Left: Babycakes doughnuts: Right: Doughnut Plant’s versions
We write this with a heavy heart and sticky fingers. We heard that vegan bakery Babycakes is now creating gluten-free, baked doughnuts in the depths of their cutesy, butter-free lair, and so we decided to run a Battle of the Dishes pitting their doughnuts against those from nearby popular favorite, Doughnut Plant. “Ha, ha, ha! Baked, vegan, gluten-free doughnuts,” we thought. “How good could they be?”
At Babycakes we procured one cinnamon-sugar and one raspberry jam. They were small, and ugly. And expensive, $3.25 each. About one block away, where the Doughnut Plant plies its sugar-crusted, deep-fried treats, we selected a dulce de leche cake doughnut, and a glazed, peach-jam-filled, yeast doughnut. They were large, and appetizing looking, and less expensive (but still expensive) at $2.25 each. (And actually contain no eggs for some reason, although they are not vegan.)
Back at the office, three of us (one who was particularly ill-disposed towards vegan baked goods) cut off bits of the doughnuts and compared them. The Doughnut Plant clearly won in the looks department. The three of us guessed, with varying degrees of certainty, that they would taste better as well.
It turned out that the Doughnut Plant’s confections taste, well, doughnutty–sugary, cakey, insubstantial. The glazed jelly yeast version has a a crunchy, sweet coating that flakes off when you bite into it, collapsing into gossamer innards. But the peach jam is not terribly peachy. “This tastes like a better version of what you’d get at a fine doughnut shop,” said one of us, damning with faint praise. The dulce de leche doughnut also sports a classic sugar glaze on the outside, and is filled with a thin squirt of vanilla cream. It’s certainly tasty, but is noticeably lacking in any dulce de leche flavor–no milky, toasty caramel to speak of.
By contrast, Babycakes doughnuts really don’t taste much like doughnuts, lacking that simple sugar taste. The texture isn’t very doughnutty either–cakey and moist, with a tight crumb and spongy, dense texture, and without much of a crunchy exterior. We are shocked to report, however, that flavor-wise, they were the clear winners. The cinnamon-sugar version is intensely, fragrantly flavored with cinnamon and vanilla. The jam version is filled with flavorful raspberry preserves, with the same quality cake underneath. “This is what you want with a cup of coffee,” said one of us.
We take it all back, Babycakes. It is possible to make a tasty, vegan, gluten-free, baked doughnut. But let us never speak of vegan, gluten-free cupcakes.
The Doughnut Plant
379 Grand Street
248 Broome Street
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 10, 2009