Friday, June 4, is National Doughnut Day. Another day, another food holiday, right?
Not exactly. National Doughnut Day began in 1938, long before nearly every box on the calendar was branded as an occasion to post photos on social media of fill-in-the-blank. It was originally designed as a fundraiser for the Salvation Army, which was working to support those in need as the country came out of the Great Depression.
Doughnuts were a natural choice for the organization: Salvation Army Donut Lassies had served the circular sweets to soldiers during World War I. The fundraiser not only helped the Salvation Army financially, but it was also a way to honor those front-line women volunteers, who often cooked the pastries in the soldiers' metal helmets.
As far as we can determine, no one in Denver bakes their doughnuts inside helmets, but there's an ever-growing bounty of other options in town. You may be temped by national chains offering freebies to celebrate this slightly-more-legit-than-usual food holiday, but instead of going into a sugar coma courtesy of Krispy Kreme, consider your alternatives.
The list of doughnut shops in Denver is long, but we're rolling out six standouts that need to be on your National Doughnut Day celebration short list.
3920 Tennyson Street
Sure, freebies are fun — so why not take advantage of this independent deal at the bakery inside of Hops & Pie? Berkeley Donuts is giving away honey-glazed sourdough doughnuts starting at 7:30 a.m. on June 4, and continuing while supplies last. The bakery has also released its recipe for chocolate doughnut holes so you can make the little guys at home. If you choose to fire up your mixer, you'll learn not only that the recipe for potato doughnuts really does include mashed potatoes, but also the limit on how many doughnut holes you can eat in one sitting — because you'll be making forty of them.
2449 Larimer Street
Dochi isn't the first to bring Japanese mochi donuts to Denver, but it's definitely the latest. Dochi opened its doors on May 29, making it the sixth location of a company that started in Orlando in 2018. The doughnuts, which come in flavors like Oreo matcha and "Ube Bae," are made with rice flour, which results in a light, airy texture. They look a bit different than typical doughnuts, too — more flower-like, with sections that are easy to pull apart and share (though you can totally keep them all for yourself).
The Doughnut Club
Ondrea and Marquez Fernandez's journey to doughnut domination in Colorado started with something healthier: protein-packed baked snacks that landed the couple an appearance and deal on Shark Tank in 2018. After moving to Colorado from California, they opened their first location of the Doughnut Club in Fort Collins in 2019. Now, with locations in RiNo, Lakewood and another set to open June 11 in Central Park, the bakery's Cookie Monster and Plant Daddy-themed pastries are really on a roll.
2962 Welton Street
Maybe naming your doughnut business after a worldwide airborne disease is a little irreverent, but Pandemic Donuts was born of the difficult times created by COVID-19 and the ensuing restaurant restrictions; as a result, it was honored with our Best Pandemic Doughnuts designation in the 2021 Best of Denver issue. Gabrielle Henning and Michael Milton were laid off from their restaurant-industry jobs when the pandemic hit in March 2020, and turned to doughnuts cooked up in their cottage-industry kitchen to make ends meet. The doughnuts, so light and airy that you can eat several, were so good that the two couldn't keep up with demand. Now they have their own brick-and-mortar bakery inside Queen City Collective Coffee in Five Points, and the doughnuts are flying out the door. You can also find the sweet treats every Saturday throughout the summer at the City Park Farmers Market.
9935 East Colfax, Aurora, and 2500 Lawrence Street #200
Gluten-free mochi doughnuts (and muffins and brownies) aren't the only sweet reasons to visit our 2021 Best of Denver pick for Best Mochi Doughnut Shop. Co-owners Sam Butarbutar and Wenter Shyu's growing group of bakeries has become a way to support causes they care about; in recent months, they've raised money to build safety kits that they are distributing to the AAPI, Black and LGBTQ+ communities. Oh, and Third Culture is offering a National Doughnut Day freebie, too: one mystery mochi doughnut flavor with any transaction while supplies last.
Wake & Bake
1301 South Broadway
Of course, we can't talk circular pastries without our 2021 Best of Denver pick for Best Doughnut. Veteran doughnut baker Juan Lopez bought a Winchell's franchise in 2019 with the understanding that he'd be converting it into an independent bakery the next year. In July 2020, he officially launched Wake & Bake with his own recipes, turning out a variety of classic, workingman's doughnuts morning, noon and night. You'll find a few nods to modern trends (some Oreo crumbles here, some bacon there), but old favorites like the buttermilk bars, raised maple doughnuts and cinnamon crumb cake doughnuts are so good, they taste like a revelation.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.