There’s a bit of a schism in the cut-throat world of Melbourne doughnuts. On one side you've got the bakers of the new school, who cover American-style doughnuts in OTT confections like fruit loops, m&m’s and things that would make even the Cookie Monster say ‘That seems a bit much’. On the other side are the Old School bakers who follow the Queen Vic Market bombolini approach: sugar on the outside, custard, jam or some other delicious goo on the inside. There’s less room for error with this method. The batter has to be perfect. The goo, scrumptious. You can’t just chuck a Mars Bar on top and call it a day.
But when it comes to 3:30pm in the afternoon and you're craving something sweet, it probably doesn't matter what it is as long as it hits the spot.
Here are Melbourne's finest purveyors of doughnut wares.
Proof Is In The Pudding
South Yarra & Richmond
These are technically cinnamon doughnut blondies, but they're doughnut enough. The form of a blondie, with the taste of a cinnamon doughnut. Proof Is In The Pudding is doing some great things in the baking world, from sweet degustations to every sweet you can imagine along with delicious sausage rolls. Check out their Baker's Bench next time you're in South Yarra.
Hawthorn, Fitzroy, Melbourne Central & Rialto.
Rustica’s doughnuts have become the stuff of legend (is it just us or has the threshold for legends has been substantially lowered since ancient Greece?) From a distance they look pretty simple: doughy little ovoids, dusted in sugar, with a dollop of sauce protruding from the top. With options like Oreo, PB&J and Banoffee, you're not going to go wrong with a visit to one of their many locations. Rough estimate of how many we could eat in one sitting: ∞.
Murrumbeena & Mornington
Oasis is one of our favourite Middle Eastern cafes (seriously, try their shawarma snack pack—thank us later). And they also happen to do the best Lebanese doughnuts in town. Golden fried, drizzled in sweet sugar syrup, with a fragrant whiff of orange blossom. Try their Nutella doughnuts to mix things up, they do not disappoint. Gooey warm Nutella centres, surrounded by some of the softest dough in town. A dusting of sugar rounded things out nicely. Would highly recommend a road trip to Murrumbeena to check these out.
Son Of Tucci
Son of Tucci is a cafe in Mt Waverley, known for their healthy brekkies and...less healthy desserts (while we’re here, you HAVE to try their vanilla bean millefeuille with custard and dehydrated rose petals). The bakers here really know their stuff. Their lemon meringue bombolini is definitely the stand-out: piped lemon custard inside a sugary Italian doughnut, dusted with sugar and with a blow-torched meringue sitting on top. You could eat a dozen of these alone quite easily.
Shortstop Coffee & Donuts
A slick little doughnut shop, hidden in the backstreets behind Lonsdale and Elizabeth. Short Stop is the brainchild of Anthony Ivey and Sinye Ooi, who worked on their doughnut recipe for 12 months, travelling all over the US, sampling different techniques. The result is perfectly fluffy dough, and toppings to make your head spin. The organic honey and milk crullers are excellent, but keep an eye out for rotating specials like Earl Grey, Red Velvet or maple walnut with burnt brown butter.
The Left-Handed Chef
“Is that a doughnut?” was the cry when we saw Melbourne’s first ‘waffle doughnuts’—speciality of South Melbourne’s Left-Handed Chef. Fried golden brown, with a hole in the middle, these things are a classic Underworld-style hybrid: not quite doughnut, but not quite waffle either. The crunch factor is superb, and the dusting of sugar certainly woke up the batter. The perfect doughnut that hangs between sweet and savoury.
Future doughnut emperor Morgan Hipworth started Bistro Morgan in his early teens (in case you weren’t feeling bad enough about your life direction today). Bistro Morgan has gone gangbusters since then, and you’ll find Morgan’s doughnuts in dozens of stores around town (Fat Jaks burger bar is one of our favourites). His best has got to be the Gaytime Crunch: a fluffy brioche doughnut topped with Swiss chocolate, honeycomb crunch and a salted caramel syringe. Basically a Golden Gaytime in doughnut form.
