News National On This Day: An accident at sea led to the creation of the doughnut

On This Day: An accident at sea led to the creation of the doughnut

Fun fact: The doughnut didn't have a hole in it until an accident at sea. Photo: Getty
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On this day in 1847, a fried ball of dough and some wild weather at sea is believed to have led to the invention of the ring-shaped doughnut.

At the time, the sweet doughy pastries had been around for centuries, with different versions called different names all over the world.

Though doughy and sweet, these ancient doughnuts didn’t look the same as the typical American ones that are popular today.

American servicemen were served doughnuts by the Salvation Army in 1918. Photo: Getty

Many doughnuts didn’t have holes, others weren’t circular and some looked entirely different.

That was until 15-year-old Hanson Crockett Gregory, an American sailor, took some of his mother’s pastries with him on a voyage.

Captain Gregory’s mother Elizabeth was known for making delicious olykoek, or ‘oily cake’, which is a ball of dough deep-fried in oil that didn’t have a hole in it.

The little Dutch cakes were a favourite among 17th century settlers in New Amsterdam, later called New York.

Elizabeth made a batch for her son to take on his voyages and passed on the recipe so the cook on board the lime-trading ship could make some more at sea.

Hanson Gregory. Photo: Twitter

Many historians believe Captain Gregory was clutching an olykoek with one hand while steering his ship through a sudden storm on June 22, 1847.

As the wild weather hammered down on the sea captain, a powerful wave caused him to quickly grab the steering wheel with both hands, impaling the olykoek on the ship’s steering wheel.

The spoke drove a hole right through the centre of the pastry.

Captain Gregory looked down at his snack and found he liked it better with a hole in the middle, and ordered his cook to make them that way for the rest of the voyage.

Captain Gregory became famous for inventing the doughnut hole. Photo: Camden Public Library

It is believed the ship’s cook found it easier to make olykoek when they had holes in the middle because it helped the dough cook all the way through.

Despite Captain Gregory’s impressive career as a young ship captain, his lasting claim to fame is as inventor of the doughnut hole.

On the 100th anniversary of his invention in 1947, a bronze plaque honouring him was installed in his home town, now called Glen Cove.

A plaque commemorating Hanson Gregory, inventor of the doughnut hole. Photo: Twitter

The nearby town of Camden holds doughnut festivals celebrating his legacy.