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I need DOUGHNUTS in SF!!

Dear Fellow Foodophiles,
A few weeks ago, we posted and asked for recommendations on where to have our wedding in SF (we live in NYC). We appreciated all of your responses & LOVED your recs although we didn't have enough time for all of them. Fast forward: we found a fabulous place (Boulettes Larder) and now are in need of your recommendations for...doughnuts!
Let me start by saying that in NYC, the doughnut (not to mention the carne asada burrito) is NON EXISTENT!! I am from San Diego where the doughnut is a given. Like pizza in NYC, even if its bad, its pretty darn good. I grew up on doughnuts. The varieties in texture, density & flavor are the Saturday morning memories that my brother and I will always relate to our childhood of the 70's. From old fashioned buttermilk (glazed & chocolate) to apple fritters to bear claws to french crullers to maple bars, I am a monster when it comes to doughnuts!
So, now that we've found the perfect place for our reception, we now have details to consider. We will be back in SF in a few weeks and are on a mission. Among other details, we need a great wedding cake. We've had lousy wedding cake and decent wedding cake. What would be better than a DOUGHNUT WEDDING CAKE???
Problem is, I'm from San Diego. We need recs for doughnuts in SF! I know they are out there, but where?? Given the info on us and my rather demanding criteria, can you help?
Thanks in advance.

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    1. Am in L.A. but we stay at CowHollow on Lombard St and Steiner. Just down the street is a doughnut shop open 24 hours that makes great doughnuts. It is on the corner of Steiner and Chestnut. We really like them.

      1 Reply
      1. re: paprkutr

        >the corner of Steiner and Chestnut<

        They have very good French doughnuts, which are hard to find (the good ones).

      2. Doughnuts don't keep, so they don't seem well suited for a wedding cake.

        The best doughnuts in San Francisco are at Bob's on Polk and Sacramento. Ask what's fresh and get that, and some milk. Best around midnight.

        Patisserie Delanghe makes a cake where the components are like donut holes. I don't know what it's called, but it's stuck together with burnt caramel. Boulangerie may have something similar. (And maybe someone here will know the cake I'm describing.)

        You might also contact one of the high-end new places like Dynamo Donuts, which has exotic flavors, and see if they'd make a special event tower.

        6 Replies
          1. re: wolfe

            Yes! Thanks wolfe. I'm pretty sure the one I loved was from Delanghe.

            1. re: wolfe

              That's a croquembouche and what it's made out of are nothing like doughnut holes. They are made out of baked pate a choux, and are more like profiteroles without the ice cream filling or cream puffs with the cream filling. Much like popovers.

              1. re: Euonymous

                There's also an Italian variation, and I agree, it's not going to meet a donut cake craving.

                1. re: Euonymous

                  Thank you Euonymous and sugartoof for pointing that out. Since I was attempting to identify what Windy asked about your comments are extremely helpful.

                  1. re: Euonymous

                    We had a croquembouche at our wedding for the "cake" and the little "doughnut thingys" are in fact creampuffs. The whole thing is held together with spun sugar.

              2. Bob's Donuts. Open 24/7, best tried around midnight when they fry them up.

                Bob's Donut & Pastry Shop
                1621 Polk St, San Francisco, CA

                5 Replies
                1. re: ML8000

                  They finish frying around 2 am, when the apple fritters go in. The old fashioneds and the buttermilks last the longest, so if you are in the late afternoon dead zone, go with a glazed old fashioned.

                  1. re: P. Punko

                    Haha, I was just at Bob's about an hour ago. They just started the long process of cooking the huge pile for the morning. By 11 p.m., they had cake (to to topped and frosted various ways), some raised and a few trays of old fashioned. It's pretty amazing to see that window filled in the morning.

                    I have to say freshly cooked those things rock...delicate, not too sweet, crispy crust and soft inside. These really are the best in SF and the BA. I picked up a dozen assorted, for $7.65. The people working were very nice.

                    If it's late in the day I usually go for the powder sugar cake. The cake hold up well and often still have a crispy, yet delicate crust under the sugar.

