The History, Origin, & Invention of the Donut

The History, Origin, & Invention of the Donut

glazed hexagonal shaped donuts made fresh

Donuts are one of the most popular foods of all time. They are sweet, delicious and you can eat them on the go. Donuts have been around for hundreds of years, however, their true origin & invention is debated as fried dough is not exclusive to a single culture. The exact place where the first donuts were made is unknown and nobody knows who made the very first donut. There are, however, certain events in history, which give us some idea of where donuts were first invented.

Dutch treat

Records show that in the mid-19th century, the Dutch began making a treat known as olykoeks (oil cakes). These donuts were balls of cake, which were cooked in pork fat until they were golden brown. The problem with these treats was that the cake cooked much faster on the outside than on the inside, leaving an uncooked center when the outside was done. To rectify this problem, cooks were stuffing the treats with nuts, fruit, or other fillings that did not need to be cooked.

When Dutch immigrants began to settle in North America, they continued to make olykoeks. As immigrants from other cultures also began making olykoeks, they crafted their own variations. Eventually, the olykoeks evolved to become what we know today as donuts.

A Distinct Look

To solve the problem of the uncooked center of donuts, many believed that stuffing the middle would be good enough. In 1847, an American ship captain named Hansen Gregory, came up with a better solution. Rather than dealing with the gooey, uncooked center, he chose to punch a hole through the center of the dough, eliminating the uncooked center altogether.

There are a few other versions of how the hole ended up in donuts. Some people say that Captain Gregory wanted to steer with both hands while enjoying his tasty treat, so he impaled his donuts on the ship’s steering wheel, creating a hole in the middle. Others say that the idea of the hole in the middle of donuts came to him in a dream sent by angels.

Whatever the real story is, Captain Gregory is credited for inventing the traditional ring shape for donuts.

Origins of the name

The origin of the name of donuts is also debated. Some people believe that the word donut refers to the nuts that were placed in the middle of the dough to correct the problem of the uncooked centers. Others believe that it refers to dough knots, which was a popular shape for olykoeks.

In 1809, with Washington Irving’s publication of A History of New York, the word “doughnut” appeared in print for the first time. By the early 1900s, the word was shortened to “donut.” Today, either spelling is acceptable.

Automated production

Up until 1920, donut production was a slow process, as each donut was made one at a time. Adolph Levitt, a Russian born immigrant to the United States, created the first automated machine for making donuts. In 1934, the automated process was featured at the World’s Fair in Chicago.

The modern donut

Since their invention, donuts have become incredibly popular. There are a few huge chains which produce millions of donuts daily. There are also smaller, specialty shops which make gourmet donuts. Even the purpose of donuts has changed. People are making bacon donuts, creating a donut for those without a sweet tooth. Others have made ice cream sandwiches using donuts, and some people even put their hamburgers on donuts rather than buns.

While the true origin of donuts may never be known, their enduring popularity is well established. At Shipley Do-Nuts, we’re confident that you’ll love our great variety of these tasty treats. Come in and try some today!


Sign up for the Shipley Do-Nuts e-newsletter and receive delicious deals and sweet insider info!

Follow us on

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest

Download Menu

© Copyright 2019. Shipley Do-Nuts.
All rights reserved.