When Glory Hole Doughnuts owner Ashley Jacot De Boinod started peddling wholesale doughnuts back in 2011, Toronto was mired in cupcake mania. Back then, Homer Simpson’s favourite snack was something you grabbed at a local food chain with your coffee. Doughnuts weren’t a glamorous pastry. And they certainly weren’t something you featured at weddings, let alone on perfectly tempting magazine covers. These days, the doughnut is the pastry du jour and Toronto has Ashley to thank for that, in part – she was one of Toronto’s first chefs to show that these deep-fried pucks could be way more than sprinkles and chocolate icing.
Ashley, a pastry chef by training, cut her chops at some of the city’s most prestigious restaurants, including Scaramouche and Buca, before opening her own shop, Glory Hole Doughnuts. "The decision to leave fine dinning and focus on my own projects was honestly a very tough one," admits Ashley.
It wasn’t just the company’s salacious name that caught people’s attention, but Ashley’s unusual flavour combos. Belt-busting numbers like a maple-bacon peanut butter doughnut topped with cream cheese frosting had customers going gaga for these confections. Some, like the lox sandwich, were flops. Others like the toast-and-butter doughnut (a stalwart offering at Gloryhole) stood the test of time. According to Ashley, it "combines the perfect textural components."
Ashley began her doughnut empire selling to cafés such as Thor Espresso Bar and Lit Espresso Bar. She even spent a stint hawking her maple-glazed bacon doughnuts out of Zane Caplansky’s food truck, but the entire time Ashley had her sights set on opening a brick-and-mortar shop. In late spring 2012, she found the perfect spot: a former hair salon on the western edge of Parkdale that needed a serious makeover. There was one hitch: she lacked the necessary capital to renovate the space, so she turned to crowd funding. After two short months, Ashley had raised more than $6,000.
Ashley and her husband, Rob Dean, did the renovations themselves. The result: the narrow room has a vintage Muskoka vibe thanks to the upside-down canoe that acts as a light fixture. Canadiana also comes through in the details. The wall hangings, for example, include a pair of 50-year-old snowshoes and a sheep fleece while the bar, which was handmade by Ashley, was designed to look like a log pile. Quirky tchotchkes like gold dinosaur figurines and an inflatable unicorn bust add some Parkdale-appropriate whimsy to the space.
The doughnuts are made fresh throughout the day. Most of Glory Hole’s offerings are yeast-based doughnuts (the fluffier kind), although they also have a few denser cake-based options like a chocolate-lemon ricotta doughnut hole. The offerings change with the seasons. In spring, for example, they make a cherry pie flavour, while winter sees an eggnog custard–filled variant.
“I love our savoury doughnuts, some people think they sound weird, but they’re so good. Really good,” says manager Tara Sachs, who pines for the next time Ashley decides to make her pizza doughnuts.
Apart from doughnuts, the shop also sells a selection of locally made goodies including Soma chocolates and Nude honey. Their drip coffee (roasted by Propellor Coffee) and their teas (Genuine Tea) are also supplied by Toronto-based companies. “We want to support other local businesses, it’s important to us,” says Tara as she bites into a toast-and-butter doughnut – her third of the day, she boasts shamelessly.