Happy National Donut Day! Oh wait—is the occasion not already marked on your calendar? If it isn’t, here’s the scoop: National Donut Day is June 3, and it’s best celebrated with lots and lots of donuts.
You can, of course, run to your favorite bakery or pastry shop to pick up a celebratory donut (or dozen). But if you want to take your festivities even further, you might also consider making your own donuts at home. Whether you’re a baking rookie or an experienced dessert chef, you can whip up a batch of donuts that might just rival your go-to store-bought variety.
Keep scrolling for all of the donut details you need to take your love of this delicious treat to the next level.
What Are Donuts?
You’re probably thinking that you already know everything there is to know about donuts. But there are a lot of pastries out there, so it can’t hurt to make sure that we’re super clear about what really makes a donut a donut.
To put it simply, a donut (sometimes known as a doughnut) is a sweet bread that’s been baked or fried. Some donuts are formed into ring shapes, while others look more like buns and are filled with cream or jelly. Donuts range from basic and rustic to beautifully decorated with icing, sprinkles, and other designs.
Just like puff pastry, Italian desserts, and just about any other treat you can think of, donuts have a unique history that’s all their own. If you’ve ever wondered where donuts come from, you’re in the right place.
Where Were Donuts Invented?
Donuts do not have a single birthplace. In fact, the pastries we know as donuts today are a combination of the culinary traditions and techniques of a variety of countries. Predecessors of donuts existed in some form among the Dutch, Russians, French, and Native Americans.
The donut proper, however, is said to have made its official debut in New Amsterdam (contemporary Manhattan) with the help of Dutch immigrants who called them “oily cakes.” New York City remained a hub of donut innovation. When American troops returned home from World War I hungry for the French pastries they experienced while abroad, enterprising New Yorkers saw an opportunity! It was there that a Russian refugee named Adolph Levitt developed the first donut machine. As word of his business got out to the rest of Manhattan, donuts really took off.
Who Invented Donuts?
Prior to Levitt, there was another notable pioneer in the donut space: Elizabeth Gregory. In the mid-19th century, this New Englander deep-fried dough with nutmeg and cinnamon from her son’s cargo ship. She put hazelnuts and walnuts in the center of the cakes where the dough was less likely to cook completely, inspiring the word “doughnut.” Later on, Elizabeth’s son is said to have put the now-familiar hole in his mother’s pastries. He may have done this because of a lack of ingredients or demand for easier digestion—but another legend suggests the hole appeared by accident when one of his mom’s donuts was skewered by his ship’s wheel during a storm at sea.
While Levitt was hardly the first person to make a donut—or a donut lookalike, for that matter—his efforts to innovate fried donuts in his shop laid much of the groundwork for today’s breakfast pastries.
There are seemingly endless ways to enjoy a donut, but here are a few of the main types of donuts:
- Yeast/raised donuts. This classic, basic donut variety is made with yeast as the leavening agent. They are light and fluffy and can be baked or fried. They’re also the perfect blank canvas for toppings and fillings.
- Cake donuts. Rather than yeast, cake donuts get their rise from baking powder. They are denser than their yeast counterparts and—as you might expect—have a cakelike texture. Like yeast donuts, they can be decorated, flavored, and filled in any way you like.
- Glazed donuts, which are finished with a dip in a sweet glaze.
- Churros. While churros look quite different from many other donut varieties, they’re essentially the Mexican equivalent—and one of the most popular Mexican desserts out there. What’s not to love about fried dough covered in sugar?
- Filled donuts. Baked or fried donuts can be filled with custard, cream, jelly, or jam. After that, they might be rolled in sugar, glazed, or otherwise decorated.
Once you start switching up decorative details, the donut varieties are even more infinite.
How to Make Donuts at Home
You might already have a go-to donut shop or bakery for breakfast pastries, but DIY donuts also make for a fun home baking project. Scroll on to discover the basics of homemade donuts.
