So many sufganiyot, only 8 days

A new winner is served up in this year’s doughnut challenge

sufganyiot_521 (photo credit: (Rachel Sarfin))
(photo credit: (Rachel Sarfin))
Scrumptious sufganiyot shopping: this was the task at hand in order to prepare for the annual In Jerusalem sufganiya competition. We scouted out eight of the city’s top bakeries to bring you the best of this Hanukka season’s sufganiyot selection.
The word sufganiya comes from the Hebrew for sponge, sfog. Its dough is meant to absorb the oil of a deep-fryer, much like a sponge takes in water. The end result of the frying process is a squishy texture, reminiscent of the sea creature from which it draws its name. Fortunately for us, these “sponges” are coated with yummy powdered sugar, delectable icing, chocolate, sprinkles and a wide variety of other tasty toppings. And let’s not forget the most important part of any sufganiya – the filling! These can range from the traditional strawberry jam and caramel to more daring and exotic flavors such as champagne, halva and Ferrero Rocher.
Given all of the delicious choices available, deciding on which bakery’s sufganiyot are supreme may prove to be very difficult indeed for the average palate. However, our team of expert tasters has taken it upon itself to distinguish the cream of the crop from the merely mediocre so that you won’t need to spend all eight days of Hanukka searching for the best sufganiyot.
We reviewed sufganiyot from eight bakeries in Jerusalem. After much licking of lips and fingers, plus the inevitable clutching of stomachs toward the end of the evening, our tasting team is confident that we have thoroughly examined the widest variety of sufganiyot available.
This year’s sufganiya review resulted in a brand new, No. 1 champion. It will probably come as no surprise to those who have tasted their sufganiyot. Nevertheless, there are seven other contenders that produced the fried Hanukka dessert to varied results. And now, for the moment you’ve all been waiting for… In Jerusalem’s 2010 sufganiyot rankings (each category is rated from 0 through 10, with 10 being the highest score):
8. Shufersal Deal
Overall score: 4.2
Dough: 3.8
Filling: 3.8
Appearance: 7
While our tasters generally agreed that the sufganiyot from Shufersal Deal’s bakery looked good, they were lacking in the taste department. The dough was not particularly soft, and the amount of filling left much to be desired. One taster asked, “Where did the filling go?” Another taster, referring to the less than tasty coating, inquired, “Is this powdered sugar, or flour?” None of the tasters could actually finish their samples, although perhaps the sufganiyot had passed their peak of freshness. One thing these sufganiyot do have going for them: their price.
Flavors: strawberry jam (parve). NIS 3. Various locations in Jerusalem.
7. Café Hafuch (formerly French’s)
Overall score: 4.9
Dough: 4.8
Filling: 4.8
Appearance: 6
This recently renamed Baka bakery is known for its fantastic hallot. However, its sufganiyot did not fare well with our tasting team. Our tasters appreciated the generous amount of filling, although the strawberry jam aroused comments such as, “It tastes like cough syrup mixed with soap.” The team’s recommendation: Stick with the baked, rather than fried, products.
Flavors: strawberry jam (parve), caramel (dairy), other sufganiyot that are iced but not filled (parve). NIS 5 to NIS 8. Derech Beit Lehem 110, Baka. Tel: 671-5858.
6. Café Ne’eman (Emek Refaim)
Overall score: 5.6
Dough: 6.4
Filling: 4.5
Appearance: 7
Although this is a nice place to have a morning coffee and a pastry, the sufganiyot here were less than stellar. Café Ne’eman offers several flavors, with less common toppings such as toasted coconut flakes. The dough was average, and our tasters felt the bakers were stingy with the filling. The team did appreciate touches like the patterned icing in different shades, which contributed to this sufganiya’s higher score on appearance. With more filling, our team thought these sufganiyot could definitely be above average.
Flavors: caramel, strawberry jam, vanilla, chocolate. All are parve except the vanilla doughnut. NIS 4 to NIS 5.50. Rehov Emek Refaim 37, German Colony. Tel: 566-0838.
5. Lalush
Overall score: 6.6
Dough: 6.3
Filling: 7.1
Appearance: 6
This Nahlaot bakery sells delicious hallot and other pastries. Given the high quality of the bakery’s hallot and other pastries, its sufganiyot were quite mediocre and somewhat of a disappointment. Our tasters could not really find much more to say about the sufganiyot apart from them being rather standard and average. Offering only three runof- the-mill flavors, the dough did not particularly stand out and both these attributes contributed to its middle-of-theroad ranking.
Flavors: strawberry jam (parve), caramel (dairy), chocolate (dairy). NIS 3.50 to NIS 4.50. Rehov Agrippas 34, Nahlaot. Tel: 672- 5439.
4. Mr. Donut (at Aldo locations)
Overall score: 7.2
Dough: 7.6
Filling: 6.5
Appearance: 8
Aldo, famous for its incredible gelato flavors, recently began selling doughnuts under the name Mr. Donut. While it is questionable whether these will still be on sale after the last Hanukka candle has been extinguished, their taste cannot be ignored. Despite being mislabeled, the “sufganiyot” won fairly high marks from our tasters. Although the amount of filling was relatively bountiful, the actual flavor left something to be desired. The titles of the flavors were quite unusual and included names like Chocolate Pompom Bavaria. Overall however, our tasters felt that products here tasted very much like Tim Horton’s (the Canadian chain) or Dunkin’ Donuts, particularly their Boston Cream variety.
Flavors: caramel, Chocolate Pompon Bavaria, chocolate filled with chocolate (all dairy), strawberry filled with vanilla, banana, vanilla sprinkles, chocolate sprinkles, vanilla, sugar (all parve). NIS 7. Selected Aldo locations throughout Jerusalem.
3. Ne’eman Bakery
Overall score: 7.4
Dough: 7.5
Filling: 7.2
Appearance: 7.8
The popular chain of bakeries fared quite well in our rankings, managing to impress all of our tasters with their interesting flavors and well-made sufganiyot. The dough scored highly, although one taster criticized its oiliness. Ne’eman’s variety worked in its favor. If the sufganiyot were bigger, they might have jumped higher in the rankings; tasters expressed the desire for super-sized versions of these yummy sufganiyot.
Flavors: caramel, coffee cream, French vanilla, white Belgian chocolate, Belgian milk chocolate, cream (all dairy), strawberry jam, sprinkles, halva cream (all parve). NIS 4 to NIS 10. Various locations throughout Jerusalem.

