the firecake

95 E Houston St
APRIL 2, 2013




It's unlikely that I would know this if I did not use a computer, but the doughnut was one of the earliest foods whose process was automated. Doughnut-making machines roared to life in the 30s and 40s when such things were new and considered an improvement, probably because frying dough has a very low threshold for failure.

At least, it did until now. A visit to The Doughnut Plant suggests that there's a sophistication and subtlety that our robot masters were lacking. And now, a new heir to the doughnut throne has stepped forward. Behold, The Firecake — gourmet doughnuts made by hand.

Here's where things get complicated: Firecakes are not doughnuts, although they have been called that. Firecakes are something that 18th century soldiers ate, made with just flour and water; consequently they were tougher than any cookie you might find around Time Square, and about as sweet as Port Authority. “But it's also a damn good name for a food that deserves to be eaten by someone other than revolutionary war reenactors,” says chef Alain Trousseau.

I mention that of course, there's already Firecakes in Chicago. “Yes, those are actual doughnuts: we're making something else. Something that's a nod to the doughnut past and something that also tells us about the doughnut future. A future with a new kind of doughnut. Doughnut what I mean?”

I do. The future of doughnuts might mean Firecake's signature Chablis firecake, one of the most strange and perfect pastries I've ever eaten: sweet, but with a little acidity; a strange sense of formality that you would never equate with a doughnut. Eat enough and you can probably get drunk off of them. Their chile doughnut is remniscent of a good tamale—it's not too hot, just flavorful, but overall, just an incredibly strange confection.

The kabocha sqash and honey doughnut is the closest thing that The Firecake bakes that even resembles a breakfast doughnut. Practically hidden among the various other strange new doughnuts, it's the only one that would go well with coffee, but don't even think of dunking it. I'll say that again: don't.

The Firecake eschews the traditional hole in the center, pointing out that their form factor is in no way diminished, and I might add, you’re paying a small fortune for them and so they better not have anything missing.

By the evening's end, I had eaten about almost a hundred dollar's worth of doughnuts. I write this to you on an iPad, from my gym's treadmill, which has been running for over an hour, and I regret nothing.

Next: A. Pontious goes out in
search of the elusive Sassquash.

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