Why you should care
Sticky and addictive, you won’t be able to eat just one.
Everyone knows the Amish abide by a strict social and moral code, but only northern Indiana locals know their guilty pleasure. The Amish developed something so irresistible that non-Amish have given it a slightly offensive term of endearment: crack.
“Amish crack” isn’t something you’ll find being peddled out of a barn or hidden in a horse-drawn buggy, and it’s not actually an illicit substance. Rather, it’s a puffy, soft cushion of a doughnut, smothered in sticky caramel and topped with a thick dusting of cinnamon and powdered sugar. It’s officially known as the cinnamon caramel doughnut, and you’ll find it at Rise ’n Roll Bakery and Deli locations and pop-up vendors throughout Indiana and Chicago.
The sweet treats are the result of years of trial and error by Amish couple Orvin and Viola Bontrager, who started Rise ’n Roll Bakery and Deli in Middlebury, Indiana, in 2001, and sold the goods from their front porch. The couple sold the business in 2009 when the operation became too much to continue without electricity, which was against the Bontragers’ religious beliefs. Orvin remained an operating manager for some years after.
Beard lovers, you’ve been warned.
The first time I tried the doughnuts in Middlebury, I grabbed one ($1.19) and a coffee and sat at a table in the middle of the bustling bakery, where the modestly dressed Amish and non-Amish employees shouted orders, rushed to bus and wipe down tables and greeted familiar faces. And then I heard it.
“Around here, we call those ‘Amish crack,’” the man I was meeting with told me. Within half a day, I realized that everyone in this region knows what “Amish crack” is and where to find it (it’s not, however, a term the bakery endorses).
“Crack” might seem like a disrespectful word to associate with a conservative religious sect, but it’s well-meant: “You pick one up and right away want another,” says Mike Wickersham, who lives in Middlebury and has frequented the original Rise ’n Roll for years. He believes the doughnut’s nickname caught on shortly after the bakery opened (Rise ’n Roll Executive Director Russ Crawford says it was Chicagoans who coined the term). Wickersham prefers the bakery’s apple fritters, though, as the doughnut’s frosting “gets all over my beard.” Beard lovers, you’ve been warned.
Today, Rise ’n Roll has nine locations across the region, two of which are franchises. With the hard work of the 18-person doughnut crew (some Amish, some not), the Middlebury location supplies all the others with an average of 9,000 cinnamon caramel doughnuts a day, and sometimes 20,000 on a Friday. This year, the cinnamon caramel doughnut was named the official doughnut for National Donut Day, and Rise ’n Roll gave away 18,500 free doughnuts.
So what makes them so addictive? Everyone has a theory, including one blogger who speculates that potato is the secret ingredient, an idea Crawford “loves but is not going to comment on.” He chalks it up to the doughnuts being made from scratch daily, though he firmly states that he’s “not giving up the secret.” (Looks like you’ll have to head to Indiana!)
Sometimes the popularity is too much for locals — Rise ’n Roll has become a must-visit Amish tourist attraction. The Middlebury store sees four to five busloads of visitors a week. But can you blame them? If you hear “Amish” and “crack” in the same sentence, who wouldn’t be curious?
Get Some: Amish Crack
- Locations: There are nine Rise ’n Roll bakeries in Indiana and Chicago, but the most authentic experience is at its flagship store and bakery in Middlebury, Indiana (map). Open Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday hours vary by location.
- Friendly reminder: Out of respect, do not use the term “Amish crack” with Amish people.
- Pro tip: You get a free coffee with every doughnut purchase, so skip Starbucks.
- While you’re in the area: Browse the wares at the Shipshewana Flea Market and visit Elkhart (“the RV Capital of the World”) to check out the RV/MH Hall of Fame or Nappanee to tour an RV manufacturing plant where many Amish work