2. Roladin
Overall score: 8.2
Dough: 6.9
Filling: 8.8
Appearance: 9.8
Roladin was a strong secondplace contender. Last year, this national chain’s selections came in first place; however, it was not to be this year. Our tasters loved almost everything about these fantastic sufganiyot. From the fancy designs that earned Roladin the highest appearance score to the unique variety of flavors, these sufganiyot are truly one of a kind. Although scoring lower than Ne’eman Bakery and Mr. Donut for quality of dough, Roladin made up for this in its filling.
“Chocolate filling to die for,” was exclaimed by one tasters, although another thought their champagne sufganiya did not taste authentic.
The only way to improve on these sufganiyot would be to make them bigger!
Flavors: Halva kadaif, pistachio, champagne, crème patissiere, chocolate chocolate, whiskey caramel, sprinkles, chocolate cream, sweet popcorn, caramel, pink marshmallow. All doughnuts are dairy except the strawberry jam. NIS 4.50 to NIS 8. Mamilla Alrov Mall, tel: 623-1553 and Rehov Hillel 12, tel: 622-2021.
1. English Cake
Overall score: 9.2
Dough: 8.8
Filling: 9.6
Appearance: 9.1
We have a brand-new winner this year, as English Cake’s sufganiyot were rated the highest by our team of tasters. Finishing No. 1 for dough and filling, these sufganiyot knocked the oily socks off the competition. Hands down. Special kudos goes to English Cake for its creativity in fillings, including unique flavors such as blueberry jam, orange chocolate and mint. As interesting as Roladin’s variety was, English Cake’s selection takes the err... sufganiya. Tasters raved about the generous amounts of filling with the words “wow!!!” being exclaimed after sampling the chocolate masterpieces. Said fillings really hit the mark in terms of both their abundance and nearly homemade taste. Additionally, the dough was soft, with a nice, spongy texture that wasn’t too oily.
Tasters also noted the attractive appearance of these utterly scrumptious sufganiyot. Finally, even English Cake’s most elaborate sufganiyot are slightly less expensive than Roladin’s equivalents. Overall, English Cake’s delights are a cut above the rest and definitely deserve the championship slot for 2010/5771.
Flavors: strawberry jam, caramel, vanilla patissiere, blueberry, chocolate, halva, pistachio, chocolate porcupine, Ferrero Roche, nougat, chocolate orange, mint, chocolate flake, Bounty. All are parve except the caramel. NIS 4 to NIS 7. Various locations throughout Jerusalem.
These are our choices, but whichever delectable sufganiyot you enjoy, have a hag Hanukka sameah! Special thanks to Shani Rudolph and David Aghanov for their tasting assistance.