Smile Politely

More doughnuts

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I love pizza (here, too), ice cream, and doughnuts. (I do occasionally eat vegetables, too. I just don’t write about them, apparently.) For the second week in a row I’m going to tell you about doughnuts, but this time, they’re not vegan.

Pandamonium Doughnuts has had a pop-up shop for the last two weekends, with a set menu for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I’ve had the Friday and Saturday options, and can tell you that they are delicious. The flavors are fun, and there are both yeast and cake options. The first Sunday and last weekend, James Kyung (owner of Pandamonium Doughnuts) and crew were extra ambitious and had pop-up flavors at the pop-up event. My guess is you’ll be able to grab another pop-up flavor this weekend.

Friday’s lineup included the following flavors: chocolate OD, s’mores, salted caramel, double coconut, and vegan chai cake. I shared my thoughts about the chai cake last week. Jillian told you about the chocolate OD last summer, but I’m here to give you an update on the chocolate OD, to test for consistency and such.

The chocolate OD is a chocolate cake doughnut topped with chocolate glaze, chocolate sprinkles, and a massive swirly dollop of chocolate frosting right in the middle of the doughnut. Holy chocolate, yes, indeed. There was so much frosting on the doughnut, it was almost hard to taste the cake. The frosting was rich and, as I indicated, very nearly overpowered the cocoa taste of the moist cake doughnut. The chocolate sprinkles on top shifted the texture in a playful way, adding a pleasant little crunch to an otherwise soft bite.

The s’mores doughnut was a yeast doughnut topped with chocolate frosting, crumbled graham crackers, and a giant blob of swirly marshmallow topping right in the middle (which was lightly toasted on top). It was definitely one of the prettiest and most appetizing of the doughnuts; the toasted top was super enticing. The doughnut was chewy and soft. The chocolate frosting and graham crackers were in balance, and like the sprinkles on the chocolate doughnut, the graham crackers provided a nice crunchy shift in texture. If you’re a s’mores lover, then I imagine that you find the marshmallow to be the entire point and best part of the s’more. I believe I’m in a minority, here, as I pretty much hate marshmallows (as in, I’d never, ever, ever eat one without graham cracker and chocolate). Marshmallow fluff, or cream, on the other hand…I can do that. The best part of this doughnut was indeed the marshmallow cream, with its lightly roasted, golden top. Because it wasn’t a whole marshmallow smacked on top, I was able to smear some of the marshmallow on each bite of the doughnut, thereby creating a s’more in each bite. Brilliant. (Incidentally, I had a Campfire doughnut (a s’more, essentially) from Strange Donuts in St. Louis and they plopped a marshmallow right on top. It made for annoying eating, and Pandamonium’s s’mores doughnut is much better. Take that, “big” city! To be fair, if you’re in St. Louis, you should visit Strange Donuts, because they are otherwise pretty awesome.)

The last two Friday doughnuts—the salted caramel and the double coconut—are what I call palate ruiners. That is, once you eat them, your palate has been rendered useless to taste anything else. If you’re eating multiple doughnuts in one sitting (which I highly recommend), choose wisely, grasshopper.

The salted caramel, another yeast, was very simple: doughnut, caramel glaze/frosting. The doughnut was light and chewy. The topping was incredibly sweet and very, very clearly made of and from caramel. There wasn’t much in the way of salted caramel; the sweet overpowered any hints of saltiness.

The double coconut yeast doughnut was, like the others, light and chewy. The topping, including toasted coconut flakes, was all I could taste. Like marshmallow, I’m not much of a fan of coconut, so I waited to eat this one last. I’m glad I did, because I could not taste anything but coconut afterward. The texture was lovely, though, and there was a nice balance of chewy doughnut, sweet and smooth glaze, and crunchy topping.

Saturday’s options were maple bacon apple fritters, vanilla bean, orange pistachio, PBJ, bday cake, and vegan banana cake.

I wasted no time digging into these little gems. The maple, bacon, apple fritter was the first thing I grabbed, and because it was a fritter, it was a different consistency of dough—it was a little more oily, crunchier on the outside, but still chewy on the inside. The maple made it sweet. I couldn’t really taste any apple. The bacon sprinkled across the top was crunchy, but did not contribute much in the way of smoky meatiness. It also didn’t add much in the way of extra greasiness, which was very nice.

The vanilla bean yeast doughnut was quite mild, and the closest to a regular, glazed yeast doughnut. The doughnut was fresh, soft, and chewy. The vanilla bean glaze/frosting was sweet and mildly vanilla, with specks of vanilla bean throughout.

The PBJ was a filled yeast doughnut with a very sweet, peanut butter frosting. The doughnut was fluffy and bready, in a way. The filling was a grape jelly, so when I took a bite, it was really as if I was eating an old school peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich. The jelly wasn’t some nasty weird fruit flavored goo you’ll find in a DD jelly donut; it was as real as jelly can be, and super grape-y. There was something delightfully nostalgic about this doughnut. 

The bday cake doughnut — birthday cake, that is — was a cake doughnut topped with a light glaze and bday cake doughnut crumbs. The cake batter contained colorful sprinkles (think Funfetti, if you’ve ever had it), and the bright pieces were a fun and colorful discovery when breaking into the doughnut. The cake was moist and sweet, and made for good dunking in my coffee. This was definitely one of the less complicated doughnuts flavor-wise, but certainly consistent with the quality and deliciousness of the other cake doughnuts. 

My favorite from Saturday’s selection was the orange pistachio yeast doughnut. As with the other yeast doughnuts it was plumped up and chewy, without being overly sweet. The orange glaze was distinctly and quite strongly orange, but was not saccharine or artificial in any way. The chopped pistachios on top were characteristically sweet, and also a little bit salty; they also tasted a bit roasted. This classic combination of flavors is sophisticated and this doughnut was awesome because it wasn’t too much, or too sweet. With more playful flavors (chocolate OD, s’more, PBJ), this was the “I’m a grown-up doughnut looking for a little fun, but within very strict and dignified boundaries.” It was delicious. Go get one this Saturday, for real.

So I didn’t make it to any of the Sunday events, which means there are still at least three flavors I have not yet tried (not including any pop-up flavors). There are only so many doughnuts I can eat in one weekend (I sampled 11, for the record). Last summer I had a cereal killer, and can attest to its yumminess. This weekend is the last pop-up event at [co][lab], but Panadamonium Doughnuts has announced a collaboration with Cream & Flutter in downtown Champaign, so stay tuned for those details.

On a final note, these doughnuts are not exactly cheap. Cake doughnuts range in price from $1.50 to $1.75 each, yeast doughnuts range $2 to $2.50 each, and the fritter was $2.75. For one of each flavor, it was $9.75 on Friday (5 doughnuts), and $11.75 on Saturday (6 doughnuts). However, you’re getting a doughnut that is not even comparable to the subpar options available at Dunkin Donuts. Carmella’s in Champaign is cheaper, but you won’t have any interesting or fun flavor options there. So consider it an investment in quality ingredients, interesting concepts, and the local economy. Keep your eyes peeled for the Pandamonium Doughnuts food truck, slated to be up and running sometime this spring.

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