If you’ve spied a Donut Pantry Nutella, jam or custard bomb showered in cinnamon, sitting pretty on your local cafe countertop, do yourself a favour – try one! But be warned: stopping at one is tricky.
Owned and operated by Bulli mum-of-two Kaylee Head, The Donut Pantry produces tempting treats that are addictive and loved by many. As well as stocking local cafes with weekly donut drops, the self-taught baker also sells themed boxes for special holidays (who needs Christmas cake, when Chrissie donuts are an option?!), takes wholesale orders, and caters for events like weddings, birthdays and baby showers – making individual donuts as party favours or setting up impressive donut walls and dessert tables.
As Kaylee says, her donuts “are not for the faint of heart”. With flavours including cookies and cream and Turkish delight, adorned with the likes of peanut butter cups, biscotti and fairy floss, The Donut Pantry is all about bold, colourful donuts – big on flavour; big on wow factor! Since opening The Donut Pantry in 2017, Kaylee has been riding the sugar high…
How did The Donut Pantry kick off?
When I was pregnant with my second son, I had massive donut cravings, and while on the hunt to satisfy those cravings discovered that in Wollongong the best I could get was from the supermarket. It made me realise there was definitely a market. This spurred on months of research to learn how to make donuts, and how to make them taste amazing. I have no baking history whatsoever, so it was literally YouTube videos, finding different recipes, trying different recipes, perfecting different recipes... I’m really proud of the work I put into learning to make donuts. I came from an advertising background in Sydney, and when we moved back to the Illawarra to start a family there wasn’t the same kind of jobs available here, so I had to find something to do, and I liked the idea of working for myself. There are plenty of wonderful home bakers in the Illawarra making amazing cakes and desserts, so I went straight for donuts, and here we are…
Talk us through the donut-making process…
There are two types of donuts – caked-based donuts, which can be cooked in an oven or drip-fed into a donut machine, and yeast-based donuts, which is what I make. Mine are made like bread dough – you mix your dough, let it proof and then cut it. With the cake-based dough, you’re limited to what the machine can create, whereas yeast-based, because I hand-cut all my donuts, the dough can be made into any shape and size I want so I have more control. I can get bigger, fluffier donuts.
Where do you cook?
At my house. I do all of the dough work in my kitchen inside, and then we retrofitted a kitchen into the garage – so tiled walls, stainless steel benches and fryers. All the frying is done in the garage, but my house still smells likes donuts. People come to pick up orders, and say, “I didn’t know if I was in the right spot but then I could smell your house from outside and knew I had to be.”
How do you come up with the flavour combos?
I leave it up to how I’m feeling on the day. I have a lot of favourites that I keep making, because people love them. When we have events and weddings, I talk to the customers about what flavours they like and create something special for them. If it’s a flavour I end up liking, I add it to the regular rotation.
When did the business really take off?
When I made the decision to go wholesale. Before that I was at the markets, which was great, except I could spend a whole day baking 200 donuts and then it would rain the next day and the crowds wouldn’t turn up. My husband – who’s a creative director – put together a wholesale brochure for me, and I started dropping into cafes and handing out boxes with the brochure. I got a few hits from that and then from there social media ramped up. People started seeing the donuts in cafes and trying them, and then following up to order their own boxes for events. The fact that it’s starting to take off is amazing. I hoped it would be enough to be a part-time job, but it’s becoming a full-time job. I’m now in a position where I’m at my capacity of what I can physically make in a day, so I’m thinking about hiring extra hands, then eventually expanding past the house, and having a commercial kitchen. The ultimate dream is to one day have a store-front, where I could sell donuts and crazy milkshake flavours, too.
What does your day-to-day look like?
I try to have Sundays and Mondays off to spend time with my family. On delivery days, I bake in the morning – I get up at crazy hours while everyone is asleep, and keep my fingers crossed that they stay asleep. I’m used to being up at 4am, because neither of my kids are great sleepers, so they actually prepared me for the baking life [laughs].
Are the kids constantly asking to eat donuts for breakfast, lunch and dinner?
Would you believe, they’re such picky eaters, that they turn down some of the donut flavours I make, and tell me, “No, Mum, that’s weird.” They love the cinnamon donut holes, though – it’s basic cinnamon or nothing for them. They’re also great little helpers, coming on deliveries with me, and my five-year-old helps count the donuts, making sure Mummy has cooked enough for the orders.
So have you satisfied your donut cravings?
It’s a constant struggle not to eat my own donuts all the time! I really enjoy what I do and I love the fact that I get to work in the Illawarra doing something that makes me happy – you get used to the busy pace, early mornings, and hours spent in the kitchen. But I don’t want to be anywhere near the kitchen by dinnertime… it’s toasted sandwiches or takeaway all round.
fast five favourites:
Favourite beach in the Illawarra…
I basically grew up on East Corrimal Beach. It feels like home swimming at Eastie.
Favourite place to grab a coffee…
I’m currently loving my morning coffee at Léchappé Cycle Cafe.
Favourite place to eat…
When we can ditch the kids, hubby and I love date night at Kneading Ruby.
Favourite thing to do around town…
Walking the bike track and stopping at whichever beach draws my attention.
Favourite donut flavour…
Nutella bomb – I’m lucky enough that I get to eat them hot. They’re amazing when they’re warm.