As a Cordon Bleu trained chef, I often write about refined culinary traditions and Michelin restaurants.
But fundamentally, I’m interested in how food brings people together and creates memorable experiences.
The American donut, made in all shapes and sizes, glazed, baked, fried, and jelly-filled, without a doubt, does exactly this.
Somehow donuts have risen from the Sunday after church standard as a treat for “behaving” to an upscale international sensation.
First, with the national expansion of the Krispy Kreme machines in the early 2000s, donuts got a second life.
With their iconic green neon sign of “Hot Now,” every child in America could watch the mesmerizing journey from leavened dough to baked donuts to glazed treats.
And now, the trend for upscale, instagrammable donut stations at parties and weddings has secured donuts as a food that’s suitable for any time or place.
But now that donuts are more than stand-alone breakfast food, how should they be served? For breakfast, donuts are usually served as part of a more extensive spread, including proteins like eggs and yogurt.
Don’t forget to include a variety of drinks beyond coffee, like hot cocoa and fruit-infused waters.
For an evening party, donuts have moved securely into the dessert section. Serving them with red wine or mixed cocktails like Pina Coladas is a popular choice. They can also be arranged in decorative, photogenic settings like a coffee bar and an ice cream sandwich station.
For a large party or wedding, donuts make an excellent first course when paired with champagne. They are a satisfying way to greet guests as they wait for the bride and groom to arrive.
Donuts For Breakfast
But does that mean that donuts are not for breakfast anymore? Certainly not! Unlike my childhood, where donuts, milk, and coffee were a complete meal, today, donuts are part of a larger, more celebratory breakfast spread, including protein, fruit, and breakfast beverages.
As America has become much more health-conscious, we’ve realized that including protein with each meal is better for overall health.
Serving breakfast donuts with yogurt, eggs, or ham will help prevent that inevitable sugar crash you’ll get from just plain donuts.
Fruit does contain fructose, another form of sugar, but a bowl of fruit, especially berries and grapes, gives your table a more elegant look along with the sweet flavors even your youngest members will enjoy.
Coffee, though, remains the quintessential drink with donuts, especially for dunking. Before Dunkin’ Donuts, Clark Gable, in his 1934 film It Happened One Night, teaches runaway heiress Claudette Colbert how to dunk her donuts.
The world was watching, and dunking donuts became a global trend. Today, dunking donuts in coffee is still socially acceptable.
And can even be elevated into a central feature of a party by having a well-designed donut station and coffee pairing bar.
But if you’d prefer a little less caffeine, hot cocoa any time of day makes a nice choice for drinking with donuts.
Hot chocolates come in various flavors, including caramel, peppermint, and dark chocolate.
Make your hot cocoa with whole milk instead of water for a richer flavor, and add some whipped cream or mini marshmallows on top.
Serving flavored water is a pleasant accompaniment for a light, refreshing taste.
Whether you prefer still or sparkling, fruit-flavored waters are pleasant when combined with donuts.
Look for flavors that don’t have too much added sugar; you get enough sweetness from the donuts.
For those hot summer mornings, make homemade fruit smoothies and freeze them in popsicles molds.
For a child’s sleepover party, you can add breakfast cereal like Fruity Pebbles and Fruit Loops to the popsicles.
Donuts At A Party
If you’re looking for ways to serve donuts at a party, Instagram has over 110K mouth-watering posts.
Arranged on cake stands and stacked on platters are the more popular ways to serve donuts at parties.
For a children’s party, you can make a “decorate your own” donut station. Starting with plain baked or glazed donuts, have a variety of toppings in bowls.
Colored frostings, sugar cereals, sprinkles, and shredded coconut allow the budding artists to create works of art on their sugary canvases.
And the best part, the “paint” can be cleaned up with warm water and a sponge.
Ice Cream Sandwiches
Another creative way to serve donuts is to add ice cream to the donut. Think of it as a very upscale cream-filled donut.
Slice your favorite donut horizontally and add your favorite ice cream. It might be a little messy to eat, but that’s all part of the celebration.
Evening Party Centerpiece
But don’t relegate donuts just to the children’s table. They also make a colorful and aromatic centerpiece.
Choose fragrant ones like pumpkin donuts and apple cider donuts for the table or colorful ones that match your decor.
This is also a fun way to present some trendy and unusual donuts like Sidecar Donut’s maple bacon or basil egg benedict.
Additionally, they make for interesting table conversations; but don’t be surprised if the centerpieces have disappeared before the dessert course.
