Doughnuts aren’t dead

Here’s a question for all you food fanatics out there: what’s your favorite Southwest doughnut shop?

I’m not talking about your favorite place to buy a doughnut. There are plenty of places to do that, including your nearest grocery store. I’m asking about the type of business that makes and sells doughnuts — and that’s all it makes and sells — plain and simple.

I’d be surprised if you had an answer. The independent doughnut shop, with a few exceptions, has gone the way of many of the diet trends that have helped kill it in recent times. Consumers mindful of carbohydrates, trans-fats and other ingredients have deserted the doughnut for healthier options.

But the doughnut isn’t dead, and there is one family-run business in Southwest that still prides itself on preparing that traditional breakfast delight with the hole in the middle: Wuollet Bakery.

To be fair, Wuollet is more than just a doughnut shop. As it’s name implies, it’s a bakery — one that has turned out breads, pastries and hand-crafted cakes for more than 60 years.

And it’s a café, too, serving a variety of lunch options. On a recent visit to the 50th Street & Chowen Avenue shop (one of five locations), lasagna was the advertised meal of the day.

But it was 9 a.m. and none of the moms, excited kids, people on their way to work or old-timers sipping coffee were there for Italian. Nor was I.

A plain cake doughnut and a raised-glazed doughnut were my choices of the day. They were fresh and tasty — the plain doughnut not too crumbly and the glazed not overly frosted and sticky.

If plain or glazed doughnuts aren’t for you, there are plenty of other options to choose from at Wuollet, such as cinnamon buns, Danishes, apple turnovers and much more.

Audrey Malone, a nearly 30-year bakery employee and grandchild of the company’s founder, Reino Wuollet, said the raised-glazed and chocolate cake doughnuts are the best sellers.

The doughnuts at each Wuollet location are baked fresh every night at the Robbinsdale shop and delivered the next morning. The cake doughnuts are made with a mix, but nearly everything else is made from scratch, even though that’s not always the most economical thing to do.

“That was my grandpa’s motto, ‘We bake from scratch, we don’t use a mix,” Malone said. “That takes a lot of expensive ingredients and it is a lot easier to put a cake mix in the bowl and add some water, oil and eggs.”

Recipes have changed over the years. Some were borrowed from other bakers, Malone said, but most have family roots. The recipes had to evolve to meet the needs of customers, she said.

Just two years ago, all of the bakery’s recipes were made trans-fat free.

“It hasn’t been easy,” Malone said. “You know, there’s been a lot of trends and changes that you’ve got to keep up with.”

The look of the doughnut has also become more refined. The bakery’s “old-fashioned” doughnut was replaced in the 1980s.

“It was crispy outside, it almost looked like a little ball,” Malone said. “People didn’t want that anymore. It was ugly and people saw the Dunkin’ Donut, the perfect doughnut, so that’s what we strive to do with this newer cake doughnut.”

And speaking of Dunkin’ Donuts, the franchise is planning to return to the Twin Cities after a five-year hiatus. Malone said she’s not at all concerned.

“I think our doughnuts are better,” she said. “I don’t think it’s going to be competition. Just like when Krispy Kreme came to town, I think the hype’s going to die off.”

Wuollet has a loyal following, but many of its customers are older and the bakery is trying to attract younger families. Malone said Wuollet is hoping to freshen up its 50th Street store with a larger seating area, a permanent coffee station and a more modern look.  

“We really want to focus on being a quaint, family-owned business with a friendly atmosphere and good customer service,” Malone said. “We have to be to survive.”

For more information about Wuollet Bakery and a full list of locations, visit www.wuollet.com.

Reach Jake Weyer at 436-4367 or jweyer@mnpubs.com.