In the Kitchen: Mark Anderson & Lena Wollan from Kilted Donuts in Leith, Edinburgh

The latest in our series of chef interviews, Catriona Thomson discovers what a black pudding donut tastes like and what the secret night life of this transatlantic couple involves.

Published 21st Jan 2020
Updated 12 th Sep 2023

At a time normally when the people of Edinburgh are either tucked up in bed or heading out for a night on the tiles, a solitary figure turns the key in a door, heading into a property on Great Junction Street to begin a hard day's night in the kitchen.

While the city sleeps, Mark Anderson (one part of the kilted donut duo) is hard at work, mixing and proving dough, which is rolled out, then cut into sweet confectionary rings, fried and decorated, before being sold the next day.

According to Mark, no one else is about at that time of night.

"It is absolutely deserted but I do try to be as silent as a mouse because of our neighbours.”

The Kilted Donut's wares

Half expecting tartan-clad owners when we visited, we were instead told by Lena Wollan (the other half of the duo) that the store name refers to a combination of their nationalities, 'Kilted' obviously referring to Scotland and donuts (in its American form) being a nod to the US.

Born stateside in Rochester, Southern Minnesota, Lena moved to Edinburgh for a masters degree in informatics at the University of Edinburgh in 2004. She is a software designer to trade and still works full time on top of her catering duties.

Hailing from the opposite side of the Atlantic, Castlemilk in Glasgow to be exact, Mark says he grew up in a "tight-knit unit" with his mother and grandmother.

"Both were strong and independent characters, who wouldn't take any nonsense from me, but were also very kind.”

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The Honeymoon

So how exactly did an American abroad end up being swept off her feet by a Scot?

Mark explains: “We met online, with our first meeting just to a pub in Edinburgh. I had drunk a bit, and then to calm the nerves I drank a bit more, but I told her that I loved her on our first date.

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"The best bit, was that she didn't run away.”

The following year the couple got married with a two-week honeymoon in New Orleans, it was here that their love affair with dough rings started.

Lena explained that they discovered a quirky eaterie called District Donuts on Magazine Street, she said:  “They had unusual flavours and we visited every day.”

“We loved the feeling of the place, welcoming and comfortable and homely,” adds Mark.

Then for the next two years, the couple made it their mission to learn and experiment with their own recipe.

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“We tweaked the basic mix until we found a consistent dough we liked, then we tried it out on all our friends and co-workers,” says Lena.

Once they had perfected their donut mix they took the plunge and started selling at Leith Market, which Mark admits, to begin with, was terrifying.

"The first time we did it we probably only made about £20 profit, which we spent on pizza”.

However the couple quickly built up a band of regulars, on top of both working full-time.

Nine to five

They opened the shop in 2018, and Mark explains taking the plunge and leaving his I.T. support job with a regular income to follow his passion was "terrifying.”

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He said: “I used to help reset passwords and tell people to switch their computer off and on again. While dreaming of owning my own boutique cinema, but a little donut shop was a little bit more obtainable.”

Lena adds: “As soon as we got the keys and a ten-year lease we gutted the place, but there is still a lot of work to do and we have more plans for the future.

"We have grown mainly by word of mouth, with our strong base of regulars who pop in once a week if not more often. By selling direct it means you get the chance to talk and get to know them.”

Luckily, Lena likes to be up with the lark, as she heads to the shop for four o'clock in the morning to help fry and decorate the rings before heading to her job.

Mark starts work even earlier at eleven o'clock at night, he said: “The worst part is getting up in the middle of the night when the alarm goes off, I have asked myself why am I doing this when I should be in bed, and I stay in the shop until we sell out. A very, very long shift!”

I have a dream!

The couple's obsession led them to take a busman's holiday to New York to check out the opposition. They came back bursting with ideas and inspiration.

Both confess to dreaming about donuts, but they are on a mission to get the whole of Edinburgh and the world, to know just how good their wares are.

They have a range of 40 flavours which you can order online, often for birthdays and weddings and gifts, but they offer five different daily options in the cafe, in addition to the staples: jam, vanilla and cinnamon sugar.

There are three different sizes, the usual circular rings, full round ones The full Kilt and Kilties, which are the tiny cut out centres (a smaller taster size).

They also make butter layered Kronuts (a croissant-doughnut hybrid invented in New York),

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In the tiny back kitchen, Mark explains:  “We don't use pre-made mixes or artificial flavours and we use all-natural ingredients wherever possible, you can't hurry the process, it all takes time.”

Accurate scales and keeping your wits about you in the wee small hours are essential skills. Firstly he slices unsalted butter thinly and measures out golden rapeseed oil to place in a stainless steel pan.

It is a large batch so the quantities are huge (exactly how much is closely guarded secret).

This is then melted on a stove, and while this is warming, Mark measures out milk, and cracks open numerous eggs, before whisking. They also make a vegan version which replaces the yolks and whites with flaxseed eggs.

Then he weighs out granulated sugar, salt and lots of strong bread flour, plus their own special ingredient which is vital to creating their unique tasting donuts. These dry ingredients are loaded into the industrial mixer.

When the melted butter cools slightly, the milk and egg mixture are added, along with the active dried yeast.

This brew needs time to start working, for the yeast to froth and bloom.

This wet mixture has the consistency of a thin custard mix and it is now added to the dry ingredients in the mixer and beaten for around 45 minutes.

When ready, the mixture comes cleanly off the side of the bowl, Mark then manhandles the heavy mixture turning it upside down with a deft roll and flick movement.

