Ahh, the donut. Who doesn’t love this delicious, doughy delight of a pastry? Iced, sprinkled, cream- or jelly-filled, glazed, or simple and plain, we love donuts of all shapes, sizes, and flavors! But where did this quintessentially American dessert come from? The history of your favorite breakfast pastry is a bit more convoluted than you might think!
While the concept of fried dough isn’t exclusive to one country or culture, the doughnut or some variation of the pastry can be found pretty much throughout the entire world. While no one is entirely sure of the doughnut’s past, we can all agree that they are pretty much one of the tastiest pastries in the known universe!
Here are just a few big moments in the history of the doughnut that stand out!
Oily Cakes: The Dutch Doughnuts
The Dutch were creating delicious pastries called olykoeks (“oily cakes”) as early as the mid 19th century. These pastries were simple balls of cake that were fried in pork fat until they became golden brown. Since the center of the cake didn’t typically cook as quickly as the outside, the cakes were occasionally stuffed with nuts, fruit, or other uncooked fillings. As Dutch immigrants began settling in the United States, their olykoeks were influenced by other cultures bit by bit until they became the doughnuts that we know and love today.
Where Did the Doughnut Get Its Shape?
Although the Dutch would typically stuff the gooey, uncooked center of the doughnut with fillings that didn’t require any cooking, American ship captain Hansen Gregory came up with another solution – punching a hole in the center of the ball of dough in 1847. This increased the pastry’s exposure to the hot oil and eliminated the troublesome uncooked center. How he came to this conclusion is still a mystery. Some say he simply impaled the pastry on the ship’s steering wheel so he could steer with both hands. Others say he was given a vision of the doughnut’s shape from angels. Regardless of how it happened, Gregory is the person credited with coming up with the doughnut’s hole-in-the-middle shape.
What’s in a Name?
What about the name “doughnut”? While the origin of the dessert’s name is highly debated, some say that it refers to the nuts that were once placed within the ball of dough to help prevent the uncooked center from happening. Others say that the name refers to “dough knots” – another popular shape for the famous olykoeks. The first time the word “doughnut” was mentioned was in Washington Irving’s A History of New York, which was published in 1809. By the early 1900s, countless people had shortened the name to “donut.” Now the words “doughnut” and “donut” are used interchangeably!
Introducing the World’s First Automated Doughnut Machine!
The doughnut-making process became much easier nearly 100 years ago when Russian-born immigrant Adolph Levitt created the very first automated doughnut machine in 1920. This process was featured at the famous 1934 World’s Fair in Chicago, which had advertised doughnuts as “the food hit of the Century of Progress.” Doughnuts became an instant hit nationwide and have been a favorite breakfast food ever since!
Whether you’re looking for a tasty breakfast, satisfying and sweet dessert, or even want a unique wedding dessert, McArthur’s Bakery Café has everything that you’re looking for! Try our delicious donuts today and see for yourself!