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Donut Wars

by Riley Sugarman

Photography by Riley Sugarman

Every sweet-toothed foodie has seen the popular Food Network show Cupcake Wars. Unfortunately, donut competitions do not receive comparable recognition. These delectable pastries have been around since Dutch immigrants introduced olykoeks—the donut’s ancestor—and it is time they are shown a more formal appreciation.

We decided to find the best donut in the Boston area, which is littered with bakeries and donut shops everywhere from Allston to Arlington. For some competition, we put three very different bakeries to the test: Blackbird Donuts, Twin Donuts and Dunkin Donuts.

The first bakery, Blackbird Donuts, is unlike typical donut shops. Upon entering, the customer is greeted by a glass window exposing the entire kitchen, and to the right sits the cash register with its selection of fresh donuts. This setup immerses the customer in the true donut-eating experience .

Employee Theresa Barrera happily suggested the most popular donuts. “The Blackbird,” a store classic with old-fashioned style, was ultimately chosen as tribute.

The next shop, Twin Donuts, is a portal back to the 1950s decorated with old-fashioned architecture and a classic bakery interior. A wide variety of donuts displayed behind the cash register appears to give the customer endless options to choose from.

Twin Donuts opened in 2004, but employee Irene Hong says it is still difficult to pinpoint which donut reigns most popular because, “everyone has different tastes and enjoys different textures.”

The lucky donut chosen for the competition was the classic “Lemon Cruller.” Do not be fooled, however—the donut is crème filled, contrary to its title, and covered in powdered sugar with a tart lemon filling.

The third and final stop is New England cult classic Dunkin' Donuts.

With no surprise, the current favorite is the “Ortiz”, says Brighton Avenue [SW2] Dunkin’ Donuts employee, Elizabet[KK3] h,. This is the last season for David Ortiz, which makes this donut only fitting for the competition. The top of this raspberry-filled donut is frosted with white icing and his jersey number.

The final step in the competition is to rank the donuts by taste. Isabelle Nguyen-Phouc (CAS ’19), Jenna Lanciani (SED ’19) and Layan Rhazi (CAS ’18) kindly volunteered to judge the donuts—and the results may come as a surprise.

The first contestant, “The Blackbird,” tasted “like a mix between cake and fried dough from the county fair,” said Nguyen-Phuoc.

She enjoyed this fluffy, oily donut more than its dense and bready counterparts.. “[‘The Blackbird’] is perfectly sweet enough,” said Nguyen-Phuoc, compelling her to give the donut an A-.

Lanciani enjoyed the Lemon Cruller because of its tangy taste, but found the taste of the donut itself was overpowered by sweetness when a bite contained too much crème.

“This is definitely Dunkin Donuts, just saying,” Lanciani said confidently. Though a tad artificial-tasting, Lanciani gave the Lemon Cruller an A- for its zesty lemon flavor.

The final competitor—the Ortiz—received high praise from Rhazi.“That’s a donut!” she said, laughing. “The dough is squishy, and it’s good. […] I’d say it’s lighter than the other two, which definitely makes it easy to eat.”

Rhazi enjoyed everything from the icing on top to the gooey raspberry jelly; she gave the donut a solid A+.

In the end, the scores from each judge were pooled. The winner was the Lemon Cruller, with an A-. The Blackbird was awarded second place with a B+ and the Ortiz came in third with a B.

Unlike the other judges, Nguyen-Phuoc preferred Blackbird’s cake donut to the other shops’ yeast donuts. Cake donuts have a cracked, rough texture, while yeast donuts are light, puffy and smooth.

After many hours of trekking, taste testing and grading, the results are in: all three donut shops bake delicious donuts, but only one’s preference for cake or yeast donuts can decide his or her favorite place to pick up the tasty treat.

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