In honour of Jellybean’s Retail and Consumer Team recently being appointed consumer and trade PR agency for popular London doughnut chain, Doughnut Time, I’ve decided to explore the history of the much loved doughnut.

Let’s start with some fun facts – get those juices flowing…

  • The largest doughnut ever made was an American style jelly (jam) doughnut, weighing an almighty 1.7 tons and measuring 16ft wide and 16in high. It was made in New York in January 1993.
  • You’d be right to assume that our friends across the pond are mad for ‘donuts’, but a whopping 60 million doughnuts are sold in the UK every year too!
  • If you laid 14 million regular-sized doughnuts side by side, you’d connect John O’Groat’s to Land’s End – approximately 1,407km.
  • The name for a doughnut shape is a toroid – doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it?

A History

Going back centuries, in Ancient Rome and Greece, cooks fried strips of pastry dough and covered them in a variety of sweet and savoury flavours. During medieval times Arab cooks would fry small portions of unsweetened yeast dough, dunking the plain fried blobs in sugary syrup whilst Germans made a savoury version in the 1400s when sugar was scarce. The Dutch introduced the first oily cakes (olykoeks) to America in the early 1800s. By this time, the fried dough cakes were similar to today’s doughnuts but still had some key differences: they lacked a hole in the middle and were relatively flavourless aside from the raisins and apples which were often stuffed in the centre. Soon after the Dutch pilgrims brought them to America, holes were added to the fritters to create the shape of the doughnut we’re familiar with today. In fact, this invention came out of necessity to avoid the centres remaining raw after frying – in 1847 Captain Gregory punched a hole in the centre of the dough ball before frying; the hole increased the surface area, exposure to the hot oil, and therefore eliminated the uncooked centre (result!). The sweet treats even played a role during war times. During WW1 female Salvation Army workers known as “Doughnut Girls” would fry doughnuts to pass round the American soldiers fighting in France. The sweet treats provided a taste of home to the soldiers, who became known as “Doughboys.” Doughnut Girls were replaced by “Doughnut Dollies” during WWII.

Doughnuts Today

For many years, large chains such as Dunkin’ Donuts have dominated the market, but as the trend for “boutique foods” continues at pace, smaller chains and stores have ensured doughnuts are not being left behind. Doughnut Time creates elaborate doughnut creations, adorning the fried dough with glazes of all colours and flavours and confectionery from Nutella jars through to golden caramel Freddo bars. Each doughnut is then given a celebrity or pop-culture inspired name such as Snicki Minaj (chocolate glaze with caramel, chocolate swirls, peanuts and Snickers) and Stranger Rings 2.0 (chocolate glazed doughnut with Oreo crumbs, Nutella and glitter).

It’s not just the insta-worthy doughnuts that are setting the ‘doughnut’ world alight though. Now you can devour doughnut burgers, doughnut encased biscuits, doughnut sandwiches and more. Check out these dough-mazing delights:

Spicy Ox Cheek Doughnut at Duck and Waffle
Served with apricot jam and paprika sugar £12

Doughnut Ice Cream Sandwich at Bird
A scoop of vanilla ice cream sandwiched in one of Bird’s daily glazed doughnuts, fresh whipped cream and chocolate & toffee fudge sauces. £4.50

Red’s True BBQ – Donut Burger™
Sweet and savoury delight. Beef patty, Unholy BBQ sauce, burger cheese, smoked bacon, crispy onions, Dirty sauce, all between two sweet glazed doughnuts, served with Frickles. Single £10.95 Double £12.95

Doughnut Time’s Chris Hemsworthy Mega Doughnut
Red velvet vegan doughnut, topped with cookies and cream frosting, vegan cookie pieces and chocolate drizzle! £17.00

So, next time you’re devouring a doughnut – be it at one of Doughnut Time’s ‘hole-in-the-wall’ London stores, or perhaps you’ll take on the double burger at Red’s – be sure to tag us in your pics @JellybeanAgency!