2015: The year Nutella went nuts

Foodcraft Espresso's Tella Ball Shake went viral on social media.
Foodcraft Espresso's Tella Ball Shake went viral on social media. Photo: Supplied

The first clue that something was up were the handmade signs that appeared outside cafes and bakeries all over Melbourne: NUTELLA HERE they screamed in shaky capital letters. WE HAVE NUTELLA DOUGHNUTS. In Sydney, it was an outbreak of social media sharing of Nutella-laced treats: Nutella crepes, cronuts, frappes and milkshakes were all over Instagram and Facebook.

Confirmation that Australia was in the grip of a Nutella frenzy came in a series of tabloid-style internet headlines claiming that the country was running out of the sweet breakfast spread: "Don't Freak Out But There Is An Official Nutella Shortage", "Nutella Shortage Looms in Australia So Here Is Where To Get Your Fix" and the click-baity "Melbourne is to Blame for the Nutella Shortage in Sydney".

Nutella doughnut at Melbourne milk bar Jimmy's Place.
Nutella doughnut at Melbourne milk bar Jimmy's Place. Photo: Pat Scala

The frenzy started back in May in the working-class flatlands of Melbourne's north. Within three weeks of ordering 75 Nutella-filled doughnuts from a local baker and photographing them on Facebook, a nondescript milk bar in Fawkner called Jimmy's was selling 1000 a day. As Good Food reported at the beginning of June, there were queues out the door and customers sending couriers across town to get their fix; someone even messaged from Texas for doughnuts to be frozen and flown there.

Six months later the doughnuts are still selling in big numbers, though people call ahead; bulk orders come from local companies such as Ford and Holden; an architect in Melbourne wanted 300 not so long ago.

Jimmy's owner, Jimmy Othman​, is open and friendly, but he's evasive about how many Nutella doughnuts he's selling now. It's still a lot of doughnuts, though not as many as the 3000 he says they sold on one day at the height of Melbourne's Nutella doughnut bubble.

Jimmy's doughnuts are big, pillowy and well dusted with icing sugar. The Nutella is warm and runny, and they are impossible to eat politely while Jimmy watches. He puts the craze down to Facebook, where Jimmy's Place now has 5300 likes. The page features photos of doughnuts, a weekly update – "doughnuts ready now!!!" – and nothing much else.

Further north in Thomastown is Mick's Place. Mick Solomon is Jimmy Othman's brother-in-law, and the same week that Good Food broke the story of the doughnut craze at Jimmy's, the local newspaper in Thomastown reported that Mick's was selling up to 4000 Nutella doughnuts a day, including 4300 one Sunday.

Mick's Place is a low brick building on a suburban corner surrounded by car parking spaces. Local kids have graffitied one wall with Sharpies: "Khalil was here … yummy dougnuts!"; "Khoder Mick's nephew"; "Yeaboi #micksplace." The coffee comes in takeaway cups, and a shelf displays shisha​ pipes modelled on AK47s.

The doughnuts are similar to Jimmy's: big, soft, loads of icing sugar, a cloying dose of Nutella.

Mick is a big guy with a gruff voice and a Melbourne-Lebanese accent. He takes a seat under the umbrellas out front and talks in a low whisper, fast and hard to hear.

"I was selling just a couple a day. I switched the jam for Nutella myself. We just piped it on top – we weren't actually injecting them.

"One day all these cars rocked up out of the blue. They said, 'Is there a bakery here?' I said no and they all took off without buying anything."

Soon they came back: Mick's was the only shop around. "Are they Nutella doughnuts," one woman asked. Yes. "Can I buy all of them, and can I place an order for tomorrow." She wanted a dozen.

"I thought someone was playing a prank," Solomon says. "I started looking outside for the camera."

The next person in line wanted a dozen as well, and so did others – suddenly he had orders for 130 Nutella doughnuts for the next day. The doughnutella's fame (a name Solomon says he came up with in a customer competition) spread from there – and not just around Melbourne.

"One of my customers sent me a snapshot of a Facebook status saying 'Just finished paying $16,000 for a doughnut'. I thought, who would do that? Sure enough, a millionaire Hong Kong woman hears about the doughnuts, gets on a plane, flies down here, comes in – I serve her, I don't know who she is. There's Range Rovers and all that, me not realising what's going on until two weeks later when I saw her picture, and I remember I served her."

Mick's doughnuts came from Il Forno Ciabattaria, a bakery in the back streets of Reservoir.

"Mick was selling 3000 a day," confirms Carlo Cappello​, co-owner of Il Forno. "Not all from here. I don't know if he was making his own or what."

Il Forno has been making the Nutella doughnuts for at least four years, Cappello says. His business partner saw bomboloni filled with Nutella on a trip to Italy, and thought they should give them a go.

"They took off in April or May." He credits Facebook and Instagram.

In August Cappello claimed responsibility for an Australia-wide shortage of the Italian hazelnut spread. He told one local newspaper he was going through 600 kilos a week, exhausting the country's stock of caterers-size tubs and sparking a scramble for smaller domestic jars.

"I still use about half a tonne a week," he says. "Five hundred kilos. You can get it, but you have to get in early."

Sydney's contribution to the Nutella shortage was not doughnuts, but a wave of Frankenfood treats incorporating Nutella.

