Vicky's Donuts: Homerton
Each week as part of our makers series, we'll be visiting the kitchens and creative spaces of some of our very favourite artisan food makers around the city of London. Be sure to check out our journal for new interviews and product features weekly!
Vicky Graham knows a thing or two about crafting the perfect donut. Situated in East London's borough of Hackney, her bakery specializes in delicious raised and cake style treats. Each recipe is handcrafted in Vicky's personal kitchen through a very lengthy process of experimentation and taste-testing, which she feels is definitely the best part of the job! By mixing classic donut flavours with more eclectic combinations, her menu truly offers something for everyone.
We visited Vicky in her personal kitchen to have a chat about the donut making business, how she became a full-time baker and what flavours she feels are the very best.
What do you like most about London’s food scene?
I like how there’s something new every day. Because London is so diverse and more and more people are getting excited about food, there’s so much stuff on offer. I love how passionate the foodmakers I’ve met are, too. Most people don’t do what they do to make money. They usually have a full time job and have their food business on the side, just because they love it so much. I think when that happens, you inject passion into it and try your hardest to make it work. That means you give it 100%, and ultimately that creates amazing food.
You're based in East London. What is it like to make donuts in such a unique, fun corner of the city?
I love being in East London! Especially in Homerton where I work, there’s a really tight-knit community. I’ve got a market stall at Chatsworth Road market, around the corner from my kitchen, and it’s so nice to get to meet my customers. There are a lot of people around here who are proper foodies and love trying new things, so it’s the perfect place for me to be!
Vicky's Donuts is such a cool spot. How did you decide to open it, and where did the idea come from?
I’ve always had an obsession with food and especially baking. Before I started the business, any chance I got, I’d be in the kitchen baking. I love making bread, and I love eating sweet things... so donuts are my favourite thing ever. I have family that used to live in Toronto and whenever I’d go and visit as a kid, they would always have donuts in the kitchen. I remember thinking to myself -- "Wow, these guys have it right. CAKE for breakfast?!” Since then, donuts have been this nostalgic thing for me. For a while, no one did them well in the UK. The only place to get them really was Krispy Kreme, and those aren't really made using the best of ingredients! I tried making donuts myself at home one day and got hooked on them. I had the idea to turn it into a business when I was walking around in Broadway market one Saturday. I was craving something sweet with my coffee and thought that East London could really do with some donuts.
How did you first get started and break into the world of donuts?
I used to work for a food magazine, which is where I got really interested in food styling and recipe development. I kept my job and decided to do donuts on the side. I started getting massive orders for parties and weddings, and at that point I was living with two friends. We had the tiniest kitchen, so I had to buy the ingredients every day as there was no storage space. I felt so bad whenever they had friends and family around to visit, because I’d just be dashing about, covered in flour like “Hi guys! Can’t talk, making dough!” I started working on the business full time in February this year and with that, got my own kitchen. It was a big move for me, and I was worried it might not be successful. Though one thing that I’ve learnt from starting a business is that you have to take risks! The way I see it, even if I end up bankrupt one day, at least I took a chance!
What do you like most about owning a donut shop?
Ahhh there’s so much to choose from! I’d have to say my favourite thing is the creative process. Coming up with new recipes is really fun and not only because you get to eat a bizzillion calories in a day for research purposes. It’s fun testing lots of flavours and then coming up with a new creation yourself. I especially like making custom donuts - people have asked for cat & dog donuts, Independence Day donuts and even botanical donuts! I love coming up with designs and flavours to fit each brief. It’s the best feeling watching someone’s face when they see them for the first time and even better when they get in touch to say how much they enjoyed them. That's what I really care about!
How do you come up with the unique recipes and flavours?
I do a lot of research. I follow lots of bakeries on Instagram, and I eat a lot of food in London! After digesting all of the information, I normally get hit by an idea in the middle of the night and then try it the next morning to see if it works.
Out of all the flavours you make, do you have a favourite?
I know I should be all like... "ah no, they’re all my favourites!" But I do have a number 1! I do a peanut butter and chocolate donut that’s filled with peanut butter cream, rolled in sugar and drizzled with dark chocolate ganache. It's basically an orgasm in a donut. (sorry Dad if you’re reading!)
When you’re formatting a new recipe formula, what do you do? Where do you find inspiration?
I love researching for new recipes. I don’t have to set aside any time for it, because I’m obsessed with food anyway and am always either eating or reading about food. My secret dough recipe always stays the same, but when I get an idea for a new topping or filling I’ll put together what I think will taste good. I adapt it until it’s right, making lots of notes along the way. I get inspiration from walking around London and trying lots of food. I recently came across Cupcake Jemma and love what she does! She focusses on really flavoursome baking using the best ingredients and makes it fun. Another favourite is Blue Top Ice Cream. They make the most incredible ice cream sandwiches using freshly baked cookies. I also love Violet Bakery in Hackney, and they make really good cake with lots of interesting flavours.
What do you like most about being located in Hackney and being part of the food scene there?
I love the foodie community in Hackney! Everyone I’ve met so far who works in the industry around here has been amazing - they really want to do their best to help you in any way they can. I think a lot of people remember when they first started out themselves and want to help others who are now trying to do it. You’d think there’d be a streak of competitiveness in everyone, but it’s not like that at all.
What was your mission when opening Vicky's Donuts?
To make really good tasting donuts with the very best ingredients on offer and to have fun while doing it. It’s important to me that everything I make is free from anything nasty, like artificial flavours and preservatives. I only use free-range eggs and make sure nothing contains palm oil. One big thing I also love about donuts is just how much people love them. It's a really nice feeling when I see people getting excited about them and can think “I did that!” I think everyone likes to make others happy, and it’s amazing I get to do it with donuts!