Doughnuts or Donuts?

My first ever jammy doughnuts were consumed at the till of a large supermarket in my home town in the UK. This was in the seventies, when such treats were rare… Why eat them at the till, you may ask? Coating everything in jam and sugar as you packed up your shopping?

Because they were still warm!

We could watch the bakers squirting the warmed jam into the middle of the freshly made doughnuts – this was the first big “superstore” in our town, with its own bakery!

They would be the last thing we put in our trolley before racing for the till and there we would stand, jam dripping down our chins, sugar dropping over our shopping bags, grinning from ear to ear!


In the south of Germany the current lead-up to Fasching/Mardi Gras is the season of “Krapfen”:

…practically the same as what the English call doughnuts, but traditionally a little lighter with only icing sugar outside and a little apricot jam inside. (Not quite as decadent as the English ones!) The ones in the photo are a perfect example – from our local bakery, where they are made fresh throughout the day.

In the north of Germany Krapfen are called Berliner or Berliner Pfannkuchen (Berlin pancakes), which is why there’s the joke about JFK’s famous speech at the Brandenburg Gate where he said “Ich bin ein Berliner” (possible translation: “I am a doughnut”)!

And in many other regions of Germany and Europe the doughnut, with all its various names, takes different forms and contains different fillings, or is often not filled with anything at all. (Boring!) There is, in our part of the world, also the “joke” doughnut… fortunately I have never been given one. It contains mustard!

Donuts (different spelling) are, as far as I can tell, the American version with a hole in the middle. (Originally called “ring doughnuts” in the UK and simply known as donuts here in Germany). They seem to typically have different coatings, glazes and/or fillings. Jelly in the US is jam in the UK and “Marmelade” in Germany. Whereas marmalade in English is jam made only of citrus fruits. Confused?!

And did you know doughnuts go back to Roman times?! Apparently they were eaten dipped in honey and poppyseeds. (Must try it!) But the type we know probably originated around the 15th century in Northern Europe.

Enjoy the next few of days of indulgence before Ash Wednesday!

(Do you give up anything for Lent?)