Brittany Williams barely remembers a summer in her childhood that wasn’t filled with donuts. As soon as school was over, his parents sent him to his grandfather in Monroe, Louisiana. The warm dough, both crispy and soft, dusted with powdered sugar, has etched itself in his memory as one of the purest forms of joy.
When Williams began her studies at a culinary institute 16 years ago, she knew she wanted to use her cooking prowess to one day give customers the same servings of happiness she enjoyed as a child. After two years of study, she obtained a degree in pastry-baking, but the goal of owning her own shop was still far from being achieved.
“Unfortunately, I don’t come from the money, so I had to save up and do it myself to start this business,” says Williams.
She spent the next fourteen years working in a military commissariat in every possible position and department, from customer service to driving a forklift through the warehouse. Stints at McGuire Veterans Hospital and Johnson Willis anchored Williams in the idea of River City as the perfect place to finally pursue her passion for baking. Despite the uncertainties of the pandemic, Williams opened Café Beignet as a food truck nearly two years ago.
“I just felt like donuts were something I really wanted to bring to Richmond,” she says. “A lot of places stuff them, but I don’t like anything stuffed, whether it’s jelly donuts or donuts. I wanted to bring the traditional donuts as well as the mixed and topped donuts so our customers could have something more exciting than powdered sugar. »
The Acadians first brought donuts to the Americas. But as soon as they arrived in New Orleans, the little French beignets began to evolve to meet the tastes of the moment and those who made them. Williams sampled all the variations, from French villages to New Orleans, before embarking on creating her own custom recipe, true to memory of her grandfather’s more beignet creations.
“A lot of people associate donuts with New Orleans, but they’re actually popular all over Louisiana,” Williams says. “Some people think my donuts aren’t close enough to New Orleans style and others tell me mine are 100 times better than Café Du Monde, but all I want to do is give people a warm and delicious pastry.”
While her choice to use toppings may make her donuts unconventional, it also makes them undeniably delicious. Williams’ best-selling Honeybun Donut takes a standard donut, toss it in cinnamon sugar, then glaze it with vanilla-honey glaze.
Perhaps her most requested (and somewhat off-menu) order is a combination of her Blueberry Pie and Lemon Pound Cakes. Blueberry pie beignets elevate a standard order with French blueberry jams and vanilla frosting. For the connoisseurs, Williams will combine the two orders on one plate and even spread the fresh lemon zest glaze over the blueberry donuts in a decadent combination of flavors.
Another classic dessert that Williams recreates with her donuts is strawberry cheesecake. Topped with whipped cream, strawberry frosting and graham cracker crumbs, the flavorful result is a far cry from the traditional donut. There’s a reason its specialty donuts outsell the standard powdered sugar variety.
Café Beignet rarely changes its signature dough, but the shop will make an exception for seasonal assortments like apple fritter or gingerbread. Looking for fall flavors? Try the Pumpkin Pie Donut for a crispy, chewy treat with pumpkin, sweet potato, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and brown sugar mixed right into the batter. The caramel-spiced glaze only enhances the autumnal ecstasy of the dish.
While the coffee isn’t the star of the show, that doesn’t mean Williams, a former barista, doesn’t serve well-made drinks.
“I’m a coffee addict,” she says. “I worked as a barista all through culinary school to pay my bills, and my grandmother was a coffee drinker, so when I lived with her while my mom was in college, I would take coffee. coffee every morning from the age of about five.”
It also doesn’t hurt that coffee goes incredibly well with donuts. Whether you want the classic latte accompaniment or the New Orleans chicory root coffee, Williams’ shop will serve you the perfect cup of coffee. If it’s a latte you’re looking for, take a look at the Honey Lavender and Brown Sugar Cinnamon options.
After nearly two decades of hard work to get to the point of owning her own boutique, Williams couldn’t be prouder of Coffee Donut RVA premier brick and mortar location on 17th Street Market in Shockoe Bottom.
“As a woman of color, I had to overcome many obstacles,” she says. “It means a lot to me to be the only entrepreneur and the first person to start a business in my family. It’s really easy in this society to feel discouraged to pursue your dreams, but I hope I can inspire others people, especially women of color, to pursue what they really want to do.