In late January, Spoon showed us where to get the Golden Donut. Now I’ve gone one step further, peeling back the fine layers of paper-thin golden flakes and revealing what lies within. This is my journey to the center of The Ube (of a Golden Donut).
I first heard of the golden donut over Christmas break, through a Forbes article. I was taken aback by the fact that any food could be so expensive; why spend so much money on a single donut when you can buy one hundred and twenty at Dunkin’ for the same price?
I was completely spellbound by the glimmering glazed masterpiece when I saw it for the first time, and needed to see if the taste could live up to the price tag.
And so began my quest to get my hands on one of the esteemed donuts.
First, I had to do my research. This led me to the website of Manila Social Club in Brooklyn, a fine-dining Filipino restaurant and the mastermind behind the “Golden Cristal Ube Donut.”
In order to buy one, you have to first fill out a form requesting the desired amount of donuts and stating when you can pick them up. To make it even more difficult, all donuts can only be picked up on Fridays. But I was determined, so I cleared my schedule for the following Friday, figured out transportation to the city and sent an email with my inquiry.
One golden donut, please! Was I crazy enough to spend all of my Christmas money on a single donut? Sure. But do I regret it? Not at all.
One week later, with eyes bigger than both my stomach and wallet, I took a train into the city to pick up my donut. I gave myself plenty of time and ended up getting to the restaurant an hour ahead of schedule.
It was about 2:30 pm and the Manila Social was still three hours shy of opening for dinner. It was a small narrow neighborhood restaurant with a not-so-overly impressive decor.
I noticed a very neat row of small black boxes with purple bows and right next to those, a number of empty boxes of Cristal Champagne, which sells for about $300 dollars per bottle.
I told the hostess that I was there to pick up my golden donut. After asking for my name, she explained that everything was ready except for the glazing and gilding: the intricate process of spreading a layer of white Cristal-infused icing on top, airbrushing it with pure gold and adding gold flakes.
Five minutes later, the owner and head chef, Björn Delacruz, and what appeared to be two assistants came from the kitchen, cleared the table at the very end of the galley restaurant and laid out all the tools of the trade to start the process of icing and gilding the donut, right there in front of my eyes.
I learned, after I attempted to take out my phone, that no pictures were allowed, but the event is ingrained in my memory. (Not to worry, you can watch the donut making process online.) With the precision of surgeons, they used long stainless steel clamps and tweezers to carefully place edible gold flakes atop the donut.
When the donut was moved in the slightest manner, the gold flakes danced and produced a brilliant display of light.
When the process was complete, they placed it in one of the small black boxes with a purple bow, took my $108.75 and sent me on my way.
So while many college girls were spending their pocket money on clothes and their Friday evening socializing with friends, I spent mine traveling back to campus with empty pockets and no company except for the carefully packaged donut in my hands.
The Moment of Truth
I opened the box as soon as I returned to my room. The donut was a lot larger than your typical Dunkin’ delicacy, more akin to a bagel. It was extremely dense and heavy, yet delicate and moist to the touch. The gold flakes fluttered as if they weren’t even attached but instead floating on top, and underneath a fine airbrushed layer of gold shimmer, hints of white icing infused with Cristal peeked through.
It took me about thirty minutes to actually slice open the donut; it seemed like a crime to take apart, let alone eat something that had taken so much time and care to become absolutely flawless. But I was glad that I did, because my first slice revealed the bright purple hue of the interior.
One of the main ingredients of the donut is the elusive Ube, more commonly known as a purple yam, which makes up most of the filling, but Delacruz also embeds tiny chunks of Cristal gelée into the mousse. My first bite combined all of the elements of his donut into one harmonized, delicious flavor.
From the outside inward, I tasted the sweet and creamy champagne-infused icing, then bit into the deep-fried exterior with a satisfying crunch and finally reached the vibrant purple Ube mousse inside which contributed a subtle vanilla flavor, grounding the various elements.
In my second bite, I experienced the flavor of a pocket of Cristal Gelée, which was a refreshing kick and balanced out the earthiness of the Ube. Afterward, my lips and the tips of my fingers were dusted with a pale gold shimmer.
The Final Review
The Golden Donut lived up to its absurd price. I devoured the donut with my eyes first. I didn’t think that it could possibly taste any better than it looked, but after tasting it, I found I was sorely mistaken.
The smooth icing, the crunchy fried exterior, the pudding-like mousse and resilient consistency of the Cristal gelée blended into a unique yet surprisingly complimenting array of textures and flavors.
I wouldn’t recommend blowing all your money on a single donut… who would do something like that? But this donut is an edible work of art, and if you have the opportunity to try it, you’re in for a real treat.