Best donuts spritzkuchen berlin

The best donuts around the world (and a really nasty one)

by Michael on November 2, 2012

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Michael has been a huge donut fan ever since he was a child. We mean that literally. He was a chubby kid whose first happy travel memory is of scarfing down Navajo fry bread at a rodeo in Arizona when he was in 4th grade. Fortunately over the years the pounds have been shed but his search for the best donuts lives on. His niece Gabby even refers to him as “Mr. Donut Man.”

Randys donuts

Pilgrimage ten years, and thirty pounds, ago to Randys Donuts in LA, fortunately the weight loss since then has kept pace with the hair loss. The skin remains just as pale.

Some of the best donuts are from our home town of Philadelphia, the aptly named Frangelli’s Donuts. The first time I went into their shop I was disappointed. All the donuts were plain, I didn’t think they looked that special. I asked the lady behind the counter if they were out of jelly donuts. She replied, “Oh we fill them to order.” My eyes practically bugged out of my head. “Really?” “Sure hon,” she said in the best South Philly style, “we do custard or jelly.”

That’s when I noticed the bowl full of custard on the counter behind her. It was attached to a contraption with a nozzle at the end. She stuck the empty donut shell onto the nozzle and with a few pumps squirted a healthy dose of custard into the donut. She repeated the procedure with another nozzle that was attached to a bowlful of jelly. I was in donut heaven.

Best donuts frangellis PhiladelphiaYou can have it all at Frangellis Bakery in Philadelphia. 

I asked if it was possible to have a donut that was jelly AND custard. This started a lengthy discussion between the counter ladies if that was even possible. Then another lady emerged from the rear of the bakery and said, “Sure hon, we can do that.” She then shoved the custard nozzle in one end and the jelly nozzle in the other and pumped away. Afterwards she asked if I wanted powdered or granulated sugar, they also sugar the donuts to order.

I’ll miss Frangelli’s while we’re on the road but my goal is to find donuts in other places and other cultures along the way. When we return though my very first stop is likely to be for a custard-and-jelly donut at a humble little corner bakery located in South Philly.

Top Pot best donuts Seattle (550x502)

Top Pot donuts Seattle, Washington.

In Seattle we found a place called Top Pot Hand Forged Donuts with an anvil in the logo. I was intrigued by both the name and the concept of hand forging donuts. The name comes from a neon sign they found from an old Chinese restaurant called “Top Spot” but the “S” was broken. The day before we left for China we stopped at the downtown Seattle location. The honking big piece of dough at the bottom of the picture that is the size of a clown shoe is the Maple Bar, one of their specialties.

Hi Donuts Shanghai (550x413)

Hi-Donuts, Shanghai, China

Who knew they had donuts in Asia but we are now true believers. We couldn’t pass the artfully decorated donuts at Hi-Donut in a Shanghai food court without stopping to try a few. They were among the lightest, most delicate donuts we’ve ever eaten but were packed with flavor from a choice of fillings that included chestnut, mango and tiramisu. I have to admit though that we did pass on the pork floss and germ donuts.

Mister donut bagels

Mister Donut in Shanghai is a bit confused. I grew up in New York, I know a bagel when I see one.

India best donuts

Indian donuts at Maya Indian Sweet Centre, Sydney, Australia

Above: The three that look like Dunkin’ Munchkins are mini-gulab jaman: deep-fried paneer dough soaked in syrup. The bright orange squiggly glowing thing is a jalebi: deep-fried doughnut batter soaked in syrup. These may have been the sweetest things I have eaten in my entire life. I practically had a sugar-induced coma that afternoon.

Donut Inn Adelaide

Donut Inn, Adelaide, Australia

At the Donut Inn at the Adelaide train station, if you order three or more donuts they fry them fresh to order. Now that’s living.

Donut sundae Donut Factory Singapore

A brilliant idea at the Donut Factory in Singapore. Our first ever donut ice cream sundae.

Donut Malaysia Curry Chicken

I guess a donut doesn't have to be sweet, as these curry chicken donuts in Malaysia prove, but still.

apple cider donuts fritters

We returned to the US just in time to enjoy fresh apple cider fritters at Roberts Orchards in Bristol, CT.

Can a donut be bad?

worst Donut charcoal  lavender Bakery Kuala Lumpur

When we saw the charcoal donut at the Lavender Bakery in Kuala Lumpur, we assumed it was just a cute way to say chocolate. We were wrong. It really is made out of charcoal. Imagine munching on a charcoal briquette. It was quite possibly the worst thing we ate on this entire trip.

