Serious Eats

The Serious Eats Doughnut Glossary

What's been unexpectedly interesting to me in all the doughnut reading and tasting we've been doing in preparation for National Doughnut Day (June 1) has been all the attendant terminology. So when Serious Eats overlord Ed Levine suggested I compile a doughnut glossary, I jumped in. With all the geographical differences and regional nomenclature, the task was almost as difficult as picking a perfect dozen. But here is a doughnut glossary of sorts. Consider it a work in progress, to be amended with suggestions from readers of all regions.

donuts-on-a-plate.jpg

doughnut: First things first, a doughnut is a sweet deep-fried piece of ring-shape dough or batter. Though technically not doughnuts, those that are flattened spheres injected with jam, jelly, or custard are known as filled doughnuts. After frying, doughnuts may be embellished with any number of toppings, including glazed icing, powdered or granulated sugar, sprinkles, sugar and cinnamon, etc. Note: The variant spelling of donut appeared in the 1920s, according to doughnut scholar John T. Edge in his book Donuts, when "the New York–based Doughnut Machine Corporation set its eyes upon foreign markets." To help foster proper pronunciation in different languages, the company introduced this spelling.

cakedonut.jpgcake doughnuts: A doughnut made of a special cake batter leavened with baking powder, baking soda, or a combination of the two—not with yeast. (See yeast-raised doughnuts, below)

cruller: A twisted cake doughnut, most often round in shape, but can also appear as a long, twisted doughnut (particularly in the U.S. Northeast).

donutholes.jpgdoughnut holes: Small spheres of dough, typically one inch in diameter, fried and then glazed with icing, or rolled in a powdered topping, the most common of which are powdered sugar, a cinnamon–granulated sugar mixture, or sprinkles. The spheres may be formed from the dough punched out of the center of a ring-shape doughnut (hence the name) or may come from dough made expressly for doughnut-hole production.

frenchcruller.jpgFrench cruller: A cruller made of choux pastry.

old-fashioned: There are many variations, but what all seem to have in common is that they are cake doughnuts with a minimum of embellishment, if any. An interesting regional variation is the sort of double-ring old-fashioned that seems to be popular in the Northwest.

berliner.jpgBerliner: Predominately German. A yeasted, marmalade- or jelly-filled doughnut topped with icing or powdered or granulated sugar.

Bismarck: Just another name for a Berliner (see above).

Long John: A long, almost rectangular, filled doughnut, often iced.


twist: A ring-shape yeast-raised doughnut twisted around itself, resulting in a long cylindrical doughnut. Depending on the number and tightness of twists, there may or may not be recognizable holes at either end of a twist.

yeast-raised doughnuts: A doughnut that uses yeast as the leavener in its batter. Yeast-raised doughnuts are lighter and airier and contain a bit more oil than their cake-doughnut counterparts. Think: Krispy Kreme's original glazed doughnut.

If you have any regional variations you'd like us to include, please, as always, comment away!

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