By Tamra Booth, Keeeps
Bakers and bakeries from across the country have been donating a portion of their doughnut sales to the Children’s Trust one week every year for the last 30 years. National Doughnut Week was set up by Dunn Bakery in 1991 and each year raises money for the UK’s leading charity for children with brain injury.
Doughnuts, however, have been around for much longer than that with the ancient Greeks and Romans eating small cakes that were fried and dipped in honey and variations of this doughy delight being enjoyed throughout Europe for centuries. The actual origin of the doughnut is hotly debated, with various schools of thought as to where the doughnut first came about. Some say the Dutch first came up with the doughnut in the 1700’s albeit it was actually called an olykoek, or “oil cake” – certainly not as appetizing! The other theory is that doughnuts were an obscure British specialty made by the residents of Hertfordshire, which they ate instead of pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. They say the doughnut made it to America via immigrants from Hertfordshire and the surrounding area that were the first to colonize New England.
On that note, why is it that we call it a ‘doughnut’ and our American friends call it a ‘donut’? ‘Doughnut’ is the original spelling of the word, coming onto the scene in the early 1800s. The Oxford English Dictionary lists Washington Irving’s reference to doughnuts in his 1809 History of New York as the first published use of the word: “An enormous dish of balls of sweetened dough, fried in hog’s fat, and called doughnuts, or olykoeks.”
‘Donut’ is an American variant that first appeared in the late 1800s as a contraction of the original spelling. The shortened spelling didn’t immediately catch on, however, and remained mostly dormant until midway through the 20th century when doughnut fever hit thanks to the popularity of the American company, Dunkin’ Donuts. However, the original spelling ‘doughnut’ still remains the preferred option internationally.
But why is it called a doughnut at all? We understand the “dough” part but what about the “nut”? It’s unusual to find nuts in doughnuts these days but back in the day, bakers added nuts to the dough for flavour or would place nuts in the middle of the dough so the middle would be full of nuts rather than a doughy, and often undercooked, centre. It is because of that undercooked middle that it possibly gets the first part of its name “dough”. Interestingly, depending on where you are in the UK, you may have a different name for the sugary snack altogether, with some Scots calling a classic glazed doughnut a “dough ring”, and in Ireland they call a ringed doughnut a “gravy ring” (gravy is an archaic word for hot cooking oil).
Whilst you will struggle to find a doughnut with nut filling, what you will find is doughnuts filled with jam – the quintessential filling for a doughnut. Jam doughnuts, or jelly donuts, to our friends from across the pond, are a firm favourite, so good in fact that they are made in most western countries. As a result, the jam doughnut has so many different names, it is hard to decipher exactly where it came from but the most compelling theory is that the jam doughnut is a German creation, known as a “Berliner”. In 1756, a patriotic Berliner rejected from the Prussian army as unfit for service was instead employed him as a baker where he created the jam-filled doughnut, which the soldiers then named after him. All we can say to that is, Danke Schön!
Jam doughnuts are also a huge part of Jewish cuisine and are known as Sufganiyot, which was declared the official food of Hannukah in Israel in the 1920’s. Gil Marks in the Encyclopaedia of Jewish Food tells the story of a young man called William Rosenberg, the son of immigrant Jewish parents, who started a catering business selling snacks in converted secondhand trucks near factories in Massachusetts. He noticed that doughnuts and coffee accounted for 40% of his sales, and in 1948 launched a doughnut shop called the Open Kettle. In his own words, Rosenberg said that it would grow to be ‘the world’s largest coffee and baked goods chain.’ Two years after opening, Rosenberg changed the store’s name to Dunkin’ Donuts and the rest is history!
Having been around in some form for centuries, it was only a matter of time before the doughnut got a serious “glow up” and who better to do it than Krispy Kreme with Selfridges. The world's most expensive doughnut, stuffed with Dom Perignon champagne jelly, adorned with edible diamonds and sprinkled with 24 carat leaf and worth £1,100,was made and displayed in Selfridges in 2012 . So, it appears that the doughnut has come a long way since being fried in soldiers' helmets and served by “donut lassies” (Salvation Army volunteers) near the front lines during WWI. But it just goes to show, Brits and the world alike have loved the doughnut for years.
In fact, we love the doughnut so much that we’ve started to incorporate it into our home interiors, the latest trend being doughnut vases! With influencers and fashion-lovers alike turning to homeware to get their styling fix during lockdown, doughnut vases have become a major interiors trend, ideal for pampas grasses and other dried flowers, a current favourite with interior designers.
So, with the start of National Doughnut Week and the love of doughnuts running deep, here are 4 ways to celebrate this year’s doughnut week!
1. Head to your local bakery
You can find a list of bakeries taking part on the National Doughnut Week website but not all bakeries participating are listed on the website so check direct with your local bakery. Our favourite local bakery, Burgers Artisan Bakery in Marlow are taking part in this year's event and their baked goods are divine! Of course, we must also mention Dunns Artisan Bakery, in Crouch End North London, a British bakery run by six generations of bakers over the last 200 years and who founded National Doughnut Week 30 years ago.
2. Buy something sweet and donate
If you don’t live close to a participating bakery, but fancy a sweet treat, pop down to your local bakery anyway or place an order online. Farmdrop do some doughnuts which are to die for, and their crodoughs (half doughnut half croissant!) are out of this world. Similarly, M&S do some mouth-watering cronuts (another name for the crodough!) but they call it a YumNut. We’ve tried and tested these – you will not regret eating them! And just before you dig into your sweet treat, make sure you send a couple of pounds in the direction of The Children’s Trust.
3. Share the doughnut love
Of course, doughnut week isn’t just about treating yourself to a doughnut, it’s about helping others. So, buy a doughnut for a friend or family member who might deserve a pick-me-up, may be feeling a bit down in the dumps, or needing some company. One thing is for sure, things never seem so bad after a nice cuppa tea in a handmade mug, sugary treat and natter with a mate.
4. Buy a doughnut vase
If you’ve given up sugar, are following a strict diet, or for some reason just don’t fancy a doughnut, why not treat yourself to a ceramic doughnut vase instead? Whilst it’s not as tasty, it’s certainly something to feast the eyes on! Check out the collection we stock at Keeeps (proof is in the pudding below!) and is perfectly paired with dried flowers. Keeeps will be donating 10% of all profits made on doughnut vase sales in the next month to the Children’s Trust, so you can be confident knowing you have done your bit!
5. Spread the word!
When we told our friends that the theme of this week’s blog was National Doughnut Week, the collective response was “I had no idea there was a doughnut week!” and of course, Doughnut Week is all about raising money and awareness to the Children’s Trust.
The more awareness is raised about Doughnut Week, the more people buy doughnuts, which means more money going to charity! So, share this blog, share those drool-worthy photos of you enjoying your doughnuts on social media, tell your friends and family, make or decorate some doughnuts yourself and generally share the sugary love - it is for an incredible cause after all!
So, remember, if you are buying from a non-participating bakery, don’t be a doughnut, take 5 minutes to donate to The Children’s Trust – just a couple of pounds goes a long way to a fantastic charity, which of course, like so many other charities in the UK, has really struggled over the past 18 months.
P.S If you do buy a doughnut, doughnut vase and/or donate to the wonderful Children’s Trust, tag us in your photos and we’ll be sharing them on our Instagram!