And here’s our story about the world’s stinkiest donut. It’s made from durian, the notorious “stinky fruit.”

Still hungry? Check out our Flickr page for more pictures of donuts around the world.

What are some of your favorite donuts? Cake or yeast? Glazed or unglazed? Round or stick? Chocolate or not?

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{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

Ralph September 16, 2011 at 11:49 am

As Homer Simpson once said, ‘Donuts, is there anything they can’t do?” The pics look great.

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Michael September 16, 2011 at 11:50 am

You really have to love Homer.

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Josephine September 21, 2011 at 1:07 pm

The Hi-Donuts look so pretty and I agree that Mister Donut should really be Mister Bagel. Now that I found it I will make sure to look for updates. From the other posts sounds like you are having a great time. Keep posting!

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Michael September 21, 2011 at 8:40 pm

Yup there really is a world of donuts out there. We take our responsibility to try them all very seriously. Keep checking in for updates.

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Geri June 1, 2012 at 8:48 am

Great post! The donuts in Shanghai look pretty close to the ones I frequently consumed whilst living in South Korea. It amazed me how they could bring out so many different shapes for all kinds of holidays. Delicious.

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Michael June 1, 2012 at 8:50 am

We’re guessing all your walkabouting burns off the calories!

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Fred Allen Barfoot November 2, 2012 at 10:04 am

You are cruel! I just had a healthy cereal, pear, blueberry breakfast — and now my yearning for a donut is raging! But, wait, that’s a great idea for lunch! Jessup Street block party was last Friday — and you were with us in spirit. Cheers! Fred

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Michael November 2, 2012 at 10:11 am

Isn’t there a Federal Donuts near you?

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Rob Schneider November 4, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Believe it or not, Sihanoukville Cambodia is now a contender for best donuts in the world. Bad Panda, on Serendipity Road, opened up a few months ago. They make “drunken donuts” with icing spiked with liqueurs. The best of the best is the Bailey’s, in my opinion.

I’m really annoyed that I left Sydney now that you mentioned Maya Indian Sweet Centre. If they’re made right, there is absolutely nothing better than jalabis. That’s not just an opinion, it’s an indisputable fact.

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Michael November 6, 2012 at 5:46 pm

Thanks for the suggestions about the place in Cambodia.

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Matt at LivingIF November 6, 2012 at 5:16 pm

Yum. Donuts are something we look for everywhere we go, sadly a good one is hard to find. Thanks for the tips on where to look, but you’ve confirmed what we thought: the easiest place to get a great donut is in the USA.

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Michael November 6, 2012 at 5:52 pm

Hi Matt,

I just added a photo of some New england apple fritters you might like.

Cheers,

Michael

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Steve April 28, 2013 at 7:45 pm

The Singaporean donut ice cream sundae was called a Brown Derby in the UK, but I’ve not seen one for years now.

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Larissa April 29, 2013 at 10:32 am

Good to know, Steve. In all my travels to the UK I’ve never seen one. Since they seem to be rare there these days, maybe they licenced the idea to Singapore??? ;)

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Penny Sadler April 28, 2013 at 8:42 pm

I don’t know if they still exist anywhere? But when I was a kid I worked at a place called Winchell’s Donuts. I’ve been cured since I was 17. The only thing I’ll eat now ( and it’s rare) is a plain cake donut. I’d probably still be game to try sucking the nitrous out of the whipped cream can though. :)

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Larissa April 29, 2013 at 10:29 am

I remember hearing of Winchell’s Donuts, but don’t know that I’ve ever been to one–I think they must be (or were?) a regional thing. Michael always had a theory that working in a donut place would “cure” him as well. . . it never happened, and you can see the result ;) Maybe we’ll do a future post on whipped cream delights. . .

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Jeff @ GoTravelzing April 28, 2013 at 8:44 pm

It is good to see Top Pot made the list. My brother lives around the corner from one and we go every time I visit.

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Larissa April 29, 2013 at 10:33 am

Yup. Can’t go to Seattle without going to Top Pot!

