“We went to Pyynikki for doughnuts.” Usually this is all the explanation needed, as the doughnuts sold at the Pyynikki Observation Tower café are world-famous. The doughnut recipe used today was created at the end of the 1980s when Eva Suoste took on running the café. She discovered a good basic recipe and sampled and revised it until she found the optimum balance between salt, sugar and cardamom.
The Pyynikki Observation Tower, built in 1929, is located at the highest point on Pyynikki ridge. The tower is famous for its incredible views and excellent doughnuts. The views can be credited to the landscapes shaped by the Ice Age and the thriving Tampere City Region, and the doughnuts have been on the cafés menu “since forever”.
This is Jaro Suoste‘s thirteenth year as the owner of the doughnut café, but the place has been a part of his life since his childhood. His parents Eva and Timi ran the café for some twenty years. The Suoste family’s history with the doughnut café began in the middle of the 1980s, when Jaro was not yet in school.
“My mum and I went skiing in Pyynikki and stopped at the Observation Tower café for some doughnuts and warm juice. I remember my mum looked around and said she would love to run a place like that one day,” Jaro Suoste recalls.
His mother Eva Suoste completes her son’s recollections by e-mail from New Zealand.
“In those days, the café was run by two consecutive entrepreneurs, each of whom had their own style of making doughnuts. At some point, I plucked up the courage to phone the city and tell them that if they were ever looking for a person to run the café and the tower, they should let me know.”
She had almost forgotten the whole thing when the phone finally rang. The café’s current keeper wanted to give it up, so this was the time to file an application. She did just that, and at the end of summer 1987, Eva Suoste and her family were told that they could start in October, appropriately on the eve of the Tampere day.
Eva Suoste explains that she visited the Observation Tower to find out what kind of refreshments the café should serve. It quickly became clear that the customers flooded to the tower in hope of doughnuts and coffee. Eva Suoste had never in her life made doughnuts, but quite by chance, she got off to a good start:
“At the time, my husband Timi ran a second-hand bookshop and I occasionally covered for him. When going through some old books, I came by a small leaflet from decades back, possibly from the 1930s. It was an advertisement brochure for some mill or another, and included a simple recipe for doughnuts.”
Eva Suoste began to experiment with the recipe at home:
“Especially the balance between sugar, salt and cardamom had to be adjusted several times. Timi and Jaro acted as my guinea pigs, but the final decision was down to my own taste buds. The end result was historical.”
Suoste’s experiments gave rise to a delicacy that is still sold by the hundreds every day at the Pyynikki Observation Tower. On busy days, sales go up to thousands. She says the original recipe brochure is safely tucked away, but buried so deep in her personal archives that it would take a thorough rummaging to dig it up.
The interiors of the Pyynikki Observation Tower café have been refreshed over the years with small renovations. No radical changes were, or will be, made, because Jaro Suoste is keen to maintain the original look and feel of the tower. Eva Suoste still remembers how the homely features were created when she took on the café:
“I put in a rug, some curtains, table cloths and plenty of pot-plants on the arched window. We also had a set of sofas placed in front of the arched window, and our customers loved to sit there and soak up the atmosphere. We have always decorated according to season, for example on Independence Days we have always had white table cloths and blue candles, as well as lots of customers who come to watch the fireworks from the tower.”
The café kitchen is something else. The space is small, but all products are made there from the scratch and so quickly that even a busload of doughnut-craving travellers can happily continue along their way. To ensure quick service, large groups are requested to let staff know in advance when they will be arriving.
“Our kitchen is not spacious enough to accommodate large equipment, so we have to do with small, even when daily sales climb to 1,500 or 2,000 doughnuts. My staff really does work miracles,” says Jaro Suoste with gratitude.
Charming lift boy, the best doughnut in the world
Jaro Suoste has been working at the Pyynikki Observation Tower from a young age. One of his earliest memories is of working as a lift boy, a task he took on at the suggestion of his father and with the enthusiasm of a child.
“The visitors were likely to be amused when they found a three-foot-tall little boy opening the lift door and pushing the buttons for them,” Jaro Suoste laughs.
Eva Suoste still remembers one particular doughnut she baked on a quiet, snowy winter’s day:
“I had just finished baking a tray-full of doughnuts when a customer walked in. He took his time taking his tea and doughnut to the window seat, took one bite of the warm doughnut and suddenly, with his mouth full, burst out, ‘This must be the best doughnut in the world’!”
Editor: Päivi Stenroos
The story was originally published at https://businesstamperemagazine.com/articles/when-the-best-doughnut-in-the-world-was-baked-in-pyynikki