With the fandom of free donuts, specialty stores and the innate ability to revert everyone to their six-year-old self when the treats are in presence, you could say there’s something special about the hole-y dessert. But when was it that it came to be?
The most common case for its existence is said to be from the Dutch, who had the treat olykoeks (“oily cakes”). These Dutch treats were large balls of cake cooked in pork fat, with nuts or other items stuffed in the centre so the dessert would cook through. Dutch immigrants soon settled in North America in the mid-19th century, and these olykoeks evolved to the donuts we know and love.
However logical the Dutch’s claim to its creation may be, the Americans are the ones who strongly believe it was they who were responsible for one of the world’s most-loved treats: or more accurately, Captain Hansen Gregory. Back in 1847 it is claimed that instead of dealing with the gooey, uncooked centre of the donuts of the time, he used to punch out the centre – creating the hole we know and love. Some say the concept was delivered to him in a dream by angels, and others state it was so he could steer the ship with both hands while eating his treat. There’s even a rumour he accidentally punctured the snack on his steering wheel, one which was quickly debunked.
But those aren’t the only claims to its invention. It’s also been argued that a similar recipe as the Dutch was found as early as 1800 by Baroness Elizabeth Dimsdale. The recipe came from a local cook for an item called ‘dow nuts’, which consisted of sugar, eggs, nutmeg, butter and yeast made into dough and fried in hogs lard.
The first actual donut machine wasn’t created until 1920 in New York City by Adolph Levitt – a refugee from Russia. The machine meant the much-loved treat was able to be created en masse, and it’s from this point on donuts of the 21st century began to take their best form.
In the 1930s the recipe for the first Krispy Kreme donuts were created, and the model of wholesaling the baked treats to shops and supermarkets was implemented (and still is to this day). Donuts also played a role in war times, with Red Cross women commonly referred to as ‘Doughnut Dollies’ as they doled out donuts during World War II. Dunkin’ Donuts was soon created in 1950 in Massachusetts in America, challenging the popularity of Krispy Kreme and adding a competitive angle to the donut trade.
There’s no denying we love our donuts. For the comfort they gave soldiers during the war, the ability to fill our stomachs with a palm-sized snack and the array of flavours and choices with one simple treat. But if there’s anyone who cherishes the donut most, it’s the creator of Krispy Kreme as it’s known today. The original (and secret) recipe for the donuts stays locked in a safe with only the top Krispy Kreme workers able to access its creation. It’s feared that if anything were to happen to that safe or to the owners, its recipe would be lost forever.
With over a hundred years of history behind its creation, and with international donut day this Friday, June 2, it’s reason enough to celebrate. Approximately 10 billion donuts are eaten per year in America, so let’s give them a run for their money. Find your local donut store or whole-seller and get snacking.