The first time I tried a sour cream doughnut, at a Tim Hortons in Montreal, I couldn’t believe my luck. Finally, I thought, a doughnut I can get behind. I was 19 or so, and I’d pretty much avoided doughnuts my entire life because I’d always found them—aside from plain doughnuts and the occasional apple cider doughnut—too sweet and colorful and generally sickening with their rich fillings. But the sour cream doughnut, with its cakey interior and crispy outside and lumpy shape, was different. It appealed to my taste for mildly grotesque—or at least grotesque-sounding—food items. It wasn’t overly cloying. And I liked the name, which, I’m assuming, is an automatic turn-off for those who don’t normally associate doughnuts with sour cream (everyone?).
Indeed, I have found that my preference for sour cream doughnuts isn’t shared by many—at least among those I’ve encountered. My local Dunkin’ Donuts, for instance, doesn’t even sell them. The last time I ate one, over the summer—and, once again, at a Tim Hortons in Montreal—I offered a bite to my girlfriend. “It tastes like vomit,” she told me, dismissively plopping it down on the table. She was being dramatic, of course—the sour cream doughnut does not taste like vomit—but the ones I’ve tried do have a somewhat funky flavor that would most likely turn off a doughnut eater who prefers the uncomplicated taste of a chocolate glazed or a Boston cream or perhaps even a cruller.
The standard sour cream doughnut recipe includes your basics like sugar, flour, baking powder, eggs and butter. (No yeast.) Then there is a generous dose of sour cream—one and a half cups was one measurement I found—that gives the doughnut a somewhat sharper flavor than your usual treat that cuts through the sugar. Sour cream doughnuts are typically pretty sweet, but they aren’t overly sweet, which is why I like them.
They’re weirdly shaped, not a perfect circle with a cute hole in the middle. It looks as though somebody molded the sour cream doughnut from clay, by hand, and then the top split open in the kiln. They’re imperfect. They also look, in a way, like coiled turds—especially chocolate sour cream doughnuts. I can understand why they might turn you off. But I’d urge you, if you haven’t already, to look beyond their name and appearance. The sour cream doughnut is the anti-doughnut doughnut, a breath of funky air in a world overpowered by sweetness.