One of the perks of moving every two years is getting to experience the cultural variety that the US has to offer. Whether at the World Ice Art Championship in Fairbanks, Alaska, or at the Maine Lobster Festival in Rockport, Maine, we haven’t had to look far to find a unique local event. So, when we heard about Pączki Day, a holiday apparently involving jelly donuts, the Detroit Crew was all in.
Unless you hail from Poland or the Midwest, you may have never heard of this holiday. I hadn’t! It’s celebrated in the States due to the large Polish immigrant population mainly from Buffalo to Chicago and down through Ohio, and was historically a pre-Lenten sugar clean-out of the pantry. Here in Detroit, the donut-eating mainly takes place on Fat Tuesday, whereas in Chicago, I hear Thursday is also common.
The best-known bakeries in Detroit are located in the historically Polish Hamtramck area – New Martha Washington Bakery and New Palace Bakery. If you go on Pączki (pronounced POONCH-key) Day, expect to wait in line for hours to sample this tasty treat. I highly recommend calling ahead – if you can get through!
We also found that the American Polish Center in Troy, Michigan, (about 30 minutes from downtown) was offering Pączki for sale. Since we were on the hunt for an authentic Pączki, that seemed like a good bet. It also wasn’t a source we’d heard a lot about in our research on where to buy Pączki, so it seemed necessary for the purpose of researching this post that we try what the APC had to offer! 😉
Traditional fillings include Bavarian cream, prune, rose, lemon, apple, strawberry, raspberry, cherry, custard, and blueberry. New Martha Washington Bakery offers all these and a few more, however New Palace Bakery distinguishes itself through its specialty fillings. They also offer the traditional flavors, but their specialty fillings include combinations like Cocoa Puffs, Strawberry Cheesecake, and Chocolate Custard. Even President Clinton visited New Palace Bakery when he was in office!
So, on to the verdict! We held off on consuming the Pączki until we got home, so we could compare them and enjoy them with a cup of coffee. Upon opening the boxes, the color difference between the Hamtramck bakeries and the American Polish Center Pączki was surprising – the APC ones were several shades darker. We cut into the Pączki to compare the amount of filling from each bakery. Another clear winner – the APC pastries had more filling than the other Hamtramck bakeries.
As far as the taste of the pastry itself, the APC won out as well. Theirs was moist and flavorful, while we found the other two bakeries’ a little dry and tasteless. The fillings were most delicious in the APC Pączki, though we did enjoy trying some of the specialty flavors from New Palace Bakery.
We certainly didn’t expect the results to be so clear-cut. It was fun to explore Hamtramck, a new neighborhood of Detroit to us, but I think I know where we’ll be buying our Pączki next year!
Know before you go:
- New Martha Washington Bakery and New Palace Bakery both accept credit cards (though New Palace adds on a surcharge, so you might consider bringing cash). The American Polish Center only accepts cash for their Pączki sale.
- Flavor options for New Martha Washington are visible in the picture in this post, for New Palace Bakery are posted here, and for the American Polish Center are custard, strawberry, raspberry, prune, apricot, blueberry, cherry, apple, and lemon. More information can be found on their website.
- I easily found on-street parking in Hamtramck and had no trouble getting my orders, but I strongly recommend calling ahead, regardless of the bakery you choose. (Particularly if you have kids in tow, as I did. :-)) That said, I did go a couple of days before Fat Tuesday, so as not to have to brave the lines and traffic.
Happy Pączki eating!