The Legend Behind Why Donuts Have Holes In The Center

Born circa 1831 in Camden, Maine, Hanson Crockett Gregory grew up in a coastal town known for its fishing industry. Then, as a teenager, he embarked on a life-changing journey that forever transformed the way we enjoy one of the most beloved pastries on Earth.

In the mid-19th century, donuts were a popular treat among sailors, but they were quite different from the ones we know today. The original Dutch olykoeks ("oily cakes") were often greasy, heavy, and arguably unappetizing. However, it was during one of Gregory's sea voyages as a cook's assistant that he had a brilliant idea that would revolutionize the donut industry.

Legend has it that, one stormy day in 1847, Gregory found himself frustrated with the undercooked centers and greasy exteriors of the donuts he was preparing. Determined to improve them, he decided to remove the dough's center, creating a hole. This simple act had a profound impact on the donut's taste and texture. Gregory's innovation quickly caught on, and his holed donuts became an instant hit among fellow sailors and locals. The hole allowed the dough to cook more evenly, resulting in a lighter and fluffier texture. Moreover, the absence of the center made the donuts easier to handle and reduced the risk of undercooking.

Hanson Gregory is a legend of the baked goods world

In a 1916 interview with The Washington Post, an 85-year-old Hanson Gregory said, "Well, sir, them doughnuts was the finest I ever tasted. No more indigestion — no more greasy sinkers — but just well-done fried-through doughnuts" (via Snopes). As word spread about Hanson's invention, donuts with holes became increasingly popular. Bakeries across the United States started adopting Gregory's technique, and the holed donut became a staple in American cuisine. The ring-shaped treat was not only more delicious but also more visually appealing than ever before.

Gregory's contribution to the donut industry was so significant that he is often credited with inventing the modern-day ring-shaped cake. His innovation paved the way for countless variations, from glazed and powdered to jelly-filled and frosted. Today, donuts are enjoyed by people of all ages and have become an iconic symbol of sweet comfort.

Sadly, despite his groundbreaking discovery, Hanson Gregory never patented his creation nor profited from it. He continued to work as a sailor and later as a sea captain until his retirement. Nevertheless, his sweet legacy lives on, and his name will forever be associated with the treat we all know and love.