Every time that we travel, I always check out the local restaurant listings and reviews to see if there are any good bakeries or pastry shops. My motivation for this is, of course, donuts. Within three days of moving to Colorado Springs, I had already done my homework and we made our way to the highest rated shop in town, Amy’s Donuts. Let’s just say that we weren’t disappointed and the review will be coming soon; but I digress.
After a few weeks of unpacking, we were excited to get out and start exploring our new home. One of our first adventures was to drive to the summit of Pikes Peak, inspiration for America the Beautiful (the whole purple mountain majesties thing) and unbeknownst to us until recently, home of the “World Famous Donut“. How a donut with the moniker of “World Famous” escaped our attention, we’re not sure… After a drive that has views that are surely among the best in Colorado (I mean we’ve driven a lot of mountain roads here, but not all so we’re not comfortable committing to saying they are “the best”), you find yourself at 14,115 feet and a chance to take in 360º views of gorgeousness. And because you’ve worked up an appetite whipping your head around to take in all the views, it’s time to head inside to the Summit House and make your way to the donuts. Step in the door, turn right, and you are immediately greeted by a sign claiming, “Self Serve- World Famous Donuts”, so we did. With the option to buy individual donuts or a 6-pack, we opted for the 6-pack…for research purposes.
Donuts have been a part of the summit experience since 1888, when the Army vacated a weather station located at the summit and the then-mayor of Manitou Springs decided to start serving coffee and donuts to tourists. Frequently when it comes to baking, directions will include directions for high altitude. Having lived in Colorado most of our lives, we typically ignore these directions and just learn what works by tweaking recipes over time. At over 14,000 feet however, the adjustments for the “World Famous Donuts” cannot be ignored and are significant to compensate for the elevation. Since 1916, when the current recipe was created, chefs atop the mountain have been crafting these “World Famous Donuts” using specially designed adjustments and a “secret” ingredient to ensure that the donuts turn out as donuts and not a glob of dough. Rumor has it that the donuts must be eaten at the summit to be truly enjoyed (apparently they taste different at a lower elevation- we didn’t try them again until the next day, so it’s hard to know if time or elevation made a difference). So, after a few obligatory pictures at the summit sign (mostly with Finley), we grabbed a seat on the tailgate of the Land Cruiser and dove in to our, surprisingly, still warm bag of plain cake donuts.
The texture was very springy and had more elements of fried dough than a donut, with a crisp exterior yet surprisingly soft inside. The flavors were primarily dough and some fry oil, but not in a negative way as the description might lead you to believe. Like with the texture, it was reminiscent of a funnel cake without the powdered sugar garnish, making it more rich than sweet. We’ve had other donuts with the same flavors that were unsatisfying, but for some reason this one was a bit addicting. Every time we thought that we were done, we found ourselves wanting to go back for just one more bite…for research purposes. By no means the best donut we’ve eaten, but between the views from the summit and throughout the drive; as well as the kitsch factor, this is a do not miss on your donut bucket list! You do have a donut bucket list, right?