The Jaarsma/Vander Ploeg Showdown


27 yards. 81 feet. 972 inches. 2468 centimeters…the distance between the prominent bakeries of Pella, Jaarsma and Vander Ploeg. Everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion, but what bakery really is the better place to buy your baked goodies? For most people, the instant response to that question may be Jaarsma hands down. Jaarsma has traditionally been seen as the “go-to” bakery of our small town, especially for local tourists traveling from all over the country just to try the famous Dutch Letter. But Zach Vande Weerd and I (Trevor Argo) didn’t want to just settle for assuming Jaarsma was the better bakery we instead took matters into our own hands and did some investigating. We compared donut holes, dutch letters, chocolate chip cookies, monster cookies, chocolate long johns, and the almond banquet/almond log from each bakery to find out the question that lingers in the air for every true Dutchmen…

The Classic Chocolate Chip Cookie: We started off with the classical chocolate chip cookie. Just from looking at the two, it was clear that there was a huge difference. The Jaarsma cookie was a small, pale, white cookie while the Vander Ploeg cookie was a nice big, brown scrumptious-looking cookie. We took our first bite, to no surprise, the Jaarsma cookie was hard, tasteless, and had tooth breaking capabilities. The Vander Ploeg cookie was moist, full of chocolate chips and perfectly baked. Even though the Vander Ploeg cookie was $.35 higher, it is definitely the one to go with. In the judging, Jaarsma scored a 13/25 while the winning cookie took a 17/25.


The Unique Monster Cookie: Who doesn’t enjoy a monstrous cookie now and then? Beginning with the Jaarsma monster cookie, we once again noticed a slight difference in the size. It once again was small. Using all our knowledge about a great monster cookie, we started to examine and eat our cookie. Once again the small Jaarsma cookie was hard. It was so hard, in fact, we stopped eating it and moved on to the Vander Ploeg cookie. It was perfectly baked, just the perfect ratio of peanut butter to chocolate chip to M&M. With the first bite, we bit into a perfectly moist and scrumptious cookie, just how you would think of one to be. It was no contest to which cookie was greater…Vander Ploeg. It beat it by four on a of 25, an incredible accomplishment.


The Spheres of Scrumptiousness: Who doesn’t like a couple donut holes for breakfast? Or maybe for a morning snack? Or maybe brunch? Or maybe lunch? Actually  donut holes are good any time of the day, and that’s a fact. Jaarsma’s donut holes came out on top in the appearance category, but neither of the bakeries blew us away by any means. Vander Ploeg’s donut hole size surprised us, nearly one-and-a-half times the size of Jaarsma’s. And, to go along with that, the price of the donut holes for a dozen of them was much cheaper than what you could get at Jaarsma’s. After biting into both bakeries’ donut holes, we were torn but knew a decision had to be made. Jaarsma’s taste came out on top, but overall, Vander Ploeg pulled out an upset, winning by one, with a score of 17/25.


The Luscious Long John: A hybrid of the classic glazed donut and unique frosted donut, the long john is a great breakfast item if one is in a rush. It is very easy to eat and will not spill crumbs all over your new outfit or all over the car. Vander Ploeg bakery scored two’s across the board in all areas of critique, tallying up to only a score of 10. Jaarsma took a stand in this area of judging by having the frosting perfectly spread amongst the moist doughnut. Not only was it a nice, even layer, but the color of the frosting contrasting nicely with the doughnut, making it very appealing to the eye. Zach and I thoroughly enjoyed the quality of product we got for such a low price, therefore we declare Jaarsma as the winner in this category.


The Auspicious Almond Banquet/Log: When one picks up the almond banquet from Jaarsma Bakery in one hand, and the almond log from Vander Ploeg in the other, you notice a very significant difference in weight of the sugary delights. Jaarsma’s pastry looked and was much larger, but Vander Ploeg’s had a much nice color to it. At $4.25, the almond log from Vander Ploeg was the better buy in comparison to the $5.39 almond banquet from Jaarsma. After chomping down on the massive almond banquet and then proceeding to the almond log, both were very pleasurable to our taste buds. But, the almond banquet definitely took the win in the taste category, therefore scoring an overall of 21/25 compared to the almond log’s overall score of 19/25. The almond banquet had a solid two inches of filling on the inside of the flakey crust, whereas with the almond log, we had difficulty even discovering the filling.


The Famous Dutch Letter: A classic S, the shape of Pella. Dutch Letters are an all- time favorite of many Pella residents and out of towners. With a flakey outer shell and a moist almond filling, we devoured the “S”. Looking at the outsides of both Jaarsma and Vander Ploeg we saw a perfectly baked browned outer shell of the Vander Ploeg “S” while the Jaarsma “S” looked pale white. From the first bite and just by looking at them, we could tell the Vander Ploeg letters were made by hand, not machine made. Vander Ploeg had a thicker filling; the Jaarsma one had an airy middle to it with there being separation between the dough and the filling. Being $.15 cheaper, fuller of almond filling and homemade, the choice was left to no doubt and Vander Ploeg was the winner by two.


After multiple trips to Jaarsma and Vander Ploeg bakery, Zach and I tallied the individual scores discover out the winner. After some serious math equations, Vander Ploeg came in with a total score of 91/150 and our winner, Jaarsma Bakery, came in with a grand total of 98/150. Both are respected bakeries in the Pella area as well as all over the world, but a decision had to be made, no matter how tough it may have been for us.


*Total scores were cumilated by a variety of judging areas including appearance, taste, color, price, and size based off a rating of 1-5 (5 being the best score)

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