When did the humble doughnut become such a special occasion staple?

Updated on 11 May 2019 • Written By Rosie Conroy

When did the humble doughnut become such a special occasion staple?

The big question on everyone's lips: When did the humble doughnut become such a special occasion staple?

The best doughnuts are the ones that taste so good you don’t even mind the inevitable sticky slick left on your chops after devouring them. Aside from the sugary high caused by these sweet snacks, is it the surge in more complex flavours and artisan techniques that has created such a buzz around the humble doughnut?

No longer the stuff of service stations and supermarkets, doughnuts have become photo fodder like nothing else. We’re seeing them pop up at meetings, events, weddings and on high-end restaurant menus. And that has to be for one reason, people love them. Here at SquareMeal we’re just about giving the people what they want. and we don't mind scrolling through doughnut pictures ourselves, either. 

Whether you’re on a personal quest to find the best doughnut, are looking to give your special day a fun twist or are searching out ways to keep your team happy, you’ve found what you’re looking for in this hole-y grail of goodies. Below we’ve rounded up the very best doughnuts money can buy in London, as well as ways to use doughnuts to elevate your wedding or event (doughnut walls are here to stay, friends).  

Doughnut walls

Doughnut walls are the perfect party piece to impress guests with. Everyone loves a help yourself station and these attractive additions to get-togethers encourage just that. Everyone is free to pick and choose their own flavours (and quantities), which we’ve found can create quite the buzz.

For the DIY-ers out there a doughnut wall isn’t actually too tricky to make. Fit out a piece of pegboard with a few dowels and you’ve got yourself a deal. For the rest of us there are hire companies that make or loan walls for special occasions and they’re a great way to add instant impact. Themes can be adhered to, with choices of everything from Perspex shelving to wooden shelves and everything in between.

Doughnuts at weddings

Doughnuts and weddings go together like Mondays and having your pyjamas on pre-6pm. Instead of the usual favours offered up on the table why not treat guests to a whole smorgasbord of doughnut delight. They’re a great sweet treat to offer up thanks to the endless flavour and colour combinations available. Theme them to your décor with pastel tops or go all out indulgent with overloaded chocolate, caramel and custard kinds.

It could be a good idea, if you’re considering having doughnuts at your wedding, to get a little supply of boxes or bags. This will allow guests to take some home (if any make it that long). In our experience a supply of doughnuts is much more favourable for curing hangovers than a slice of fruit cake.

How to serve doughnuts at your event

It would be a sorry state of affairs if we relegated doughnuts to wedding only. These multi-taskers are true crowd-pleasers and should be enjoyed by all, at every given opportunity. Bringing them out with a bang at an event or meeting your holding is a sure-fire way to win favour from your friends and colleagues. You don’t have to go all out on a doughnut wall – although we can only imagine it would be well received if you did – either,  you could simply pile them all up on various plates in colourful stacks before offering them around. Another option would be to serve them straight from the box, no matter the presentation style we’re pretty sure they’ll be well received.

Best places to find doughnuts in London

If after all of that talk you can’t help but find yourself dreaming of devouring a doughnut then the good news is that lots of places serve, or are entirely dedicated to, doughnuts. Here’s our round up of London’s best doughnuts. We’d advise making it your mission to try every one, strictly for research purposes.

St John’s

St John’s doughnuts are a sell-out sensation. Every. Day. So you need to be quick if you’re going to get your chops round one of these sweet surprises. Flavours are ever-changing and often unexpected, such as prune and walnut. For purists there are nearly always custard and jam options, and they’re never-not piped greedily full of filling and tossed generously in sugar.

Find them: Smithfield, Commercial Street and Seven Dials.

Crosstown Doughnuts

Sourdough doughnuts are a thing, and a thing of beauty as Crosstown have proven time and time again. These pillowy piles of perfection have gained cult status among doughnut lovers (the majority of us, we think) and are available on same day delivery. Try and find a fault in any of that. Current favourite flavours include roasted peach, banana cream and rhubarb and ginger.

Find them:  Crosstown have various locations across London and are also stocked in Whole Foods and Planet Organic.

Bread Ahead

If you’re in it for the ‘gram then Bread Ahead are you guys. Fully filled with indulgent creams or jams and topped with incredible ingredients, the offering from these purveyors of fine doughnuts is easy on the eye. The dough is soft, the fillings smooth and the sugar rush very much real. Our favourite has to be honeycomb, sea salted caramel and vanilla.

Find them: Borough market, Chelsea and Soho.

Doughnut Time

Doughnut Time take everyone’s favourite snacks and combine them with doughnuts for a truly winning combination. Fillings and toppings include things like Kinder Bueno, Nutella, Lotus Biscoff biscuits and Milk Way bars. If you’re thinking about getting hitched or throwing a swish soiree Doughnut Time take bespoke orders, tailoring fillings and toppings to your favourite flavours or chosen theme.

Find them: Doughnut Tme have various locations across London.

Dum Dum

Dum Dum deal in a real array of doughnut products – from filled classics and ring doughnuts to the now infamous cronut hybrids. As a point of difference Dum Dum bake, instead of fry, all their doughnuts for what we like to think of as a healthier twist. Although that claim is entirely unsubstantiated.

Find them: Dum Dum have various locations across the UK and are also stocked in Harrod’s.

Borough 22

Under no circumstances should dietary requirements get in the way of a good doughnut, and haven’t Borough 22 just gone and taken that into consideration? Their doughnuts are always gluten free, always vegan, and always delicious. These guys have even earned a coveted Great Taste Award. Our favourite flavour combos are  peanut butter and jam as well as lime and coconut.

Find them: Borough 22 are stocked at various locations over London, including Selfridge’s. They’re also stocked in the Manchester and Birmingham Selfridge’s for our Midlands and Northern friends.

Have a sweet tooth? These are the best restaurants for dessert in London you have to try.