                    1. re: ML8000

                      ML- you know I agree. If you are ever down Cupertino way I love Donut Wheel too. They are 24 hours- they don't have my cinnamon and sugar cake, but their plane cake is really great- thinner but crispier crust than Bob's. Very good.

                        1. re: sugartoof

                          Just finished a maple buttermilk bar from Bob's. I think these things hold value (read: freshness) well into the day because of the nice crust on them.

                  2. People will giggle at you if you say you want a "wedding cake made out of donuts" so
                    what you should ask for at the bakery is a "croquembouche". This is the French word
                    for "wedding cake made out of donuts."

                    [edit: aaah, I see Wolfe has already illustrated this for us!]

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                      Not really. A croquembouche bears only a faint resemblence to a doughnut -- unless you consider a cream puff to be a doughnut. Cream puffs are not fried. They're hollow in the center and filled with pastry cream, so I guess you could say they bear a slight resemblance to a custard-filled doughnut, but ... not really. To make a croquembouche the cream puffs are stuck together with a hard caramel glaze -- again, not much like a doughnut.

                      Croquembouche is traditionally served for French weddings, and it was trendy in the U.S. a few years ago. There were periodic request on this board for where to get one, but I haven't seen one in a while.

                      I've heard about Krispy Kreme wedding cakes, but never seen one.

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                        Well, a pile of donuts is unlike a donut in many of those same ways :)

                        Anyway ... let's just call them "Controversial Donut-Related Items"

                    2. What exactly is it you are looking for?

                      Searching donut wedding cakes on the web, it seems to be quite common. Are you just looking for the donuts and using your own stand to place them.

                      Are you looking for any special details such as the donut maker using your colors ... I know this isn't a great donut, but it seems this is Krispy Kreme's thing ... you can get donuts in specially ordered colors.

                      If you are having your reception at Boulette's, they make fabulous beignets and I'll bet would put together a cake for you. IIRC, they have different fillings available as well.

                      For the variety you mentioned in the OP, and if you need it in the city of SF, then Bob's probably is the best option. I would guess you would put your order in. Don't know how much they would be willing to work with you on the cake part.

                      There's an Italian store in the Ferry Building that has Italian donuts - bombolini's. If you are interested, I'll dredge up the name.

                      Do you want the donuts delivered or will you pick them up? Are you willing to go outside the city?

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: rworange

                        If you're willing to go outside the city, then I'd suggest the Boniere Bakery in Alameda. Unlike a doughnut shop, they're a full-service bakery that does wedding cakes, AND they make excellent doughnuts (especially their cake doughnuts). They should have some ideas about how to combine the two.

                        Boniere Bakery
                        3249 Grand Avenue, Oakland, CA

                        1. re: rworange

                          I had a raspberry bombolino at the Ferry Building a few Sundays ago. Even though the sign says they're fresh every day, this one was far from it.

                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            That's been my experience too. I've tried them on Saturdays, early in the day and they were stale then too.

                            1. re: Melanie Wong


                              They are OK but you are right about the meh-ness of the thing. It is not superior to a Dunkin Donuts filled donut, and it should be.

                              1. re: P. Punko

                                Do you mean SHAZAM?
                                SHAZAM Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, Mercury (Captain Marvel's Elders)

                                1. re: wolfe

                                  Yeah, if that is what means a classic M. Wong on the nose perfectly expressed sentiment!

                          2. My advice would be to have more than one cake, almost like a grooms cake, or have a smaller traditional cake. I had a birthday party once where I pulled a similar stunt and you wouldn't believe how miserable it made people who waited around for the cake. Another option might be to just include a warm donut with dinner, and still have your cake.

                            It's really just a matter of deciding if you wants donut cake, the way cupcake cakes are served, where they basically stack individual ones into a tree, or if you want a cake tiers based on fried dough dipped in something sweet. There is a place in Austin, TX. that makes a large 10" sized honey dipped, for example, but even if they left the hole in, how would it slice up?

