The cupcake boom isn't over but it does have some sweet competition. Kathryn Alexander, the creator of Sugar — first a food truck and now a new gourmet doughnut shop — has launched a product that will have your mouth watering the minute you walk into her shop in the heart of South Charlotte. Decisions can be tough there, as doughnut flavors vary, from traditional to more creative offerings. Alexander who lived in Boston prior to her move to Charlotte 15 years ago has perfected the Boston cream doughnut, but she and her crew — which includes pastry chefs from Johnson & Wales — are always thinking of new doughnut visions. Using fresh and natural ingredients, they'll soon be introducing a seasonal Hanukkah doughnut (jelly filled and topped with powdered sugar), a chocolate covered cherry doughnut and a bourbon custard doughnut with chocolate and caramel glaze.
Creative Loafing: There's a rise in specialty doughnut shops opening up here in Charlotte. What do you think has contributed to the gourmet doughnut boom?
Kathryn Alexander: Doughnuts have been an iconic American take out food since the '30s or around that time and for many decades. I think what's happened to the doughnut is the same thing that's happened to many other iconic American foods, for instance the hamburger. People have really grown tired of mass produced, low quality treats, whether it's hamburgers, tacos or, in this case, a doughnut. They want doughnuts done right and sort of taken back to its traditional form using real eggs, cream and butter. People are really responding to that. About 10 or 12 years ago, Five Guys really proved to the market that Americans would pay more for a simple hamburger or cheeseburger and French fries if it was better quality and so I think the same thing is happening with doughnuts across the country. Even here in Charlotte, you're right, there are now a couple of other shops and I think the reason they're so popular is because people are demanding a better quality treat or food.
The sweet tea doughnut that I tried a while back is very much inspired by the South. In what ways has moving to the South changed your ideas of what a doughnut can be and are there other doughnuts with a Southern twist that you've concocted?
Absolutely. Part of my family is from the South, so I've always loved Southern cooking. The sweet tea doughnut was very popular when we put it on the menu and we've also created a banana pudding doughnut. It was made from scratch and we incorporated caramelized bananas and filled the doughnut with that and made our own handmade vanilla wafers and then glued those wafers onto the doughnut with white chocolate. It's a really modern take on banana pudding, which is a real Southern classic.
What are some of your best selling doughnuts at the moment?
Things change weekly because we offer new doughnuts each week, but I would say both on the truck and at the shop our maple bacon doughnut, which is our premium doughnut and our vanilla bean, which is probably our most basic doughnut with a traditional glaze. Those are always two of our best sellers.