Queens of artisanal doughnuts take Bogotá with a sweet storm

With 35 varieties to choose from, ranging from the classic sugar glazed to a bold bacon and maple syrup, Aída Gómez and Manuela Echeverri are setting a new trend on the Bogotá bakery scene with artisanal doughnut making at Donut Queens.

Their doughnuts are bigger than the average industrial ones, weighing between 120 and 140 grams, and are always fresh. The dough is tasty without being too sweet, too savory, or greasy, and faithful to the hint of yeast that is so characteristic of this type of pastry. Fillings and toppings are creative and at times surprising, such as the pepperoni pizza covered doughnut.

Banana split, strawberry roll (brazo de reina), apple pie, lemon pie and, Nutella mousse with strawberries are some of the flavors they offer. Prices range depending on the ingredients. For example, they charge $4,500 for the Oreo Cookie. The Ferrero Rocher and gold leaf goes for to $5,500, while the pink glazed with colored sprinkles costs $3,500.

The fun doesn’t stop there, though. Each doughnut has a name to match its flavor, and pays tribute to a character, person or cause. The pink sugar glazed can be ordered as Queen Hera, the Greek goddess of women. The chocolate filling and sprinkles is called Queen Gaea in honor of the Greek goddess of earth, while the Snickers, chocolate and arequipe doughnut was named after Cleopatra.

There is an antihero on the menu too, such as the infamous Game of Thrones’ character, Cersie Lannister, made of peanut butter mousse and red berry jelly. Colombian cyclist and two-time Gold Olympian medalist Mariana Pajón has a caramel popcorn and chocolate doughnut to her name.

In April 2016, Donut Queens praised the Constitutional ruling in favor of gay marriage with the Queen Pride doughnut, a take on the classic rainbow, which is coated in colored stripes of sugar glaze. “As active members of the LGBT community, we wanted to honor the ruling. It’s our way of making people aware of LGBT rights,” explained Manuela.

Donut Queens also offer vegan doughnuts. “They are as tasty or even better than the classic dough,” explained Aída. They are available in boxes of 6 regular size doughnuts ($30,000) or 20 mini-doughnuts, vegan or regular, ($40,000). A giant-sized doughnut, that serves 10, can also be ordered for $40,000 pesos.

After lots of research, putting numbers on paper, resourcefulness and determination, Aida and Manuela cashed in their savings, and opened their first kitchen, in May 2016, in the San Felipe neighborhood. They began by offering doughnuts on Facebook and Instagram.

“We used social media, because we know how difficult the food business is, and how easy it is to go bankrupt, specially in Bogotá where rents have sky rocketed,” Manuela explains.

“Everybody thinks it’s easy to open a restaurant. But, it’s not. Just think about restaurants from two years ago, many have closed. That’s fine with me. It’s healthy for the market,” she remarked.

“We have grown organically. But, we don’t want followers, we want clients,” she explains. “We began with the idea of being big. That’s why we have done things by the book, so we can ask for loans, and grow.”

In January 2017, Manuela and Aída set up the San Felipe storefront, and inaugurated a second shop in Chicó that same year. Just last month, they opened their first street cart near Universidad de los Andes. They intend to open 20 more different locations in the next five years. They also plan to offer franchises.

According to Aída, Donut Queens sells an average of 200 doughnuts a day, and 300 on Fridays.

The idea of selling artisanal doughnuts for the two committed pastry chefs sprung out of a necessity to find a way to make a living doing what they love.

They both met while working for well-known pastry chef Mark Raush of Criterion and Local. While Aída got her degrees from Sena in Tableship, Barmanship and Cuisine, Manuela got a Bachelor of Science in Cuisine, and Bakery and Pastry from Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.

“We both came to the conclusion that we had closed a cycle,” explained Aida. “We didn’t want to do anything in mass. We wanted to offer a good product.”

“Marketing can do just so much for a product. But, if it isn’t good enough, it just won’t work. People come back because we offer an excellent product at a fair price,” she said.

For Manuela, “the product is No. 1, because if you have an excellent product, you are protecting the client.” In fact, they both start work at 4:00 am at the San Felipe location every morning, except Sundays, making sure their product is up to par.

Taking doughnut making to a higher standard presents a set of challenges. Almost everybody knows what a good doughnut tastes like. Judge for yourself and take advantage of the monthly all-you-can-eat in 25 minutes doughnut frenzy for $20,000 pesos.

But, if gorging is not for you, try a few each time. Of the 35 flavors, they spotlight 15 a week, so you always have an excuse to go back for more, waistline permitting. And, if small portions do it for you, check out their mini-doughnut festival showcasing 25 flavors at $2,000 pesos each.

The tempting doughnut may just become the next sweet craze in the city. Let’s just hope it will not be a fleeting fad, but a reference point for great pastries.

Chicó: Cr 10 No.96-11

San Felipe: Calle 75 No.22-20

Candelaria: Calle 21 No.3-77