Specific ingredients will vary depending on the recipe you’re using, but here are a few things you should have on hand if you’d like to make your own donuts:
- Yeast, baking powder, or sourdough starter
- Vegetable oil (if frying)
- Cocoa powder
- Powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar (for rolling)
- Sprinkles or frosting (for decorating)
Are filled donuts your speed? Great! You’ll also need the ingredients to prepare cream, custard, or jam.
Donuts require the standard appliances and utensils that you’d have in the kitchen for most baking projects, but you may also want to pick up a few less typical, more specialized items:
A donut pan will make life much easier for home bakers interested in preparing baked donuts. With a little help from the right pan, the dough will come out of the oven in the perfect ring shape.
In his donut class, baker Marceau Dauboin prepares fried donuts in a pot of hot vegetable oil. You might also choose to use a deep fryer.
When frying, it’s helpful to have a kitchen thermometer on hand to monitor the temperature of your frying oil.
How to Bake Donuts
Every recipe for baked donuts will differ slightly. As a rule of thumb, though, they should go into an oven preheated to 350℉ for about 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Here are a few basic baked donut recipes to try:
How to Fry Donuts
When frying your donuts on the stove, you should heat a small pot of oil to 375℉. Use a high-temperature kitchen thermometer to keep an eye on this! Drop your donut dough into the oil using a slotted spoon or metal spatula. Fry on each side for about 90 seconds or until the dough looks golden brown. The process is similar in a deep fryer. When you remove your fried donuts from the oil, let them cool on a metal rack.
Practice Your Donut Skills
Delicious Chocolate & Cinnamon Doughnuts
There’s a homemade donut recipe out there for everyone! Add these to your personal collection.
Vegan Donut Recipe
There’s no need to sacrifice delicious donuts just because you stick to a vegan diet. Vegan donuts are prepared without butter, milk, and eggs and do not feature creams or fillings with dairy ingredients. They often contain non-dairy milks—like almond milk or coconut milk—and powdered egg replacements.
Consider these vegan donut recipes:
Gluten-Free Donut Recipe
To prepare gluten-free donuts, use flour alternatives like rice flour, tapioca starch, and potato starch. Get some ideas with these recipes:
Glazed Donut Recipe
Glazed donuts are dipped in a shiny, sugary glaze once they’re cooled after baking or frying. Marceau Dauboin prepares chocolate glazed donuts here—and this recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction takes you through the steps of a more classic vanilla glaze.
Cake Donut Recipe
Cake donuts are prepared using cake batter, so there are as many takes on cake donuts as there are on, well, cake! Use your favorite cake to inspire your at-home cake donuts, or try one of these recipes:
Keto Donut Recipe
Keto desserts add a little flavor to a low-carb, ketogenic diet. Keto donuts are prepared with ingredients like almond flour, coconut flour, cocoa powder, coconut milk, and apple cider vinegar.
Want to enjoy a donut treat while keeping keto? Whip up one of these:
Chocolate Donut Recipe
There are a few ways that chocolate lovers can incorporate their favorite flavor into a donut. Chocolate glaze, chocolate cake batter, chocolate sprinkles, chocolate frosting… the list goes on!
Jelly Donut Recipe
There’s nothing like biting into a crisp donut full of fresh, zesty jelly. It’s not as complicated to make jelly donuts at home as you might imagine. These recipes make it easier:
Sugar-Free Donut Recipe
With the help of natural and alternative sweeteners, you can take the sugar out of donuts without losing the overall deliciousness of the experience.
Give these sugar-free donuts a go:
National Donut Day
Now that you have all of these fantastic donut recipes on hand, you’re ready to enjoy National Donut Day on June 3. Invite friends and loved ones to try your homemade treats, host a donut potluck brunch or simply take some “you time” to bake breakfasts for the week. It’s a day worth celebrating!
Don’t Sleep on Homemade Donuts!
Do you now feel like you know everything there is to know about donuts? Good! It’s an excellent topic to be an expert in.
Grab your sprinkles, chocolate glaze, and cinnamon sugar, and enjoy!
Don’t Stop at Donuts!
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