It is then put in a large plastic tray and covered with cling film to keep it warm, and allowed to prove for a few hours. Mark tidies up the area and in true 'Blue Peter' style, has a batch which is ready to roll.

The risen dough has the air knocked out of it and it is then turned onto a lightly floured surface.

He then uses two different sized rolling pins to flatten the sheet to a thickness of about 1.5cm.

The all-American metal cutters are used to mark the shapes. Lena brought them over from the states, and laughs  as she remembers the custom officials taking a long time to check her suitcase.

Mark deftly runs the space-aged looking cutters over the surface to make either whole circles or rings. These rounds are carefully placed on large metal trays, Mark says, “a watched donut never rises.”

A watched donut never rises.

Lena explains: “When they are ready, they seem lighter to hold, and the dough quickly springs back into place when touched. Only at this point, are then ready to fry. ”

The oil is then heated to the optimum temperature. Lena gently places the donuts in the quietly bubbling fryer, which is long and shallow to ensure all the cooked goodies are evenly fried.

Fried to perfection.


Halfway through cooking, the rings are turned and the centres are probed to ensure they are correctly cooked. Before being fished out and allowed to cool, ready for the fun part of filling or decorating.

This is where Lena gets creative, with toppings and filling, everything from scotch bonnet chilli sauce to colourful sprinkles and sugar strands.

Sweet or Savoury

Today we are getting to try four flavours.

Black pudding and tomato and red pepper chutney topped ring.

Classic maple & bacon - an iced hoop with crisp crumbled smoked bacon on top.

S’mores - a chocolate ring with a fired marshmallow and digestive biscuits crumbs.

Homer - fresh strawberry icing with sprinkles. The typical donut from The Simpsons!

The Verdict

Black pudding on a doughnut shouldn't work tastewise, but honestly, it does.

Almost like a cream cheese-filled bagel but better, topped with moist morsels of the black pudding which provides both taste and texture and perfectly counterbalanced by the sweet-sour chutney. My advice is to be brave and bite into it.

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The classic maple and bacon combination uses essence not sweetened syrup for the glazing which has been imported from the U.S.A., and the smoky bacon notes linger on the palate.

The rich thick dark chocolate icing is sublime, the addition of melted marshmallow smores and crumbles of biscuit provide additional interest.
Finally, my favourite one called the Homer, which is a traditional pink strawberry ring with artistically sprinkled sugar stands.
The icing is made from fresh fruit which provides amazing flavours and no matter what time of day or night, I'd happily eat the lot.

Under the grill: Quick Q & A with Mark and Lena

Describe your cooking style? and why are you passionate about it? Traditional, French-inspired fusion etc.

“We make handmade artisan donuts American-style, with some Scottish flavours.

We primarily do sweet but have started dabbling in more savoury  We love the creativity involved in coming up with new flavours.”

What was your first job in the industry? Plus where were you before?

“This is our my first 'job' in the industry, we have had a baptism of fire, jumping right in at the deep end, with this place.”

Favourite flavours? 

Lena - "My current favourite is brown butter biscoff, I'm addicted to its wintery comforting charms. In general, it is raspberry - we use both fresh raspberries and jam."

Mark - "Savoury donuts really work for me, we have a beetroot and goat cheese one which I like and everyone talks about our maple and bacon.”

Are you sweet or sour? So is it all peace and harmony in your kitchen or do the pots and pans fly? What little things annoy you?

“We work really well together although words can fly at 4am when we're both a bit tired.”

What is popular in your kitchen right now? 

“We always try to have seasonal flavours available, so for Valentine's day we have 'Just Friends' a strawberry cream filling with chocolate icing or 'Romance' which has a chocolate cream filling centre, chocolate icing, raspberry drizzle both are decorated with heart-shaped sprinkles.”

Tea or Coffee? Is it Darjeeling darling or bitter Colombian? What's your brew and how you like to drink it? Camomile, Milky brew or builders elaborate, please?

Lena - "I'm all about the coffee - we have a fantastic brew from Williams and Johnson that I just love at the moment.

"I go with my own unique drink - espresso, half hot water and half steamed milk. Not quite the richness of a latte, but still with the sweetness from that steamed milk.”

Mark - "It has got to be tea, a milky brew with sweeteners. I love the smell of fresh coffee beans just don't like the taste.”

Everyone has one at least one guilty food pleasure, so what do you love but are too embarrassed to admit?

Lena - "I absolutely love Cheetos, the American ones that you can't buy in the UK due to all the chemicals in them. I always stock up when I make a trip over there.”

Mark - "It is a cheese and corned beef sandwich, heated up in the microwave.”

Who is your favourite chef? Plus everyone has a food hero/ local supplier, who is yours and why? 

Mark -  "Gordon Ramsay.  It would be really interesting to see what he thought about our donuts. Just for fun.”

Fantasy dinner party guests? and what would you cook for them?

Mark -  "My late granny Margaret passed away two weeks before our wedding so I never had a chance to make her our donuts. I'd love to make her the Cranachan chantilly cream one, with fresh raspberries, honey oats and a hint of whisky.”

I don't like...or I'd rather not eat......

Lena - "I can't stand bananas, there's something about the smell, texture, taste, everything. Whenever we have Banoffee on at the shop I do everything I can to get someone else to handle it."

Mark - "Not a fan of tomatoes or peppers but saying that we do a red pepper chutney donut with black pudding which really works. It surprised me too but it is really good.”

The Kilted Donut

191 Great Junction Street, Leith

Edinburgh EH6 5LQ (0131 241 6316)

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Catriona is a freelance writer based in the Scottish Borders, and a nominee for Food and Drink writer at this year's Scottish Press Awards.
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