If you’re looking to overpay for a standard grocery store doughnut, that’s the one,” one taster said. “But it’s comfortable. I know what I’m getting there.”