The Salty Donut Wins Cooking Channel's Sugar Showdown

It's been nearly a year since the Salty Donut captured the hearts and bellies of Miamians. Now the shop is attracting more than just the Magic City's denizens.

Last Wednesday, September 14, the craft doughnut shop took home first place on Cooking Channel's Sugar Showdown. This weekend, the Salty Donut's winning creation will be available at both its Wynwood and Miami Beach pop-ups.

Executive pastry chef Max Santiago, along with cofounder Andy Rodriguez, represented the Salty Donut on the show, where three bakers from across the country battled for the title of best doughnut on national television. The two other competing doughnut makers were Joe’s Doughs in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Nibble Inc. in Troy, New York.

Santiago and Rodriguez created three doughnuts during the 30-minute episode, including a cannoli-inspired variety, which is what Miamians will be able to taste beginning Friday.

"It just tastes so freaking good," he says. "I love the shape of it too."
There's a chance the cannoli variety will become a permanent item. But as of now, the shop isn't making any promises. "We could change the flavors of the cannoli," he says. "Right now, there's fresh lemon and orange zest in it with pistachios. We could change up that profile with dark or milk chocolate and change the nut."

For the competition, Santiago and Rodriguez were flown to Toronto in July for 12 baking-filled hours. They had to keep their victory under wraps until the recent launch of the show's second season, which will feature more dessert competitions in the coming months using cakes, cookies, and pies. 

"After we were asked to compete, I was reluctant to apply," Santiago says. "I don't like being in front of a camera, being put on the spot, and produce something in a number of minutes in a kitchen I’ve never worked in.

"You have to be a completely different chef," he adds. "Everything you know is thrown out the window. There's no precision or patience."

The first round's mystery ingredient was basil, which proved no issue for Santiago because he loves to incorporate herbs into his desserts. He, with help from Rodriguez, created a sweet basil-and-olive-oil doughnut with strawberry-basil compote, torched merengue, and a crystallized basil leaf, propelling them to the second round.
To win, Santiago and Rodriguez needed to create two doughnuts, which both needed to be Italian-inspired and incorporate tomatoes. The result was a cannoli-shaped creation filled with ricotta and tomato jam, dipped in white chocolate, and topped with pistachios, along with a tiramisu doughnut drenched in espresso amaretto syrup, dipped in white chocolate, and topped with tomato-mascarpone cream, dark chocolate shavings, and cocoa dust. 

A yeast issue in his strawberry variety nearly squashed the Salty Donut's chances of taking first place. But the cannoli doughnut salvaged the disappointingly dry and rough texture of the strawberry-basil's dough.

"I really didn't know I was going to win," Santiago says. 

Along with bringing home the title, the Salty Donut also scored $10,000, which will be put toward a brick-and-mortar location, slated to open in Wynwood in December 2017.

Snag the cannoli treat this weekend at the Salty Donut's Wynwood pop-up (29 NW 24th St., Miami) from 11 a.m. till it sells out, as well as at the Confidante Miami Beach hotel from 8 a.m. till it sells out. Watch the episode online at

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Clarissa Buch Zilberman is a writer and editor, with her work appearing in print and digital titles worldwide.
Contact: Clarissa Buch