When Fat Tuesday arrives each year, the best way for Michiganders to celebrate is by indulging in the traditional Polish jelly-filled pastry known as a pączek (PON-check).
For Michiganders of all ages, this treat is more commonly known as a pączki (POON-shkee), the plural of this sweet treat. Polish bakeries all over the United States will be busy filling orders for pączki lovers.
Hamtramck: Michigan’s Center of Polish Culture
In Michigan, one of the best places to celebrate is Hamtramck. This small Detroit enclave is known to be “home to the original Pączki”, which is the star pastry during their annual Pączki Day Festival.
Pączki Day 2024 is on Febuary 13.
During the early 1900s, Hamtramck saw an influx of immigrants, particularly Polish immigrants, who were attracted by the growing automotive industry. While the city has become more ethnically diverse in recent years, the city retains strong reminders of its Polish heritage, including family names, and businesses.
During the Pączki Festival, thousands of residents and travelers line up at Hamtramck’s bakeries to get their hands on some of these delectable treats. Some of the local bakeries even create new flavors for the event.
The celebration also includes a Pączki 5K run through Hamtramck the Saturday before Pączki Day. The event is all about having fun, but it’s also to help make room for more pączki.
What are Pączki?
Pączki are scrumptious Polish pastries made from deep-fried flat dough with fruit or cream filling and are topped with a light dusting of sugar, glaze, or even bits of orange zest.
The traditional fruit filling for pączki is prune, but they can be ordered with almost any fruit filling imaginable. The most popular pączki fillings besides prune include apricot, lemon, blueberry, raspberry, and custard.
Even though “pączek” can be translated to “little package” or “doughnut”, don’t be fooled! A pączek isn’t the same as an ordinary doughnut. A pączek is made from richer yeast dough that won’t collapse when you bite into it.
It was Polish King Augustus III who revolutionized these pastries from savory to sweet thanks to his indulgent spirit and the French cooks who worked in his castle. The dough also used to make pączki during this time was made to be spongier, lighter, and more resilient.
These simply sweet treats have even united classes. In ancient times, the wealthy savored rich game while peasants dined on cabbage and jellied pigs’ knuckles. However, pączki were commonly loved by both the upper and lower classes.
There is a noticeable difference between Polish and American pączki. In the United States, bigger is better, and pączki here can rival the size of traditional jelly donuts. In Poland, these pastries are much smaller, with only a little bit of filling inside them.
The Tasty Legacy of Fat Tuesday
Since the Middle Ages, Europeans have been baking pączki to empty their pantries of excess ingredients such as lard, sugar, and eggs before the fasting of Lent began. This day became known as “Fat Tuesday”.
Fat Tuesday is a Catholic day of celebration as it is the precursor to the Lenten season, the traditional 40-day period of fasting before Easter.
Fat Tuesday is also known as Mardi Gras, which means “Fat Tuesday” in French, as well as Shrove (from “to shrive” or “to hear confessions”) or Pancake Tuesday in the UK, where they typically celebrate by consuming pancakes instead of pączki.
Fat Tuesday was named thusly because it is considered to be the last day for Catholics to indulge in all foods before Ash Wednesday: The beginning of Lent. In contrast, the Poles celebrate Fat Thursday or “Tłusty Czwartek” on the last Thursday before Ash Wednesday.
The best place to celebrate Fat Tuesday in Michigan is by joining hundreds of Detroit-area residents in Hamtramck for their Pączki Day Festival. Every year, they party like it’s Mardi Gras in Detroit with music, drinks, and all the pączki you can handle.
Where to Get Pączki in Michigan
For those of you who can’t make the trek to Hamtramck, here are some of the best bakeries around Michigan to get your fill of pączki!
New Palace | 9833 Joseph Campau Ave., Hamtramck
Sister Pie | 8066 Kercheval St., Detroit
Gluten Free Specialties | 1928 Star Batt Dr., Rochester Hills
Paris Bakery | 28418 Joy Rd., Livonia
American Polish Cultural Center | 2975 E Maple Rd, Troy
Tringali’s Bakery | 29100 Schoenherr Rd, Warren
Benny’s Bakery | 111 W Michigan Ave, Saline
Dimo’s Deli & Donuts | 2030 W Stadium Blvd, Ann Arbor
Zingerman’s Bakehouse | 3711 Plaza Dr. Ann Arbor
Dom’s Bakeries | 1305 Washtenaw Ave, Ypsilanti
Quality Dairy | Various locations around Lansing
Hinkley Bakery | 700 S Blackstone St., Jackson
Sandy’s Donuts | 2040 Leonard St NW, Grand Rapids
Marge’s Donut Den | 1751 28th St. SW, Wyoming
Van’s Pastry Shoppe | 955 Fulton St E, Grand Rapids
Ryke’s Bakery Catering & Cafe | 1788 Terrace St, Muskegon
Sarkozy Bakery | 350 E. Michigan Ave., Kalamazoo
Sweetwater’s Donut Mill | 2138 Sprinkle Road; Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo; 2807 Capital Ave., Battle Creek
Krzysiak’s House Restaurant | 1605 Michigan Ave., Bay City
Barney’s Bakery | 421 S. Van Buren St., Bay City
Butter Crust Bakery | 6181 Dixie Hwy., Bridgeport
Cops and Doughnuts | 521 North Mcewan Street, Clare, and other locations
Potter’s Bakery | 908 E. 8th Street, Traverse City
Market 22 | 497 E Harbor Hwy, Maple City
The Flour Pot Bakery and Coffeeshop | 108 River St, Elk Rapids
Donna’s Donuts | 1135 West Bristol Rd., Flint
Crust | 104 W. Caroline at River St., Fenton
A&K Dawn Donuts | 132 Perry Rd, Grand Blanc
The Local Grocer | Various locations around Flint
Huron Mountain Bakery | 1301 S Front St, Marquette; US-41 W, Ishpeming
Roy’s Pasties & Bakery | 305 W Lakeshore Dr, Houghton
Celebrate Fat Tuesday With Delectable Pączki
Whether you prefer a traditional prune (plum) pączek or you can’t get enough of the numerous other fruit flavors, these tasty pastries are the best way to enjoy Fat Tuesday in Michigan.
From local grocery stores to historic bakeries, pączki are available all over Michigan. Call in your order ahead of time or get to your local bakery early on Fat Tuesday. Even if you just have one, you don’t want to miss your chance to sink your teeth into these rich fruity, sugary delights.
Where’s your favorite place for Pączki in Michigan? Let us know in the comments!