"An Aussie bakery with an American twist" is how Candied in Spotswood spruiks itself. Organic bread, homemade lamingtons, savoury pies and vanilla bean soft serve—you can get it all here. But they also do cracking doughnuts. If you only try one, make it the vanilla slice doughnuts. Piped custard and a biscuit disc, dusted with icing sugar. Dangerously delicious. Goes pretty well with an apple pie milkshake too...
There’s a good chance you haven’t heard of Jimmy’s Place. That’s partly because they're all the way up in Fawkner, past Coburg, and partly because everyone in Fawkner is keeping this baby well under wraps. They already sell out by 3pm most days, and after trying them, you'll understand why. The doughnuts themselves are simple enough: icing-dusted beauties that come in Nutella, Jam, Custard and Lemon Meringue flavours. But their Italian-style batter (similar to fritelle or a brioche) was an absolute cracker. The custard was our highlight, but the Nutella also caused our tasting panel to emit a few unconscious groans of pleasure.
All Day Donuts
This is Raph Rashid's doughnut joint, the genius behind Beatbox Kitchen and Taco Truck (two of Melbourne's OG food trucks). It's a simple set-up, but that's part of the charm: just a few laminex tables and a green-tiled counter, that's about it. Raph likes to let the doughnuts speak for themselves. There are usually around six or seven varieties on rotation, including the OG (original), rose crème with chocolate and raspberry sprinkles, and coffee glazed with passionfruit curd. And like the name suggests, you could eat these things all day...
Mister Nice Guy’s Bakeshop
Mr Nice Guy’s is Melbourne’s premier vegan bakery, the brainchild of husband and wife team Lucas Cook and Deb Kantor. Can vegan doughnuts stand up to their full-cream counterparts? Short answer: yes. Mr Nice Guy’s actually bakes ‘bronuts’ (brioche doughnuts). Give the Maple Glaze with vegan chicken a try, that, along with the iconic Van Glaze and their staff favourite, the Red Wine & Blackberry Glaze are some of the best doughnuts you'll come across. The maple glaze with mock chicken steals the show: a sultry-sweet glaze, springy brioche dough, topped with a deep-fried, 100% vegan, hunk of chicken. Sounds crazy, but it really works.
Smith & Deli
A vegan deli from the guys behind Smith & Daughters, this place specialises in traditional Jewish deli goods, including some truly excellent bagels and a banging pain au chocolat. The cream-filled doughnuts are also something pretty special. Vegan and animal-friendly, and 100% delicious. Keep an eye out for Smith & Deli's Spiced Quince Glazed too. Living proof that you don't need animals to get good flavour.
Ascot Food Store
You know the doughnut/syringe combo? Where you inject the doughnut with fudge sauce like a doctor administering a life-saving serum? Ascot Food Store started that trend in Melbourne. They were the syringe OGs. And we have to say, looks-wise, these things are ridiculous—like chunky baked dinosaur eggs, crusted in shards of chocolate and raspberry. The injections added a touch of moisture to the mouthful (although the temptation to peer inside a blocked syringe and squirt yourself violently in the eye proved irresistible).
American Doughnut Kitchen
Queen Victoria Market
Just join the queue, mate. The American Doughnut Kitchen has been pumping out piping hot bombolino-style jam doughnuts since US pilots came to Melbourne during WWII. People travel from miles around to try these things. And the wait isn't bad either—if you look through the window you'll see the doughnut crew hard at work, kneading the dough and firing off little balls with the speed of a semi-automatic. Careful of the jam spray when you take that first bite: it comes out hot, delicious and very unpredictable.
Dandee is another Melbourne trooper, and it's been selling fluffy, sugar-coated doughnuts since the 1960s. You'll see the gold and purple vans at markets and footy matches all over the far east. It was founded by Dick Bell (actually an ex-employee of American Doughnut Kitchen) and there's a friendly cross-town rivalry between the two. Dandee's hot jam doughnuts are a classic, and if you haven't been before, you should start with them. Make sure you come back and try the piped Nutella doughnuts too—they're worth the drive.
