Bennison’s Bakeries: Cake Donut Mecca

19 Feb

We have reached the point in our weekly adventures where we are beginning to have to journey farther and farther in order to sample new things.  Case in point: This morning’s outing to Bennison’s Bakeries in Evanston, IL.

We initially came across Bennison’s name by means of Google (we often spend our idle time Googling words like “donut” and “pastry” and “chocolate”) and everything we read spoke highly of the bakery’s goods.  We’re certainly willing to drive.

Here’s what we found:

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Donuts #1 & 2: Chocolate Frosted Cake & Chocolate Frosted Yeast

Coffee Girl: The frosting is always the first thing we notice.  Bennison’s chocolate frosting has a slightly bitter aftertaste that works great with their cake donut, which has such a fresh, firm, and sweet personality on its own that it can handle a complicated partner.  The tasteless yeast donut, however, did not fare as well — a washed-out nebish in a sad marriage to an obnoxious loudmouth.

Donut Boy: The chocolate frosting at Bennison’s is likely to divide pastry-lovers along the lines of chocolate preference: milky vs. dark.  Their chocolate frosting is definitely of a darker, arguably more bitter tint, which I didn’t care for much.  The dough of their cake donuts, though, is not to be missed, and mingles with the dark chocolate frosting very nicely.  Contrary to normal Breakfast Adventures preferences, actually, we preferred the cake donuts at Bennison’s (read on) over the yeast donuts, which were regrettably too dry and too heavy.

Donuts #3-4: Vanilla Frosted Cake & Vanilla Frosted Cake w/ Sprinkles

Coffee Girl: The vanilla frosted cake donut at Bennison’s is one of the best we’ve had.  Delicious cake underneath, dreamy classic white frosting on top — these two tastes form a marriage made in heaven, as right for each other as Donuts and Coffee, which is, of course, the Mother of all Relationships.

Donut Boy: These two donuts reaffirmed my initial hypothesis: Cake donuts are one of Bennison’s strengths.  The initial crunch of the exterior mixed with a light, quickly dissolving interior make Bennison’s a cut above the rest in this category.  Their vanilla frosting was smooth and gentle.  And sprinkles are always nice.

Donut #5: Red Velvet

Coffee Girl: A red velvet donut?  Who ever thought such a thing could exist?  We’re in love.  The luscious buttercream frosting, light in texture and thickly applied, is a perfect complement to the tasty, heavier cake.  Like a cupcake, only better, because the shape of a donut allows a better cake-to-frosting ratio.

Donut Boy: I’ve never come across a frosting the likes of which sat atop this great, great pastry.  The closest thing I can compare it to is cupcake frosting: it was light and airy and undeniably sweet, and I loved every speck of it.  We’ve already established the excellence of Bennison’s cake dough (see above), and this donut was no exception.  As I said to my colleague, it’s nice when a bakery has a unique flavor that stands out due to both quality and individuality, and this donut had both.

Donut #6: Glazed

Coffee Girl: Don’t stop at Bennison’s if you’re a plain glazed kind of donuteer.  They’re O.K. here.  A little dry, a little bland.

Donut Boy: A little better than the chocolate frosted yeast donut we had earlier (see above), but not much.  A pleasing buttery taste gives way to lackluster yeast dough.  This donut’s got nothing on a Krispy Kreme.

Donut #7: Jelly

Donut Boy: Until the final days of my Donut Quests, I will continue to seek a jelly donut with ample jelly filling.  The above donut I would give perhaps a 3 out of 5 in terms of Filling Distribution.  The filling itself was a nice, classic raspberry and the granulated sugar coating the outside of this pastry had great texture.  By this point, though, a merely good donut could not compete with the Amazing Red Velvet (see previous).

Donut #8: Boston Kreme

Donut Boy: This is one of the worst Boston Kremes I’ve ever had, and Bennison’s chocolate frosting is entirely to blame.  It clashes violently with the custard inside the pastry, refusing to allow your tongue to taste anything other than its bitter chocolate flavor.  Ideally, the frosting and custard of a Boston Kreme collaborate to make your taste buds happy.  Not so here.

Donut #9: Powdered Sugar

Coffee Girl: The last people to get to the Bennison’s box might well be left with just the powdered sugar donuts.  They are good, but unremarkable.  The powdered sugar gives a sweet poof of a first taste that is followed, unfortunately, with a whimper instead of a bang.

Donut Boy: I suspect that, had this donut not been covered in powdered sugar, we would have found it to be the least remarkable cake donut of the morning.  Its thick coating of white stuff provides an almost overwhelming punch of sweetness which, after coating the inside of your mouth nicely, leaves you with a boring dough.  Not terrible, but there are much better choices at Bennison’s.

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The verdict? Come to Bennison’s if you’re looking for a great cake donut.  As cake donuts go, these rank the highest in any place we’ve been to so far. Be wary, though, of their chocolate frosting.  In fact, avoid it.

As far as travel goes, Evanston isn’t that far away from downtown Chicago, and Saturday mornings are prone to light traffic.  Perfect for Donut Questing.  In the not-too-distant future, we see ourselves returning to Bennison’s (the red velvet donuts alone warrant that), but for now we have our sights on the Pastry Horizon.

Until next week!

-CG&DB

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2 Responses to “Bennison’s Bakeries: Cake Donut Mecca”

  1. Kira March 2, 2011 at 1:17 pm #

    I stumbled across your blog searching for the red-velvet donuts served at my neighborhood coffee shop, Charmers. Low and behold…Bennisons. This completely blows my 28 day committment to avoiding sugar. I’ll be at Bennison’s first thing Saturday morning for Red Velvet Donuts. Thanks. Alot. Love your blog!

    • coffeegirlanddonutboy March 5, 2011 at 3:40 pm #

      We would definitely advocate getting your hands on one of Bennison’s red velvets. Thanks for reading!

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