By Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor Published Nov 11, 2020 at 11:01 AM Photography: Lori Fredrich

The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred a great deal of creative thinking among restaurant owners throughout the city, spurring new carry-out-friendly menus, food truck launches and, in many cases, new concepts. Among them is Sugar Cube Donuts, a concept launched via pop-up in October and which made a particular splash during the Third Ward Fall Crawl.

The hand-rolled small batch doughnuts are unique not only for their dough – which is free of eggs, butter and dairy  – but also for their distinctive square shape and eye-catching glazes and toppings.

Pictured above: Cookies and Cream (vanilla glaze, mini and crushed Oreos); Pistachio (pistachio glaze, pistachios); and Toasted Coconut and Fig (white fig glaze, pink pitaya drizzle, dried figs and toasted coconut

Square is cool

Behind the new doughnut brand is Emily Ware, owner of Playing in the Plants, the company behind both On the Bus at the Milwaukee Public Market and Sugar Cube.  She launched the Suugar Cube concept she’s launched with the assistance of On the Bus general manager Paige Hammond, who has taken on the role of the head of marketing and growth for Playing in the Plants.

Pictured: Paige Hammond and Emily Ware; photo courtesy of Sugar Cube
“When the shutdown happened this spring, one of the things I missed most was traveling and  trying new foods,” says Ware. “We’re always checking out new restaurants around the U.S., and some of the most memorable spots have been doughnut shops.”

Ware says she knew that it was more important than ever to keep new ideas flowing, so she and Paige went back and forth, sharing ideas related to keeping On the Bus offerings fresh.

“One of the things that kept coming up again and again was doughnuts,” she says. “Everyone loves doughnuts. They make people happy...and it seemed like it was exactly the thing that the world needed.”

From there, they set out to create the best possible doughnuts they could imagine.  Ware says she had a doughnut recipe in her back pocket, so they began experimenting with various flours, perfecting the dough over the course of a month or more through trial and error. As they experimented, they also honed in on what would become Sugar Cube’s signature square shape.

“When we were in the kitchen testing them out, we didn’t have a doughnut cutter, so we were hand-cutting them with a knife,” she says. “Ultimately, we decided it was a really cool shape, so we decided to stick with it.”

Pictured: Glazed doughnut, chocolate glazed doughnut

Get your fix

“We’ve been super thankful for the following we’ve gained over such a short period of time,” says Ware, noting that her dream would be to establish an independent storefront for the Sugar Cube Donut brand.

For now, folks can find the doughnuts (including standard glazed, brand new creations, and  filled doughnuts) during upcoming weekend  pop-ups held at On The Bus in the Milwaukee Public Market, 400 N. Water St., as well as in the Center Yard at Bayshore Mall, 5800 N. Bayshore Dr. in Glendale. Doughuts are $3 for glazed and chocolate glazed and $4 for specialty flavors. 

Doughnuts are also eligible for the $10 off $25 mobile coupon included in the new Let's Eat MKE digital coupon book, a convenient new way to support a variety of local restaurants (including On The Bus) while saving money at the same time.

November pop-ups

Here’s the current Sugar Cube pop-up schedule for the month of November.

Nov. 13: On the Bus at Milwaukee Public Market
Flavors: glazed; chocolate glazed; filled marzipan (white almond glaze, sliced almonds, almond custard filling); Under the Sea  (blue raspberry glaze, white chocolate mermaid tail, sea shells and toasted coconut); Turtle (chocolate glaze, caramel drizzle, pecans)

Nov. 20: Bayshore
Flavors: glazed; chocolate glazed, Dohlnut (pink glaze, sprinkles); Mocha Latte (mocha glaze, white chocolate drizzle, espresso powder);  Pecan Pie (cinnamon brown sugar glaze, crushed pecans, caramel drizzle)

Nov. 21: Bayshore
Flavors: glazed; chocolate glazed; Cookie Butter (Biscoff cookie butter frosting, crushed Biscoff cookies and a full Biscoff cookie); Candy Cane  Lane (pink peppermint frosting, mini candy  cane,  crushed candy cane); Samoa (chocolate glaze, caramel toasted coconut topping, chocolate drizzle)

Nov. 22: Bayshore
Flavors: glazed, chocolate glazed; Nutella (chocolate hazelnut glaze, crusthed hazelnuts); Green and Gold (green and gold glaze, golden sprinkles); Peanut Butter Pretzel (peanut butter frosting, mini pretzels, chocolate drizzle)

Nov. 28: Bayshore
Flavors: glazed; chocolate glazed; Hot Chocolate (marshmallow cream filling, chocolate glaze, mini marshmallows); Christmas Cookie (white frosting, red and green sprinkles); Red Velvet (red velvet doughnut, cream cheese frosting, red cake crumbles)

Follow Sugar Cube Donuts on Instagram and Facebook for future flavors and pop-up locations.

Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.