Foodcraft Espresso in Erskineville had the Tella doughnut freakshake – a Nutella doughnut perched on a Nutella milkshake. That went viral on Instagram (16.6K followers), and Foodcraft's Aki Daikos​ says they were using a tonne of Nutella a week in July and August; one Sunday, they sold 130 kilos of it in shakes.

Oregano Bakery's Nutella and banana scrolls were so popular they're even exported to Melbourne; there were Nutella frappes, crepes, cruffins, pizzas and even kurtoskalacs​ (Hungarian chimney cake); and Sydney gave us the mother of all Nutella excess, the Nutella arancino at Cremeria De Luca in Five Dock.

And there will be more Nutella madness when Foodcraft Espresso opens the Tella Balls Dessert Bar in New Canterbury Road, Dulwich Hill in January. Daikos expects to be using a tonne of the gooey chocolate stuff a week in shakes, gelato, crepes, waffles and pancakes, and "a surprise product that has never been seen before in Australia."

The Nutella doughnut is the 21st-century offspring of custard-filled bomboloni from places like Pasticceria San Giusto, which stood for half a century in Lygon Street, East Brunswick, a little Italian bakery with a wood-panelled front room and a counter with a couple of dozen pastries displayed at a time: bread, croissants with apricot jam and bomboloni filled with custard.

Back at Mick's Place, there is a stack of boxes that would hold a dozen doughnuts, all labelled with home-printed stickers bearing a caricature of Mick himself.

At last count Mick's Facebook page had more than 20,000 likes. On Instagram he has 6400 followers. His nine-year-old daughter manages the social media.

"Crazy," Solomon half whispers as he remembers the height of the bubble. "We'd run out by four o'clock. That's the reason I started making my own. I told Carlo Cappello, 'I can't keep up'." He now has his own doughnut factory in Somerton.

So why did Melbourne suddenly go nuts for Nutella doughnuts? "If I knew," says Solomon, "I'd do it with the next thing."

"I'm not thinking of becoming a doughnut king or whatever. I'm just going with the flow, wherever it takes me. I don't want to ruin this product, because it's changed our lives completely."

Melbourne doughnutology

1. Mick's Place: the doughnutella originator. Big, soft, full of Nutella, and only $3. Cart them off by the dozen.

91 Victoria Drive, Thomastown

2. Il Forno Ciabattaria: the northside Nutella doughnut was born here. Another big mouth-full of soft dough and hazelnut spread. $3.

96 McFadzean Avenue, Reservoir

3. Sugardough: Bomboloni Chocolate, the son of the original Italian custard bombolone. Smaller, denser, filled with buttery chocolate ganache. $3.20

163 Lygon Street, East Brunswick

4. Tivoli Road chocolate doughnut: the southside artisan doughnut. Dense, tasty, slow-rise dough, light chocolate creme patissiere filling. $4.

3 Tivoli Road, South Yarra

5. Nutella doughnut, Jimmy's Place. The doughnutella tsunami broke here back in May. Big, dosed up with Nutella, and made in a secret location. $3.

38 Argyle Street, Fawkner

6. Choc-hazelnut doughnut, Shortstop doughnuts and Coffee. The hipster riff: hazelnut and chocolate ganache on a cake-batter doughnut. Banana-infused for extra breakfast appeal. $4.50.

12 Sutherland Street, Melbourne

Sydney Nutella Frankenfood

1. Nutella and banana scroll, Oregano Bakery. Loaded with choc-hazelnut goodness. So tasty they fly them down to Melbourne.

56 Connells Point Road, Hurstville

2. Nutella arancini, Cremeria de Luca. Yes – the fried rice balls, filled with Nutella and dusted with sugar. I-double-heart-Italy.

84Ramsay Road, Five Dock

3. Tella ball shake, Foodcraft Espresso. Nutella, in a doughnut, with a straw through the middle of it, on top of a Nutella milkshake. Make that frankenshake.

33 Bridge Street, Erskineville

4. The Bomb, Piccolo Me. Nutella on a stick to stir into warm milk. Also – Nutella affogato.

62 Norwest Boulevard, Baulkham Hills

5. Nutella kurtoskalacs, Kurtosh. Hungarian chimney cake with Nutella layered in the pastry spiral. Multicultural moi?

110-112 Willoughby Road, Crows Nest

Customised jars of Nutella.

Gift guide: Have yourself a Nutella Christmas…

1. Butterboom giant Nutella cookie sandwich, $45. 24 centimetres across, weighs 1.5 kilograms. Say no more. See butterbing.neto.com.au/butterboom.

2. Nutella: the 30 Best Recipes. Why go out when you can make your own? Nutella charlotte, Nutella mousse, Nutella Twelfth Night cake and more. Plus, it's shaped like a jar of Nutella. $16.95, Books for Cooks, phone (03) 8415 1415, Myer, or try Amazon or Booktopia.

3. Personalised Nutella jars at the Myer Giftorium. With any name on it you want (up to 11 characters, within reason). $12.95. See myer.com.au

4. Nutella phone covers, for iPhone, Samsung and more. Our favourite – I heart (spoon) Nutella. $10. See stores.ebay.com.au/AO-Cases

5. Nutella chocolate love pyjamas. T-shirt top with Nutella print plus bottoms in a range of checks. $62. See cafepress.com.au

6. Monsieur Truffe hazelnut and chocolate spread. Organic hazelnuts, sugar, cocoa powder. No palm oil, Not-tella … $18. See monsieurtruffechocolate.com