Apple cider donuts are synonymous with fall, especially in New England, where apple orchards from Maine to Connecticut use their own cider to flavor the fluffy, gold rings. Apple cider donuts are both sweet and savory and are often dusted with finger-licking cinnamon sugar. They may seem like a quirky colonial tradition – but the yummy treats have a more modern history that may surprise you.
It all started with the Russian immigrant and entrepreneur Adolf Levitt. According to Glazed America: A History of the DonutLevitt bought a chain of New York bakeries in 1916. He was impressed by American soldiers’ fondness for the fried dough loops and began developing a donut machine to harness the appetite of the troops. In one of his early marketing coups, he installed a prototype in the window of his Harlem bakery in 1
With his marketing skills, he founded the Donut Corporation of America. The company evangelized donuts in marketing campaigns for print media, radio and television. A World War II-era party manual compiled by the DCA states, “No other food is as heartwarming and as welcome as the donut.” Levitt’s granddaughter Sally L. Steinberg wrote that Levitt “Made Donuts America’s Snack, Part.” of office breaks for coffee and donuts, of Halloween parties with donuts on strings, of donut-laden political rallies. “
The DCA started the first National Donut Month in October 1928. In its zeal, the DCA sometimes made dubious recommendations. In 1941, together with the surgeon J. Howard Crum, it campaigned for the “donut diet” from a single source. It later marketed “vitamin donuts,” which were based on an improved flour blend that was claimed to provide more protein and nutrients than homemade creations. (The federal government asked them to use the name “Enriched Flour Donuts” Glazed America.) A skeptical audience devoured neither the sales pitch nor the donuts.
However, in 1951, the DCA introduced a taste with persistence. A New York Times An article dated August 19 this year stated, “The Sweet Cider Donut, a new type of product, is being introduced by Donut Corporation of America in its twenty-third annual donut sales campaign this fall. The new product is a spicy round cake that is expected to have a natural fall appeal. “
The cider donut recipe gives the buttermilk donut a fall spin by adding apple cider to the batter, with cinnamon and nutmeg adding to the fall flavor. Each orchard usually has its own family recipe and is usually served with mulled apple wine. The donuts have caught on well beyond pastoral landscapes and are now seasonal favorites in national chains and household kitchens. Dunkin ‘took over the coat and Smitten Kitchen and The New York Times have recipes for a make-at-home version.
While the apple cider donut has stood the test of time, the DCA hasn’t. J. Lyons & Co. bought Levitts DCA in the 1970s, and the entrepreneurs behind Top Pot Donuts in Seattle later bought the DCA brand. The company sells its donuts nationwide; However, the offer does not include a cider donut.