One of my best friends (shout-out to Tasha) recently posted a picture of purple donuts on Facebook. The accompanying article’s headline said, “Ube: Exotic purple donut lands in O.C.” Now as a Filipina, I’m rather familiar with the taro-like purple yam, as it’s commonly used in many Filipino desserts including cake, ice cream, and halaya (a creamy, sticky purple blob of yumminess). But a donut made with ube? How had I not heard of this genius creation before?
Normally, when I see other people’s drool-worthy food porn, I keep a mental (or literal) note for a potential visit in the unknowable future. This time would be different because now I was actually near the location that served these purple gems. Well, relatively near. I’m originally from Southern California (San Diego) and am accustomed to driving great distances and spending lots of time in traffic on a regular basis. So driving an hour from my parents’ house–where I was vacationing–to go buy some donuts seemed perfectly rational to me. And as a traveler, I’m always eager to try out the hot new food haunts, no matter where I am.
With my mom riding shotgun, I made the trek to Friendly Donuts in the City of Orange, about 10 miles from Disneyland. I had read that since the posting about the ube donuts (a.k.a. Purple Velvet donuts) went up on the Internet, the 24-hour family-run donut shop had been inundated with customers, serving 2,000 Purple Velvets in just one day.
Fortunately only three people were ahead of us in line, but we all had the same idea. We wanted a dozen ube donuts, and we wanted them now. Alas, their latest batch was just sold off, and Nancy, the owner, kindly asked us if we minded waiting ten minutes. Ten minutes, are you kidding? I just drove an hour to try these bad boys–to me, ten minutes is a mere blink of an eye.
Waiting gave us a chance to survey their other delectable options, too. Red Velvet? Yes. Glazed cronut (crispy croissant-donut)? One for Mom. Nutella-filled cronut (note that here they call them dossants)? That’ll be mine. And maple-glazed cronut with crispy bacon? Why bother even asking–just put it in my mouth and take my wallet!
Nancy, with the help of Kim–one of the donut master chefs–filled our gigantic donut box with our selections. It was clear how happy she was to be running her own business, making a quality product, and having people enjoy the fruits of her labor. Her family donut shop is exactly the kind of hard-working, local business that I’m eager to patronize. And Nancy is savvy, too. She gladly gives each of her customers who check in on Yelp a free cake donut (I picked rainbow) because 1) it makes people happy, 2) customers remember her generosity and will likely come back, and 3) she knows it’s a quality product.
But the proof is really in the tasting. And taste we did. My mom dove right into her glazed cronut, eyes glazing over in amazement and smile spreading as she savored bite after bite. My first bite of my “Canadian Favorite” bacon and maple-glazed cronut nearly brought tears to my eyes. Sweetness, saltiness, crunchiness, flakiness, deliciousness, happiness. My mom and I stopped talking to each other for three minutes, in reverence of our confectionery delights and because nothing else in the world can possibly exist when one eats such things.
The ube Purple Velvet donut did not disappoint either. Its not-too-sweet glaze is just enough to make a crackable shell that shatters in just the right places when you bite into it and hides a dense, moist cake of vivid royal purple. It’s a vibrant color-fest for the eyes and a subtly sweet gift for your tastebuds and your belly. For me and Mom, all this was worth the drive. And for those of you in Southern California, you’ll be thankful you drove all the way here, too.
Friendly Donuts: 4442 E. Chapman Ave., Orange, CA 92869
National Donut Day is June 6 this year.