                            The suggestions you're getting here are right on. The California donut you're looking for can be found at Bob's. There are some good locations of the chains Rolling Pin and Happy Donut, if they're made fresh. There are also a few places that are kind of in between, and the one mentioned on Chestnut St. and another one in the Mission on 24th St. closer to Dynamo Donuts comes to mind. Then there's Dynamo Donut and some similar looking vegan donuts around town which I'll compare to Dougnut Plant in NYC, in that they're not exactly what you're looking for, but you're not going to kick it 'em of bed. There's also the bombolini style which are the round cream or jelly filled things, which are a bit of a dessert menu craze in NYC. I don't find they stay fresh very long, but along with the Ferry Building (where I've never had them not taste stale by the time I got to them) you can find them at the cafe next to Absinthe on Hayes. This is also the type of donut you're most likely to have custom made for you by a pastry chef.

                            Once you figure out what you want to do I'm sure we can help you come up with more ideas to pull it off. I would hit up Bob's either way though. The current people operating the place seem really cool. If you talked to them, they might have an idea of how to do it. They still have the old oven sized deep fryer which could certainly handle something cake sized, and the buttermilk in particular can be dense and cakey I think. Most of these donut places are owned by Asian immigrants who really made the California donut boom what it is, so I'm sure they're hip to oddball requests, and would be happy to handle special order business.

                            1. maybe when you're in NYC you should look for "Donuts" the yellow Pages are full of places...and isn't the 'world famous' "Donut Factory" there??!!!

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: ChowFun_derek

                                Check out all the threads in the NY forum from sad California transplants who can't get what we have come to know as an old fashioned, or an apple fritter. New Yorkers don't even know what you mean when you talk about Apple Fritters, and nothing in the phone book comes close, unless you want Dunkin' Donuts. Doughnut Plant might be the factory you speak of, and they make mostly modernized donuts, similar to the way Dynamo does.

                                1. re: sugartoof

                                  Plus, like Dynamo, Doughnut Plant doughnuts are really more of a novelty than a satisfying doughnut.

                                  Here's one of the threads sugartoof mentioned: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/576671

                                  I must say I found this discussion horrifying. Who would even consider eating day old, let alone several day old doughnuts? Doughnuts trucked in from who knows where? Dean and Deluca?

                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                    yummm! day-old glazed donut, sliced in half cross-wise and fried in butter! Hot, sweetness and caramelized edges, I know, there's no accounting for childhood memories... sometimes, my dad would even add a scoop of vanilla ice cream to the center of the hot fried donut.

                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                      Don't know if my last post got deleted because I mentioned the DOH or if I forgot to hit post reply, but...

                                      New York does okay with bombilini, zeppoles, cider donuts, and the East Coast version of an old fashion. I always imagine there's an old donut maker exactly like Bob's in some remote part of NYC that most of us will only find out about the week it's reported they lost their lease.

                                2. You might be better off with St. Honore cake, made with cream puffs. You could get one for a wedding at Dianda's or Victoria's. Cream puffs hold up better than doughnuts.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: bernalman

                                    It looks like a short croquembouche. What is wrong with a cake that looks like a doughnut ala Ace of Cakes?

                                  2. Without a doubt, you want doughnuts from Dream Fluff Doughnuts on Ashby Ave (cross street College Ave) in Berkeley, 20 minutes across the bay.
                                    DREAM FLUFF Doughnuts in Berkeley, for decades, remains the top true doughnut shop that never fails to impress, (although most Berkeley epicureans would like to deny they'd ever eat a doughnut- they buy theirs at Dream Fluff.)
                                    I would recommend a personal visit - I promise -- you will be so happy you drove across the bay. It's your wedding - your idea is brave and fun- and every time I take Dream Fluff doughnuts to work in SF- they never fail to impress. Enjoy!

                                    Dream Fluff Donuts
                                    2637 Ashby Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Cecelia P

                                      I lived near enough to Dream Fluff for a while in the late 80's to get to know them quite well, and they were as good as you said. Their french one, seldom very good at most places, was very good and I remember thinking that it had a bit of salt in it to give it better flavor. I've been back a few times over the years and have found them to be the same each time. Now you've made me think about that place again and I'll have to get there soon.

                                      1. re: Cecelia P


                                        Dream Fluff Donuts
                                        2637 Ashby Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705