Review: Tim Hortons Signature Donuts are pricey sugar bombs


At $1.49 each they offer only marginally more value than the chain’s traditional donuts.

tim hortons, signature donuts
THE GOOD: Your daily dose of sugar in a highly concentrated package.
THE BAD: High price, unnecessary packaging.

I can’t explain why I’ve been getting into this, but I’ve been developing a new hobby of late – I’m getting fairly good at baking pies.

I’ve made half a dozen different kinds by now, some multiple times, and it’s given me new insight into desserts. I’ve come to realize that just about every one of them is merely sugar dressed up in a different form.

Sure, a piece of pie – or a cake, or ice cream, or tart, or any other dessert – might have some signature flavour to it, say chocolate or coconut, but ultimately it’s sugar. Every other ingredient that goes into it is merely there to give it some minor differentiating flavour, texture or presentation.

It’s all otherwise filler that masks the real reason we like desserts: because they’re sugar, and we’re genetically programmed to like sweet things.

It’s with this newfound realization that I came to sample Tim Hortons new signature donuts. A “limited-time” offering, these little pastries actually exemplify what I’m talking about – they’re sugar through and through, in slightly different formats and presentation.

Tim’s is presenting these signature donuts as premium products – veritable iPhones to the regular Android junk donuts the chain normally sells. There are three to choose from: Raspberry Truffle, Strawberry Shortcake and Chocolate Woopie Pie.

As a self-appointed arbiter of new fast-food offerings, and as an aspiring pie-making dessert master, I felt it incumbent on me to try these premium donuts out and to report back, lest anyone out there is considering trying them.

Note: I made sure not to try all three at once, since such foolishness could only lead to diabetes. I spread out my Signature Donuts dining experience across three days, to properly digest and process the elevated levels of sugar that I was blasting my insides with.

Raspberry Truffle:

I tried the Raspberry Truffle, pictured above, first because it sounded the most appealing. It looks chocolately, and who doesn’t like raspberries? Plus, the three red things on top look kind of Swedish berries, and Swedish berries rank as one my favourite formations of sugar.

There are two things you can’t help but notice about Tim’s Signature Donuts before you even bite into them. First is the $1.49 price tag, which is a full one-third more than a typical donut. Second is the Big Mac carton that it comes in.

I have real problems with both, but lets deal with the second first. Okay, so the donut comes in a Big Mac carton. Really? I mean, really?

I get the premium experience that Tim’s is going for here, but putting an individual donut into its own container seems more wasteful than extravagant. It also certainly drives up the price, but more on that later.

There’s really no need to involve cardboard, even though it probably gets recycled. There’s a high probability that you aren’t transporting Tim’s Signature Donuts across town, for presentation at a dinner party, so having excess packaging is really wasteful. In my case, the box ended up in the garbage within seconds.

Okay, anyhow… the donut itself. Of course it’s good. It’s sugar, remember?

I was actually a little surprised, since it wasn’t as overwhelmingly sweet as I expected. If you’ve tried Tim’s past premium donuts – who can forget the Oreo monstrosity – you might remember that eating those was sandblasting your oral cavity with sugar. Sugarblasting.

The dense chocolate pastry of the Raspberry Truffle keeps it in check, though. The donut itself counteracts the sweetness of the raspberry filling – I use the term “raspberry” loosely, since there’s probably no actual fruit in it – and the glaze topping.

The brown-and-white glaze, by the way, is where the truffle part comes in. It’s a type of ganache, or icing that is otherwise used in chocolate truffles. Us pie-making types know this and can differentiate this type of truffle from the mushroom kind.

So what about those Swedish berry-looking things? Alas, they’re nothing of the sort. They’re simply dense sugar, coloured red. Realistically, they add nothing to the donut except a splash of colour.

All told, the Raspberry Truffle was okay. It’s no better or worse than any of Tim’s other filled donuts, except that it has filling and glaze. That, and the box, are what the chain is using to justify its premium cost. Ugh. I promise, I’ll get to the rant about cost shortly.

Although the Raspberry Truffle didn’t taste overly sweet, it clearly had an effect on my system. About half an hour after eating it, I started feeling funny. I got a bit of a fever, accompanied by a hard sugar crash. I reminded myself that I should get another diabetes check soon. But not before completing my triumvirate of donut tests.

tim hortons, signature donuts

Strawberry Shortcake

It’s hard not to associate this donut with the children’s cartoon character, but here we are.

I ordered the Strawberry Shortcake and couldn’t get over how much it resembled an Egg McMuffin. Somebody remarked on Twitter that it looks like a dessert burger. Either way, it doesn’t look like a donut.

In actual fact, it’s a donut cut in half with some strawberry-flavoured jelly and whipped cream in the middle. There’s also powdered sugar on top, but compared to its brethren, the Strawberry Shortcake is basically a “lite” donut. It’s the one you have if you’re on a diet. If you’re on a terrible diet, that is.

It only takes one bite to discover the Strawberry Shortcake’s big design flaw – all of the whipped cream immediately shoots out the other side. That means you end up slurping whipped cream from your hand and/or the table top, like some desperate hobo who hasn’t eaten in a week. Or at least that’s what I pictured myself appearing as.

There’s really no easy way to eat this one. Your best bet is to strategically aim the ejected whipped cream into your otherwise useless Big Mac carton, where you can suck it up when no one’s watching.

All told, the Strawberry Shortcake was uninspiring and unremarkable. It left me kind of wanting an Egg McMuffin instead.

tim hortons, signature donuts

Chocolate Woopie Pie

Last up, the Chocolate Woopie Pie – or as I call it, the bastard child of the other two Signature Donuts.

Before I get to the donut itself, a funny anecdote. Firstly, I can’t think of too many other things that you can order in front of another person that make you feel as foolish as when you say, “Chocolate Woopie Pie” out loud.

The clerk eased my embarrassment, though, as she ran around looking for a Big Mac carton. “Are there any more boxes?” she shouted.

I briefly considered telling her to forget about the totally unnecessary packaging and asking for a commensurate discount, but figured the odds of that actually happening were nil, so I let her scramble for it. I had nothing better to do anyway.

So the box was found and my donut was had. The Chocolate Woopie Pie – I still can’t get over that name – itself is made of the same dense dark chocolate pastry as the Raspberry Truffle, but instead of a jelly filling, it has the whipped cream found in the Strawberry Shortcake donut.

It’s topped off with a chocolate glaze and couple of blobs that I assume are chocolate chips.

This one’s slightly better designed than its Strawberry Shortcake brethren. While it also kind of resembles a McMuffin, it isn’t cut all the way through, which means there’s a blockage at the back of the donut to keep all that whipped cream from oozing out.

It’s just as uninspiring though, with the best thing I can say about it being that it didn’t send me into the sweats like the Raspberry Truffle did.

All told, the Chocolate Woopie Pie was my least favourite of the bunch, mostly because of its name but also because it doesn’t have much unique going for it.

In the end, I couldn’t be less enthused about any of Tim Hortons’ Signature Donuts. They’re a third more expensive than regular donuts and deliver marginally more value, unless cardboard containers are your idea of premium goods.

The donuts are only available for a limited time, which is considerably longer than my interest in them. I’ll be going back to old-fashioned chocolate dips, where I have to peel the glaze off the top of the cheap paper bag, thank you very much.

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