Some foods only taste right during certain seasons. There’s nothing stopping me from eating a hot dog in January, but it just tastes better with a side of warm summer breeze in mid-July. The same goes for apple cider paired with doughnuts; autumn just seems to bring out the duo’s true flavor. But somewhere along the line, someone committed an act of sheer genius by literally combining these two things together, and the result was sweet perfection.
Enter – the apple cider doughnut.
There are some variations, but a traditional cider doughnut has a cakey texture, flavored with cinnamon and nutmeg. Apple cider is the star of the show, serving as the main wet ingredient mixed right into the batter. They’re fried and each side is generously coated with cinnamon and sugar.
On a mission to find the best cider doughnut in WNY, I spent a crisp autumn morning doing some research with my significant other, who moonlights as a doughnut aficionado. The result was not one, but two spots where we enjoyed some of the best apple cider doughnuts WNY has to offer: Duke’s Donuts and Mayer Brothers.
Many western New Yorkers know Mayer Brothers’ 168-year old tradition of pumping out most of the apple cider sold in North America. The Mayer Brothers Cider Mill Store located in West Seneca is only open during certain months of the year, so the line at the door was filled with anticipation as the cider-deprived waited patiently. Inside, the payoff is big and apple cider-themed, including cases of fresh cider doughnuts. If variety is your thing, that’s exactly what you’ll get. Cider donuts are available in glazed, sugared, frosted with cream cheese or chocolate, as well as a generous assortment of non-cider doughnut options. My pick was the traditional sugar coated apple cider doughnut. It was soft with a drier texture, not too sweet with a hint of cinnamon. A crowd pleaser.
Duke’s Donuts does not have a brick-and-mortar shop. Since 2013, owners Chad Longman and his wife Aimee have been taking their doughnut gig on the road all over western New York, so you’ll likely catch them at a farmer’s market, community event or even at a Buffalo Bills game. We tracked them down at the Downtown Country Market where we learned that Aimee’s grandfather “Duke” was the inspiration for their “Apple Cider Donut” (which is available all year round.) The Duke’s experience is less about fanfare and much more intimate. The batter for their two varieties, Old Fashioned Apple Cider and Raised Sugar is made on site, dropped into a portable fryer, sugar-coated by hand and presented to you in just a few minutes’ time. The end game is a warm, flavorful, velvety and just dense enough doughnut that (pardon the cliché) melts in your mouth. My personal favorite.
Go ahead and eat your turkey dinner in April. Just promise that you’ll reserve the cider doughnuts for when the leaves start to fall.