A “Hole” Lot of History
Fried, frosted, and often covered in sprinkles, the doughnut is one of the most popular treats in the United States. But, where did these wheels of sugary goodness come from? While their exact origin and creator are unknown, there are events throughout history that point to how the doughnut came to be.
In the mid-19th century, the Dutch started making olykoeks, or “oil cakes”, which historians consider to be early doughnuts. The olykoeks were balls of cake, sometimes stuffed with fruit, nuts, or other fillings, and then fried in pork fat until golden brown. As Dutch immigrants settled into the United States, they brought their favorite treat recipes with them, and it is believed that olykoeks heavily influenced the doughnuts of today.
Because the center of doughnut would often be uncooked due to the high temperature needed for frying, the Dutch stuffed them with fillings that did not require cooking, but an American ship captain named Hanson Gregory had another idea. Gregory decided to punch a hole in the center of the ball of dough before placing it in the fryer – because if it’s not there, it can’t be undercooked! The hole also increased the surface area of the pastry and allowed exposure to the hot oil on all sides.
Doughnut or donut? The proper spelling of the word is still highly debated. Some say the name is a reference to the nuts that were stuffed in the center, while others claim it is a combination of the words “dough” and “knot”. The first record of the name, spelled “doughnut”, was found in Washington Irving’s publication, A History of New York, which was published in 1809. By the early 1900s, many lovers of the sweet pastries had shortened the name to “donut”. Today, both spellings are used interchangeably.
To help with the rising daily demand for doughnuts, Adolph Levitt invented the first automated doughnut machine in 1920. In 1934, Levitt’s machine was featured at the World’s Fair in Chicago, where doughnuts were advertised as “the food hit of the Century of Progress”. The sweet treats became and instant sensation across the country and are still widely enjoyed throughout the United States.
The Sweet Experience
Today, specialty and boutique doughnut shops are popping up in cities across the country, serving up homemade doughnuts with unique flavors and toppings. These pastries have become so popular that festivals are held across the United States each year to celebrate doughnutty innovation and give visitors the opportunity to taste new flavor combinations. Topped with cereal, bacon, or sandwiching a hamburger, the doughnut is more than just a sugary pick-me-up… it’s an experience!
Now that you know the history, will you be enjoying a special green and red frosted doughnut this holiday season? Or, maybe you’ll go with an old faithful and grab a box of Krispy Kreme®. No matter what you choose, enjoy it with a cup of hot cocoa, a cozy blanket, and loved ones.