Alongside “Donut Alley” in this town across the Ohio River from Louisville there’s an old-fashioned donut shop where I reignited my love of cream horns.
story & photos by Bakery Boy
How could I have forgotten about cream horns? Cream horns are awesome, but you just don’t see them very often anymore. I made them by the thousands in the bakery where I grew up, but somehow I’d gone years without eating one or thinking about one, much less making any. Then I stumbled upon Honey Crème Donuts in New Albany, Indiana, and fond cream horn memories came rushing back.
Honey Crème Donuts is a classic little old-fashioned donut shop that just happens to sit at the corner of Donut Alley and Vincennes Street in downtown New Albany. Well, not “just happens to,” exactly. Four generations of loyal customers have patronized this long-operating shop, often parking in a narrow side street while running inside to grab some snacks, and people usually referred to that street as Donut Alley. Eventually, the city went ahead and made the designation official, with signs and all, since everyone called it that anyway.
Now about the cream horns at Honey Crème: Each one is a small cornucopia-shaped “horn” made from a single long strip of puff pastry dough wrapped in an overlapping spiral around a removable metal tube and baked until it’s a flaky, hollow tunnel about the size of a hot dog bun. Once cooled, the hole left by the metal tube gets filled with fluffy whipped cream, and then the top is sprinkled with powdered sugar. At Honey Crème, they dip the ends in shredded coconut that sticks to the whipped cream, providing a little extra flavor and a nice visual touch too. The result is simple and elegant, and I’d forgotten how much I liked them until I bit in.
Once I recovered from my slightly delirious reintroduction to the cream horn, I explored the rest of the showcases at Honey Crème. The glazed apple fritters caught my eye because of the obvious bits of real apple (not the mushy canned stuff) peeking out from the lumpy, brown, amorphous masses about the size of my fist. There was also an interesting variation called an apple nibbler (just 55¢) comprised of a small puff pastry square baked with more of the same apple bits on top.
I also ate a cream-cheese-and-cherry Danish. And a square-ish donut completely covered on top with chopped peanuts held in place by a smear of either maple or white icing, take your pick. And a slice of coconut cream pie, perhaps because the small amount of coconut highlighting the ends of my cream horn left me wanting more. And, for old time’s sake because they’ve long been my favorite and because I’ve learned to gauge a donut shop’s overall quality by how well they handle something so basic, a got a chocolate-covered cake donut. The verdict? Honey Crème passes, with honors.
One woman working behind the counter (who wouldn’t let me photograph her) said her boyfriend is the current donut maker. “I told him I’d go out with him but he needed to bring me one of these apple fritter every day,” she said, tapping the counter above a tray full of them. “He did, and he still does, and now I work here too.”
After she saw what all I’d ordered — I consumed about half immediately and tucked the rest away for later — she insisted I try what has become a Honey Crème signature item, the doublaro twist. A doublaro twist is two long strips of donut twisted together like a loose braid and folded back around itself, forming a roughly oblong “double twist,” which is then generously coated in either chocolate or maple glaze. It’s a sticky mess requiring a napkin or (better yet) some serious finger licking, but given the opportunity I wouldn’t pass up the chance to eat another right now.
While we were talking and while I was snacking, three small kids came tearing in, trailed by their grandmother who was keeping them for the day while the parents worked. The kids immediately got noses-close to the showcase glass, talking fast and loudly and all at once, their fingers pointing at what they wanted, which was just about everything in sight, and their eyes wide. I don’t think they blinked for at least five frenetic minutes. If they ate all the sweets their grandma bought for them, I imagine the drop-off back at home later was a wild scene. But hey, don’t a lot of us have fond memories of times like that, reveling in a trip to a donut shop?
Honey Crème is a good little donut shop in a squat, unassuming, white-brick-and-red-roof building beside an alley just off the main drag in downtown New Albany. Those three kids will probably remember it as a palace of wonder. I’ll remember my visit to “Donut Alley” for several reasons, but mostly because it reintroduced me to the simple glory of cream horns. Thanks, Honey Crème.
Honey Crème Donuts
514 Vincennes Street
New Albany, IN 47150
Hours: Sun-Thu 5 a.m. – 1 p.m., Fri-Sat 5 a.m. – 8 p.m.
For more about the New Albany area: http://www.cityofnewalbany.com or http://sunnysideoflouisville.org
For more about the greater Louisville area: Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau www.gotolouisville.com