Making of: The Best Donut is in the Badlands | Black Hills Travel Blog
  • Making of: The Best Donut is in the Badlands

Wall Drug is famous for a lot of things, including their free ice water, 5¢ coffee, and historic billboard marketing efforts that span the globe! (Seriously—there's even a Wall Drug billboard in Antartica!) But what you might not know is that Wall Drug is also home to the best cake donuts you'll ever try!

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And they are exactly how a cake donut should be: precisely fried on both sides to the proper shade of golden brown, slightly crispy on the outside, and flawlessly cakey on the inside. You can order one plain, or opt for a hand-frosted donut in either chocolate, vanilla or maple. (Maple is my personal favorite, hands down!) They are a delightful South Dakota treat!

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Last week I had the pleasure of visiting the kind ladies who work tirelessly to keep the café's display cases full of all the tantalizing treats. (Not only is Wall Drug famous for their donuts, but they also have the best pies, cookies and rolls in the region!)

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But it's the high donut demand that requires round-the-clock production. Though my tour began shortly after 8:00 a.m., I quickly learned that the ladies had been firing up the first batch of donuts as early as 4:30 a.m.!

I was first introduced to the queen of the donut shop, Vickie, who has been rising early for more than 30 years to make the donuts here. With a Wall Drug paper hat for a crown and a wooden stir stick for a wand, she commanded the open-concept kitchen with pride and grace. I watched intently as she demonstrated her skills.

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With passion in her eyes and through calculated movements of her wooden wand, she gave each donut individual attention—swirling the ring-shaped wads of dough into perfect circles with unified center holes and pushing them in line within the fryer with the gentlest of nudges. Soon, once the appropriate color was achieved, she used her wooden wand to upset each donut onto its other side—much like the unexpected flipping of an intertube in a swimming pool—and a few moments later she began the process of removing each donut from the oil with her stick, stacking them until her wand was full, and then swiftly unloaded them onto the cooling racks. This round was done.

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It was only a moment's break before she was rolling out the giant flour canister from beside the fryer and measuring out the ingredients for the next batch. And so the process continued, on and on and on...

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Once the donuts had cooled, I watched summer helper, Amanda, alongside 40-year kitchen veteran, Marsha, as they delicately frosted each donut by hand in one of the three rich flavors.

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Every so often, our conversations would be interrupted by the ring of the kitchen phone—an incoming call from the café in need of more donuts. Without hesitation, someone would quickly stack several racks of donuts onto a small cart and wheel them away.

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I was in awe of the entire process, and of the genuine zeal each of these ladies had for their work. It was intense and hectic, but there was a strong sense of camaraderie that made it a pleasure to be around. Just from my brief visit, it's obvious that Wall Drug is doing something right. Sure, it's a roadside attraction—but it's also so much more.

IMG_9615 copy Longtime Wall Drug employees & friends, Marsha & Vickie.

So when you spot the first Wall Drug billboard 500 miles away, spend the next stretch of your drive picturing the friendly workers who are preparing the fresh donuts, cookies, and pies for all to enjoy. And when you reach Exit 110, stop in for a visit and try their famous hot beef sandwich or a buffalo burger. Get your picture on the jackalope and sip on some free ice water. But most importantly, share a smile with one of the Wall Drug employees—they are the true gems that will make your visit complete.

 

 

 

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About the Author

Alicia is a South Dakota native with family roots in Beresford. She attended Augustana University in Sioux Falls—a year of which she spent studying in Norway and traveling throughout Europe. She acquired her degree in Sociology and International Studies. Despite her love of travel, she and her husband have thoroughly enjoyed making Rapid City their home. She satisfies her wanderlust by soaking up the beautiful scenery and historic treasures that the Hills have to offer. She is the Communications Director for Black Hills & Badlands Tourism Association.

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