Like many, Michael Milton and his wife Gabrielle Henning got really into baking in 2020. But for the Denver couple, their home-kitchen experiments came with professional ambition. The two share a background in the food and beverage industry, and, following early lockdown layoffs, were looking for a creative way to work. Enter: Pandemic Donuts.
Gabrielle is a chef by training with a background in pastry and led the duo on the culinary front. “We tried cakes, we tried monkey breads, and none of that was really tickling our fancy at all,” explains Michael, who handled the business side. “But Gabrielle knew how to make donuts already. So, one day I woke up and made a Pandemic Donuts Instagram page. She already had pictures of her donuts, so I posted some of those, reached out to some of the food bloggers in town, and we kind of just started getting orders right away.”
Take a look at their Instagram today, and a collage of colorful, eye-catching donuts make it easy to see why. Each topped with a donut hole, the pastries come in creative flavors that change every two days. Pandemic Donuts offers two styles of donuts: a yeast and an old-fashioned cake, alongside special appearances by cronuts, crullers, and various types of rolls, from chocolate peanut butter to pistachio honey. Michael explains that generally half of the day’s offerings are classic flavors, like strawberry sprinkle or maple glaze, and half are a bit more out of the box, like key lime pie or lemon poppy seed.
Every Friday, Pandemic Donuts posts to their Instagram page where to find them. The extensive list includes weekly markets and a variety of coffee shops around town, in particular Queen City Collective Coffee. In 2021, Pandemic Donuts partnered with the Denver coffee company and set up a full professional kitchen in the back half of their Five Points location.
“Early on, we kind of had to make a decision like, 'Are we gonna do this? Are we really gonna try to do this? You know…permanently,'” Michael recounts. “And we kind of just decided that we were going to ride it out and see how far we could take it—to see if we can make a career out of it.”
Today, Michael and Gabrielle have created not just a career for themselves, but an entire team that now contributes to making, transporting, and selling the donuts all over Denver. He attributes at least some of the success to the simple fact that they like what they make.
“We both just really like donuts. I think creating something that we enjoy making and really enjoy eating, helps us sell them,” Michael says. “I think with any good art or good food, first of all, there has to be a passion for it. And secondly, you have to really enjoy it yourself. If that happens, then, you know, I think it's easier for other people to like it and enjoy it.”
Looking ahead, Michael says to keep an eye out for a Pandemic Donuts retail location. “We'll be bringing a much larger menu and a really nice coffee program—serving Queen City of course.”
Follow along for flavor and location updates on Instagram at @PandemicDonuts or visit their website at PandemicDonuts.com.