Cocktails, Wine And Dessert Donuts
Like all dessert cakes and pastries, donuts pair especially nicely with champagne.
For a special occasion, the sparkling bubbles in the champagne give an elegant atmosphere to the shiny glazed donuts and glimmering sugar ones.
Red wine and chocolate is another powerful pairing. Serving a hearty red, like a Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, would bring out the fruit tastes of the chocolate and enhance the richness of the pastry.
Cocktails like Piña Coladas are a festive addition to donut desserts, especially if you have tropical and fruity donuts like coconut or lemon filled.
Donuts At A Wedding
What was once a humble fried breakfast treat is now taking center stage at many elegant weddings.
Much like the sophisticated French wedding croquembouche, a dessert consisting of cream puffs piled high into a cone and bound with threads of caramel, a tower of donuts makes the same effect.
With a bit of American ingenuity, you can create the same splendor with a tower of donuts. Served with champagne – and voilà, a sweet treat for everyone.
Or just as enticing, a decorated donut station at the reception before the bride and groom arrive is a delicious and interactive way to get the party started.
As an alternative to appetizers or even alongside, treating your guests to a little sweet pick-me-up at the start will certainly break the ice and put everyone in a celebratory mood.
Would You Like A Side Of Puns With Your Donut?
But don’t be surprised if the donut festivities get out of hand and erupt into an evening of puns, and in my family, it means an evening of terrible, never-ending puns.
Somehow, donuts seem to have that effect on certain people.
So, to innoculate yourself, or even to prepare yourself with a few of your own, here are the most common ones from my experience: “You donut want to miss this.”
“Donut go breaking my heart.” “I donut know what I’d do without out you.” “Donut worry, be happy.” And my personal favorite: “Thanks a “hole” bunch.”
The Weight And Volume Problem
And if the possibility of suffering from an evening of puns isn’t worrying enough, there’s the question of whether or not eating donuts is bad for you.
Normally, eating too many sweets leads to a noticeable weight and volume problem.
But, I realized that even one box of donuts has a dizzying amount of math to solve. First, most donut shops that sell a dozen donuts actually put 13 donuts in the box.
Then it gets quite tricky if you try to split 13 donuts evenly, especially if there are jelly or cream-filled varieties.
Next, there’s the question of weight and volume. Is a heavy apple fritter one donut, or does it count as two light glazed donuts?
Finally, there’s a taste issue. What if you don’t even like plain cake donuts? Do you have to include that in your share, or can you just claim the cinnamon roll as a suitable substitute?
With a little practice, a variety box of donuts can lead to improved math skills, increased diplomacy practice, and better trade negotiations. So how can donuts possibly be bad for you?
How To Properly Store Donuts
Assuming you worked through the math of equally sharing 13 donuts, you might be curious about how long donuts can stay fresh.
Like other freshly baked pastries, store them at room temperature for 1 to 2 days in an airtight container before they begin to lose flavor and texture. However, refrigerate cream-filled donuts.
If you want to keep glazed donuts, like Krispy Kreme doughnuts at their freshest after their first day at home, you can freeze the doughnuts and reheat in the microwave.
So next time you’re entertaining, remember that donuts aren’t just for breakfast. As part of a protein-based breakfast buffet, it will add a lot of excitement without a lot of cooking.
For a cold winter breakfast, you may also want to serve a variety of flavored coffees and hot cocoas.
Donuts are also a no-cook option for children’s parties. A donut decorating station that might even include a donut ice-cream sandwich station is sure to keep the fun going.
And donuts are also a sophisticated option for the adult table, dinner parties, and weddings.
Decoratively displayed on platters or stacked high on cake stands, donuts make an elegant dessert.
Pairing them with champagne, red wine, or mixed cocktails, these desserts are equally enjoyed by the hosts and the guests.
Donuts are now for all ages and all palates. Serving donuts is a sweet way to create those memorable moments that bring us together and are “sprinkled” with fun.
Kelly is a native of California. After graduation from UCLA, she began her travels living and cooking in Europe, Asia, and the Northwest. In Tokyo, she earned the Grand Diplôme, for both Cuisine and Pâtisserie at Le Cordon Bleu.
Kelly is a freelance food writer. She started the website, Tokyo-Table.com, where she reviews Tokyo restaurants from the perspective of a professional chef. Kelly has written for publications in Asia and North America on all aspects of cooking. Kelly now lives in Los Angeles with her family and her vegetable garden.