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Jasmine @ TimeRichTravellers April 28, 2013 at 10:55 pm

I think I got a sugar high just reading this!! I had the most disgusting donut in Chiang Mai the other day, it was strawberry but the icing was made of some kind of milky, creamy stuff. Yeck! Thought it would put me off donuts for life… but we are heading to the US in a couple of months and you’ve given me some ideas! Oh dear…

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Larissa April 29, 2013 at 10:36 am

Yes Jasmine, very important to try, try again! It would be a shame for a single gross donut spoil you for the wonders that the rest of the world has to offer ;)

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Cat of Sunshine and Siestas April 29, 2013 at 8:12 am

There are plenty of foods I miss while abroad, but donuts (along with Chicago style hot dogs) are definitely near the top! I don’t even have qualms going to the new Dunkin’ Donuts they put in, as it’s the only place nearby for donuts. Churros do NOT count!!

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Larissa April 29, 2013 at 10:37 am

You go girl! But churros are not a bad “second best” . . . .

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wandering educators April 29, 2013 at 11:36 am

that charcoal donut is NASTY.

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Larissa April 29, 2013 at 12:07 pm

You bet, Jessie. And coming from an educator, I think we can officially use the term NASTY :)

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Dale April 30, 2013 at 1:48 am

Feels like absolute sacrilege to read this sitting in a Krispy Kreme to abuse the free internet.

We don’t really get donuts in the UK like you do in the US, I’m more than little excited to get myself there to have a try of the real deal.

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Michael April 30, 2013 at 11:36 am

I’d have to agree with you about the sacrilege. Krispy Kreme donuts are not crispy and they’re not creamy. Are they big in the UK now?

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Micki April 30, 2013 at 6:11 am

Mmmm. Donuts. We’ve been on the road for about five months now, and I’m starting to go into donut withdrawal. I feel I’ve let my countrymen and women down (Canadians eat more donuts than any country in the world) on this trip. :) Lovely post. Now I just need to find a sugar glazed somewhere in Spain…

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Michael April 30, 2013 at 11:37 am

I didn’t realize that about Canadians eating donuts. Is that the Tim Horton influence?

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Lillie - @WorldLillie April 30, 2013 at 6:40 pm

LOVE this article :) And that last doughnut– whoa!

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Larissa April 30, 2013 at 11:10 pm

Glad you liked it Lillie :)

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Adam April 30, 2013 at 9:37 pm

Umm….that donut ice cream sundae from Singapore looks amazing!

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Larissa April 30, 2013 at 11:11 pm

It tasted pretty good too!

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Bethaney April 30, 2013 at 10:56 pm

I’m a donut lover and so is my two-year old. We ate a lot of Mister Donut in Thailand and Malaysia. They do the best bear claw!

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Larissa April 30, 2013 at 11:12 pm

Bethaney, We applaud your parenting skills. . . starting that kid off right ;)

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Kate April 30, 2013 at 11:15 pm

If I had a choice between a donut or a cupcake, I think I’d go donut under most circumstances. I like simple cinnamon and sugar, and light rather than dense.

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Michael July 2, 2013 at 12:22 am

I go for the dense ones and as they say, you are what you eat.

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Dan @ A Cruising Couple May 1, 2013 at 10:01 pm

We have Mister Donut in Taiwan and the name is very misleading. As a kid I Krispy Kreme was the go-to donut shop. I’m drooling just thinking about it. Thanks for sharing!

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Jen T. May 3, 2013 at 8:42 pm

During a 3-month sabbatical last year, I taste tested all the new (and old) donut places in Chicago. If you are ever through here, give me a shout and I’ll give you the low-down.

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Michael May 3, 2013 at 8:44 pm

Hi Jen,

I’m curious what type of sabbatical leads to donut tasting. I think I’d like that job. Thanks for the offer. We do make it out to Chicago now and then and will keep it in mind.

Cheers,

Michael

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Amber May 7, 2013 at 9:15 pm

This is getting me primed for my trip to Singapore next week for Donut Factory! They look pretty similar to the ones you had in China.

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Michael July 2, 2013 at 12:21 am

Donuts are everywhere in Asia now. Hope you enjoyed them in Singapore.

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Penny Sadler July 17, 2013 at 9:51 am

Just had to come back to this story and tell you I had an “Italian donut” recently. It’s nothing like what we think of as a donut. It’s not very sweet and it’s hard as a rock. But they call it a donut because it looks like one!

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Michael July 17, 2013 at 12:10 pm

As a half-Italian it pains me to admit that Italian pastries aren’t always the best. It’s certainly not a donut country.

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