Who could have predicted that 2011 would turn out to be the Year of the Doughnut?

First came YoYo Donuts & Coffee Bar (5757 Sanibel Dr., Minnetonka, www.yoyodonuts.com), then Mojo Monkey Donuts (1169 7th St. W., St. Paul, www.mojomonkey.biz). And now, crowds are forming at the Donut Cooperative (2929 E. 25th St., Mpls., www.thedonutcooperative. com), which opened last weekend.

"I think it's because doughnuts remind everyone of childhood," said Dawn Otwell, the shop's founder. "They accessible, they're not fancy. Because we've been selling them so fast, our doughnuts are almost always hot, and there's something so comforting about that warm, sugary carb load. It's instant gratification."

She's clearly onto something, because by the shop's second full day in business, Otwell and her crew made and sold more than 1,300 doughnuts. It's been so busy that the kitchen is sticking strictly with cake doughnuts, at least until Otwell can hire more staff; the six-hour proof required for raised doughnuts is slowing down the kitchen.

Top sellers are the standard cinnamon-sugar, powdered sugar and chocolate ganache-with-sprinkles variations, but Otwell also prepares doughnuts filled with apple butter, pumpkin butter, strawberry jam and other made-in-house fillings. My personal favorite? An almond cream glaze, topped with slivered almonds. Doughnut prices start at 25 cents (for doughnut holes) and go up to $2.50.

There are vegan versions, too, and a short lunch roster also includes vegan items (ginger-cashew pate with cilantro and pickled carrots on a house-baked baguette was Tuesday's vegan sandwich). "The response from the vegan community has been overwhelming," said Otwell. The shop is open 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Two words of advice: Arrive early.