As the founder and owner of San Francisco’s beloved Dynamo Donut and Coffee, Sara Spearin‘s daily routine involves transforming dough into mouthwatering flavors ranging from Lemon Sichuan to Chocolate Star Anise. Since today is National Donut Day, we couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate than to ask the “Donut Queen” to show off her skills, share her tips on making the perfect donut cake, and fill us in on what it’s like having the best job ever.
Donut cake created by Sara Spearin and Yvonne Cheng of Dynamo Donuts.
Previous to Dynamo, what was your background?
I went to culinary school at the New England Culinary Institute. And I’ve worked in restaurants for the past twenty years. So I did some cooking, but mostly was a pastry chef. My first Dynamo donut was the first donut that I’d ever cooked for myself.
Did you always know that you wanted to own your own business?
Absolutely. I always imagined I’d have a cute little bakery with cookies and croissants — all the goodies– [but] never imagined donuts until the thought came to me and it just clicked!
The trend in the cooking world was going in the direction of focusing on one item, and I was trying to figure out what my item would be. In trying to scope out my niche, I felt like [donuts] were something that hadn’t been done in San Francisco. I’d never made donuts before, but had enough of a background in the baking industry that I figured it out. Right now we have about 24 flavors, rotating daily.
Where do you come up with the ideas for your flavors?
A lot of dessert combinations come from my past of being a pastry chef. The Bitter Queen is candied grapefruit, and Beet Hibiscus is a pretty interesting one as well. It’s also nice to toss ideas around with my staff when cutting donuts, which isn’t the most stimulating task in the world. Donut-cutting is a great time for us to talk about things — like flavors and donut cakes!
Do you consider your work to be in a creative field? At lot of people think baking is so scientific — is that true?
It definitely takes a level of skill, but I wouldn’t consider it to be scientific. It’s very creative — we deal with flavors everyday, and dealing with yeast is not so much scientific as it is getting a knack for the dough. That’s why bakers love to bake; we like dough!
When Dynamo opened in 2008, how did you get the word out about your new business?
We haven’t done a lot of marketing. It’s been mainly word of mouth and great publicity. I don’t think you have to market as much in this day with all blogs, internet, and television. Early on, we got two spots on the Food Network, and that was all we needed. We’re also active on Facebook and Twitter, and thankfully, there’s enough social media out there that will make great ideas spread fast, which I think has been really helpful.
Best beverage to pair with a donut?
Obviously, coffee is a classic. Beer is a favorite. It depends on the time of day! We don’t serve beer here, but when we did a beer afternoon event, it was such a hit. This National Donut Day, we’re celebrating with a free beer and donut tasting in our backyard from 4-7 p.m. Come start your weekend with us!
SARA’S TIPS FOR DONUT CAKE CREATING
- Pick a dense cake for the base, such as devil’s food cake. The cake needs to be firm enough to stick donut-topped toothpicks into.
- For the donuts, use a cake donut recipe. You’ll be attaching them to the cake with toothpicks, and cake donuts (as opposed to a lighter yeast donut) can hold a toothpick without crumbling apart.
- Keep an eye on those toothpicks, so that you don’t serve anyone a toothpick in their slice of cake!
Want to continue the National Donut Day festivities? Celebrate with our sweet and simple Twitter contest! Tweet a photo of yourself eating a donut at @ModCloth with the hashtag #doughnutstyle before 9 p.m. PT and you’ll be entered to win one of three $25 gift certificates! And heck, everyone who enters will have eaten a delicious donut, so everyone is a winner.
How are you celebrating National Donut Day?