Old-fashioned Raised Doughnuts

Doughnuts on plate

When I was a child growing up in Pennsylvania, Fasnacht Day (the day before Ash Wednesday) was always a day when we ate doughnuts. Fasnacht Day was supposed to be a day to eat indulgent foods before the beginning of Lent – and doughnuts with their sugar and fat were considered the ultimate in indulgent foods. It is also known as Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday.

Some churches in Pennsylvania made doughnuts on Fasnacht Day as a fundraiser, and students at my school who attended those churches took orders for the doughnuts, and then brought the them to school on Fasnacht Day.  I always looked forward to buying (and eating) those incredible doughnuts.

Now, every year as Lent approaches, I remember those sweet, flavorful, light, yet slightly chewy, doughnuts of my childhood (they are nothing like modern cake-like doughnuts), and think that I should try making doughnuts, but I never actually did  – until this year. I came across a hundred-year-old recipe for Raised Doughnuts and decided it was time to give doughnut-making a try.

It took me about six hours from start to finish to make the doughnuts since I had to let the dough rise three times – but it was worth it. The doughnuts were just like I’d remembered (and my husband kept saying, “These are a lot better than store-bought doughnuts”).

Recipe for Raised Doughnuts
Source: Mrs. DeGraf’s Cook Book (1922)

And, here’s the coffee cake foundation recipe:

Recipe for Coffee Cake
Source: Mrs. DeGraf’s Cook Book (1922)

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Raised Doughnuts

  • Servings: approximately 20 doughnuts
  • Difficulty: difficult
  • Print

1 cup milk

1 packet (0.25 ounce) active dry yeast

1/4 cup lukewarm (110 – 115° F.) water

1 1/2 cups flour + approximately 3 cups flour

1/4 cup butter melted + a small amount of additonal melted butter to brush on top of dough

1/4 cup sugar

1 egg, beaten

1 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

fat or cooking oil (I used shortening.)

powdered sugar

Put the milk in a saucepan, and scald (180-185° F.) using medium heat. Remove from heat and cool until lukewarm (110-115° F.). In the meantime, dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water.

Put the 1 1/2 cups flour, lukewarm scalded milk, and dissolved yeast in a mixing bowl, and beat until smooth. Cover and put in a warm spot until the mixture is light and spongy (about 1 hour). Add the melted butter, sugar, egg, almond extract and salt. Gradually add approximately 3 cups flour until the dough reaches a consistency where it can be handled.  Turn onto a floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Put in a large greased bowl, brush top with melted butter, cover and place in a warm spot until the dough is about 2 1/2 times its original  size (about 2 hours).

Put dough on a lightly floured surface and roll dough to 1/4 inch thick, and cut doughnuts with a doughnut cutter. (If thicker doughnuts are desired, don’t roll quite so thin.) Put the cut doughnuts on a baking sheet, and let rise until light and doubled in size (about 45 minutes).

Heat  3 – 4 inches of fat or cooking oil in a deep fat fryer or kettle to 350 – 375° F. Drop doughnuts (a few at a time) into the hot fat or oil. Turn as they rise to the surface. Gently turn and fry 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from fat and drain on paper towels.

Put powdered sugar in a bag. (I used a brown paper lunch bag.) While the doughnuts are still warm, put one doughnut at a time in the bag and gently shake to coat with the sugar.



41 thoughts on “Old-fashioned Raised Doughnuts

  1. Shrove Tuesday isn’t just a day to eat indulgent foods. All of the foods traditionally associated with the day were a way to use up butter, sugar, and other foods proscribed during Lent. I’d never heard of these doughnuts. In my world, pancakes were the thing, and the youth group pancake supper was a church institution. I sure would settle for these doughnuts, though!

    1. The pancake suppers sound very similar in concept to the doughnut baking. It’s fascinating how there are variations on a similar theme across states and regions.

  2. I remember my Aunt Ree making donuts and i have in the long ago years….but…I have printed your recipe just in case I get the urge. It does look to be an all day thing.

    1. It is surprising that there were differences across the communities where we grew up. It’s interesting how some things are very localized. I just googled “King Cake” – and they also look yummy.

  3. My mother made these doughnuts when we were children, and fried them in a huge pot they had for major large undertakings, like catfish or cracklins–which I hated when she put them in the cornbread. The doughnuts were wonderful, and a special treat she made when Dad got to wanting them. 🙂

    1. I don’t deep fat fry foods very often -and right now I have the fat from making the doughnuts in my refrigerator and am trying to decide whether I should make another recipe that requires deep fat frying or if I should just discard it.

  4. Thanks for the recipe. My husband’s grandmother made a coffee cake like this. She would not share the recipe with me. She was married in 1921 and that would put this recipe in her era. So this is a recipe I am happy to copy and try. I know she made a sponge first.

    1. To make the actual coffee cake, the old cookbook says to roll the dough to 2 inches thick, and put in a shallow pan. Brush with egg yolk diluted with 2 tablespoons of milk. The top is supposed to be sprinkled with a mixture of 1/2 cup soft bread crumbs, cinnamon, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 2 tablespoons melted butter. The coffee cake should then stand until light and baked in a moderate oven.

  5. I agree that homemade donuts are better than bought. I use a potato in my dough ,keeps them moist longer. Donut making brings back many fond memories of all the children at home on a cold snowy day ,making donuts and hot chocolate.

    1. I know how you feel. I have a few minor ideas about how to tweak the process if I make doughnuts again, but then I wonder if will I actually will make them again. . . but maybe. . .

  6. My youth group made donuts once, and they were delicious! I do remember that it took most of the day, and the expert guidance of our leaders, to make them, though. Your recipe sounds quite good.

    1. Making doughnuts can be a fun activity for a group. Your description of how the leaders of the youth group provided expert guidance makes me think about how doughnut making can be a nice intergenerational activity.

  7. When I was a kid we lived near a doughnut shop run by Seventh Day Adventists which meant they, unlike every other bakery, were open on Sundays. They made weighty doughnuts which sound very like the ones you make. Never had the same since.

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