One lazy Saturday morning I was tooling around the interior of Findlay Market, drooling over fudge, when a local told me to get myself outside to Cake Rack, which she swore makes some of the best pastries in Cincinnati. Hopping out and over, I was already too late (at eleven in the morning) for the scone and croissant offerings she'd mentioned, but a tiny little circle of chocolate intrigued—the Gluten-Free, Vegan Chocolate Donut ($2).
I'm skeptical of gluten-free, vegan treats from bakeries, but with good reason. I've been primarily off gluten for almost twenty years now, and amongst the stellar offerings that have come forth in the past few years, I've tasted my share of duds. (Sometimes too continually, as I worked for a gluten-free magazine.) Often copious amounts of sugar and starch replace gluten and eggs to make up for the missing elasticity and depth. Cheap fats provide richness, and while they (sometimes) do make the treats tastier, they're actually unhealthier than their gluten-full, dairy-full counterparts (except for the gluten factor for those who can't have it, obviously).
But then, this doughnut. I don't really want to know how it's made, because it was probably the best gluten-free, vegan doughnut from a bakery I've ever had.
Because it's baked, it naturally doesn't have the chew of a fried doughnut, but I've always preferred cake doughnuts anyway (to each her own, right?). The flavor is of deep, decadent chocolate, not of cocoa, yet it isn't cloyingly sweet. And while the texture wasn't quite as sturdy as a wheaten option, it didn't crumble or collapse with the slice of a knife. Rather than compensate for flavor with a thick smear of frosting, the thin glaze added just an extra touch of sweetness.
But how is it a doughnut and not just a cake in doughnut form? The exterior has the most delicate of crusts, even on parts not coated in glaze. The half that I somehow managed not to finish off in the car on my way home did slightly soften in refrigerator the next day, but it neither dried out nor succumbed to moisture, another indication that it was slightly more sturdy than a cake and rather well made.
Cake Rack has a decent gluten-free menu on top of their extensive gluten-full offerings, and they are available to order online and in limited quantities at Findlay Market on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Get there early, and load up.