There are few things quite like an early morning trip to a donut shop. Fresh, homemade donuts are made every day at Carmella’s Crème Donuts, a staple of Champaign for many years. Knowing they only take cash or check, I went to an ATM before arriving. Additionally, Carmella’s does not have a website or social media presence, so the only way to know what they have is to go yourself.
Photo by Matthew Macomber.
Inside Carmella’s, the seating isn’t set up for eating indoors, but there is a drive-through in addition to the option to order inside the store.
With most baked goods at about a dollar, I decided to try seven different things for the sake of variety.
First, I wanted to eat a strawberry Danish ($1.37). This treat was very dense, though the strawberry filling had an artificial taste to it. This Danish was fine. Not especially memorable, though not bad by any means. I didn’t even know Carmella’s sold a Danish since they weren’t on their menu.
Definitely on the menu, the blueberry muffin ($1.37) was nice and dense with more than a smattering of blueberries inside. Quite big and not at all dry, I rather enjoyed this blueberry muffin, though it is hard for me to find blueberry muffins I don’t like.
Ready to finally eat a donut, I started with a powdered cake donut ($0.99). I loved the thorough powdered sugar coverage around the donut and the ever-so-slightly crispy exterior. This powdered cake donut was similar to the mini-powdered sugar donuts you can buy at grocery stores but a big step up in quality.
For Carmella’s glazed yeast donut ($0.99), I was surprised by how rich and dense the donut was. Other yeast donuts I’ve eaten are typically fluffy and light, though this donut was not. Thankfully, I prefer a dense donut. The yeast had a rich, complex flavor I noticed was missing from the cake donuts, such as the white frosted cake donut that I tried next.
Though wonderfully presented with evenly spread white frosting, the cake donut ($0.99) itself tasted merely like cake, without that satisfying fried donut aftertaste. It also wasn’t crispy on the outside which is my favorite part about fresh donuts.
In comparison, the white frosted yeast donut ($0.99) was amazing. Thanks to a layer of glaze under the frosting, the donut had a satisfying crispness with every bite. The richer yeast-base also balanced better with the sweet frosting than the white frosting on the plain cake donut. Make sure to try one of these frosted yeast donuts.
To top things off, I tried a glazed cake donut ($0.99). Made in the old-fashioned style with a textured cake, this donut was made for dunking (though I didn’t do that). Crispy on the outside and extremely dense — more so than other cake donuts, this is the quintessential donut to have with a cup of coffee or milk, as it is the only donut you’ll be hungry for after eating it.
Having heard about and eaten from Carmella’s Crème Donuts in the past, there were sweets such as cinnamon rolls that I didn’t have a chance to try since they were out by the time I got there. Since they open at 6 in the morning, I wouldn’t wait too long to visit Carmella’s, as they may run out of your favorite treat.
Located just off Springfield Avenue, Carmella’s fits perfectly into a morning drive to work, so give it a chance next time you have cash on hand and find yourself on the West side of Champaign.
Carmella’s Crème Donuts
1611 W Springfield Ave
6 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., daily