Baker D. Chirico
South Yarra, St Kilda & Carlton
One of the daintier doughnuts in Melbourne, and proof that good things come in small packages. Baker D. Chirico’s bombolino comes piped with vanilla-flecked custard and rolled in an interesting mix of sugar crystals and finely grated citrus peel. Gives them a wonderful zing on the tongue. All you needed was a sunny Carlton morning and a piping hot espresso to complete the picture. If you haven’t checked out these guys on Faraday St (or Fitzroy St, St Kilda) do it immediately.
Tivoli Road Bakery
Formerly known as MoVida Bakery, Tivoli Road is an institution in its own right (you can tell by the Saturday morning queues cramming the busy counter). The artisan bread and pastries are tempting, but nothing beats a Small Batch latte and a lemon-curd, sugar-dusted doughnut to go. Head down to nearby Rockley Gardens and eat both while sitting in the sun. Your perfect Melbourne morning right there.
Hank Marvin Market
A new player on Melbourne’s doughnut scene, Downtown Donuts is a start-up from the Hank Marvin Market (their first bricks and mortar store is in the works—watch this space). Visually, these are some of the most outstanding doughnuts we’ve ever had the pleasure of gazing upon. Nostalgia-soaked flavours like Iced Vovo, Redskin, Polly Waffle and Fruit Loops & Milk Panna Cotta that you want to eat with your eyes. The Iced Vovo is a standout: it really does taste like the doughnut equivalent of everyone’s favourite biscuit. Also worth mentioning is the Caramillionaire: a gold-dusted choc caramel doughnut served on a bank note. Definitely one to watch.
Where are the savoury doughnuts you say, well hang on, here you go. Saint Lucia's infamous mac n’ cheese mini doughnuts, complete with chilli cheese dipping sauce are the business. Golden little ringlets—almost like deep-fried pineapple circles—crunchy on the outside, gooey on the inside. The jalapeno-spiked sauce is off the charts delicious: a humming cheese winner with slow-burn chilli kick.
What began as a food truck singing piping hot Greek doughnuts is now a bricks and mortar store in Oakleigh. Here's how to do St Gerry's: rock up the counter and order a box of golden fried Greek doughnuts. They come in traditional and...not so traditional flavours. Think honey syrup and walnuts (traditional) and tiramisu coffee cream with choc hazelnut topping (absolutely bonkers). Eat them fresh too—loukoumades are best straight out of the fryer.
Brioche doughnuts are the go at this Brunswick cafe and 'micro bakery'. And they come in two speeds: cinnamon and custard-filled. Both are delicious, but the custard does a great job of lubricating the pillowy brioche dough (at the end of the day, we're just suckers for anything with custard). These bad boys are baked daily, and generally hang around until sold out (which can be as early as lunchtime, depending on the day).
Walkers Doughnuts are your classic old-school, Homer Simpson-style American doughnuts. The kind of place that refers to jam as ‘jelly’. The Oreo Cookies & Cream, Blueberry Cream Crumble and the Choc Berry Bomb are top notch doughnut selections. Walkers absolutely nailed the consistency with these things: the dough is cloud-like and melts in your mouth. The toppings verge on the sugary side of the spectrum but weren’t tooth-achingly saccharine. The Blueberry Cream Crumble deserves an honourable mention. One of the best we've had.
When Daniel's Donuts opened in Springvale, the crowds were so big they had to stay open 24-hours, just to get everybody through. That's nuts, even for a food obsessed city like Melbourne. This is the second venture for the family-run bakery (they also own Daniel's Bakery in Wyndham, which broke records a few years back for selling over 10,000 Nutella doughnuts in a single day). Does it live up to the hype? You betcha. Try the cookies and cream for a sugar hit to the brain: piped with fresh cream and topped with crushed Oreos. It's crazy good.
One of the gourmet doughnut houses responsible for Melbourne's current doughnut obsession (and deplorable dentistry), Doughboys Doughnuts is a city institution. The doughnuts here are hand-dipped in small batches, to ensure maximum quality. The flavours are off the charts too. Ever heard of a Pandan doughnut, stuffed with pandan coconut custard and topped with a pandan coconut milk glaze and salted coconut snow?
We've done doughnuts. Now it's hot sauces' turn.
Image credit: Ben Tyers